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BBSRC SWBio DTP studentship: Salad contamination with Listeria – improving food safety through understanding plant-bacterial interactions and development of novel detection methods

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, December 02, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Consumption of fresh produce such as salads is an important component of the human diet, protecting against a range of cancers and cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, disease outbreaks linked to contaminated vegetables, especially in ready-to-eat pre-packed salads, have increased sharply over the last decade. Major bacterial contaminants are Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria. Listeriosis, caused by the bacterial pathogen Listeria monocytogenes is specifically dangerous for pregnant women and elderly people. Unlike other foodborne pathogens, Listeria can multiply at cold temperatures (4 °C) increasing the risk of human infection. There is a lack of understanding of how Listeria attaches to salad leaves in the first place and how it manages to multiply to dangerous levels. Salads have also a short shelf-life and, therefore, the time between harvest and reaching the consumer is very short. Current detection methods for Listeria require several days of culturing and risk contaminated products reaching the consumers before any contamination can be confirmed. Consequently, a better understanding of the factors regulating how Listeria attaches and multiplies on salad leaves, and faster method of detection of contamination of fresh produce by Listeria, would make an important contribution to food safety.

Food aroma is composed of a bouquet of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) whose composition is affected by food storage conditions and colonisation of food by microorganisms. The VOCs bouquet of a food, therefore, contains information about storage conditions and contamination and can be measured using gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) within a matter of hours. We recently showed that realistic levels of contamination with Listeria could be detected on fresh cut melon through the analysis of VOC profiles, and preliminary results indicate that we can also detect contamination with Listeria on rocket leaves. Further data from our group show that, in the case of contamination with Salmonella and E. coli, attachment of the pathogen to the salad and its multiplication is affected by the strain of the pathogen, and the salad species and age of the salad leaf.

The student will (1) Investigate the effects of strain, salad species, and leaf age on Listeria attachment and multiplication (2) use our preliminary results to develop a VOC based detection method for contamination of fresh salads with Listeria.

Eligibility

This studentship is available to UK and EU nationals who have established UK residency (EU nationals must have ordinarily lived in the UK throughout the three years preceding the start of the studentship). Please refer to the DTP eligibility webpage for more details: https://www.swbio.ac.uk/programme/eligibility/
Cardiff University will be able to award up to one fully funded four-year studentship for EU students who do not meet the residency requirements.

Entry requirements

Please refer to the DTP eligibility webpage for academic entry requirements: https://www.swbio.ac.uk/programme/eligibility/
If English is not your first language, you will need to achieve an IELTS score of 6.5 with 6.5 in all skills.

How to apply

Make your application to Cardiff University: https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/applying/how-to-apply
Please ensure that your application includes:
Two references. Neither of the referees should be part of the supervisory team.
Academic transcripts / degree certificate(s)
Personal statement. Please include supporting evidence for your Maths background.
Curriculum Vitae (CV)
English language certificates (where applicable)
Please refer to the DTP webpage for information about the selection process: https://www.swbio.ac.uk/programme/selection-process/

Applications must be submitted by midnight on Monday 2nd December 2019.

Funding Notes

This studentship will provide a stipend for 4 years in line with UK Research and Innovation (Research Council) rates (£15,009 in 2019/20), payment of university tuition fees, and a Research and Training and Support Grant (RTSG) to support the project.

Related Subjects

How good is research at Cardiff University in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 54.70

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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