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  EASTBIO CASE - Nutritional sensitivity of intestinal antimicrobial peptide production for enhanced gut health in poultry

   PHD Opportunities

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  Dr Farina Khattak, Prof Jos Houdijk  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project


This 4-year PhD project is part of a competition funded by EASTBIO BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership in collaboration with AB Vista. This opportunity is open to eligible to pay UK rate tuition fees and provides funding to cover tuition fees, plus a stipend to support living costs.

All students must meet the eligibility criteria as outlined in the UKRI guidance at UKRI Training Grant Terms and Conditions, esp. TGC 5.2 & Annex B. Please contact [Email Address Removed] if you are unsure of your fee status.

The Project

Embark on an exciting journey into the world of poultry research with this four-year, fully-funded Ph.D. case studentship. This project aims to unlock the potential of in-situ antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) in promoting gut health in poultry. In collaboration with AB Vista, a global leader in animal nutrition and technology, this opportunity offers more than just academic excellence, as it provides a hands-on, industry-immersed experience. Join us in reshaping the landscape of sustainable poultry production, contributing to cutting-edge advancements at the intersection of academia and industry, and pushing the boundaries of knowledge to make a lasting impact on poultry health and production.

Global concerns over antibiotic resistance and a preference for sustainable farming drive the rising demand for antibiotic alternatives in broiler production. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) act as effective alternatives, serving as natural bodyguards against infectious diseases in poultry. However, the widespread use of synthetic AMPs for prevention is limited due to higher costs and stability issues. To overcome this limitation, this project proposes strategic nutritional manipulation to induce and regulate endogenous AMP expression, ensuring sustainable, resilient, and safe poultry production.

This project is dedicated to assessing the effectiveness of novel feed additives, specifically β-glucan and oligosaccharides derived from yeast and cereal, in stimulating host antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) within the natural environment. The objective is to understand how nutritional supplementation with these feed additives can influence the expression of avian host AMPs in the gut, particularly under mild sub-clinical disease conditions. The study has three primary objectives. Firstly, it aims to enhance broiler immune and metabolic responses in antibiotic-free diets by optimising the structure and function of β-glucan. Secondly, the study seeks to understand the mode of action of avian antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) in the gut and establish a diagnostic marker to ensure consistent commercial application of novel feed additives. Lastly, the research aims to establish a correlation between the concentration and inhibitory capabilities of these AMPs against bacterial, viral, and parasitic pathogens in the avian gut.

The major part of the studentship will be carried out at the Monogastric Science Research Center (MSRC) of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) located near Edinburgh, UK. Poultry trials will be conducted at the SRUC’s cutting-edge poultry research facility, the largest in the UK, dedicated to fostering world-leading avian research. For industrial placement (of no less than 12 weeks duration), the student will receive training and support from Dr Mike Bedford (a renowned poultry expert) at AB Vista, Marlborough, UK. At AB Vista, the student will gain comprehensive knowledge of the sector, collaborating with a global team with diverse expertise, including industrial production of feed additives, nutrigenomics, R&D development, manufacturing operations, financial management, and communication skills.

Skills training will be provided in personal effectiveness (communication, networking, team collaboration), poultry trial designing, molecular biology, microbiome profiling, metagenomics, immunology, and statistics. The outcomes from this project will, in broader terms, be beneficial for both animal and human health sectors. This unique combination of on-farm training, laboratory proficiency, and industry exposure ensures the student’s comprehensive readiness for a successful career in an increasingly competitive market (both in academia and industry).


Eligibility criteria are available on the EASTBIO how to apply webpage.

How to Apply

Please note that this project has an extended deadline (14 March), so disregard deadlines on the website and application form

To apply for an EASTBIO PhD studentship, please follow the guidance on the EASTBIO how to apply webpage. EASTBIO can provide you with support for your application and details are available on the webpage.

Informal enquiries about the project and your application should be addressed to the project supervisor, Dr Farina Khattak - [Email Address Removed]

After you have approached the project supervisor and discussed your application with them, you should:

1) Download and complete the online EASTBIO Equality, Diversity and Inclusion survey; the survey will automatically generate a Unique Number that you should copy and paste on the relevant section of your EASTBIO Application Form.

2) Download and fill in the EASTBIO Application Form. You can only apply for one EASTBIO PhD project.

3) Download and send the EASTBIO Reference Form to your two academic/professional referees, and ask them to submit the references directly to [Email Address Removed] by 14 March 2024

4) Submit your complete application, along with academic transcripts and certificates to [Email Address Removed] by 14 March 2024

If you require any additional assistance in submitting your application or have any queries about the application process, please don't hesitate to contact us at [Email Address Removed]

Agriculture (1) Biological Sciences (4) Food Sciences (15) Veterinary Sciences (35)

Funding Notes

This fully funded, 4-year PhD project is part of a competition and is funded by the BBSRC EASTBIO Doctoral Training Partnership in collaboration with AB Vista and is open to students eligible to pay UK rate tuition fees (including ROI). Funding will cover tuition fees, plus a stipend to support living costs and an annual research grant .

How good is research at SRUC - Scotland’s Rural College in Agriculture, Food and Veterinary Sciences?

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

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