PhD Studentship: New Antibiotics from Ants and Plants (WILKINSON_J18DTP2)

University of East Anglia - School of Biological Sciences

Location: John Innes Centre, Norwich

Start Date: 1st October 2018

No. of positions available: 1

Supervisor: Professor Barrie Wilkinson

Project description: Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is an increasingly serious threat to global public health, but is an inevitable consequence of the use of antibiotics. This studentship will seek to discover new antifungal and antibacterial agents from plant endophytic bacteria, and the bacterial mutualists that live on the cuticle of fungus farming ants. The project is collaborative with Professor Matt Hutchings at UEA.

Penicillin isolated from the fungus Penicillium notatum sparked ‘The Golden Age of Antibiotics’ which spanned the 1940’s to 1960’s when most major classes of antibiotics were discovered. Indeed, the majority of antibiotics in clinical use today are derived from natural products made by microorganisms. Natural products are important for the treatment of malaria and parasitic diseases (see 2015 Nobel Prize for Medicine), and as environmentally benign agrochemicals to increase crop yields which can help feed the growing population.

Alarmingly, the pipeline of new antibiotics has dried up at a time when AMR and emerging new pathogens has made their discovery a matter of extreme urgency.

The student will have access to cutting-edge research facilities within JIC and UEA as well as a stimulating research and training environment. They will be part of an interdisciplinary team and through the project they will gain an excellent foundation in natural products chemistry, molecular microbiology, microbial biotechnology and synthetic biology. They will mine multiple microbial genomes to identify new natural products with anti-infective activity. There will be opportunity to interact with industry and other research institutes.

The combination of skills and experience provided by this studentship will make the successful candidate highly employable in academia and industry.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP). Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed as part of the studentship competition. Candidates will be interviewed on either the 9th, 10th or 11th January 2018.

The Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4 year research project whilst enhancing professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme. You will join a vibrant community of world-leading researchers. All NRPDTP students undertake a three month professional internship (PIPS) during their study. The internship offers exciting and invaluable work experience designed to enhance professional development. Full support and advice will be provided by our Professional Internship team.

For further information and to apply, please visit our website:

Person specification: Standard minimum entry requirements: UK 2:1 or equivalent.

Funding notes: Full Studentships cover a stipend (RCUK rate: £14,553pa – 2017/8), research costs and tuition fees at UK/EU rate, and are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.

Students from EU countries who do not meet the UK residency requirements may be eligible for a fees-only award. Students in receipt of a fees-only award will be eligible for a maintenance stipend awarded by the NRPDTP Bioscience Doctoral Scholarships, which when combined will equal a full studentship. To be eligible students must meet the EU residency requirements. Details on eligibility for funding on the BBSRC website:

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