Skip to main content
University of Bath

GW4 BioMed MRC DTP Projects

Find out more about the PhD projects available via the GW4 BioMed MRC DTP Doctoral Training Partnership.

Research Theme: Infection, Immunity & Repair

Using nanotechnology, structural biology and genome editing to study how fungal receptors promote the spread of lethal diseases

Lead Supervisor: Dr Neil Brown
Department: Biology & Biochemistry
Project Summary: Fungi threaten our health, killing millions every year. New ways to stop the spread of fungal pathogens must be found. This project will deploy cutting-edge molecular biology, nanotechnology and imaging approaches to understand how fungal receptors function, aiding the design of novel approaches to impede the spread of drug-resistant pathogens.

Find out more about Using nanotechnology, structural biology and genome editing to study how fungal receptors promote the spread of lethal diseases.

Using computational simulation and machine learning to understand bacterial phenotypes of public health importance

Lead Supervisor: Dr Lauren Cowley
Department: Biology & Biochemistry
Project Summary: Understanding phenotype to genotype in humans is easier than bacteria because sexual reproduction decreases genome similarity. Bacteria reproduce asexually but occasional bacterial sex (recombination) shuffles the genome. Genomic analysis will be used to investigate the effect of recombination on discovering causal genes in disease phenotypes.

Find out more about Using computational simulation and machine learning to understand bacterial phenotypes of public health importance.

Inhibition of signaling pathways as a novel strategy to block antibiotic resistance

Lead Supervisor: Dr Susanne Gebhard
Department: Biology & Biochemistry
Project Summary: Antibiotic resistance is a serious threat to public health. Its first step is often through signaling pathways that trigger the bacterium’s resistance mechanisms in response to a drug. This project will apply biochemistry, molecular biology and protein modelling to find inhibitors that block signaling and thus prevent activation of resistance.

Find out more about Inhibition of signaling pathways as a novel strategy to block antibiotic resistance.

The role of virulence hotspots in parasitic nematode genomes

Lead Supervisor: Dr Vicky Hunt
Department: Biology & Biochemistry
Project Summary: What makes a parasite a parasite? We have shown that genomes of parasitic nematodes are characterised by hotspots of virulence genes. This project will investigate the role of these 'virulence hotspots' in parasite – host interactions, the mechanism of gene co-regulation and the conservation of virulence hotspots across parasites.

Find out more about The role of virulence hotspots in parasitic nematode genomes.

Defining the role of efflux in bacterial biofilm formation and antimicrobial resistance to develop new treatments for infection

Lead Supervisor: Dr Brian Jones
Department: Biology & Biochemistry
Project Summary: Efflux systems are molecular "pumps" involved in many aspects of bacterial infection. Working with Public Health England, the student will employ genetic, transcriptomic, and modelling techniques to understand the role of efflux in biofilm formation and antimicrobial resistance. This will support the development of new ways to control infections.

Find out more about Defining the role of efflux in bacterial biofilm formation and antimicrobial resistance to develop new treatments for infection.

Snapshot into the fungal nucleus – opening novel avenues to tackle fungal disease

Lead Supervisor: Dr Hans-Wilhelm Nützmann
Department: Biology & Biochemistry
Project Summary: Fungal pathogens threaten our health and kill millions. In this project, we will deploy cutting-edge 3D chromatin genetics, mycology and bioinformatics to better understand how pathogenic fungi sense and adapt to the human host. Our goal is to open novel paths to interfere with fungal disease.

Find out more about Snapshot into the fungal nucleus – opening novel avenues to tackle fungal disease.

Strain wars and the evolution of opportunistic pathogens

Lead Supervisor: Prof Samuel Sheppard
Department: Biology & Biochemistry
Project Summary: Many serious diseases (e.g., meningitis, pneumonia, blood/wound infections) are caused by commensal bacteria that are common on the skin or in the guts of healthy people. However, questions remain about what makes good strains go bad. Using state-of-the-art genome analyses (including machine learning) and new laboratory techniques, we will identify the pathogenicity genes and evolutionary forces that cause harmless bacteria to become opportunistic pathogens.

Find out more about Strain wars and the evolution of opportunistic pathogens.

