PhD Scholarship in Modeling and Control of Bacterial Decision Making in Microfluidics

University of Edinburgh is seeking a highly motivated PhD student with an interest in biology. This fellowship is available for all students around the world. The deadline for applying is April 06, 2015.

Bacteria, just like humans, constantly make decisions: where to go to survive, what to eat and whether to divide or not. Often these decisions are a matter of life or death to them: choosing to follow the wrong chemical cue between two alternatives might lead them to nutrient depleted areas and kill them. Yet bacteria are, in essence, just micron-sized containers filled water, mostly, DNA, RNA, proteins, salts and sugars. How does a "bag of chemicals" make complex decisions?

This project aims to combine principles from Systems and Synthetic Biology to address this question and study the molecular basis of decision making in bacteria. To do so we will focus on two examples: (a) chemotaxis, e.g. how motile bacteria decide which chemical cue to follow when exposed to two opposing gradients of nutrients, and (b) DMSP metabolism, e.g. how marine bacteria determine which of two degradation pathways to use to break down one of the most important compounds in the biogeochemistry of oceans.

To this aim we will integrate mathematical modeling and in-vivo experiments: we will seed bacteria in a microfluidic device, create "chemical" choices and observe in real-time their intracellular dynamics while they "reason" and commit to one of them. Analysing the dynamical models derived from experiments we will uncover the role of gene and protein networks in shaping bacterial "free will" which will eventually allow us to design intervention strategies to proactively change it, to control bacterial decision making in-vivo.

This position is fully funded for students coming from Scotland/EU.

Application Requirements
Applications from students with strong interdisciplinary interests and a background in Biology/Biotechnology, Mathematics, Physics and Engineering are encouraged.

How to apply?
Applications including a statement of interest and full CV with names and addresses (including email addresses) of two academic referees, should be sent to: Dr. Filippo Menolascina (

Scholarship Summary

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