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 bacterial growth and division, see below for a description. There are also other projects I am interested in hosting so please get in touch if you are interested in studying for a PhD associated with any of the work in the group, although alternative funding will have to be found to support these.

The biophysics of bacterial growth, division and antibiotic induced death.

Gram positive bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus (the SA in MRSA) have a thick cell wall which gives the cell its shape and allows it to exist with a high internal osmotic pressure. The aim of this project is to use and develop new atomic force microscopy (AFM) technology to better understand the physical processes that control bacterial growth, division, and antibiotic induced death. Recently we have shown that the cell wall has a complex architecture of interconnected molecular scale fibres which varies depending on location in the cell and age of the wall (Pasquina Lemonche et al, Nature, 2020). We have also shown how critical antibiotics such as penicillin lead to death through the formation of holes in this structure (Salamaga et al, PNAS, 2021). We now want to apply these approaches to explore the physics of the cell division process in detail, utilising the ability to image live cells with molecular scale resolution, as well as both new nano-infrared imaging capabilities ( and combined super-resolution optics with AFM (STORMForce, Tank et al, ACS Nano, 2021) that allow local determination of chemistry. Ultimately the improved understanding this project will provide could be used to help develop new approaches to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The project presents an exciting opportunity to apply and develop 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 human health (AMR).

A 2i or better first degree in physics, engineering, materials science, biosciences, or a related discipline is required. The project is UKRI EPSRC funded for 3.5 years with a stipend currently set at £17,668/year, and is available for UK and international applicants. It is jointly supervised by Profs Jamie Hobbs (Physics and Astronomy) and Simon Foster (Biosciences). For further details please contact me at The deadline for applications is 12th February 2023, or until filled, and should be made through the University’s application system ( 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