PhD in Microbiology: Investigation into Antifungal Effectors Delivered by the Bacterial Type VI Secretion System

Newcastle University

Award summary

100% of home tuition fees paid and an annual stipend (living expenses) of £18,622. 


Bacteria and fungi are ubiquitous in nature and co-colonise numerous environmental niches.

Focussing on the human host, such cross-kingdom interactions are prevalent within the human microbiota, and are commonly associated with biofilms and medically relevant infections. The type VI secretion system (T6SS) is widely used by bacteria to fire diverse effector proteins directly into neighbouring target cells. Many bacterial pathogens employ T6SSs as a potent weapon to deliver antibacterial effector proteins into rival bacterial cells during inter-bacterial competition. However. recently the exciting discovery was made that this ‘anti-bacterial’ T6SS is also a potent anti-fungal weapon, eliciting anti-fungal effectors that are able to kill pathogenic fungal species. Our pilot data indicate that T6SS-dependent anti-fungal activity is widespread, and mediated by a variety of different anti-fungal effectors, similar to anti-bacterial T6SSs. As bacterial and fungal species co-exist in the human microbiome and disease-causing infections, we predict that anti-fungal T6SSs will shape many diverse microbial communities relevant to human health. In the current project, you will join a large well-funded collaborative team, spread across five institutions, to take key steps in establishing this exciting new research field by investigating the molecular basis of novel T6SS mediated anti-fungal effectors.

Number of awards: 1

Start date: 18th September 2023 

Award duration: The funding covers a three-year PhD 


Newcastle University, Faculty Medical Sciences 


Professor Janet Quinn  (Biosciences Institute), Dr Katharina Trunk  (Biosciences Institute), Professor Sarah Coulthurst  (Dundee University) 

Eligibility criteria

You must have, or expect to achieve, at least a 2:1 honours degree or international equivalent, in an appropriate subject, including: microbiology, biochemistry, biomedical sciences, or biology. A further qualification such as an MRes is advantageous.

  • This award is available to home and international applicants.
  • Successful international candidates are required to make up the difference between home and international fees.
  • English Language requirements: IELTS 6.5 overall, with 5.5 or more in each sub-skill.

How to apply

To apply for a studentship, you must register and apply through the University’s Apply to Newcastle Portal

Once registered select ‘Create a Postgraduate Application’.

Use ‘Course Search’ to identify your programme of study:

  • You can search for the ‘Course Title’ using the programme code: 8420F
  • Select PhD Biosciences (FT)’ as the programme of study

You will then need to provide the following information in the ‘Further Questions’ section:

  • A ‘Personal Statement’ (mandatory field) – upload a document or write a statement directly in to the application form
  • The studentship code BI068 in the ‘Studentship/Partnership Reference’ field
  • When prompted for how you are providing your research proposal – select ‘Write Proposal’. You should then type in the title of the research project from this advert – you do not need to upload a research proposal.

 In addition, before submitting upload the following supporting documentation:

  • Covering letter and CV. The covering letter must state the title of the studentship, reference code BI068 and how your interests and experience relate to the project.
  • Degree transcripts and certificates, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualification.

Contact details: Janet Quinn – [email protected]

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