Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

PhD CASE studentship: Genetic diversification in a multi-species bacterial biofilm community [closed]

Published: 1 June 2010
School of Biological Sciences

BBSRC Industrial CASE studentship with Pfizer UK: Genetic diversification in a multi-species bacterial biofilm community


Dr J. S. Webb (School of Biological Sciences), Dr S. C. Clarke (School of Medicine)


Infections caused by pathogenic bacteria cause 16.8 million deaths globally each year according to the WHO, second only to cardiovascular disease. Bacterial species such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and Neisseria meningitidis are important pathogens globally, causing significant morbidity and mortality mainly due to meningitis and bloodstream infections. Moreover, the emergence of new bacterial strains that exhibit variation in serotype and antibiotic resistance is relentless and places significant limitation on the long-term usefulness of vaccines and therapeutic treatments.

The survival of bacteria in nature is greatly enhanced by their ability to grow within surface-associated communities known as biofilms. Bacteria within biofilms can rapidly acquire extensive phenotypic and genotypic diversity. This phenomenon can enhance the ability of biofilm cells to persist and spread under diverse environmental stresses. This variation has implications for a range of phenomena including the adaptive evolution of bacterial communities, the metabolic capability of bacterial consortia, and the ability of biofilm cells to establish chronic and antibiotic-resistant infections. Thus, for any biofilm system, it becomes critical to understand the extent and nature of genetic variation that occurs within the biofilm population.

Genomic variation has to date only been studied in monospecies biofilm models; the role of multispecies interactions in genomic diversification is largely unstudied. The aim of this project is to understand how interactions between bacteria during biofilm development can influence processes of bacterial diversification within a multi-species biofilm model.

List methodologies to be employed:

• 3D biomedical imaging of biofilms using confocal laser microscopy
• Flow cell continuous biofilm culture
• Molecular methods to assess strain diversity including multi-locus sequence typing (MLST)
• Genetic colour-tagging of bacterial strains using fluorescent reporter proteins
• Fluorescence in-situ hybridization (FISH)
• Antibiotic susceptibility testing


The studentship is available to candidates with the equivalent of a first class or upper second class degree in a relevant discipline.

Start Date: October 2010


This studentship is fully funded by a BBSRC CASE studentship, covering University tuition fees (at EU/UK level) and provides a tax-free bursary of £13,590 per year, rising annually in line with the UK Government (Research Councils) recommended rate, for a three to four-year duration. An additional top-up to the stipend of £2500 per year is provided by the industrial sponsor of this project, Pfizer UK.

Application Deadline: 30th June


Conibear, T. C., Collins, S. L. & Webb, J. S. (2009). Role of mutation in Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm development. PLoS One 4, e6289.

Privacy Settings