The programme

The emergence, spread and persistence of multi-antibiotic resistant bacteria is considered by the World Health Organization as one of the greatest global threats to human health. Consequently there is an urgent need to better understand antimicrobial resistance and to discover new strategies for preventing and treating infections.

This requires a thorough understanding of the basic molecular and chemical biology of bacterial pathogens and the evolution, impact and spread of resistance, requiring insights from the physical sciences and mathematics as well as the life sciences. The Wellcome Trust Doctoral Training Centre in Antimicrobials and Antimicrobial Resistance is designed to train the next generation of multidisciplinary research scientists.  The programme is a partnership between the Wellcome Trust, University of Nottingham, and the University of Birmingham led by Professors Paul Williams (Nottingham) and Professor Willem van Schaik (Birmingham). It will incorporate our complementary multidisciplinary research strengths and will be centred on the Centre for Biomolecular Sciences and the Institute of Microbiology and Infection.

Students awarded a place on the programme will undertake a 4 year MRes+PhD doctoral training programme (DTP). The first (MRes) year will include three different rotations, dedicated teaching sessions and a short placement to highlight the problems of antimicrobial resistance, antibiotic discovery and development encountered by clinicians and industry.  PhD students appointed to the programme will be based primarily at either University of Nottingham or University of Birmingham but will undertake at least one of their rotations at the partner Institution.

Research projects will be developed during the first year in consultation with the selected supervisors chosen from research themes that include:  

  • Targeting the Gram-negative bacterial cell envelope
  • Unconventional approaches to eradicating bacterial pathogens
  • Smart materials
  • Surface and secreted antigens, host interactions and vaccines
  • Genomic epidemiology, bacterial evolution and antibiotic resistance.

First Year (MRes)

The primary aims of the MRes year are to equip students with:

  • Broad multidisciplinary insights into antimicrobials, antimicrobial resistance, novel strategies for the treatment and prevention of infection from scientific, clinical and industrial perspectives
  • An understanding of the relevant research activities, facilities and opportunities at UoN and UoB
  • An opportunity to develop their PhD project in partnership with their chosen supervisors. 

This will be achieved through:

  • A residential week ‘Feeding the Antimicrobial Pipeline’
  • Transferable skills training including health & safety, animal & research ethics, critical literature assessment and presentation
  • Taught and practical ‘hands-on’ modules including molecular microbiology, advanced imaging and microscopy, MS, NMR, structural biology, medicinal chemistry,  computational chemistry, next generation sequencing and bioinformatics, statistics and data handling
  • Three projects in different research groups, one at UoN, one at UoB and one ‘informatics’ project
    A short placement (1-2 weeks) to observe at first-hand the antimicrobials related problems encountered by both clinicians and industry.

Years 2-4 (PhD)

Developing the PhD Project
A wide choice of supervisors and topics will be available and time will be set aside towards the end of the MRes year for detailed planning of each student's PhD project taking advantage of the opportunities offered at both UoN and UoB.  Multidisciplinary cross-site projects will be encouraged.

The PhD project
While most of this time will be spent doing research, students will be encouraged to attend regular research group meetings, journal clubs, departmental seminars by leading internal and external scientists as well as presenting their own work and scientific papers from the literature.  Wellcome Trust DTP cohort activities will include dedicated research days (held every 6 months rotating between University of Birmingham and University of Nottingham), an annual retreat, and an offered presentation at the annual M4, Midlands Molecular Microbiology Meeting. Attendance at relevant flagship national and international conferences will be encouraged and all students will participate (Year 4) in Birmingham’s flagship course (Medici) in entrepreneurial training for academic & research staff. This includes networking skills, intellectual property protection and exploitation, negotiation skills, business planning, and sales and pitching skills.