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How Does the Local Microscopic Environment Influence Horizontal Gene Transfer in Bacteria? [Fully funded 4-year PhD studentship]

   Department of Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering

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  Dr L Ciric  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

The Healthy Infrastructure Research Group (, based at University College London, is looking for an enthusiastic PhD student to join our team under the supervision of Dr Lena Ciric. The group carries out research into how microbes interact with the built environment and antimicrobial resistance. The student will be co-supervised by Dr Giorgio Volpe head of the Soft Active Matter lab ( at UCL Chemistry. The Soft Active Matter Lab is a group of biophysicists, physicists and chemists studying biological and artificial soft matter with an interested in its fundamental behaviours and its applications to healthcare and materials science.

We have secured funding for a 4-year full-time PhD studentship from the EPSRC Doctoral Training Programme. It Is now well known that bacterial species exchange genetic material by horizontal gene transfer of mobile genetic elements such as plasmids and transposons, which often carry antibiotic resistance genes. What is not known is the impact that environmental factors, such as surface topography, might have on influencing the rates of transfer. We will select resistant donor and non-resistant recipient strains and carry out mating experiments in microhabitats of controlled surface topography developed using soft-lithography techniques. We will also investigate other factors such as spatial patchiness, flows as well as distribution of nutrients and antibiotics. Using optical microscopy, we will be able to monitor rates of transfer in fluorescently labelled bacterial strains.

We are looking for an enthusiastic and curious individual with a background in life and/or physical sciences. The successful applicant should have or expect to achieve at least a 2.1 honours or equivalent for undergraduate degree in Biology, Microbiology, Physics, Chemistry, Materials Science or a related discipline. Some experience of molecular biology methods, data analysis and coding would be desirable, though not essential. You will be part of two vibrant laboratories and will need to work well with the rest of the team. You will also be expected to demonstrate strong interest and self-motivation in the subject, work independently, think analytically and creatively, and come up with your own research questions. Good computer skills, plus good presentation and writing skills in English, are required. Previous research experience in contributing to a collaborative interdisciplinary research environment is highly desirable but not necessary as training will be provided.

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to UK nationals and EU (non-UK) nationals*.

Applicants should send a covering letter, CV and contact information for 2 referees to Dr Lena Ciric ([Email Address Removed]) and Dr Giorgio Volpe ([Email Address Removed]). If invited for interview, applicants will then have to apply online to UCL by submitting the PhD application form which they can do by clicking on the Apply now button at the bottom of this page: Please name Dr Lena Ciric as the proposed supervisor.


*To be eligible to pay fees at the UK/EU rate, you must normally be a national of an EU country, or the relevant family member of an EU national, and have been ordinarily resident within the European Economic Area (EEA), Switzerland or EU Overseas Territories for the 3 year period before the first day of the first academic year of your programme. Please see the UCL Student fee status page to determine your appropriate tuition fee
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