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(BBSRC DTP) Using mathematical models to understand the role of the respiratory microbiome in asthma


Project Description

Most of the cells in the human body are not human. There are rich microbial communities (i.e., microbiota) in our digestive tracts, our respiratory tracts, and on our skin. Similarly, most of the organisms in ecosystems are not plants or animals, but rather microbes that inhabit the soil, the water and the surfaces and even tissues of other organisms. There is growing recognition that microbiota are important to the health of their host organisms and ecosystems. When the right communities are present systems are healthy, and when the communities become unbalanced systems become “sick.” This can affect outcomes as diverse as human health, crop productivity, and ecosystem resilience to climate change. However, we have little understanding of what healthy microbiota look like, and even less understanding of how to restore unhealthy microbiota to healthy states.

The goal of this project is to develop novel mathematical, computational and statistical tools to understand the complex effects of microbiota on their host organisms and ecosystems using the human respiratory microbiota as a model system. Specific goals may include:

1. Analysing microbiome data collected from healthy and asthmatic subjects, and developing models to identify healthy and unhealthy states based on the composition of the microbiota.

2. Fitting time series data from longitudinal sampling of human respiratory microbiomes to Kolmogorov-type dynamical models. Fitted models will allow researchers to predict the trajectories of microbial communities, and coupled with the results of part 1, to predict trajectories in the state of the host organism or ecosystem, but efficient fitting methods have yet to be developed.

3. Developing computational algorithms to optimise interventions for the control of microbiotic trajectories. Such algorithms will help practitioners control microbial communities and influence the properties of host systems.

The student will be integrated into the CURE (Constructing a ‘Eubiosis Reinstatement Therapy’ for Asthma) project, an EU-funded consortium of 7 partner institutions in 5 countries whose goal is to understand and ultimately manipulate the respiratory microbiome for the remediation of asthma. However, the student will have substantial freedom to set his or her research goals and approaches to match his or her particular areas of interest.

This project is intensely quantitative, and a student would benefit from excellent training in mathematics, physics, computer science or quantitative approaches to biology. We encourage applicants both from within and outside the biological sciences. In the later case, appropriate biological training will be provided during the PhD.

Entry Requirements:
Applications are invited from UK/EU nationals only. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.

Funding Notes

This project is to be funded under the BBSRC Doctoral Training Programme. If you are interested in this project, please make direct contact with the Principal Supervisor to arrange to discuss the project further as soon as possible. You MUST also submit an online application form - full details on how to apply can be found on the BBSRC DTP website View Website

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.

How good is research at University of Manchester in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 42.13

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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