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Evolution Education Trust PhD project: Evolution of biocide tolerance in Klebsiella pneumoniae and its impact on antibiotic resistance and virulence

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Wednesday, February 05, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The University of Bath is inviting applications for this PhD opportunity based at the Milner Centre for Evolution, a unique, cross-faculty research centre bridging biology, health and education. The Centre is dedicated to a broad range of fundamental research questions relating to evolutionary biology; from in deep time to the micro-evolutionary dynamics of a disease outbreak. We have a strong focus on public engagement and outreach. We are located in a dedicated multi-million-pound building that opened on the University campus in September 2018. Visit our website:

Supervisory Team:

Dr Brian Jones, Department of Biology & Biochemistry (lead supervisor),
Professor Edward Feil, Milner Centre for Evolution.
Dr Matthew Wand, Public Health England.
Dr Mark Sutton, Public Health England.

Project Summary:

Biocides have the potential to select for antibiotic resistance and enhanced virulence in bacterial pathogens. Working with experts from Public Health England and University of Bath, the student will utilise a range of molecular-genetic, genomic, metagenomic, and biochemical techniques, to answer fundamental questions regarding the evolution and clinical relevance of biocide tolerance in microbial ecosystems found in the hospital environment.


Klebsiella pneumoniae is a common member of microbial communities that develop in hospital environments, and often causes urinary tract or respiratory tract infections. Biocides are antimicrobial agents increasingly used to prevent infection by pathogens such as K. pneumoniae. We have previously demonstrated that exposure of K. pneumoniae to sub-lethal biocide concentrations can select for traits that confer antibiotic resistance, and which are also linked to immune evasion during infection. This raises the possibility that increased biocide use may lead to the evolution of K. pneumoniae strains that are both more virulent and more difficult to treat. However, important questions remain regarding the context in which evolution of biocide resistance can occur. In particular: Are relevant traits selected for when K. pneumoniae is part of a wider microbial ecosystem? Can biocide-containing products in current clinical use promote the evolution of these phenotypes? Are processes such as horizontal gene transfer also involved? This project will address these questions using two representative models of clinically relevant microbial communities commonly exposed to biocides: polymicrobial infections of the catheterised urinary tract and the sink-trap microbiome.


Applicants should have an excellent academic record and hold, or expect to obtain, a First Class or high Upper Second Class UK Honours degree (or the equivalent) in a relevant subject. A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous.

Enquiries and Applications:

All enquiries should be addressed to Dr Brian Jones, .

** Candidates are strongly encouraged to discuss projects directly with the lead supervisor before submitting an application.**

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Biology:

On the application form, please ensure that you quote ‘Evolution Education Trust’ in the Finance section and the supervisor’s name and project title in the ‘Your research interests’ section. Should you wish to be considered for more than one project, quote the projects in order of preference and upload a separate personal statement relevant to each one.

It is essential that your application is complete when you submit it to us. Incomplete applications cannot be considered. You should ensure that you have completed all fields on the application form and supplied the contact details of TWO referees who are available and willing to provide us with a reference when requested (one must be from your most recent place of study). In addition, you should ensure that you have uploaded the following documents:
• a scanned copy of the certificate/s for any degree/s you have been awarded;
• a scanned copy of your degree transcript/s or your interim transcript if you are still studying;
• an up-to-date CV;
• a personal statement explaining your motivation for wishing to study a PhD and your interest in the specific project for which you are applying;
• English language test certificate (if available) for EU candidates.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found here:

Interviews will take place in Bath on Friday 3 April 2020.

Anticipated start date: 28 September 2020.

Unfortunately, we are NOT able to consider international applicants for this project.

Funding Notes

Candidates applying for this project will be considered for a 3.5-year Evolution Education Trust Studentship which will cover UK/EU tuition fees, a tax-free maintenance allowance at the UKRI Doctoral Stipend rate (£15,009 for 2019/20) and a generous budget for research, training and outreach expenses.

Note: Only UK and EU applicants are eligible for studentship funding.

How good is research at University of Bath in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.50

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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