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PhD Studentship (3 years) Microbiological examination of urban insect pests with potential public health significance: their carriage of bacteria and association with environmental reservoirs, including transmission potential of pathogens

School of Biosciences

Location:  Aston University Main Campus
Basis:  Full Time
Closing Date:  23.59 hours BST on Sunday 01 August 2021
Reference:  R210223
Release Date:  Thursday 17 June 2021

Supervisor: Professor Anthony C. Hilton (Aston) / Dr Matthew Davies (Killgerm)

Project Reference: Hilton_50:50_Killgerm

Applications are invited for a three year Postgraduate studentship, supported by the College of Health and Life Sciences and Killgerm Chemicals Ltd., to be undertaken within the Biosciences Research Group Biosciences Research Group | Aston University at Aston University.  The successful applicant will join an established experimental group working on the role of arthropods as vectors of bacterial pathogens.  The studentship is offered in collaboration with Killgerm Chemicals Ltd.

The position is available to start in October 2021.

Financial Support

This studentship includes a fee bursary to cover the Home fees rate, plus a maintenance allowance of £15,609 (subject to eligibility). 

Background to the Project

The Aston / Killgerm research group has a sustained track-record in the public health significance of insect vectors of disease such as Musca domestica, non-biting flies present in hospitals, and arthropods in UK dwellings and their associated microbiome. Little is known, however,  about whether pest insects represent a persistent source, excreting bacteria over time, or whether they are mechanical vectors that transiently acquire microorganisms from the environment.  The proposed study, therefore, expands upon our findings to further examine the significance of insects as vectors of disease and particularly their microbiological impact in field situations.

Live insects active in food environments will be captured and identified. Microbiological examination of insects will be undertaken, including concurrent environmental sampling of surfaces and insect breeding material such as rodent and bird droppings. Microbiological identification, characterisation and epidemiological typing will be used to investigate links between bacteria isolated from the insects and from the environment. Insect-mediated transfer of microorganisms will be modelled in the laboratory with fruit fly Drosophila sp as the model insect to further understand the role of insect / environment microbial associations to inform public health measures.

Person Specification

The successful applicant should have been awarded, or expect to achieve, a Masters degree in a relevant subject with a 60% or higher weighted average, and/or a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or an equivalent qualification from an overseas institution) in a relevant biological / biomedical science degree.  Preferred skill requirements include knowledge/experience of microbiology, entomology, food safety, molecular biology.  

Contact information

For formal enquiries about this project contact Professor Anthony C. Hilton by email at

Submitting an application

As part of the application, you will need to supply:

  • A copy of your current CV
  • Copies of your academic qualifications for your Bachelor degree, and Masters degree (if studied); this should include both certificates and transcripts, and must be translated in to English.
  • A research proposal statement*
  • Two academic references
  • Proof of your English Language proficiency

Details of how to submit your application, and the necessary supporting documents can be found here.  

Please select “Research – Biomedical Science” from the application form options.

*The application must be accompanied by a “research proposal” statement. An original proposal is not required as the initial scope of the project has been defined, candidates should take this opportunity to detail how their knowledge and experience will benefit the project and should also be accompanied by a brief review of relevant research literature.

Please include the supervisor name, project title and project reference in your Personal Statement.

If you require further information about the application process please contact the Postgraduate Admissions team at 


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Further particulars and application forms are available in alternative formats on request i.e. large print, Braille, tape or CD Rom.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact HR via



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