Investigation of the oxidative stress response to parasitic nematode infection

Lead Supervisor: Prof Steven Bull
Department: Chemistry
Project Summary: The release of free radicals such as reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (NOS) that cause an oxidative stress are a component of the host immune response during an infection, but they can also be damaging to the host tissue. This project will apply recently developed novel fluorescence techniques, and genetic and proteomic approaches to investigate the oxidative stress response during infection with a gastrointestinal parasitic nematode.

Find out more about Investigation of the oxidative stress response to parasitic nematode infection.

Prostate cancer anti-tumour immunity: is exercise immuno-stimulatory?

Lead Supervisor: Dr James Turner
Department: Health
Project Summary: Strong anti-tumour immunity is thought to protect people from developing cancer and has been proven to limit disease progression in patients. This project will use cutting-edge immunological techniques to examine how forms of exercise influence immune-surveillance and overall immune-competency in healthy people and patients with prostate cancer.

Find out more about Prostate cancer anti-tumour immunity: is exercise immuno-stimulatory?

Computational modelling for the prevention of heart failure following a heart attack

Lead Supervisor: Dr Andrew Cookson
Department: Mechanical Engineering
Project Summary: This project will create a state-of-the-art in silico tool to help develop the next generation of therapies for heart failure. Mathematical and computational models of cardiac tissue blood flow and the tissue remodelling that occurs following a heart attack will be created using data acquired by PET/CT imaging of a novel mouse experimental protocol. These models will then be used to predict the efficacy of new treatments for heart failure.

Find out more about Computational modelling for the prevention of heart failure following a heart attack.

Microneedle poration as a drug delivery technology to treat nail fungal infections: addressing an unmet medical need

Lead Supervisor: Dr Begoña Delgado-Charro
Department: Pharmacy & Pharmacology
Project Summary: This PhD will develop your microfabrication, material sciences, drug delivery and microbiology skills to engineer microneedles that porate the nail plate and create micro-channels through which specifically formulated medication is delivered deep into the nail to reach effective concentrations of antifungals with a novel platform for nail therapies.

Find out more about Microneedle poration as a drug delivery technology to treat nail fungal infections: addressing an unmet medical need.

Development of a cancer-on-a-chip device to study the role of insulin-like growth factor binding protein-6 and immune cell tumour infiltration in breast cancer

Lead Supervisor: Dr Ute Jungwirth
Department: Pharmacy & Pharmacology
Project Summary: A multidisciplinary PhD project, in which we will A) develop a cancer-on-a-chip microfluidic device and B) use the chip together with 2D & 3D co-cultures to study how insulin-like growth factor binding protein (IGFBP)-6 expression has an impact breast cancer progression and immune cell infiltration. Further, we will study IGFBP6 secretion into the blood of breast cancer patients prior to and after chemotherapy treatment.

Find out more about Development of a cancer-on-a-chip device to study the role of insulin-like growth factor binding protein-6 and immune cell tumour infiltration in breast cancer.

Structure of ART Toxins: understanding toxicity through host receptor interactions

Lead Supervisor: Prof Randy Mrsny
Department: Pharmacy & Pharmacology
Project Summary: The ADP-ribosyltransferase toxins (ARTTs) represent a family of virulence factors that inhibit protein synthesis via ADP-ribosylation of essential intracellular elements and so facilitate the pathophysiology associated with a number of bacterial pathogens. This project aims to decipher the structural details of the toxin-host receptor interactions.

Find out more about Structure of ART Toxins: understanding toxicity through host receptor interactions.

Research Theme: Neuroscience & Mental Health

Novel diagnostics for stress and neuroendocrine disorders

Lead Supervisor: Dr Nuno Reis
Department: Chemical Engineering
Project Summary: There is an unprecedented need for decentralised diagnostic tests able to measure levels of neuroendocrine and stress hormones. This interdisciplinary project will deliver a disruptive, global biosensing methodology for fingerprinting endocrine hormones and demonstrate its impact in endocrinology and health psychology.

Find out more about Novel Diagnostics for Stress and Neuroendocrine Disorders.

