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The molecular basis of the success of bacterial pathogens.

Department of Biology

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Dr M van der Woude , Prof G H Thomas No more applications being accepted Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The success of a bacterial species depends on its ability to grow and survive in a changing and potentially hostile environment. This requires adaptation at both the single cell and population level. Research projects in my lab will align to these interests, that are focused around bacterial pathogens. Projects will be related to research questions and projects in the MvdW lab.
An aspect of bacterial populations that is just beginning to be fully appreciated is the heterogeneity of single cells in clonal populations. We are interested in determining the extent of this, how does this heterogeneity is generated and, what this contributes to the success of the population. Altering antigenicity is a common virulence strategy, and is often heterogenous. We focus on pathogenic Enterobacteriaceae, and identified the extent by which Salmonella modifies its immunodominant carbohydrate surface structure (LPS). We showed that expression is heterogenous, and elucidated the regulatory mechanism. We analysed structure-function relationship of the enzymes that mediate these cell surface changes. Projects that build upon this or work to elucidate the impact on the pathogen with the environment can be developed. Projects may be developed in a related area of interest on pathogenic E. coli. Approaches may include general microbiology, molecular biology, protein function (in collaboration), microbial genetics and phenotype analysis (range of tools and analyses), further enhanced by the University’s Technology Facility. This basic research aims to inform vaccine development strategies, enhance diagnostic approaches, and provide insights into pathogen evolution.
Projects related to these interests that involve other disciplines can be considered, as evidenced from recent interdisciplinary work on Contact-dependent inhibition. The lab’s publications can be accessed from
Generic and subject specific research skills training will be provided, with further opportunities to enhance broader skills e.g. lab meetings, seminars, supervise undergraduate projects, and outreach.

Funding Notes

This is a self-funded project. Applicants need to have adequate funds to meet the costs of a self-funded research project including tuition fees and living expenses for the duration of the research programme. Please see information on tuition fee costs, living expenses and funding opportunities.


Applications are welcome for either for a 1-year MSc by Research or for a 3-year PhD.

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