Self-funded PhD opportunities

The role of membrane transport in microbial pathogenesis

  • Application end date: Applications accepted all year round (expected start date: Oct or Feb)
  • Funding Availability: Self-funded PhD students only
  • Department: School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences
  • PhD Supervisor: Dr Anthony Lewis

Fungal pathogens are a significant threat to human health and global food security. It is estimated that human fungal infections kill more people every year than tuberculosis and malaria combined, while plant fungal diseases have a devastating socio-economic effect due to destruction of rice and cereal crops, the main source of calories to over half the world’s population. The effectiveness of current fungicides to treat human and agricultural infections is declining due to evolving fungal resistance, and new targets for future anti-microbial strategies are required. Emerging evidence indicates that plasma membrane potassium channels, named TOK, could be novel targets for future antimicrobial compounds for combating deleterious fungal pathogens in both humans and plants. TOK is a plasma membrane potassium ion channel found only in fungi and no similar protein exists in humans, animals or plants. The unique fungal nature of TOK channels makes them ideal targets for future fungicidal compounds. However, little is known about the expression, function, regulation and pharmacology of TOK channels in plant pathogenic fungi. The purpose of this research project will be to characterise the TOK ion channel protein and its role in cell physiology and virulence of pathogenic fungi. It is expected that this project will help to further our understanding of microbial cation homeostasis, which is key to microbial cell viability and will ultimately provide the platform for the design and direct validation of compounds targeting TOK channel proteins providing a unique strategy to combat and reduce the prevalence of human and agricultural fungal infections.

The student will be trained in a wide range of laboratory techniques including microbiology, electrophysiology, molecular biology, genetics and microscopy, housed within our dedicated Ion Channel Research Laboratory.

More information about the Ion Channel Research Group can be found at Applicants should therefore ideally have previous experience in one or more of these areas, although they will receive training in all relevant areas.

Informal enquires of any nature regarding the project can be directed to the project supervisor, Dr Anthony Lewis, by email ( before submitting an application form.

In addition, students will have access to a vast number of training resources available at through the Graduate School at the University of Portsmouth including those geared toward improving presentation skills, time-management and project organisation skills, reviewing literature, thesis writing, data analysis and statistics, and other various related training modules.  This will prepare the student well for a future career in academia or industry.

Research Group Web Site:

Funding Status: PhD Students only; £4052 pa (home), £13,100 pa (international) tuition fees + £6K p/a bench fees