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MRC DiMeN Doctoral Training Partnership: Combining cutting edge molecular microbiology and super-resolution microscopy to reveal how bacteria divide, and how to stop them

Project Description

We are looking to recruit an outstanding student to work on uncovering the architecture of the Bacillus subtilis bacterial cell division septum by super-resolution microscopy.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) causes 700,000 deaths each year, predicted to rise to 10 million by 2050; new drugs are urgently required. A better understanding of the essential process of bacterial cell division will support identification of novel antibiotic inhibition strategies and targets. We recently discovered that the essential protein FtsZ guides synthesis of the mid cell cross-wall (septum) during bacterial cell division (Bisson Filho et al, Science 2017). However, it remains unclear how division proteins build a physically robust septum and how that structure is compromised during antibiotic treatment.

During this PhD you will establish high quality multicolour super-resolution microscopy of the Bacillus subtilis division septum using fluorescent D-amino acids, which label newly inserted cell wall material. You will use super-resolution microscopy to reveal how the bacterial cell division septum is built at nanoscale resolution, and how antimicrobials physically compromise septum integrity.

What will you be doing for your PhD research?
You will join an exciting multidisciplinary project team as the molecular microbiology and probe/ labelling development PhD lead, with responsibility for:
1) biological application of super-resolution imaging to understand how the bacterial cell division septum is built (molecular microbiology, bacterial genetics, biochemistry).
2) establishing a multicolour super-resolution microscopy protocol for imaging of the bacterial division site (immunostaining/ labelling, fluorophore photophysics, advanced microscopy)

You will join the Holden lab at Newcastle University ( We are an interdisciplinary lab that spans microbiology and biophysics, with group members from both disciplines. We are located at the Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology, Newcastle University, a world leading centre for molecular microbiology research. This work will be performed in collaboration with the Foster lab in Sheffield (

What training will you receive?
You will specialize in two core fields: bacterial cell envelope microbiology and super-resolution microscopy. You will gain extensive practical experience of molecular microbiology, biochemistry, bacterial genetics, super-resolution microscopy, fluorophore photophysics, and quantitative data analysis.

Is this project right for you?
We are seeking a scientist with a good degree (BSc/MSci 2(1) or above, or MSc) in a relevant field, eg. microbiology, molecular biology, biochemistry, biophysics.

For informal enquiries, please contact Dr Seamus Holden () with CV.

Benefits of being in the DiMeN DTP:

This project is part of the Discovery Medicine North Doctoral Training Partnership (DiMeN DTP), a diverse community of PhD students across the North of England researching the major health problems facing the world today. Our partner institutions (Universities of Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield) are internationally recognised as centres of research excellence and can offer you access to state-of the-art facilities to deliver high impact research.

We are very proud of our student-centred ethos and committed to supporting you throughout your PhD. As part of the DTP, we offer bespoke training in key skills sought after in early career researchers, as well as opportunities to broaden your career horizons in a range of non-academic sectors.

Being funded by the MRC means you can access additional funding for research placements, international training opportunities or internships in science policy, science communication and beyond. See how our current DiMeN students have benefited from this funding here:

Further information on the programme can be found on our website:

Funding Notes

Studentships are fully funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) for 3.5yrs.
- Stipend at national UKRI standard rate
- Tuition fees
- Research training and support grant (RTSG)
- Travel allowance

Studentships commence: 1st October 2020.

To qualify, you must be a UK or EU citizen who has been resident in the UK/EU for 3 years prior to commencement. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least a 2.1 honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. All applications are scored blindly based on merit. Please read additional guidance here: View Website

Good luck!


Alexandre Wilson Bisson Filho, Yen-Pang Hsu, Georgia Squyres, Erkin Kuru, Fabai Wu, Calum Jukes, Cees Dekker, Seamus Holden, Michael VanNieuwenhze, Yves Brun, Ethan Garner, Treadmilling by FtsZ filaments drives peptidoglycan synthesis and bacterial cell division. SCIENCE, 355, 739-743 (2017).

Seamus Holden, Thomas Pengo, Karin Meibom, Carmen Fernandez-Fernandez, Justine Collier, Suliana Manley. High throughput 3D super-resolution microscopy reveals Caulobacter crescentus in vivo Z-ring organization. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, 111, 4566-4571 (2014).

Victoria A Lund, Katarzyna Wacnik, Robert D Turner, Bryony E Cotterell, Christa G Walther, Samuel J Fenn, Fabian Grein, Adam JM Wollman, Mark C Leake, Nicolas Olivier, Ashley Cadby, Stéphane Mesnage, Simon Jones, Simon J Foster. Molecular coordination of Staphylococcus aureus cell division, ELIFE, 7:e32057 (2018)

How good is research at Newcastle University in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 30.60

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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