Understanding the rules of life

Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

Category: Standard Studentships

Investigating and harnessing the power of yeast biofilms

Project No. 2426


Primary Supervisor

Prof Campbell Gourlay – University of Kent


Prof Vladimir Jiranek – University of Southampton


Microbial biofilms are one of the most ubiquitous and successful forms of life on Earth.

A biofilm is a community of single-celled organisms that adheres to a surface and resides within a self-produced viscous fluid matrix that protects cells from their environment. Biofilms have beneficial applications in biotechnology, for example in water filtration, wastewater treatment, and biofuel production. The application of yeast biofilms to industrial processes has huge potential but remains an untapped resource. Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the workhorse of the baking, brewing/wine and biofuel industries can form biofilms, facilitated by the ability to change shape from a budding to a pseudo-filamentous form that promotes adhesion and invasive growth (IG). This project will utilise

Saccharomyces cerevisiae to study how, why and when this yeast switches to a biofilm mode of growth and investigate how this can be harnessed to improve targeted industrial processes. This knowledge will unlock the potential for the enhanced use of yeast within diverse industrial fields that are key to acheiving a net zero economy, such as biofuel, recombinant protein and mycoprotein production and crop yield enhancement. The project will utilise advanced microbiological and genetic engineering techniques, alongside the opportunity to develop large gene expression profiling datasets. Expertise will also be gained in high-resolution microscopy and image analysis.

The project supervisors are part of the ASKE Yeast group (a UK-Australian collaboration between 4 universities) that includes expertise in mathematical modelling of IG, which allows hypothesis generation via the in silico prediction of the impacts of various parameters. The student will therefore have the opportunity to develop computational modelling skills as a member of this group.