Dr William P J Smith

Research Interests

I am a theoretical biologist specialising in individual-based modelling. In my current role at Oxford, I am developing population models of interference competition (warfare) in microbial communities. My aim is to understand how and why bacteria have evolved different offensive and defensive weapon systems, and how their use influences community structure and stability in host-associated environments, such as the human gut.

As well as (anti)social interactions between bacteria, I am also interested in physical interactions within communities, and in the role of cellular shape as a means to manipulate community structure through self-organisation.

Key topics: bacterial competition, bacterial secretion, contact-dependent inhibition, individual-based modelling, microbial communities, bacterial morphology, confocal microscopy, computational and systems biology.


  • Smith, W. P*., Vettiger, A*., Winter, J., Ryser, T., Comstock, L. E., Basler, M., & Foster, K. R. (2020). The evolution of the type VI secretion system as a disintegration weapon. Plos Biology, 18(5), e3000720.
  • Booth, S. C., & Smith, W. P. (2020). Light sheets unveil host–microorganism interactions. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 18(2), 65-65.
  • Frost, I., Smith, W. P., Mitri, S., San Millan, A., Davit, Y., Osborne, J. M., ... & Foster, K. R. (2018). Cooperation, competition and antibiotic resistance in bacterial colonies. The ISME journal, 12(6), 1582-1593.
  • Smith, W. P., Davit, Y., Osborne, J. M., Kim, W., Foster, K. R., & Pitt-Francis, J. M. (2017). Cell morphology drives spatial patterning in microbial communities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(3), E280-E286.
  • Doye, J. P., Ouldridge, T. E., Louis, A. A., Romano, F., Šulc, P., Matek, C., ... & Smith, W. P. (2013). Coarse-graining DNA for simulations of DNA nanotechnology. Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 15(47), 20395-20414.
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