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New bismuth-based biopolymer composites for challenging anti-microbial resistance

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, May 12, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies (CSCT) at the University of Bath has now launched a new joint PhD programme with Monash University, Australia. The Bath Monash Global PhD Programme will have its first intake in October this year.

This project is one of a number that are in competition for up to four funded studentships. More details are available here:

Home institution: Monash University
Supervisor at Bath: Professor Toby Jenkins
Supervisors at Monash: Professor Phil Andrews (lead) and Associate Professor Warren Bachelor

There is a steady and significant increase in microbial resistance to common antibiotics, and in fact many bacteria are now multi-drug resistant, for example Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This is primarily of great concern in medical and healthcare environments where it impacts directly on human health. However, it also demands the continual development of effective bactericidal compounds capable of combating increasing antibiotic resistance.

Bismuth compounds show good antimicrobial activity, and are of low toxicity towards humans. This has led to increasing interest in bismuth and its potential applications in materials, medicine and bio-protective surfaces. Because of the way bacteria develop resistance, through mutation and evolution, it is easier for them to adapt to fully organic molecules than to those based on metals. There is no simple mechanism by which organisms can develop resistance to metal complexes. As such, there is great potential in the development of metal based antibiotics for both chemotherapeutic purposes and in generating antimicrobial materials.

The majority of antimicrobial polymers and materials currently used in healthcare facilities (silicones, plastics (eg polyurethane) or natural fibres eg linen (cellulose)} incorporate either Ag(I) ions or nanoparticulate silver (AgNPs). Other metals; Au, Cu, Ga, Sn and Zn, are components of current commercial antimicrobial products, and remain a major focus of ongoing research, particularly in nanotechnology where the formation of antibacterial nanoparticles and nanomaterials appears a promising strategy, and also in abiotic metal-impregnated surfaces.

The predominance of silver in broad-spectrum antimicrobial materials has generated significant interest recently, primarily over concerns around toxicity and environmental accumulation. Especially since little is known about the mechanism-of-action of silver ions and nanoparticles towards biological entities. There is also evidence that because of the long association of silver and human societies that bacterial strains resistant to silver are emerging and research is beginning to shed light on the adverse effects of increased exposure of humans and the environment to the large increase in the amount of bioavailable silver. Hence, opinion remains divided on whether silver antimicrobial products are generally safe and can be used into the future. This risk means the commercial market is actively looking at new and safer alternatives.

This project is focused on the development of bismuth impregnated materials which have the potential to be used as anti-infectives in wound management. It will involve the design and development of novel metal complexes which exhibit low micro- to nano-molar activity towards both Gram positive and Gram negative multi drug resistant bacteria. These complexes will be introduced into bio-compatible biopolymer matrices, for example nano-cellulose, silk, and soluble lignin, and will be used to fabricate or coat wound dressings and implants. A second feature of the project will be to develop materials based on hydrogels (using for example cellulose or acrylamides) which can be used for securing a pathogen free environment around drivelines and skin openings.


We invite applications from Science and Engineering graduates who have, or expect to obtain, a first or upper second class degree and have a strong interest in Sustainable Chemical Technologies.

You may express an interest in up to three projects in order of preference. See the CSCT website for more information:

Please submit your application at the Home institution of your preferred project. However, please note that you are applying for a joint PhD programme and applications will be processed as such.

If this is your preferred project, apply to Monash here:

If the Home institution of your preferred project is Bath, apply here:
Please quote ‘Bath Monash PhD studentship’ in the Finance section and the lead supervisor(s)’ name(s) and project title(s) in the ‘Your research interests’ section. More information on applying to Bath may be found here:

Enquiries about the application process should be sent to .

Funding Notes

Bath Monash PhD studentships include tuition fee sponsorship and a living allowance (stipend) for the course duration (up to 42 months maximum). Note, however, that studentships for Bath-based projects will provide cover for UK/EU tuition fees ONLY. Non-Australian nationals studying in Australia will be required to pay their own Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC).

Additional and suitably qualified applicants who can access a scholarship/studentship from other sources will be also considered.

How good is research at University of Bath in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 33.10

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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