Research Fellowships at University of Nottingham – be in touch

The University of Nottingham has advertised for its internally funded Research Fellowships (all applicants) and Anne McLaren Fellowships (women only). If you are interested in a fellowship in computational biology, biostatistics or related area, please be in touch. These are three year fellowships that could lead to a permanent academic post.

The competition is highly competitive – I know this as I have once sat on our School panel – so it is only worth applying if you have an excellent doctoral and post-doctoral track record: you will need excellent first-author papers in top journals to be succesful. You would also need the support of the school, so it is very important to be in touch if you are interested.

So, if you think you could be interested, please be in touch, and include links/pdfs of your two best first author papers.

 

 

 

 

Modelling the Spread of Antimicrobial Resistance in the Environment in China

We are delighted to have been awarded a small grant of £25k from an internal distribution of EPSRC Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) to the University of Nottingham. We will be working with Professor Yong-guan Zhu from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xiamen, to build statistical models for the spread of AMR genes and organisms in the Chinese environment. The money will find a talented post-doc, Laurence Shaw, to join our lab for 6 months from later this year. Young-guan and colleagues have carried out extensive and impressive AMR surveillance work so this is a very exciting opportunity. We are very much looking forward to working with Yong-guan and Laurence on this project.

Brilliant assurances to our European staff, students and collaborators from our Pro-VC Research

The University of Nottingham’s Pro-VC for research – Jessica Corner – has just issued this wonderful assurance to our European staff, students and collaborators. I am posting it in full:

EU Referendum and research
Dear colleagues,

We know you may be anxious about the implications of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union (EU). I’m writing to reassure you that we value your contribution to The University of Nottingham. I’d also like to update you on some of the steps we are already taking to safeguard that contribution – and on our commitments for the future.

The University is committed to being a global institution and we recognise the value and significance of all of our EU and international researchers – whether they are research academics, post-docs or M.Phil/PhD students. As the UK’s Global University, we will do all that we are able to ensure that you have a productive and worthwhile experience, that our engagement with you continues into the future, and that your research develops to be world-leading, enhancing your opportunities for career development and contributing to the University’s reputation for high-quality research.

We value the contributions our international research community and international research links make towards achieving our goals for the University to be a world-class institution. While the UK Government advises that it may take at least two years for anything to change following on from the referendum, our University is being proactive now to ensure that our international and European engagement is maintained and enhanced.

We want you to benefit from this and will welcome your contributions and input for suggestions which can help pump-prime and cement long-term research relationships between our University and you as individuals and like-minded European and global universities that we want as our partners to address global research challenges.

Today, we make the following commitments:

  • To support all our international and European research students, researchers and academic staff within the University to be productive members of our global research community.
  • In particular, to support European research students by providing assurance that previously agreed tuition fees will not change, and will indeed continue for the remainder of the programme of study. This applies to current students, and those due to commence study in the 2016/17 academic year.
  • To be proactive in competing for international funding  from all sources including Horizon 2020 ERC and Marie Sklodowska-Curie programmes and Erasmus+ (with nothing changing until Article 50 is invoked and for a further two years as the UK’s disengagement from the EU – but not Europe – is negotiated).
  • To demonstrate the University’s commitment we will invest strategic funds in key European partnerships, including funds for PhD studentships, to pump-prime grants, to enable travel for European networking, and to fund visiting positions at Nottingham.
  • To put our full commitment into delivering current contracted EU projects to deliver the products of international research collaboration in terms of quality and impact.
    To be proactive in developing international and European links and collaborations with individuals and global institutions.
  • To work with the Russell Group, UUK and other representatives of the UK research community to lobby for the UK to continue to play a leading role in EU and international research. We will work tirelessly to make the case to the UK Government for the benefits of all forms of international research collaboration, mobility and exchange and to retain access to Horizon 2020 and other EU programmes to underpin these activities.

Nothing changes until Article 50 is invoked and the terms of the UK’s disengagement from the EU have been determined, which will take at least two years and maybe much longer.

