Shape, shear, search & strife; mathematical models of bacteria


Applications will close as soon as a suitable candidate has been found. 

This project is supported by the Doctoral Training Centre in Biofilms Innovation, Technology and Engineering (BITE) which will train PhD researchers at the interface of Physical and Life Sciences to understand the behaviour of biofilms, which are central to the global challenges of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), Health, Food Security, Clean Water and Energy. BITE is a world class interdisciplinary partnership between Universities of Liverpool, Edinburgh, Nottingham and Southampton, all core founding partners of the £26.5M National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC).

Biofilms are communities of micro-organisms that stick to each other within a matrix or at a surface and represent the dominant mode of life for bacteria on earth. Biofilms impact on a ~$5 trillion global economic activity, approximately twice the UK’s GDP, and impact on health and major UK industrial sectors.

BITE DTC provides a unique training experience to the next generation of research leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs so that they can deliver breakthrough science and technologies in the cross-disciplinary field of biofilms. The four partner universities, alongside international institutes, major national facilities and a large industrial consortium have come together to deliver the UK’s first graduate training centre that will address the skills and knowledge gap in the biofilms field. Our research will span the fields of physical, mathematical, engineering, life and clinical sciences.

BITE PhD projects will:

  • Drive international research challenges by working with leading groups in the partner universities and by encompassing exceptional interdisciplinarity to revolutionise training in the biofilms field;
  • Involve cohort training with students across the four institutions creating a highly-networked DTC community whose access to a world-leading infrastructure and knowledge-base will enable it to compete with the international best;
  • Embed innovation and entrepreneurship to catalyse high impact translation of ideas into technology and enhance the business and career prospects of its students;
  • Involve participation of stakeholders, including industry, government departments and laboratories, charities, NHS, external and internal research institutes for example, through NBIC collaborations;
  • Instill skills of effective leadership, clear communication and problem solving.

All research projects fit within the following BITE Research Themes:

  1. Biofilm Prevention - Design of surfaces, interfaces and materials to prevent biofilms.
  2. Biofilm Detection - Innovative sensing, tracking and diagnostic technologies to detect biofilms.
  3. Biofilm Management - Kill, remove or control established biofilms from exploiting their life cycle dynamics.
  4. Biofilm Engineering - Control and direct complex microbial communities in process applications.

Project summary: In this project we focus on the very early stages of biofilm formation where the behaviour of cells, in particular the way in which they move and compete with each other, can profoundly impact what happens in the later stages.  By developing a mathematical framework, we will clarify the complexity of the problem, and be able to test biological hypothesis concerning how different bacterial species compete and colonize surfaces.

Stakeholder partners:

Dr William Durham, University of Sheffield.

Provision of experimental tracking data of bacteria undergoing chemotaxis on surfaces.

Eligibility: UK or EU students with the equivalent of at least a 2.1 Honours degree in Mathematical Sciences.

How to apply: All interested applicants should apply for a PhD in Chemistry via the on-line application link on the University of Liverpool website.    Please clearly indicate the project  name of the BITE studentship and if you wish to apply for more than one project within the BITE Doctoral Training Centre, please note this in the application.  Please be aware, students will receive a degree from the primary supervisor’s host School.


All enquiries should be directed to



Open to EU/UK applicants

Funding information

Funded studentship

This project is funded by the NBIC University of Liverpool Doctoral Training Centre in Biofilms Innovation, Technology & Engineering.  The award will pay full tuition fees and a maintenance grant for 3.5 years. The maintenance grant will be £15,007 pa for 2019-20. Students will be expected to contribute to teaching within their primary supervisor’s host department with hours dependent on the details of the source of the studentship funding.