Phage Dynamics and Interaction Study: Real-time Observation and Analysis (PhD-ISROA)

Description

Bacteriophages, commonly referred to as phages, are viruses that specifically infect and replicate within bacteria. They are a cornerstone in the study of microbial ecology and evolution, with significant potential for applications in biocontrol, biotechnology, and medical therapy. In an era where antibiotic resistance represents a global health concern, phages offer a potential viable and eco-friendly alternative to traditional antibacterial agents [1]. Despite their potential, a clear understanding of not simulated phages diffusive behaviour in various environments and of the initial interactions with bacteria is still missing [2]. This research aims to understand whether and how phages dynamics and preliminary interaction with bacteria influences their efficacy (i.e. the ability of phages to successfully infect and kill bacteria), and their specificity (i.e. the precise targeting of specific bacterial strains by phages). Understanding such factors is crucial to support the advancement of phage therapy for the treatment of bacterial infections, especially in cases where traditional antibiotics are ineffective due to resistance.

Objectives

  • Monitor and analyze the real-time dynamics of various strains of bacteriophages in a range of solutions.
  • Investigate the impact of phages dynamics on the ability to infect and control a range of bacterial populations.
  • Understand the preliminary interactions between phages and bacteria, contributing to the development of more effective phage therapy strategies.

Methodology

This research will employ advanced microscopy and microbiological techniques to monitor phage populations in real-time and analyse phage-bacteria interactions in different environmental settings. Real time monitoring will be mainly performed exploiting the optical phenomenon of caustics [3], allowing the monitoring of bacteriophages without the need of fluorescent labelling. Experimental setups will include both controlled laboratory conditions and simulations of natural environments.

Significance

This research holds promising potential in advancing our understanding of bacteriophage behaviour, particularly in relation to their role in controlling bacterial populations. The insights gained could pave the way for novel, eco-friendly, and sustainable approaches to managing bacterial infections, offering an alternative to the rising of antibiotic resistance.

Candidate Suitability Profile

Given the interdisciplinary nature of the project, this research proposal would be highly suitable for a student with a background and / or interest in one or more of the following disciplines: Microbiology, Biotechnology, Bioengineering, Optics, Digital imaging.

Applicant Eligibility

Candidates will have, or be due to obtain, a master’s degree or equivalent from a reputable University in an appropriate field. Exceptional candidates with a First Class bachelor’s degree in an appropriate field will also be considered.

Application Process

Candidates wishing to apply should complete the University of Liverpool application form [How to apply for a PhD - University of Liverpool] applying for a PhD in Materials Engineering and uploading: Degree Certificates & Transcripts, an up-to-date CV, a covering letter/personal statement and two academic references.

We want all of our staff and Students to feel that Liverpool is an inclusive and welcoming environment that actively celebrates and encourages diversity. We are committed to working with students to make all reasonable project adaptations including supporting those with caring responsibilities, disabilities or other personal circumstances. For example, If you have a disability you may be entitled to a Disabled Students Allowance on top of your studentship to help cover the costs of any additional support that a person studying for a doctorate might need as a result. 

We believe everyone deserves an excellent education and encourage students from all backgrounds and personal circumstances to apply.

Availability

Open to UK applicants

Funding information

Funded studentship

The EPSRC funded Studentship will cover full tuition fees of £4,786 per year and pay a maintenance grant for 4 years, starting at the UKRI minimum of £19,237 pa. for 2024-2025. The Studentship also comes with access to additional funding in the form of a research training support grant which is available to fund conference attendance, fieldwork, internships etc.

Supervisors

References

  1. Jo, S.J., Kwon, J., Kim, S.G., Lee, S.J. The Biotechnological Application of Bacteriophages: What to Do and Where to Go in the Middle of the Post-Antibiotic Era. Microorganisms (2023). 11(9); 2311.
  2. Joiner, K.L., Baljon, A., Barr, J., Rohwer, F., Luque, A. Impact of bacteria motility in the encounter rates with bacteriophage in mucus. Scientific Report (2019). 9; 16427.
  3. Patterson, E.A., Whelan, M.P. Tracking nanoparticles in an optical microscope using caustics. Nanotechnology (2008). 19(10);105502.