BBSRC MRes/PhD Studentship Resistance to copper toxicity in Staphylococcus aureus

Reference Code: CB090

Name of the supervisor(s)
Dr K Waldron, Institute for cell and Molecular Biosciences (ICaMB)

Professor C Dennison, Institute for cell and Molecular Biosciences (ICaMB)

Dr J Morrissey, University of Leicester

This studentship is sponsored by BBSRC as part of the Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP).

Duration of the award
4 years (MRes Medical and Molecular Biosciences followed by a three-year PhD).

Project description
Due to the spread of antibiotic-resistant pathogens, and the recognition that prevention of infection is better than cure, copper salts and copper-containing alloys have attracted attention in recent years for their wide-spectrum antimicrobial activity. Laboratory testing has shown that most bacteria are killed in minutes on copper surfaces, and clinical trials of copper-containing alloys in hospital fixtures show great promise. Copper salts have been used as an agrochemical fungicide since 1885, and are even used by the human immune system to fight invading pathogens. However, the mechanisms by which copper kills microorganisms are unknown, making it difficult to assess the risk of bacterial resistance arising from increased use of antibacterial copper.

The mechanism of action and the risk of resistance will be simultaneously assessed through a forward genetic screen using the Gram-positive pathogen Staphylococcus aureus. Subsequent work will use reverse genetics, biochemistry and metalloproteomics to confirm the observed phenotypes, and to investigate the molecular mechanism of copper resistance in the mutant strains.

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This project will provide the student with an excellent training in molecular biology, microbiology, bacterial genetics, biochemistry and in the cell biology of metals. The project is a collaboration between two research groups based in Newcastle (Waldron & Dennison) and a third group (Morrissey) based in Leicester, and the successful student will spend time in all three laboratories during the project.

Value of the Award and Eligibility
Depending on how you meet the BBSRC’s eligibility criteria, you may be entitled to a full or a partial award. A full award covers tuition fees at the UK/EU rate and an annual stipend of £13,590 (2012/13). A partial award covers fees at the UK/EU rate only.

Person Specification
Candidates should have or expect to achieve a First Class or 2:1 Honours degree in a relevant science subject

How to Apply
You must complete the University’s postgraduate application form. Select “Master of Research/Doctor of Philosophy (Medical Sciences) – Cell and Molecular Biosciences” as the programme of study. Only mandatory fields need to be completed (no personal statement required) but you must attach a copy of your CV and a covering letter, quoting the title of the studentship and reference number CB090.

Closing date for applications 
Prompt application is advised as this post is only available until a suitable candidate is appointed.

Further Information
For further details, please contact:
Dr Kevin Waldron
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 222 7369

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