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  Investigating bacteria-bacteriophage diversity to develop phage libraries for treatment of bacterial infections

   Department of Biomedical Sciences

   Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Project Overview

The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts antimicrobial resistant (AMR) infections will be the leading cause of death globally by 2050. Bacteriophages, or “phages”, are viruses that infect and kill bacteria. The emergence and persistence of bacterial strains with resistance to multiple classes of antibiotics has led to renewed interest in phage therapy as an alternative approach to treat bacterial infections in humans, animals and agriculturally-important plants and fungi. One of the main limitations of phage therapy is that bacteria have evolved multiple different mechanisms to resist phage infections. Using cocktails of bacteriophages that target different bacterial components could help overcome the problems of phage resistance. Whilst phages are the most abundant entities on Earth, with thousands of phage sequences deposited in genomic databases, there are very few phage species available for many important bacterial pathogens.

In this project, you will generate libraries of novel phages by developing a high throughput method to isolate bacteriophages that target specific bacterial pathogens of interest to you. The project will provide training in a wide range of microbiological and molecular techniques, such as metagenomics, whole genome sequencing, plaque assays, one step growth assays, electron microscopy, host range assays, thermostability assays, cloning (including directed mutagenesis and complementation), receptor binding assays and experimental evolution.

The project offers the opportunity to discover new species of bacteriophages and make a valuable contribution to our understanding of bacterial and viral diversity, bacteria-virus interactions, and offers much scope for independence, publication, and contribution to scientific conferences. You will join a well-established Microbiology research group at the University of Reading, working in a well-equipped laboratory alongside many other PhD students and post-doctoral researchers within the School of Biological Sciences.

School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading:

The University of Reading, located west of London, England, provides world-class research education programs. The University’s main Whiteknights Campus is set in 130 hectares of beautiful parkland, a 30-minute train ride to central London and 40 minutes from London Heathrow airport.  

Our School of Biological Sciences conducts high-impact research, tackling current global challenges faced by society and the planet. Our research ranges from understanding and improving human health and combating disease, through to understanding evolutionary processes and uncovering new ways to protect the natural world. In 2020, we moved into a stunning new ~£60 million Health & Life Sciences building. This state-of-the-art facility is purpose-built for science research and teaching. It houses the Cole Museum of Zoology, a café and social spaces.

In the School of Biological Sciences, you will be joining a vibrant community of ~180 PhD students representing ~40 nationalities. Our students publish in high-impact journals, present at international conferences, and organise a range of exciting outreach and public engagement activities.

During your PhD at the University of Reading, you will expand your research knowledge and skills, receiving supervision in one-to-one and small group sessions. You will have access to cutting-edge technology and learn the latest research techniques. We also provide dedicated training in important transferable skills that will support your career aspirations. If English is not your first language, the University's excellent International Study and Language Institute will help you develop your academic English skills.

The University of Reading is a welcoming community for people of all faiths and cultures. We are committed to a healthy work-life balance and will work to ensure that you are supported personally and academically.


Applicants should have a good degree (minimum of a UK Upper Second (2:1) undergraduate degree or equivalent) or Master's degree in a biological subject (e.g. Biology, Microbiology, Biochemistry, Genetics, Biomedicine, Biological Chemistry, Molecular Biology) or a strongly-related discipline. Practical experience working in a microbiology or molecular biology laboratory is highly desired but not essential.  

Applicants will also need to meet the University’s English Language requirements. We offer pre-sessional courses that can help with meeting these requirements. With a commitment to improving diversity in science and engineering, we encourage applications from underrepresented groups.

How to apply:

Submit an application for a PhD in Biological Sciences or Biomedical Sciences at


Further information:



Dr. Geraldine (Jay) Mulley, email:

Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

We welcome applications from self-funded students worldwide for this project.
If you are applying to an international funding scheme, we encourage you to get in contact as we may be able to support you in your application.


Storey, N., M. Rabiey, M., B. W. Newman, R. W. Jackson, G. Mulley (2020) Genomic Characterisation of Mushroom Pathogenic Pseudomonads and Their Interaction with Bacteriophages. Viruses 12, p1286
Taylor, T, G Mulley, A. H. Dills, A. S. Alsohim, L. J. McGuffin, D. J. Studholme, M. W. Silby, M. A. Brockhurst, L. J. Johnson, R. W. Jackson (2015) Resurrection of flagellar motility through rewiring of the nitrogen regulation system. Science 347 (6225): 1014-1017

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