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Applying integrative microbiomics to understand the health threats of environmental microbiomes BBSRC SWBio DTP PhD studentship 2023 Entry. PhD in Biosciences


   Department of Biosciences

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  Dr A Leonard, Prof Andrew Dowsey  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The BBSRC-funded South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP) involves a partnership of world-renown universities, research institutes and industry across the South West and Wales.

This partnership represents a distinctive group of bioscientists, with established international, national and regional networks, and widely recognised research excellence.

We aim to provide students with outstanding interdisciplinary research training within the following themes, underpinned by transformative technologies:

These are growth areas of the biosciences and for which there will be considerable future demand.

The award:

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP). 

Programme Overview

You will be recruited to a broad, interdisciplinary project, supported by a multidisciplinary supervisory team, with many cross-institutional projects available. There are also opportunities to:

• apply your research in an industrial setting (DTP CASE studentships).

• undertake research jointly with our core and associate partners (Standard DTP studentships with an   

  associatepartner).

• work with other national/international researchers.

• undertake fieldwork.

Our structured training programme will ensure you are well equipped as a bioscience researcher, supporting careers into academia, industry and beyond. 

Project Description

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when microorganisms adapt, such that they no longer respond to antimicrobial drugs, making infections harder to treat. This has significant implications for healthcare and society. The environmental dimensions of antimicrobial resistance and their contribution to the spread of antimicrobial resistance have received less attention compared to healthcare settings and veterinary medicine. However, previous research has demonstrated that exposure to natural environments makes an important contribution to community carriage of clinically important antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Previous research characterising antimicrobial resistance in environmental microbiomes has largely been limited to techniques which do not provide information about resistance gene-bacterial host associations, nor information about the expression of genes harboured by disease-causing microorganisms. Together, these play a vital role in human infection pathways. Omics technologies characterise different features of complex communities, for example, the collection of genes (genomics), their transcription (transcriptomics), and expression (proteomics). Multiple omics datasets can be combined using integrative microbiomics (a set of statistical and advanced data analytic techniques) to determine significant relationships between microbial features, and thus offer a more complete picture of the health risks microbial populations in natural environments pose to members of the public.

This interdisciplinary PhD involves an exciting collaboration between researchers at the University of Exeter and the University of Bristol, and brings together techniques in environmental microbiology, risk assessments, bioinformatics, integrative microbiomics, and statistical data sciences. The aim is to develop new methods that will characterise environmental antimicrobial resistance and to investigate the risk of resistant pathogen transmission from natural environments to humans. Thus, the results of such work will help inform discussions on environmental management strategies at regional and national levels. The student will be based at the University of Exeter’s European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH) in the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) on the Penryn Campus, Cornwall.

The ECEHH brings together leading academics in a variety of disciplines to pioneer world-class research into the complex connections between the environment and health. Being based in the ESI, the student will have access to state-of-the art laboratory facilities and computing support, as well as a vibrant and interdisciplinary research community. Rotation projects and the industrial placement are flexibly designed to give the student opportunities to explore their interests and to gain skills and experience that align with their career aspirations.

Part Time and Flexible Study Options

Part time study options maybe available please discuss with the supervisor. For further information please see - https://www.swbio.ac.uk/project-adjustments-part-time-study-and-flexible-working/

Due to complexities and restrictions associated with visas for part-time studies, we are currently unable to accept part-time international students to the programme.

Entry Requirements

Applicants should have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology. Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have Masters degree or have significant relevant non-academic experience.

In addition, due to the strong mathematical component of the taught course in the first year and the quantitative emphasis in our projects, quantitative/mathematical experience is needed. This can be demonstrated through one or more of the following:

  • Undertaking units as part of your degree that have a significant quantitative/mathematical component*
  • Maths or Physics A-level (grade B and above)

*Significant mathematical component examples include; maths, statistics, bioinformatics.

Applicants must ensure they highlight their quantitative/mathematical background within their application and to upload any supporting evidence.

To support accessibility to PhD training opportunities, these studentships are only available to applicants that have not previously obtained or about to obtain a PhD degree (or equivalent).

How to apply

The closing date for applications is midnight on Monday, 5 December 2022. Interviews will be held between 1st and 15th February 2023.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email [Email Address Removed].

Project-specific queries should be directed to the primary supervisor.

For further information and to submit an application please visit - https://www.exeter.ac.uk/study/funding/award/?id=4578

Selection Process:

Please note, the studentship selection process will take place in two stages:

For further information please go to - https://www.swbio.ac.uk/programme/selection-process/


Funding Notes

A fully-funded four year SWBio DTP studentship will cover
• a stipend* (at the standard Research Council UK rate; currently £17.668 per annum for 2022-23)
• research and training costs
• tuition fees (at the standard Research Councils UK rate)
• additional funds to support fieldwork, conferences and a 3-month internship
*An enhanced stipend is available for students with a recognised veterinary degree qualification (£24,789 per annum for 2022-2023). There may also be enhanced stipends associated with projects that have a CASE partner (CASE projects are highlighted as *CASE in the project lists).
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