Using translational neuromodelling techniques to develop a predictive model to understand breathlessness perception

Lead Supervisor: Dr Ben Ainsworth
Department: Psychology
Project Summary: People with asthma and COPD live with chronic breathlessness, but current treatments overlook the psychological disease aspects. This project will use cutting-edge cognitive neuroscientific theory and psychological experimental methodologies to develop a 'Bayesian Brain' model of breathlessness that will inform and improve clinical treatment.

Find out more about Using translational neuromodelling techniques to develop a predictive model to understand breathlessness perception.

Advances in clinical management and laboratory detection of synthetic cannabinoids (“Spice”)

Lead Supervisor: Dr Tom Freeman
Department: Psychology
Project Summary: Synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists (SCRAs) can have serious adverse effects. This project involves research in a SCRA clinic to characterise dependence and withdrawal, and test a novel detoxification method. It provides training in laboratory techniques to identify SCRAs in drug and biological samples and relate these to clinical outcomes.

Find out more about Advances in clinical management and laboratory detection of synthetic cannabinoids (“Spice”).

Meeting the mental health needs of adolescents in out-of-home care and care-leavers

Lead Supervisor: Dr Rachel Hiller
Department: Psychology
Project Summary: This mixed-methods interdisciplinary project investigates the mental health and wellbeing of teens in care. The project covers: 1) framework development on the emotional needs of these young people; 2) mapping of how mental health services respond, including when they transition to adult services; and 3) investigating the feasibility of targeting mental health within social care.

Find out more about Meeting the mental health needs of adolescents in out-of-home care and care-leavers.

Examining the development of sensory-independent plasticity

Lead Supervisor: Dr Karin Petrini
Department: Psychology
Project Summary: Despite evidence of highly flexible sensory-independent areas in the adult brain (e.g. visual word form area responding to tactile written language) it is still unknown how this rapid sensory-independent plasticity develops. This project will fill this gap in research and inform the development of early sensory interventions.

Find out more about Examining the development of sensory-independent plasticity.

Cannabis, tobacco and psychiatric disease: isolating their relationship through triangulation of cross-country data

Lead Supervisor: Dr Gemma Taylor
Department: Psychology, Addiction and Mental Health Group (AIM)
Project Summary: This PhD project will ask: Can we isolate the relationships between cannabis, tobacco and psychiatric disease through triangulation of data from countries that smoke cannabis with, and without tobacco, and across statistical methods that differ in their ability to make causal links?

Find out more about Cannabis, Tobacco and Psychiatric Disease: Isolating Their Relationship through Triangulation of Cross-Country Data.

Research Theme: Population Health

Causal inference methods for randomised trials

Lead Supervisor: Dr Jonathan Bartlett
Department: Mathematical Sciences
Project Summary: In randomised trials comparing two or more treatments, patients often change from the treatment they were randomised to receive during the trial. This project will explore how methods developed for quantifying the causal effects of exposures or treatments in non-randomised studies can be used and extended to disentangle the effects of each treatment in randomised trials.

Find out more about Causal inference methods for randomised trials.

Using artificial intelligence to identify risks to patient safety from poor quality medicines guidance for health professionals

Lead Supervisor: Dr Matthew Jones
Department: Pharmacy & Pharmacology
Project Summary: Medicines errors caused by poorly written professional guidance will be investigated by first statistically combining the results of past research & then developing an artificial intelligence algorithm to analyse a database of NHS error reports. There will be a placement involving medicines safety analysis in the NHS. The student will gain skills in artificial intelligence & statistics for large data sets, & knowledge of NHS medicines safety.

Find out more about Using artificial intelligence to identify risks to patient safety from poor quality medicines guidance for health professionals.

Brain ageing in schizophrenia and as a marker of mental and physical well-being

Lead Supervisor: Dr Esther Walton
Department: Psychology
Project Summary: This project focusses on healthy mental ageing in the population and in individuals with schizophrenia. The student will investigate how brain age (derived from brain imaging scans) links to physical health; the genetic architecture of brain ageing; and how schizophrenia and modifiable lifestyle factors impact accelerated brain ageing.

Find out more about Brain ageing in schizophrenia and as a marker of mental and physical well-being.