Launch your career in R&D with an industry-based three year funded PhD in new materials science, researching biofilms for healthcare.
Management of biofilms is critical for healthcare. In the context of severe burns, microbes are life-threatening, and with the rise of superbugs ie bugs that can resist antibiotics (known as antimicrobial resistance, AMR), novel approaches are required to prevent biofilms forming.
The first component of this PhD project is to further our understanding of the chemical pathways of biofilm formation and their contribution to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) development. Biofilms are a structured consortium of microbial cells encased in a matrix of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS). As no current antimicrobial therapy can eradicate mature biofilms, it is therefore critical to know how these biofilms form – in order to develop strategies to prevent formation.
A second objective, based upon the above, is to fabricate novel surface coatings that can resist biofilm formation. The principal method for making coatings will be by a plasma (electrically-excited gas) technique. These films, known as plasma polymers, will either release nitric oxide (a key signalling molecule implicated in dispersing biofilms) or films that mimic nitric oxide.
It is known that the strength of microbe adhesion is affected by surface roughness and by surface topographical features. We will, therefore, attempt to design topography into coatings. Nano and microscale features, such as micropillars, will be achieved through a range of chemical and physical techniques such as chemical and plasma etching and advanced manufacturing techniques including laser ablation and additive manufacturing. The topographies will be assessed using a new confocal microscope and SEM. The adhesion will be measured using pull-off and peel tests on biofilms and coatings using mechanical testers and bespoke rigs.
Ultimately the project will provide novel coatings that can be applied to a wide range of materials, that would eventually include wound dressings in critical environments (e.g. in severe burns, operating theatres etc.) where infection must be avoided. Plasma coating will be achieved in an RF barrel reactor that the PhD will build and learn how to operate. The coatings will be analysed using the recent purchased £700,000 x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. In addition, Infrared and Raman micro-spectroscopy - combined with chemometric analysis will be used to understand the dynamics of EPS accumulation in biofilms in a 3D construct.
This PhD position will suit candidates with a background in Engineering, Chemistry or Materials Science.
- Join a cohort of 9 PhDs and work in an exciting community of like-minded peers
- Work directly with leading industry partners
- Be mentored by internationally recognised researcher leaders
- Work across various fields of materials science and gain extensive topic-specific training
- Gain experience of modelling and problem solving for scientific and industrial applications
- Help develop new products, processes and services
- Build academic and industrial networks and have both a scientific and industrial impact with your research
- Receive an enhanced stiped rate of £19,750 for two years then £17,600 for the final year
- Gain a postgraduate qualification from a world-class university
- Finish in a strong position to enter a competitive job market
The studentship for UK /EU citizens is fully funded with the first two years at an enhanced stiped rate of £19,750 and £17,600 in the final year of study.
To apply for this opportunity please apply by email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “GISMO: Understanding Biofilms” and include:
- A CV (2 pages maximum)
- Cover letter
- Contact details for 2 references
- University grade transcripts
The closing date for applications is 6/4/2020, early submissions are encouraged.
For informal enquiries, applicants should contact Professor Ihtesham Rehman or Dr David Cheneler in the Engineering Department.