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Characterisation of mechanical, physical and biological properties of biofilms under industrial processing conditions

(This project has been filled - no further applications will be accepted)

Project supervisor: Kostas Gkatzionis School of Chemical Engineering, University of Birmingham
Project supervisor: Dr Mark Webber, Institute for Microbiology and Infection, University of Birmingham

Non-academic partner: Kevin Wright, Procter & Gamble Technical Centres Ltd., Egham, UK

Project Title: Characterisation of mechanical, physical and biological properties of biofilms under industrial processing conditions

Project outline:


The project will focus on understanding physical and bacterial processes relevant to biofilm formation by Pseudomonas spp., a major contaminant of industrial processes.

Project description:

Bacterial biofilms provide a physico-mechanical protection of microbes to the external environment, requiring the use of harsh chemicals and abrasive cleaning for their control. This protective mechanism has broad impact in the manufacturing of a wide range of products including those designed for hygiene (oral, house hold cleaning and fabric hygiene) as well as their efficacy within the home, where biofilms can also be experienced. Currently, manufacturing products can be subject to problems with bacterial biofilm contamination leading to production interruption and significant economic cost to industry for cleaning and sanitisation. Biofilms formed under high flow conditions have not been studied in relation to the changes that occur in response to these stresses from a combined physical and biological perspective. The impact of shear and flow on the physical and mechanical properties of the biofilm will be evaluated in this project, relating these factors to changes in metabolism and cellular activity. The model biofilms generated will be used to investigate the genetic, transcriptomic and metabolic responses of Pseudomonas spp. to stresses imposed in manufacturing and cleaning processes. These experiments will provide data which will inform the most effective means to prevent and remove biofilm formation by Pseudomonas in a range of conditions, with a view to designing more effective remediation approaches, which are relevant to both P&G and a wide range of industries.


The student will benefit from training in both state of the art microbiological, molecular and physical sciences as well as being integrated into the innovation and technology development programme of a major global company.

Information about the collaborating partner:

Procter & Gamble (P&G) is a fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) multinational company, which has interests in many consumer goods areas, with 100+ brands and >100,000 employees globally. During the PhD project the candidate will conduct a placement at the P&G London Innovation Centre in Egham (3 month minimum - anticipated to be longer). The student will experience an industrial research environment benefiting from the well-established training portfolio offered by P&G.


  1. Insight into the microbial multicellular lifestyle via flow-cell technology and confocal microscopy. Pamp SJ, et al., Cytometry A. 2009 Feb;75(2):90-103.
  2. Parallel evolutionary pathways to antibiotic resistance selected by biocide exposure. Webber MA, et al., J Antimicrob Chemother. 2015 Aug;70(8):2241-8.
  3. Loss of or inhibition of all multidrug resistance efflux pumps of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium results in impaired ability to form a biofilm. Baugh S, et al., J Antimicrob Chemother. 2012 Oct;67(10):2409-17.


Figure 1. Differential survival of cells within a biocide exposed biofilm; green cells alive, red dead

Interview dates: 27th, 28th & 29th January 2016