Global Doctoral Scholarship - St Andrews and Bonn - Medicine

Application period opens
Thursday 11 January 2024
Application period closes
This scholarship deadline has now passed (Sunday 31 March 2024)
Entry
2024

The University of St Andrews and the University of Bonn are pleased to offer a scholarship funded by both institutions, to support an exceptional student undertaking doctoral research in the following area:

Use of a Scattered Light Integrated Collector (SLIC) for point of care testing to detect bacteria in synovial fluid from native and prosthetic joint infections

The successful student will spend half of the scholarship term at the University of St Andrews and half at the University of Bonn (42 months in total). The exact schedule will be discussed during the interview process.

The student may start their degree at any point in the academic year 2024-2025 prior to a final entry date of 27 May 2025 subject to agreement with the supervisory team.

Doctoral Research at St Andrews

As a doctoral student at the University of St Andrews you will be part of a growing, vibrant, and intellectually stimulating postgraduate community. St Andrews is one of the leading research-intensive universities in the world and offers a postgraduate experience of remarkable richness.

St Leonard’s Postgraduate College is at the heart of the postgraduate community of St Andrews. The College supports all postgraduates and aims to provide opportunities for postgraduates to come together, socially and intellectually, and make new connections.

St Leonard’s Postgraduate College works closely with the Postgraduate Society which is one of the most active societies within the Students’ Association. All doctoral students are automatically welcomed into the Postgraduate Society when they join the University.

In addition to the research training that doctoral students complete in their home School, doctoral students at St Andrews have access to GRADskills – a free, comprehensive training programme to support their academic, professional, and personal development.

Doctoral Research at the University of Bonn

As a doctoral student at the University of Bonn you will be part of a vibrant and intellectually stimulating academic community. The University of Bonn is one of the leading research-intensive universities in the world. It is one of only 11 German Universities of Excellence and the only German university with six Clusters of Excellence.

In addition to the research training that doctoral students complete in their home Department, doctoral students at the University of Bonn have access to the Bonn Graduate Center, which is the central service department for doctoral candidates. It offers guidance on training and funding opportunities and offers a free and comprehensive training programme to support their academic, professional, and personal development.

Project

Infections caused by bacteria are becoming more difficult to treat on a global scale due to increasing antimicrobial resistance. Infections in native or prosthetic large joints, such as the hip and knee are largely dealt with via antibiotic therapy and adjunct surgery. Surgery is normally needed to the native joint or where a joint has been resected and replaced with an artificial joint.

In order to address the two-fold problem of antimicrobial resistance and joint infections we propose the use of a novel diagnostic technology: SLIC (Scattered Light Integrating Collector). SLIC can detect tiny numbers of bacteria and deduce whether they are resistant to common antibiotics. Importantly, SLIC can do this in a very short timeframe, typically less than 30 minutes.

Hip and knee replacement surgery for infected artificial joints typically can take over 2 hours to complete, meaning a window of time exists where samples from patients can be taken and analysed in SLIC and data returned during surgery. This development is not only game-changing for orthopaedic surgery but also for the way in which we use antibiotics; so-called antimicrobial stewardship.

We have already carried out an initial joint pilot project with the University departments of St Andrews and Bonn using both fresh joint fluid from a small number of clinical cases, where the organism was known in advance from conventional testing and culture methods as a proof of concept. The current Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) takes a trained SLIC user approximately 15 minutes to prepare a sample, 10 minutes for testing to positivity and a further 15 mins to complete antibiotic sensitivity testing.

This PhD project aims to investigate the use of SLIC as a point of care diagnostic test for synovial samples from joint infections involving joints in the lower limb. The project will begin with training in the use of SLIC and performing detailed analysis using laboratory strain bacterial cultures. This would then progress to patient strains and finally the use of synovial fluid. The student will use the SLIC machine to analyse fresh and frozen archival synovial fluid samples to determine if they can be successfully detected and to run antibiotic sensitivity testing of commonly used antibiotics using a previously generated robust, site-specific SOP for both fresh and frozen samples. This would both validate the methodology robustly and prove that it can be completed rapidly and reproducibly. Following on from this we will then test fluid from macerated infected tissue and sonicated fluid from explanted infected hip and knee prosthesis.

