Blog Archive

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

#MeetThePhD 5: Daniel Morse, Disruptor of Biofilms


The idea behind this is to showcase PhD students, give a bit of an idea of what’s going on out there in PhDland, and show to the world what PhD life is like! Perhaps they are thinking of doing a PhD themselves, or just generally want to know more about it. Or they’re already doing a PhD and want to see that they’re not alone in their struggles or successes!

While Friendly Bacteria is a vaguely microbiology-themed blog, for this series of mini-interviews I’m wanting any PhD student no matter the field! I think it will be a fun way to connect with other PhD students we wouldn’t normally be able to get to know, too.

If you’re a PhD student and want to get involved with this, leave a comment here, send me a DM on Twitter ( @friendlybugblog ) or shine the Bacteria-signal into the skies above Aberystwyth and I’ll send you the questions!

Previous ones are here:

Today we have Daniel Morse, investigating oral biofilms! Tweets to @danieljmorse (or @friendlybugblog if you want me), and check out too!

Tell me about yourself.

I’m Daniel Morse, PhD student in the Oral and Biomedical Sciences theme at Cardiff University, School of Dentistry.

I grew up in Newport, South Wales, and have always lived in South Wales, moving to Cwmbran with my wife during my undergraduate degree, so everything is familiar! I studied my undergraduate degree at UWE, Bristol: B.Sc (hons) Biomedical Sciences and my module choices focused on microbiology, genetics and immunology. I achieved a 2:1, then worked for a small biotechnology company in Cardiff after graduating. I was there for just under 4 years and was working as R&D Scientist, but always wanted to pursue a PhD, so when this project came up, I applied and here I am!

I have a young family, so love spending time with my wife Lauren and two boys Ruben and Oliver. They are very active, and we have sports classes quite a lot (football, swimming, gymnastics), that they enjoy. They are my world. I am also a keen guitarist, and play in a pop-punk band called Raise The Alarm.

I also like to blog, and have a blog for my journey through the PhD and beyond, you can visit it here:

My favourite colour: blue
Favourite number: 5
Favourite food: Lasagne or a good Sunday roast

What's your project all about?

I am a microbiologist by background and work experience, and this PhD project is oral microbiology – more specifically, oral biofilms.

My thesis title is: Denture acrylic biofilms: microbial composition, interactions and prevention.
I started in October 2013 and my project was nicely split into four work areas;

1. Characterise microbial biofilms from patients with and without a condition known as denture-associated stomatitis (inflammation of the upper palate in the mouth, caused by the fungi that causes thrush; Candida). So take swabs and get the DNA sequenced to find out what bacteria are present.
2. Develop an ‘in the lab’ (in vitro) model of these oral biofilms on denture material and investigate interactions between the bacteria and Candida.
3. Infect 3D tissue models and have a look at what happens and how the cells respond
4. Use antimicrobial products or consumer products (denture cleansers etc) to treat the biofilms.

How's that working out so far?

I’m in my final year, and still have some lab work to do, but I’ve also started to write my thesis (which is scary, and hard!)

The project progressed really well. There were issues and problems to overcome as with any project, but tackling them were some of the best bits!

I’ve been fortunate enough to go to a lot of conferences and present my work: Cardiff, Swansea, Gregynog (mid-Wales), Sheffield, Weybridge, Bristol, Boston USA, Porto Portugal and in March 2017, I’ll be going to San Francisco USA! I’ve also won a number of awards for poster and oral presentation (see my blog for more details!)

What are the best things about your PhD so far?

The best things:

- Going to conferences all around the world, presenting my work (and winning prizes) and meeting new people!
- Getting your work per reviewed and published in a scientific journal for the world to see.
- Having the best supervisory team that anyone could possibly ask for. David, Melanie and Xiaoqing have been the most supportive, amazing people through these past 3 years.
- Being able to spend time in another lab, learning new techniques and gaining a huge amount of experience and knowledge in that time.

And the three worst things?

I don’t think I have three worst things about the PhD, but the nature of the beast – not always, but certainly during phases of work – means it is difficult, having to work long hours, or come in at silly times.

Overcoming obstacles and difficulties within the work can have quite a negative impact too, but getting through that and coming out the other end far outweighs the difficulties.

If you could go back and do something differently, what would it be? Why?

I would be more disciplined, and more assertive.

Everyone does, and I was no exception in having the year 2 blues, and not making much progress, or certainly not as much as I could have done. So I’d change my attitude toward things and approach to things to get more done.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about doing a PhD?

Do it!

It is hard. Harder than you think it will be. But persevere and you will get through it.

There is ALWAYS support available, you are never alone and you are certainly not going through feelings or emotions on your own. You can talk to your peers, support staff, housemates, friends, family, supervisors, anyone. You will experience dark days, days where you don’t want to get out of bed. But everyone says, doing a PhD is 10% intelligence but 90% perseverance, and this is most definitely true.

Engage and enjoy it. Go to conferences, ask for travel money, ask to speak to people, ask questions, question everything, go to events, network, speak to people, discuss ideas, far fetched as they may never know what may come of it!

What's the plan after you finish?

I’m case-award funded, which is research council and industrial partner (EPSRC and GSK are my sponsors), so I’m hoping that there will be something that I can discuss with GSK for project work – so many ideas!

I’ll be looking for further funding anyway, I’d like to stay in academia, follow in the footsteps of my supervisor, so fellowships would be an ideal route for me!

Any further thoughts/comments?

Follow me on Twitter @DanielJMorse and follow my blog! J

Great stuff! It sounds like you've had a really great PhD journey so far. I hope the rest goes well, and that San Francisco is amazing in March!

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