Developing tractable model systems for filamentous bacteria in wastewater treatment

Wastewater treatment (WWT) is arguably the most important biotechnological application in the world. Each day, large volumes of influent wastewater are processed in municipal WWT plants so that safe effluent is returned to the water cycle. It is the metabolic activity of flocculating bacteria that make this process work. In short, the bacteria degrade dissolved pollutants in the wastewater whilst forming compact flocs, which are then separated from the liquid under gravity.  WWT flocs consist of micron-sized bacteria “glued” together by “sticky” polymers. Understanding the interactions underpinning polymer-mediated bacterial (colloidal) aggregation lies in the domain of soft matter. Therefore, the student will use the principles of soft matter physics to develop a simple experimental model for WWT bacteria, with a particular emphasis on filamentous cells. These are crucial for floc strength and structural integrity, however, too many filaments disrupt floc structure and give rise to a diffuse network that prevents compaction and subsequent settling. In this project, the student will design and perform experiments (with scope for computational modeling) to characterise the structure and dynamics of aggregating filamentous cells isolated from WWT

Students interested in working on bacteria & wastewater are encouraged to apply to the SOFI CDT


Start: Sept 2022

Contact Dr. Gavin Melaugh for more information

Further Information: 

Closing Date: 

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Principal Supervisor: 

Assistant Supervisor: 


Candidates should have at least an upper second class degree in physics, engineering, geoscience, or microbiology or an MSc Degree in a relevant discipline. An interest in biological and soft matter physics is desirable. 

Minimum entry qualification - an Honours degree at 2:1 or above (or International equivalent) in a relevant science or engineering discipline, possibly supported by an MSc Degree. Further information on English language requirements for EU/Overseas applicants.


Tuition fees + stipend are available for Home/EU and International students

Further information and other funding options.

Informal Enquiries: