Join us

I do not currently have any open postdoctoral positions. However, if you are looking for somewhere to host a travelling fellowship, or are interested in applying for fellowship funding, please get in touch.

PhD Projects

I currently have a funded PhD studentship available on the fungal cell wall, see below for a description. There are also other projects I am interested in hosting listed below, although alternative funding will have to be found to support these.

Atomic force microscopy of the fungal cell wall of a major wheat pathogen - Breaking down the barricade.

Fungal diseases cause major crop losses worldwide. The composition and structure of their cell wall is distinct from host crop plants, and, therefore, is a potential target for disease control measures. However, to date it has been surprisingly under-investigated. We have recently found that atomic force microscopy methods developed by us for imaging bacterial cell walls at unprecedented resolution (Pasquina Lemonche et al, Nature, 2020) are similarly applicable to fungi. This has allowed us to image the cell wall of the major wheat pathogen Zymoseptoria tritici (Septoria) down to the level of the individual constituent molecules. The aim of this PhD studentship is to take and develop this approach to unravel the spatial distribution of structural components in the fungal cell wall, to apply nano-infrared spectroscopy (neaSpec nano-IR) to reveal how chemical composition varies across the cell wall, and combine this with novel nanomechanical measurements to link the architecture to its mechanical function. Combining these biophysical approaches with genetic approaches will allow us to identify the role of specific genes in cell wall architecture and, ultimately, whether they impact on fungal growth and infection, identifying targets for control measures. The project presents an exciting opportunity to apply cutting edge biophysical analysis to a biological topic of fundamental interest (cell wall structure/function) in the context of a problem of major significance to global food production (crop disease).

A 2i or better first degree in physics, biosciences, engineering, materials science or a related discipline is required. This is a 3.5-year UKRI EPSRC studentship. The studentship attracts a stipend of £15,609, and is open to UK and overseas students. The deadline for applications is 25th March 2022, or until filled, and should be made through the University’s application system (https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/postgradapplication/). The project is an interdisciplinary collaboration between physics and biosciences, and is co-supervised by myself (AFM, biophysics), Prof Andrew Fleming and Dr Sam Amsbury (cell wall structure/function). If you have applied, please let me know by e-mail as there can be a short delay in applications reaching me through the online system.

Using and developing atomic force microscopy (AFM) and nano-IR to understand the physics of bacterial growth and antimicrobial resistance

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a growing problem in medicine as it could lead to common infections causing serious illness or even death. Understanding the emergent properties of living systems at a molecular level will play an important role in tackling this problem, and “physics” approaches are likely to be critical. In this project we will develop the application of a new, state-of-the-art nano-IR instrument just purchased in Sheffield to map for the first time how cell wall chemistry and mechanics change during bacterial growth and how this is influenced by AMR, linking cell wall architecture1, cell physiology and resistance.

1. Pasquina Lemonche et al, (2020) “The architecture of the Gram-positive bacterial cell wall” Nature, 582, 294