However, in these uncertain times, the University will underwrite its commitments by drawing on its significant budgeted resources for international research collaboration to strengthen our long-established links with EU partners, fund postgraduate scholarships for EU citizens, and to address immediate challenges that arise as a result of the referendum. The University will redouble its commitment to build long-term and sustainable European research partnerships through research collaboration, through mobility and through doctoral training.

Our Professional Services can provide advice and guidance on dealing with specific referendum issues that may arise:

  • Postgraduate students should contact the Graduate School [contact details removed]
  • Academic and research staff should contact Research Enterprise and Graduate Services (REGS) [contact details removed] for issues related to current awards and planned and future proposals

FAQs for staff and students addressing immigration status, undergraduate funding and a range of other issues are also available (and being updated continually) at http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/go/euref

Professor Dame Jessica Corner

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange

The University of Nottingham

Research projects gain value from external advisory boards

On Monday we had our first External Advisory Board meeting for our EVAL-FARMS AMR project. We have a good number of external advisors, representing industrial, policy and academic stake-holders. It is also the first time I have led a project with an external board. My reactions are:

  1. We had a very successful and enjoyable event. Our external advisors are, of course, lovely, interesting, intelligent and successful people from a wide range of backgrounds, so it was a pleasure to spend time with them.
  2. We now have a broad perspective of input into our project. We are no longer a group of academics talking to each other – we are now a group of academics also in conversation with the broader outside world – giving real context for our work and its impact to other sectors – and helping us to ensure appropriate outputs, messages and impact into their sectors.
  3. We have a group of people who will hold us to account. We need to stay on track and stay relevant!
  4. When I look back on previously held research funding, especially the Lux and Biolog projects, I can see now how much an external board would have helped us to run the projects better. I wish we had had them!
  5. In future, I will look towards having external boards for all research projects. EVAL-FARMS is especially applied and outward facing, so it makes sense to have many non-academic partners. But even a project which is entirely fundamental science would benefit from an external board of academic and other beneficiaries.
  6. We look forward to our next advisory board meeting in September 2017, as well as interactions with members of our board before then.

PhD opportunity: Tunable zinc responsive bacterial promoters for controlled gene expression

 

Tunable zinc responsive bacterial promoters for controlled gene expression

Supervisory Team: Dr Jon Hobman (School of Biosciences), Dr Phil Hill (School of Biosciences), Dr Dov Stekel (School of Biosciences).

Applications are invited for this 4-year PhD project which is part of a University-funded Doctoral Training Programme (DTP) in Synthetic Biology and associated with Nottingham’s new BBSRC/EPSRC Synthetic Biology Research Centre. Students will benefit from a diverse range of training opportunities, including specialist workshops, lectures and seminars, as well as participation in Nottingham’s yearly BBSRC DTP Spring School event.

Zinc is an essential metal, required in ~30% of bacterial proteins, but is toxic at higher intracellular concentrations. Bacteria such as E. coli have evolved sophisticated zinc import and export systems controlled by transcription factors that repress the expression of genes encoding importer proteins (regulator Zur) or activate expression of zinc efflux (regulator ZntR). These regulators and the promoters they control represent a good example of fine tuning of cellular response to external zinc concentrations (1) and different Zur and ZntR regulated promoters have different affinities and transcription levels. The aim of this PhD will be to study the levels of expression from engineered Zur and ZntR regulated promoters in response to zinc, so that a suite of promoters can be used to finely control gene expression in response to zinc levels in growth media. These promoters will be used to control gene expression in engineered bacteria using cheap zinc inducers and zinc chelators, and will allow tuned expression of industrially useful synthetic pathways in E. coli and other Gram-negative bacteria. These tunable promoters could have potential impact in a range of biotechnology/biosynthesis contexts.

The project is available from 1st October 2016 and is open to UK and EU students with a 2(i) degree or above in microbiology, genetics, biochemistry, or a related discipline. The work will be based at the School of Biosciences in Nottingham.

