I’ve always had a keen interest in the way that microbes can interact with other organisms, both in a symbiotic and pathogenic nature. While in my second year of undergraduate study at the University of Leicester, I undertook a Harry Smith vacation studentship in the lab of Professor Martha Clokie. While researching as a part of her group, I realised that a career in research was something that I wanted to pursue, and this fantastic experience ignited my passion for research. This lead me to apply for PhDs while in my third year of study, as I was keen to move straight on to research.

In my research I work with the opportunistic pathogen Staphylococcus aureus. This bacterium is best known by its antibiotic resistant name methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). MRSA is endemic in many hospitals worldwide and has now begun to become established within the wider community. Understanding how this pathogen causes disease is vital to refine and develop future treatments that will be required in the ever-approaching post-antibiotic era. Peptidoglycan is the major structural component in the cell wall, and its synthesis is the target of the most commonly used group of antibiotics, the β-lactams. Despite the importance of this molecule, its structure and dynamics during an infection, as well as its interactions with the host immune system, are poorly understood. My research aims to help explain the role of peptidoglycan in infection and to help elucidate how it’s interactions with the host can lead to disease.

I was aware that moving straight from an undergraduate degree to a PhD would have the potential to be a difficult transition at the age of 21. Because of this the DiMeN DTP especially appealed to me. Being a part of a wider cohort would mean that I would have a greater level of support from peers, academic staff and management teams. Being in this cohort would also mean that I would be exposed to a greater breadth of science, and not just my own research area, and has also allowed the potential for collaboration and support from staff and students in other institutions. As part of my PhD I have already had the opportunity to present my work at conferences including the North East Postgraduate Conference in the form of a poster, and at the MRC-KHIHI meeting in South Korea in the form of a 15-minute presentation.

PhD Title: The role of Staphylococcus aureus cell wall structure during host:pathogen interaction

Supervisors: Professor Simon Foster (University of Sheffield), Professor Waldemar Vollmer (University of Newcastle).