PhD Studentship - Investigating the Effect of Nanoscale Vibration Cues on Bacterial Adhesion

University of Birmingham

Mechanosensitivity is common to a wide variety of cells in many different organisms ranging from bacteria to mammals. All organisms respond to vibration, and bacteria are no exception. It is well established that external vibration can affect bacterial phenotypes, including surface adhesion, proliferation and virulence. Reported studies have shown that low-energy surface acoustic waves generated from electrically activated piezo elements1 and vibrational loads generated by magnetoelastic materials2 can modulate bacterial adhesion. However, how bacteria perceive and respond to vibration cues from their environment is still poorly investigated. A fundamental but unexplored aspect concerns how bacterial adhesion is affected by nanoscale vibration cues. Previous studies have provided evidence that nanotopographical cues (such as size and spacing of topographic features) have a direct influence on bacterial cell attachment.3, 4 However, such nanostructures behave as static interfaces. Thus, the question arises concerning the significance of providing such nanostructured interfaces with vibration to influence bacterial adhesion.

The main research goal of this project is to understand how bacterial adhesion is affected by nanoscale vibration cues. Our vision is that this understanding will inform the future development of new, better biofilm catalysts. Our principal objective is to discover which nanofeatures and vibrational characteristics influence the adhesion of different types of bacteria, through the use of surface engineering technologies to fabricate well-defined dynamics of vibration on surface materials. Adhesion bioassays using a range of representative bacteria will test intrinsic anti-bacterial adhesion properties of the vibrational-responsive surfaces. 

A first or 2:1 degree (typically BSc or Masters) in Chemistry, Engineering, Material Sciences, Physics or Biology is required. Applications including CV and detailed education with grades should be addressed to Professor Paula Mendes (

  1. Z. Hazan, J. Zumeris, H. Jacob, H. Raskin, G. Kratysh, M. Vishnia, N. Dror, T. Barliya, M. Mandel and G. Lavie, Antimicrob. Agents Chemother., 2006, 50, 4144-4152.
  2. W. R. Paces, H. R. Holmes, E. Vlaisavljevich, K. L. Snyder, E. L. Tan, R. M. Rajachar and K. G. Ong, J. Funct. Biomater., 2014, 5, 15-26.
  3. A. K. Epstein, A. I. Hochbaum, P. Kim and J. Aizenberg, Nanotechnology, 2011, 22, 8.
  4. M. Cloutier, D. Mantovani and F. Rosei, Trends Biotechnol., 2015, 33, 637-652.
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Midlands of England