The supervision team for this project is multi-disciplinary, enabling training in a wide-range of subjects and techniques in microbiology, molecular biology, cell engineering, reporter gene systems, mathematical modelling, data analysis, and cell metabolism.

Applicants should submit a covering letter, CV and the names of two academic referees addressed to: Rob Johnston School Administrator Robert.Johnston@nottingham.ac.uk

Closing date for applications: 31st July 2016

Informal enquiries to Dr Jon Hobman ( Jon.Hobman@nottingham.co.uk )

(1)       Takahashi et al (2015). Journal of the Royal Society Interface 12: 20150069

 

EVAL-FARMS: Evaluating the Threat of Antimicrobial Resistance in Agricultural Manures and Slurries

Today NERC announced that our £1.5M AMR grant has been funded. We are very excited!

First thing to say is that it was a total team effort. I am embarrassed by the fact that only my name is listed on the announcement – it really would have been impossible without the expertise, intelligence, energy, commitment and open spirit of collaboration of my totally awesome colleagues: Jon Hobman, Rachel Gomes, Helen West, Sujatha Raman, Jan Kreft, Stephen Ramsden, Christine Dodd, Chris Thomas, Mike Jones, Andrew Millard, Richard Emes, David Barrett,  Carol Morris, Theodore Kypraios and Chris Hudson. And then the support we received: pump priming  for research from the schools of Biosciences, Pharmacy and Engineering, and for a grant-writing retreat from the University of Nottingham; writing support from Emma Allaway, Chris Satterley, Zoe Wilson and especially Diane Levine; and the enthusiasm of an array of external stakeholders from industry and policy, including NFU, BCVA, Velcourt, Lindhurst Engineering, DEFRA (VMD and APHA), FSA, JHI amd Severn Trent Water.

Project details (summarized from the Case for Support)

Our vision is to establish a strategic research programme in antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in waste from agricultural farm environments. Our aim is to quantify and mitigate the risks of emergence of resistant pathogens and AMR gene reservoirs associated with mixing antimicrobials with waste matter in these environments.

The project is focussed on the University of Nottingham’s (UoN) dairy and arable farm, which is typical of high performance UK dairy production, with ~200 high yielding cows. Slurry is stored in a 3M L slurry tank and subsequently spread on surrounding fields. We hypothesise that conditions in the slurry tank environment drive the evolution and acquisition of antimicrobial resistance, and the slurry acts as a reservoir for AMR that is regularly distributed into the environment

The project consists of six integrated Research Questions:

RQ1: What are the levels and nature of antimicrobial and virulence genes present in the slurry tank, their prevalence, carriage, and bacterial hosts?

RQ2: What are the chemical agents in the tank? What is their persistence?

RQ3: To what extent is resistance maintained after slurry application to soil?

RQ4: How can we elicit culturally embedded ways in which scientists and stakeholders know AMR risks? How can we use narrative and visual methods of engaging across these ways of knowing to develop resources for deliberation on AMR risk management?

RQ5: To what extent can we reduce resistance profiles through changes in slurry tank composition?

RQ6: Can we quantify the risk of emergence of AMR pathogens and what factors are predicted to control this risk best?

The first three posts will be advertised shortly. These will be 24 month post-docs in microbiology (supervised by Jon Hobman and Christine Dodd), pharmaceutical analysis (supervised by Rachel Gomes and David Barrett) and a 36 month 60% post-doc in cultural research (supervised by Sujatha Raman and Carol Morris). In practise, these posts will work across the different Research Questions in the grant, so the postdocs will interact with the full team. Technician posts to follow a little after, and a modelling postdoc will start in January 2018. There will also be three associated PhD studentships (pharmaceutical analysis, social research, mathematical modelling) to start in September 2017.

We have also developed an infographic to help explain how conditions in slurry could lead to emergence and selection for AMR bacteria. Here it is:

281015_RM_0018_Slurry_Infographic_smaller