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PhD Studentship Opportunity in Development of a novel processing control strategy for bacterial biofilm monitoring in the food industry

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Thursday, November 28, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a phenomenon through which bacteria become resistant to standard decontamination methods, e.g., antibiotics, classical sterilisation. Survival of bacteria because of AMR is a significant concern for global health and in the case of food related pathogens it pauses a great risk on food safety. It is worth mentioning that based on O’Neil’s report on AMR (2014), more people will be dying by 2050 from bacterial infections than by cancer. In many cases, food related bacteria form the so-called ‘biofilms’ which are organised layers-clusters that are reported to be even more resistant. It should be stated that the ways bacteria interact within the context of a biofilm are not understood to date.

At the same time, most studies in food systems are food specific and case specific with batch-batch variations leaving us with several questions on the relation between biofilm formation/resistance and the physicochemical and structural characteristics of a food surface. Furthermore, nowadays consumers demand minimally processes food products which have high nutritional content and better sensory characteristics. However, the mechanisms of action of novel minimal processing on the bacterial biofilm formation, inactivation and/or resistance as affected by food microstructure are hugely unknown and this is a great challenge for the adoption of novel processing by industry.

Therefore, the aim of this project is to address the above challenge via (i) the study of bacterial biofilm formation as affected by food micro-structural and physicochemical properties on advanced food models and on hard food processing surfaces (ii) the validation of a newly developed minimal processing technology by R-processing Ltd (cold pasteurisation) on inactivating (‘killing’) the formed biofilms on food models and industrial surfaces.

This project will be carried out at the University of Surrey, and will be supervised by Dr Eirini Velliou (Department of Chemical Engineering-FEPS) and Dr Jorge Gutierrez-Merino (Department of Nutritional Sciences-FHMS). There is also an industrial collaborator involved, i.e., R-processing Ltd.

Dr Eirini Velliou (Principal Supervisor) is a Senior Lecturer in Bioprocess Engineering, Principal Investigator and Founder of the Bioprocess and Biochemical Engineering group (BioProChem) at the University of Surrey, which is a multidisciplinary group of scientists conducting research at the interface of engineering, biology and biomaterials. The group specialises on bioprocess optimisation and more specifically on the design and validation of in vitro platforms for studying biological systems as influenced by environmental stress. Dr Velliou has extensive expertise and track record in studying the impact of stress on the kinetics and resistance of food pathogens such as Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli in biomaterial-based food models.

Dr Jorge Gutierrez-Merino (Co-supervisor) is a Lecturer in Microbiology with extensive experience and track record in applied molecular microbiology. He has successfully coordinated multidisciplinary agri-food research projects including the design of antimicrobial treatments against the growth of food-borne pathogens in various food systems and the transcriptional response of plant cells under oxidative stress. During his time at Surrey he has established a lab perfectly equipped for advanced microbiology. Dr Gutierrez-Merino will provide expertise and guidance on the transcriptional characterisation of biofilms.

This project is an exciting multidisciplinary work and collaboration that will generate insightful data that (i) will enable a better understanding of the development of resistance of bacteria in food systems (ii) will help R-processing Ltd deliver their very novel technology faster from bench to industrial practice.

Entry requirements:
Applicants will need an upper second or first in a relevant degree. IELTS: Total score 6.5 with no lower than 6 in any component.

How to apply:
To apply, please send your CV and cover letter to Dr Eirini Velliou () and apply through the programme page:
https://www.surrey.ac.uk/postgraduate/chemical-and-process-engineering-research-phd.

Please state the project title and supervisor clearly in all applications-preferably as part of the project title.
Interviews will be held on 02/12/2019, 03/12/2019, 05/12/2019 and 06/12/2019. The starting date for the post is January 2020.

Funding Notes

The PhD scholarship is based on RCUK rates and covers stipend, fees as well as funding for consumables.

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