The project will be managed jointly between the School of Medicine at St Andrews and the University Hospital at Bonn (Department of Orthopedics and Trauma Surgery). The student will be supervised by Dr. Phil Walmsley and Dr. Robert Hammond (St Andrews, pw38@st-andrews.ac.uk / rjhh@st-andrews.ac.uk) and Prof. Dr. Dieter C. Wirtz and Prof. Dr. Frank A. Schildberg (Bonn, dieter.wirtz@ukbonn.de / frank.schildberg@ukbonn.de).

Informal enquiries regarding this scholarship may be addressed to the supervisors above. At St Andrews, the following will also be part of the project team – Dr Adeel Akhtar (maa32@st-andrews.ac.uk) & Dr Andrew Hall (ajh52@st-andrews.ac.uk).

Value of award (per year)

The funding comprises a scholarship equivalent of a full-fees award and stipend for a period of up to 3.5 years. It is expected that the student will spend half of the scholarship term at the University of St Andrews and half at the University of Bonn:

  • For the period spent at the University of St Andrews, the scholarship will comprise a full fees award and a stipend paid at the current UK Research Council rate (£18,622 each year in 2023–2024).
  • For the period spent at the University of Bonn, the scholarship will comprise a monthly maintenance grant of €1,500. The University of Bonn does not charge any tuition fees, but students must pay a so-called social contribution once per semester (currently €315 per semester).

Duration of award

Up to 3.5 years. The student will be expected to spend approximately half of the award term at the University of St Andrews and half at the University of Bonn. The successful candidate will be expected to have completed the doctorate degree by the end of the award term. The award term excludes the continuation period and any extension periods.

Application restrictions

Study level

Available to students studying at:

Postgraduate

Domicile for fee status

No restrictions

Schools

Available to faculty members from:

Medicine

Application assessment

Academic merit

Available to

Prospective students

Mode of study

Full time

Geographical criteria

No restrictions

Additional criteria

Applicants must not already (i) hold a doctoral degree; or (ii) be matriculated for a doctoral degree at either the University of St Andrews or the University of Bonn (or another institution).

How to apply

Applicants should submit their application to the co-supervisors by 31 March 2024. Please send your application in a single PDF file (max. 10 MB) by email to the following email addresses: pw38@st-andrews.ac.uk / forschung-ortho-unfall@ukbonn.de

Your application should include the following:

  • Statement why you are the right candidate for the project (max. 1 page)
  • CV, including a list of publications
  • Scanned academic degrees
  • At least two references

Please indicate in your application that you wish to be considered for this Global St Andrews scholarship (reference Walmsley_Hammond_Wirtz_Schildberg).

Next steps

Once notified, successful candidates should proceed to fulfil the application requirements for each University and must meet all normal entry requirements for admission – please see the advice on applying for research degree programmes. Applications should indicate that the applicant is the recipient of a Global PhD Scholarship St Andrews and Bonn (reference Walmsley_Hammond_Wirtz_Schildberg).

Terms and conditions

Please read the University of St Andrews scholarships terms and conditions (opens in new tab).

These are applicable during the St Andrews duration of the award; please consult the partner institution for their terms and conditions relating to scholarships.

When will I know the outcome?

You will be notified of the outcome of your application by 30 April 2024. Awards are subject to final signatures of contractual relationships between the parties, and are not an indication of admission to the doctoral programme. Successful scholarship applicants must apply to both institutions and meet all relevant entry requirements for admission including any immigration requirements that may be in place.

Contact

Please contact us should you have any questions regarding the scholarship: pgscholarships@st-andrews.ac.uk

Informal enquiries regarding this scholarship may be addressed to any of the so-supervisors: Dr. Phil Walmsley and Dr. Robert Hammond (St Andrews, pw38@st-andrews.ac.uk / rjhh@st-andrews.ac.uk) and Prof. Dr. Dieter C. Wirtz and Prof. Dr. Frank A. Schildberg (Bonn, dieter.wirtz@ukbonn.de / frank.schildberg@ukbonn.de). At St Andrews, the following will also be part of the project team – Dr Adeel Akhtar (maa32@st-andrews.ac.uk) & Dr Andrew Hall (ajh52@st-andrews.ac.uk).