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MSc by Research funded project: Nanofabricated structures and microfluidic devices for bacterial communities

Project Description

Bacterial communities are essential for sustaining life, but can in some situations lead to complex infections that are difficult to treat. This leads to excessive and often inappropriate use of antibiotics, which in turn contributes to the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance. Understanding the bacteria that make up these communities, how the community is structured and how bacteria interact with each other and with the host is critical if we are to slow the spread of antibiotic resistance. New technology is critical if we are to answer these important questions.

Since bacteria experience spatial structure at many scales (individual bacteria interact with nanoscale surface features, whereas bacterial communities are shaped by landscape structure from the millimetre down to the microscale), nanofabrication and microfluidics are ideally suited to define and control the environment at those scales, allowing us to zoom in on the behaviour of individual cells and to broaden our understanding of the processes that shape multi-species communities [1]. The purpose of this project is to integrate nano-photonic measurement technology with microfluidic devices in order to examine the coculture and codependency of polymicrobial communities. Such devices will not only allow precise control of growth conditions to recreate the niche environment in which these communities form and evolve, but also provide highly sensitive optical measurement of bacterial growth in situ.

Candidates must have (or expect to obtain) a minimum of a UK upper second class honours degree (2.1) or equivalent in Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Physics, Computer Science, Mathematics or a related subject. Expertise in microbiology is not essential for the project, although an interest would be beneficial, coupled with an enthusiasm for experimental work.

[1] Chem. Soc. Rev., 2016,45, 268-280. DOI:10.1039/C5CS00514K

Funding Notes

Applications are invited for a one year full-time funded MSc by Research project starting in October 2019 in the Department of Electronic Engineering under the supervision of Dr José Juan-Colás and Dr Steve Johnson. This studentship will cover the tuition fee at the UK/EU rate (£4,345 in 2019/20) and a stipend at the standard research council rate for one year (£14,777 in 2018/19). International (non-EU) candidates are also welcome to apply but will be required to pay the difference between the UK/EU and international tuition fee rates (approximately £17,000).

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