Gram positive bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus (the SA in MRSA) have a thick cell wall which gives the cell its shape and allows it to exist with a high internal osmotic pressure. The aim of this project is to use and develop new atomic force microscopy (AFM) technology to better understand the physical processes that control bacterial growth, division, and antibiotic induced death. Recently we have shown that the cell wall has a complex architecture of interconnected molecular scale fibres which varies depending on location in the cell and age of the wall (Pasquina Lemonche et al, Nature,2020). We have also shown how critical antibiotics such as penicillin lead to death through the formation of holes in this structure (Salamaga et al, PNAS, 2021). We now want to apply these approaches to explore the physics of the cell division process in detail, utilising the ability to image live cells with molecular scale resolution, as well as both new nano-infrared imaging capabilities (https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/nearfield-optical-spectroscopy) and combined super-resolution optics with AFM (STORMForce, Tank et al, ACS Nano, 2021) that allow local determination of chemistry. Ultimately the improved understanding this project will provide could be used to help develop new approaches to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The project presents an exciting opportunity to apply and develop cutting edge biophysical analysis to a biological topic of fundamental interest (cell wall structure/function) in the context of a problem of major significance to human health (AMR).
A 2i or better first degree in physics, engineering, materials science, biosciences, or a related discipline is required. The project is UKRI EPSRC funded for 3.5 years with a stipend currently set at £17,668/year, and is available for UK and international applicants. It is jointly supervised by Profs Jamie Hobbs (Physics and Astronomy) and Simon Foster (Biosciences). For further details please contact me at [Email Address Removed], or visit the Hobbs’ lab webpage (https://spm.sites.sheffield.ac.uk/home). The deadline for applications is 12 th February 2023, or until filled, and should be made through the University’s application system (https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/postgradapplication/). If you have applied, please let me know by e-mail as there can be a short delay in applications reaching me through the online system.