Opportunities and Prospective Projects
Current PhD opportunities
We have a fully funded PhD position, jointly funded with GSK- see details here.
The MDH competition is now over, but any funded students are welcome to talk about the following projects:
PhD Project examples
Enquiries from talented and committed prospective PhD students are welcome in all areas of our research portfolio. In all cases for further information contact Dr Graham Stafford for details. Please also fill out a PhD Enquiry form for the Department which can be found here, we welcome enquiries from funded overseas applicants warmly.
These project are intended to give an idea of potential areas of PhD research and at the time of enquiring priorities in the lab will no doubt be slightly different. Please get in touch with Dr Graham Stafford for details.
1.Influence of pathogen glycosidases on innate immune responses of human cells
Many pathogens produce glycosidase enzymes that target the sugars residing on the surface of human glycoproteins.These sugars are a source of nutrition for the bacteria in question but are also targets for adhesion that are important in the initial stages of infections by a range of human pathogens and commensals. Alterations to the levels of these sugars have also been associated with changes in innate immune responses to bacterial antigens.
The aim of this project is to characterise the alterations and mechanisms of innate immune response modulation by pathogen glycosidases, with a focus on sialidases from oral organisms such as P. gingivalis and T. forsythia. We have a range of novel mutant enzymes and glycosidase deficient strains prepared for these studies making it an excellent area of study. As part of the work you will use an in-house infection model (in vitro), a range of molecular biology techniques, immunofluoresence microscopy, biochemistry and cytokine bead assays amoung other techniques as appropriate.
2. Investigation of novel virulence genes in Porphyromonas gingivalis
Our recent work on hyper-invasive sub-populations of the keystone periodontal pathogen P. gingivalis highlighted several genes of interest that are differentialyl regulated during infection of human cells. As part of a previous project we now have mutants of a range of these, the project will investigate these in detail using in vitro (cellular) models of infection, molecular characterisation of bacterial gene expression and in biofilm growth models.
2. Investigation of Outer membrane protein receptors for P. gingivalis
Our recent work has highlighted the role for surface exposed peptides in host-pathogen interactions. This project will focus on the characterisation of these proteins as determinants of cellular interaction with the oral epithelium. Using a range of synthetic biotinylated versions of these peptides we will probe for cellullar receptors examine how these peptides modulate innate immune responses in in vitro models of infection.
3. Investigation of novel outer membrane sialic acid transport systems in anaerobes
Our recent work has revealed that several oral and gastrointestinal anaerobes possess a novel outer membrane sialic acid transport system. This project aims to investigate the mechanism of this transport system with a focus on the TonB dependent transport of sugars in these bacteria, including the periodontal pathgen Tannerella forsythia and the gut dwelling organism Bacteroides fragilis.
5. Microbes, virulence factors and their potential influence on Pre-term Birth in humans
We have evidence that bacteria and their sialdase from vaginal organisms influences host-pathogen interactions. With our collaborator, Prof Anumba we will investigate this area.
6. Investigation of novel Bacteriophage against oral pathogenic bacteria
Given the rise in Antimicrobial Resistance and the need for new antimicrobial agents there has been a resurgence in interest of bacteriophage as novel treatments for use in topical infections or as sources of new antimicrobial proteins. We have isolated a number of phage from the environment against bacteria that cause root-canal infections that will be studied further as part of this project alongside work to isolate novel phage against other oral pathogens.
7. Protein production in E.coli, novel secretion modes
We will investigate and focus on exploitation of non-sec type protein secretion for biopharmaceuticals