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Bio-inspired liquid-like coatings for medical devices to combat biofilms and associated infections


   School of Pharmacy

   Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Biofilms are microbial cells embedded within a self-secreted extracellular polymeric substance matrix, which are central to some of the most urgent global challenges across diverse fields of application, from medicine to industry and exert considerable economic and social impact. To combat biofilm growth on surfaces, chemical-based approaches using immobilization of antimicrobial agents can trigger antimicrobial resistance but are often not sustainable. Alternatively, bio-inspired nanostructured surfaces such as cicada wings and lotus leaves can be used, but their effects often may not last.

A recent innovation in creating slippery surfaces has been inspired by the slippery surface strategy of the carnivorous Nepenthes pitcher plant. These slippery surfaces involve the impregnation of a porous or textured solid surface with a liquid lubricant locked into the structure. Such liquid surfaces have been shown to have promise as antifouling surfaces by inhibiting direct access to the solid surface for biofilm attachment, adhesion and growth. However, the antibiofilm performance of these new liquid surfaces under flow conditions remains a concern due to flow-induced depletion of lubricant. Here we propose a novel anti-biofilm surface by creating permanently bound slippery liquid-like solid surfaces. Success would transform our understanding of bacteria living on surfaces and open-up new design paradigms for the development of next-generation antibiofilm surfaces for a wide range of applications.

The successful delivery of this project requires a combination of cross-disciplinary skills ranging from materials chemistry, physical and chemical characterisations, microbiology, biomechanics, and computational modelling. The PhD candidate will be offered a range of training including chemical/physical surface engineering techniques, surface characterisation techniques, microbiological evaluations, cell culture techniques and access to core facilities across the university. The project objectives well align with UK Healthcare Technologies Grand Challenges, addressing the topics of controlling the amount of physical intervention required, optimising treatment, and transforming community health and care. In parallel, we shall contribute to the advancement of cross-cutting research capabilities that are essential for delivering the grand challenges.

Chemical/physical surface engineering techniques, surface characterisation techniques, microbiological evaluations, cell culture techniques and access to core facilities across the university.

The project objectives well align with UK Healthcare Technologies Grand Challenges, addressing the topics of controlling the amount of physical intervention required, optimising treatment, and transforming community health and care. In parallel, we shall contribute to the advancement of cross-cutting research capabilities that are essential for delivering the grand challenges.

Home applicants must meet the following academic criteria:

1st or 2.1 honours degree in a relevant subject. Relevant subjects include Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Biochemistry, Biological/Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, Engineering, or a closely related discipline.

International applicants must meet the following academic criteria:

IELTS (or equivalent) of 7.0, a 2.1 honours degree (or equivalent) and a master’s degree in a relevant subject.

Applicants should apply through the University's Direct Application Portal: https://dap.qub.ac.uk/portal/user/u_login.php


Funding Notes

Department for the Economy studentships are open for applications to Home and International applicants for October 2023 entry. Eligibility and funding information is available here: View Website

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