University of Kent, NBIC Funded PhD Projects

There are two new exciting NBIC funded PhD project opportunities available at the University of Kent


Engineering bacterial biofilms to protect plants against fungal pathogens

Are you interested in using microbiology and microscopy to visualise plant-microbe interactions?

Bacterial biocontrol agents can provide protection against fungal plant pathogens. Currently, bacterial protection strategies are not as effective as chemical fungicides. Efficacy must be improved in order for environmentally favourable biocontrol’s to be used in preference of chemicals. Biocontrol agents such as the bacteria Bacillus subtilis, function through the formation of a protective biofilm, these bacteria are able to protect plants through direct competition with pathogens and also through the production of antimicrobial compounds. However, a complete and comprehensive image of the biofilm on the leaf phyllosphere, has not yet been achieved. Nor has the interaction between the bacteria and the pathogen been fully visualised. Through understanding these three way interactions and characterising the protective biofilm we can help to protect plants from fungal pathogens.

This PhD project at the University of Kent will focus on engineering bacterial coatings for strawberry plants in order to optimise protection against foliar plant pathogens. During this project you will:

1. Quantify plant pathogen infection in the leaf phyllosphere in the presence & absence of protective bacteria.

2. Describe biofilm contiguity over time using both imaging and molecular techniques.

3. Quantify the impact of different additives and different Bacillus species on biofilm integrity.

4. Quantify the native and treated biofilms of susceptible and disease resistant strawberry plants to identify genotype specific interactions.

Enhancing biological biofilms will mean that crops require fewer chemical fungicide applications which will not only reduce environmental pollution but will also lower food pesticide residues. Ultimately, reduced fungal disease epidemics will result in greater yields and lower food wastage.

Deadline: 1 November 2022

Start date: January 2023

For informal enquiries please contact Dr. Helen Cockerton or 

Visit the FindAPhD website to find out more. 


High resolution determination of multi-species biofilm development on medical implants

Biofilms are microbial communities that establish themselves on biotic or abiotic surfaces within a protective matrix. The growth of biofilms on implanted medical devices, such as voice prostheses, tracheostomy, or endotracheal tubing, represents a significant global clinical problem. This stems in part from the inherent antimicrobial resistance and mechanical properties of biofilms but is also routed in a lack of knowledge of how poly-microbial biofilms become established. To highlight the importance of this research proposal, the annual global impact of biofilm growth on endotracheal tubing in ventilated ICU patients, which regularly leads to ventilator associated pneumonia, is estimated at $920 m.

In this project at the University of Kent, the student will work with leaders in the field of biofilm research and imaging technology to examine how drug resistant biofilms form on medical devices. Training in advanced microbiology and imaging techniques will be provided and as this is an iCASE studentship there will be a placement with our London based partner company Intelligent Imaging Innovations, Inc. The project is funded by the National Biofilm Innovation Centre Doctoral Training Centre programme and as such provide four years of funding along with a variety of training opportunities.

Deadline: 1 November 2022

Start date: January 2023

For informal enquiries please contact Dr. Campbell Gourlay (University of Kent).

Visit the FindAPhD website to find out more.