Project code



School of Biological Sciences

Start dates


Application deadline

Applications accepted all year round

Applications are invited for a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD studentship, to commence in February or October. This practice-based PhD involves investigating the spread of antimicrobial resistant bacteria , and is supervised by Joy Watts ( and Michelle Hale (

Antibiotics are our first line of defence against bacterial infections, and therefore play a critical role in modern clinical care. However, due to natural processes and the widespread use (and misuse) of antibiotics, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) genes are now widespread in both clinical and natural environments.

Transfer of antimicrobial resistance is a global threat to healthcare systems and human longevity and it is therefore critical that we develop a better understanding of how AMR genes proliferate, persist in the environment, and spread – especially into clinically-relevant pathogenic species.

The work will include:

  • use of the latest molecular and analytical techniques to address the problem

Bacteria obtain resistance to antibiotics in a number of ways: a major route is horizontal gene transfer (HGT) via the processes of transformation, conjugation or transduction in the environment, resulting in a change from a resistant to sensitive strain. Rates of HGT are increased in environmental systems with elevated levels of heavy metals, due to the process of co-selection.

Aquatic sediments contain compounds from historic pollution events such as direct sewage release, industrial contaminants and agricultural waste including aquaculture, resulting in a stratified environment with a complex microbial community.

This PhD will focus on the study of re-suspension of AMR genes in the water column. You'll further analyse the pathways and interactions responsible for AMR transfer, and study sediment microcosm systems to assess the HGT rates of AMR genes in aquatic sediments.

Fees and funding

Visit the research subject area page for fees and funding information for this project.

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only).

Bench fees

Some PhD projects may include additional fees – known as bench fees – for equipment and other consumables, and these will be added to your standard tuition fee. Speak to the supervisory team during your interview about any additional fees you may have to pay. Please note, bench fees are not eligible for discounts and are non-refundable.

Entry requirements

  • A minimum of a second-class honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject or a master’s degree in an appropriate subject.
  • Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered. An online portfolio submission may be required as part of the selection process. All applicants are subject to interview.
  • English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

How to Apply

To start your application, or enquire further about the process involved, please contact Joy Watts ( and Michelle Hale (, quoting both the project code BIOL3661017 and the project title.

When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Biological Siences PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.