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Bioelectrical signatures of environmental sensing by microbial populations, PhD in Biosciences Studentship (BBSRC SWBio DTP funded)

College of Life and Environmental Sciences

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Dr K Wan , Dr Nuno Reis , Dr Remy Chait , Prof G Jekely No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Exeter United Kingdom Applied Mathematics Bioinformatics Biophysics Electrical Engineering Genetics Microbiology Molecular Biology Other Other

About the Project

The SWBio DTP is one of the 12 Doctoral Training Partnerships funded by the BBSRC to provide PhD training in areas of their strategic relevance. The SWBio DTP is a consortium comprising the Universities of Bristol (lead), Bath, Cardiff, Exeter, and Rothamsted Research. Together, these institutions present a distinctive cadre of bioscience research staff and students with established international, national and regional networks and widely recognised research excellence.

The aim of this DTP is to produce highly motivated and excellently trained postgraduates in the BBSRC priority areas of Agriculture & Food Security (AFS) and World-Class Underpinning Bioscience (WCUB). 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).

Project Description:

Despite their small size and apparent simplicity, microorganisms are remarkable sensors. They are able to detect minute changes in their local environment and respond accordingly. This feat is critical to their survival in a turbulent and constantly changing habitat. Photosynthetic algae - a widely distributed group of organisms that are critical to the health of marine and freshwater ecosystems, have evolved acute sensitivity and finelytuned responses to photic stimuli in particular. Many species are motile, and are able to control their own movement and navigate toward favourable conditions have a distinct advantage, as efficient photosynthesis is predicated upon exposure to the correct wavelength, intensity, and type of photostimulus. But how is this light-dependent movement regulated at the singlecell level, and how can we measure and control it at the population level?

In many species, the sensory-motor transduction pathway is complex and not well understood, but is known to be dependent on transmembrane ion fluxes. We propose a unique interdisciplinary programme with both experimental and theoretical components, to shed light on this important cellular phenomenon. The aim of the phd project is to devise new lab- on-a-chip technology to manipulate microbial population responses to patterned light stimulation, and to detect cellular responses using extracellular electrical recordings. Different patterns of movement will be recorded as changes in electrical activity. These bioelectrical signatures contain rich spectral information and dynamical features, which will be used to understand and model the spatiotemporal dynamics of population responses to environmental stimuli. You will undertake interdisciplinary training in a number of areas of frontier biosciences research, including fabrication of microfluidic and microelectronic devices, live-cell imaging and optics, microbiology, and biophysical modelling. These are highly-transferrable skills that will likely have broad appeal, value, and applicability beyond the lifetime of the PhD project.

Funding Notes

BBSRC SWBio DTP funded CASE studentship available for September 2021 entry. The studentship will provide funding of fees and a stipend which is currently £15,285 per annum for 2020-21, on a full time basis.

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