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  Determining how immune responses are regulated in the lung and gut by the local environment

   Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

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  Prof Mark Travis, Prof Richard Grencis, Prof Dave Thornton  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The immune system must respond quickly to infection but must also be tightly regulated so it ignores harmless substances and our own tissues. It is known that infection in one part of the body can have wide-spread effects around the body. Therefore, understanding the mechanisms that control immune responses to infection locally, and in other body tissues, is crucial in determining how the immunity keeps us healthy.

Immune regulation is especially important at so-called ‘mucosal surfaces’, such as the lung and the gut. These surfaces have major exposure to the environment and are lined by a mucus layer that is important in tissue protection. As well as being a protective layer, our previous research has shown that the building blocks of the mucus layer- glycoproteins called mucins- can actively control the immune response, and that mucins are altered upon infection. Additionally, there is major communication between the lung and the gut, with infection in one organ having major effects on the mucus layer in the other. However, how these changes occur and their functional consequences are not well understood. 

This project will study how the lung and gut communicate with each other during infection. We will focus on how infection in the intestine affects the lung, and vice-versa, with a specific focus on how the mucus layer is altered, and how these changes control immune cell behaviour.

The project will utilise a variety of different techniques including animal models, molecular biology, biochemistry, and immune cell cultures to study how the immune system and tissue environment in one mucosal organ is regulated by the infection in another. 

The student will join my laboratory located within the world-class Lydia Becker Institute of Immunology and Inflammation at the University of Manchester and will have access to a wide-range of expertise and research facilities.


Applicants must have obtained or be about to obtain a First or Upper Second class UK honours degree in a biological science, with prior experience in research necessary. Candidates with previous studies and experience in the field of immunology are particularly encouraged to apply. 

Before you Apply 

Applicants must make direct contact with preferred supervisors before applying. It is your responsibility to make arrangements to meet with potential supervisors, prior to submitting a formal online application.  

How to Apply 

For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website ( Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor. On the online application form select the appropriate subject title - PhD Immunology.

For international students, we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences. For more information please visit

Your application form must be accompanied by a number of supporting documents by the advertised deadlines. Without all the required documents submitted at the time of application, your application will not be processed and we cannot accept responsibility for late or missed deadlines. Incomplete applications will not be considered. If you have any queries regarding making an application please contact our admissions team [Email Address Removed]  

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion  

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website  

Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from self-funded students. This project has a Band 3 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website


Melo-Gonzalez F, Fenton TM, Forss C, Smedley C, Goenka A, MacDonald AS, Thornton DJ, Travis MA (2018). Intestinal mucin activates human dendritic cells and IL-8 production in a glycan-specific manner. J Biol Chem., 293:8543-8553.
McShane A, Bath J, Jaramillo AM, Ridley C, Walsh AA, Evans CM, Thornton DJ, Ribbeck K (2021). Mucus. Curr Biol., 31:R938-R945.
Campbell L, Hepworth MR, Whittingham-Dowd J, Thompson S, Bancroft AJ, Hayes KS, Shaw TN, Dickey BF, Flamar AL, Artis D, Schwartz DA, Evans CM, Roberts IS, Thornton DJ, Grencis RK (2019). ILC2s mediate systemic innate protection by priming mucus production at distal mucosal sites. J Exp Med., 216:2714-2723.