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PhD Scholarship - Characterisation of novel substances in wastewater that select for antimicrobial resistance (UQ/Exeter Joint PhD)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, May 20, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Extended anthropogenic use of antimicrobials is leading to rapidly evolving, multi-drug antimicrobial resistance (AMR) on a global scale. It has been recently shown that non-antibiotic drugs and other chemicals may play a role in the emergence of antibiotic resistance. Wastewater contains a cocktail of chemicals, including drugs, personal care products and household and industrial chemicals. Elucidating which of these has the potential to induce AMR is challenging, however possible through an effects-directed analytical approach whereby wastewater is fractionated. Following testing using a novel AMR assay, the fractions will be tested using chromatography coupled to high resolution mass spectrometry to reveal high risk, priority compounds that may enrich for AMR.

This PhD project will work on developing analytical methods for the fractionation and analysis of wastewater. The developed techniques will be used to characterise the presence of substances that induce AMR. Wastewater will be systematically fractionated and tested using a novel, low cost yet high-throughput AMR assay. This assay exposes wastewater-derived bacterial communities to wastewater fractions to screen for biological effects and has been shown to be a reliable proxy for selection of key AMR genes. Active fractions will be analysed using high-resolution mass spectrometry.

Through this project the PhD researcher will gain experience in chemical analytical techniques, as well as theoretical and practical experience in identifying and quantifying contaminant fate processes and aspects of microbiology and environmental risk assessment of AMR.

The Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences (QAEHS) has modern analytical and archiving facilitates located at their Brisbane laboratories. The labs are equipped with the most advanced high-resolution mass spectrometers coupled to liquid and gas chromatography. QAEHS also hosts the Australian Environmental Specimen Bank providing access to thousands of wastewater samples dating back to 2009 and representative of up to 70% of the Australian population. The successful candidate will join an active and dynamic cohort of around 20 students working in related fields.

The successful candidate will also benefit from access to fully equipped, state-of-the-art CATII microbiology laboratories at the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) at the University of Exeter Penryn Campus, including a 384-well plate qPCR machine for high throughput detection of AMR genes. Access to high performance computing will be granted to enable analysis of large mixed datasets, to identify hotspots for resistance selection and prioritisation of high risk chemicals. The student will join a thriving community of postgraduates at the Penryn Campus which ranks in the top 10 nationally for student satisfaction.

Funding Notes

This scholarship includes a living stipend of AUD $27,596 (2019) tax free, indexed annually, tuition fees and Overseas Student Health Cover (where applicable). A travel grant of AUD $8,500 per annum, and a training grant of AUD $3,000 are also available over the program.

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