My group is interested in the molecular and cellular mechanisms that occur during host-pathogen interactions. In particular, we study phagocytic cells of the innate immune system (macrophages, neutrophils and dendritic cells) in order to understand how it is that some pathogens are able to parasitise these white blood cells.
Our work focuses particularly on fatal human fungal pathogens, with a particular interest in Cryptococcus neoformans (and its close sibling species, C. gattii), a leading cause of death in immunocompromised patients worldwide. We use a combination of cell biology, immunology and genetics to try and understand how these organisms can evade the human immune system.
Most of our projects involve monitoring immune cell behaviour via high-resolution live cell microscopy, either in tissue culture systems or using model hosts such as the zebrafish Danio rerio. In addition, we use genetic approaches (knockouts, transgenics, gene expression analysis and whole genome sequencing) to try and identify novel virulence factors in the pathogen. We are particularly interested in how free-living species can evolve to become fatal pathogens. More information on the group is available at http://www.biosciences-labs.bham.ac.uk/may/Home.html.
If you are an enthusiastic scientist with an interest in host-pathogen interactions, looking for a PhD position to commence in October 2017, we would be happy to hear from you. A background in genetics, cell biology, microbiology or immunology would be helpful, but is not required. A keen and enthusiastic approach to science, together with the ability to take responsibility for your own project within a young, dynamic research team, is essential.
PhD funding is awarded on a competitive basis via Research Council Studentships and Darwin Studentships (all nationalities). Applicants should possess, or expect to be awarded, a high 2.1 or 1st class degree or equivalent. First round shortlisting takes place in December, with subsequent rounds occurring later in the spring.
Research Council Studentships are available for UK applicants. EU applicants resident in the UK may also be eligible. Non-UK students interested in molecular microbiology may apply for a Darwin Trust Scholarship. The deadline for applications for Research Council and Darwin Trust studentships is 31st January 2015.
We have a thriving community of International PhD students and encourage applications at any time from students of any nationality either able to fund their own studies or who wish to apply for their own funding (e.g. Commonwealth Scholarship Council, Islamic Development Bank).
For further information on funding see http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/biosciences/courses/postgraduate/phd.aspx
RECENT PUBLICATIONS FROM OUR GROUP (for a full list, see http://www.biosciences-labs.bham.ac.uk/may/Home.html)
Voelz et al. 'Division of Labour' in response to host oxidative burst drives a fatal Cryptococcus gattii outbreak. Nature Communications 2014
Sabiiti et al. Efficient phagocytosis and laccase activity affect the outcome of HIV-associated cryptococcosis. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2014
Voelz et al. Transmission of Hypervirulence Traits via Sexual Reproduction within and between Lineages of the Human Fungal Pathogen Cryptococcus gattii. PLOS Genetics 2013
Johnston SA, May RC. The human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans escapes macrophages by a phagosome emptying mechanism that is inhibited by Arp2/3 complex-mediated actin polymerisation. PLoS Pathogens. 2010