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Advanced spectroscopy techniques to improve the bioavailability of nutrients in vegetable-based food products. Sport and Health Science PhD Studentship


   College of Life and Environmental Sciences

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  Dr Luciana Torquati, Prof Mike Gidley, Prof G Nash  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Exeter United Kingdom Biochemistry Bioinformatics Biophysics Environmental Biology

About the Project

Join a world-leading, cross-continental research team

The University of Exeter and the University of Queensland are seeking exceptional students to join a world-leading, cross-continental research team tackling major challenges facing the world’s population in global sustainability and wellbeing as part of the QUEX Institute. The joint PhD programme provides a fantastic opportunity for the most talented doctoral students to work closely with world-class research groups and benefit from the combined expertise and facilities offered at the two institutions, with a lead supervisor within each university. This prestigious programme provides full tuition fees, stipend, travel funds and research training support grants to the successful applicants. The studentship provides funding for up to 42 months (3.5 years).

Eight generous, fully-funded studentships are available for the best applicants, four offered by the University of Exeter and four by the University of Queensland. This select group will spend at least one year at each University and will graduate with a joint degree from the University of Exeter and the University of Queensland.

Project Description

Phytochemicals are nutrients widely available in fruits and vegetables, with known antioxidant activity and cardiovascular health benefits. However, their health effects depend on how much we can absorb (bioavailability) and how much is available in food (bioaccesibility). Measure and identify factors that can increase bioaccesibility and bioavailability can thus improve phytochemicals’ health promoting effects. During food processing (i.e. post-harvest storage, thermal treatment) some phytochemicals can be lost, so it is important to identify strategies to mitigate this. Infrared spectroscopy is an analytic technique that can be used to flag phytochemicals loss and thus inform changes to food processing and manufacturing practices. Increased product bioavailability of phytochemicals could improve our ability to investigate their effects on human health. This could better inform recommendations and development of more effective health-promoting products. This project aims to assess how emerging techniques for infrared spectroscopy can be applied to food manufacturing; with the ultimate aim of producing an analytical toolkit that can be used by industry to improve bioavailability of nutrients to benefit human health. This will include the assessment and validation of infrared spectroscopy to detect phytochemical metabolites during in-vitro digestion and in humans.

This studentship has the potential to result in an outstanding learning opportunity for a high quality candidate and in research outputs in top tier journals involving co-authorship with a highly ranked international University (UQ is currently #20 in the world for Food Science and Technology, QS subjects ranking) . This is a truly multidisciplinary PhD project which enables the successful candidate to gain expertise in the areas of nutrition, food chemistry, spectroscopy, multivariate data analysis, big data, and analytical techniques.

The student will benefit from developing multidisciplinary skills including infrared spectroscopy, biological sampling collection and analysis, principal component analysis and computational chemistry using Gaussian. This industry co-developed project (PepsiCo) will expose the student to real-world challenges in food production and develop skills relevant to both academia and food industry increasing the candidate's post-PhD employability.

Find out more about the PhD studentships https://www.exeter.ac.uk/quex/phdstudentships/opportunities/

Successful applicants will have a strong academic background and track record to undertake research projects based in one of the three themes of: Healthy Living, Global Environmental Futures and Digital Worlds and Disruptive Technologies.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 24 May 2021 (BST), with interviews taking place week commencing 12 July 2021. The start date is expected to be 10 January 2022.

Please note that of the eight Exeter led projects advertised, we expect that up to four studentships will be awarded to Exeter based students.


Funding Notes

The QUEX Institute studentships are available for January 2022 entry. This prestigious programme provides full tuition fees, stipend of £15,609 p.a, travel funds of up to £15,000, and RTSG of £10,715 over the life of the studentship. The studentship funding is provided for up to 42 months (3.5 years)