PhD Studentship in Quantitative Biology/ Biophysics – Pushing the limits of single molecule super-resolution microscopy to reveal how bacteria divide and grow

Newcastle University - Faculty of Medical Sciences

UK/EU students - Postgraduate - Newcastle University Value of award
100% of UK/EU tuition fees paid and annual living expenses of £14,777.

Number of awards 1

Start date and duration 24 September 2018 for 3 years.

Application closing date This position is only available until a suitable candidate is found.


What scientific question will you investigate? 

Bacteria are surrounded by a net-like cell wall that gives them shape and structural strength. Bacteria burst and die if the cell wall is not built properly, so the process must be controlled with nanoscale precision by dedicated multi-protein machines. Until recently, we have lacked the tools to resolve how this process is spatially organized. However, we can now use super-resolution microscopy to image the proteins and cellular structures involved in this process at 10-20 nm resolution directly in cells.

During your PhD you will push the limits of super-resolution microscopy by optimized microscope construction, sample preparation and quantitative data analysis. You will build an ultra-stable custom super-resolution microscope and develop microfluidics-based tools for multicolour 3D imaging of bacterial proteins at maximal resolution.

You will use these tools to reveal the organization of the proteins responsible for building the bacterial cell wall in unprecedented detail, with a particular focus on the bacterial cell division machinery. Ultimately, this work will give new insight into the basic principles governing the organization of the smallest living organisms, as well as developing broadly useful super-resolution microscopy tools.

What training will you receive?

You will receive expert training in super-resolution microscopy, microscope development, quantitative image analysis, microbiology and bacterial physiology.

About our lab

Our interdisciplinary lab investigates fundamental principles of bacterial spatial organization ( To achieve this we develop novel experimental methods based on single molecule and super-resolution microscopy, microfabrication and microfluidics. E.g.: Science 355 739-743 (2017), PNAS 111 4566-4571 (2014), eLife e18647 (2016).

Sponsor The Barbour Foundation.

Name of supervisor(s) Dr Seamus Holden, Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences, Newcastle University.

Eligibility Criteria

We are seeking someone with a strong interest in fusing cutting edge microscopy with quantitative biology. You must have, or expect to achieve, a good degree (BSc/MSci 2:1 or above, MSc/ MRes beneficial) in a relevant field. 

The award is available to UK/EU applicants only.

How to apply

You must apply through the Newcastle University online postgraduate application system:

  • Insert the programme code 8300F in the programme of study section 
  • Select ‘PhD in the Faculty of Medical Sciences (full time) – Cell and Molecular Biosciences' as the programme of study 
  • Insert the studentship code BA001 in the studentship/partnership reference field 
  • Attach a covering letter and CV.
  • Attach degree transcripts and certificates and, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualifications.
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Northern England