Antimicrobial resistant bacteria: from hospital hand-wash basins to the human gut

Applications are invited for a 3-year fully-funded PhD studentship based at the University of Surrey to explore the transmission routes and health risk posed by microorganisms located in hand-wash basins.     

Start date

1 October 2024


3 years

Application deadline

Funding source


Funding information

This 3-year studentship is fully funded by the UK Health Security Agency. Funding covers tuition fees at the Home rate, associated bench fees, funds for training/attending conferences and an annual stipend at UKHSA rates (currently starting at £22,976 per annum) for 3 years.


Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) poses an increasing threat to global health, with the emergence and spread of resistance to antibiotics outpacing the development of new treatments. Without action, it has been predicted that 10 million lives will be at risk from AMR by 2050.

The overuse or misuse of antibiotics can drive AMR and healthcare settings are widely recognised as a ‘hotspot’ of AMR, although how they contribute to the selection and transmission of organisms is complex. Healthcare-associated infections cost NHS England at least £1.6 billion per annum and affect 7% of all patients admitted to acute care hospitals.

Hand hygiene is central to campaigns to reduce healthcare-associated infections and encouraging healthcare staff to decontaminate their hands regularly and effectively is a key focus of infection prevention control in hospitals. Increasing the number of hand-wash basins on a ward can increase hand hygiene compliance. However, water sources and water-based devices (e.g. sinks, faucets, showers, drains) are often contaminated with a range of infectious organisms. It is estimated that over a fifth of all healthcare-associated infections can be attributed to water. Notably, water-based devices support not only the growth of organisms found in the source water, but also a wide range of other species originating from humans likely due to end-point contamination. Thus, normal use of water-based devices can result in contamination and pose a risk to other patients and staff.

This project aims to determine the routes, extent and risk posed by transmission associated with the routine use of water-based devices, specifically hand-wash basins, within a healthcare setting. The successful applicant will be trained in relevant methods and procedures, including bacteriology, the use of culture-based models of the human gut, and in healthcare communication. 

Eligibility criteria

Candidate profile

Open to candidates who pay UK/home rate fees. See UKCISA for further information.

You will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for our Biosciences and Medicine PhD programme

Applicants should hold (or be about to obtain) a first or upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject area including medical sciences, biomedical sciences, biomedical engineering, molecular biology, bacteriology or related disciplines.

Self-motivation, deep interest in research, ability to think and work independently, fluency in English language and good oral and written communication skills are essential.

An MSc in Microbiology/Infection Control with merit or distinction, and/or previous research experience in bacteriology or molecular biology would be advantageous.  


How to apply

Initial applications must include the following and should be emailed directly to  

1. A CV/resume which includes modules taken with grades (or expected grades).

2. A supporting statement highlighting your primary motivation for applying for a PhD studentship, and to this project in particular, outlining any research experience and your career ambitions. 

3. Contact details for two academic references (include any recent research mentor or supervisor). 

4. Certificates and transcripts of all your current/previous degrees. 

5. Official English Language transcript (IELTS or TOEFL), if applicable.  Shortlisted candidates will be contacted directly. 

Interviews are expected in the second or third week of July. The start date is October 2024.  

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Application deadline

Contact details

Jennifer Ritchie
08 AX 01
Telephone: +441483686484

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