Research Supervisor Connect

Tracking antibiotic resistance genes and mobile genetic elements in the environment


Antibiotic resistance is a massive problem for medicine, and thus much effort is being put into understanding the genetic basis of how bacteria evolve so quickly to become resistant to even our most powerful antibiotics. To date, most work has focused on the human host and the hospital environment, but it is increasingly clear that we need to look wider than this to solve the problem. We need to include animals, plants, soils, sewage, and other ecosystem compartments in our studies to really understand where the resistance genes are coming from and how they move around. Which mobile genetic elements are involved? How can we stop them?


Associate Professor Nicholas Coleman.

Research location

School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Program type



Mobile genetic elements (MGEs) are at the heart of the antibiotic resistance problem. In this project, we will focus on one specific element, the integron-gene cassette system, which is a prime mover of resistance genes in Gram-negative bacteria like E.coli. We aim to develop novel assays to probe the integron and gene cassette content of different environmental compartments, and ideally to be able to measure the in situ activity of these elements, and stay one step ahead of bacterial evolution. We will look for links between the types and numbers of integrons and gene cassettes in agricultural systems, humans, and human infrastructure (sewage treatment plants).

Additional information

The project requires skills and knowledge in microbiology and molecular biology.

HDR Inherent Requirements

In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

Want to find out more?

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 2465

Other opportunities with Associate Professor Nicholas Coleman