Alhassan Alrafaie, Isolation and characterization of phages

PhD Student
Alhassan Alrafaie
PhD student
Isolation and characterization of phages
Born and raised in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Alhassan’s research focused on isolation and characterization of special types of viruses called phages, which can recognize and kill bacterial cells. This project is supervised by Professor Graham Stafford and Dr. Joey Shepherd at the school of Clinical Dentistry.
PhD Student

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, Alhassan worked for a number of months in a hospital at the microbiology laboratory. Then, he joined Prince Sattam bin Abdulaziz university as a demonstrator, where Alhassan secured a scholarship to study his masters and PhD. Taking the opportunity to go to the Washington D.C., Alhassan studied his master’s degree in microbiology at Georgetown university. 

Alhassan started his PhD project in March 2019. He  says, “When I searched for PhD studies in multiple UK universities,  I found that Sheffield was the best choice for me. As one of the top universities in the UK, the city is also very friendly and welcoming for international students, as well as secure and safe.

“There are many things that I really appreciate about studying here, including the availability  of my supervisors  whenever I need guidance related to my project or discussion about any general topics. Students and staff at the department are also really friendly and supportive, which makes a very good study environment for learning and development. 

In recent years, we have an increasing issue with the lack of effective antibiotics due to bacterial resistance, and it is estimated that the number of deaths annually will reach 10 million in 2050 if this issue is not tackled. Alhassan’s project focuses on this urgent need to find alternative ways to treat bacterial infections. 

He explains, “One promising way is to use special viruses to kill bacterial cells. These viruses called phages, can only recognize and attack bacterial cells leading to bacterial death. Surprisingly, these viruses were discovered over 100 years ago before the discovery of antibiotics and since then, have been used to treat bacterial infections in limited therapeutic centers in Poland and Georgia. 

“So, in my project, I will isolate and characterize phages from wastewater samples targeting different enterococcal strains, which are widely associated with hospital infections and highly antibiotic resistance.”

After finishing his PhD, Alhassan plans to return back to Saudi Arabia as a University Assistant Professor, using the skills that he’s developed here to spread the knowledge about the importance of phages, and their application in treatment as well as other fields. 

Alhassan adds, “I think when people want to take on a PhD, they really look for a friendly community, a beautiful city and supportive learning environment. These aspects are what I found at Sheffield and I advise anyone to really consider Sheffield for their education.”

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