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Exploring the Skin Microbiome’s response to UV light and investigating whether this response alters in the presence of UV filters

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  • Full or part time
    Prof C A O'Neill
    Prof A McBain
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

UV light has a substantial effect on our skin which has been characterised well and documented throughout literature. Most of the available data in this area focusses on the damaging effects of UV light on the epidermis and dermis of the skin. Generally, in skin care research the focus has always been on these traditional skin layers; the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis. However, over the past few years there has been a new area of interest which has gained significant attention in the personal care industry; the skin microbiome.

The skin microbiome is the diverse microbial ecosystem on our skin surface and therefore the microorganisms that reside in this environment are the very first to come in to contact with UV light when striking the skin. It is therefore of utmost importance to understand how UV light impacts these microbes whether beneficially, adversely or neutrally. There is a continual increase in evidence to highlight the importance of a healthy microbiome in order to have healthy skin therefore understanding the impact of UV on this ecosystem and how we can provide and implement protection mechanisms is of substantial interest.

The aim of this project is therefore to firstly understand the impact of UV light (UVA and UVB) and potentially infra-red and visible light on the skin microbiome. The second aim is to investigate if and how UV filters (both inorganic and organic filters) can alter the effects of UV light on the skin microbiome. Questions to be answered within this second aim include but are not limited to the following;

• Do inorganic and organic filters show any protective effects for the skin microbiome against UVA and/or UVB light?
• Do these filters selectively protect some microorganisms and not others within the microbial community? Are these commensal or pathogenic microorganisms?
• Do these filters lead to a change in the skin microbiome balance i.e. is there an increase/decrease/impartial effect in microbial diversity or microbial density?
• In the absence of UV light, do these inorganic and organic filters have a beneficial, adverse or neutral effect on the skin microbiome i.e. regardless of any beneficial effect they may have in microbial UV protection, do the chemistries themselves harm or benefit the skin microbiome?
• Does IR light influence the skin microbiome, and if so, are IR filters able to protect against these effects on the microorganisms?

This research would significantly contribute towards enhancing our understanding in sun care protection as research to date has been focussed on UV effects on the traditional skin layers. This focus on UV effects on the skin microbiome will allow us to understand and therefore develop suitable sun care products to protect this significant ecosystem which has been shown to be integral to our skin health.

Entry Requirements
Applicants are expected to hold, or about to obtain, a minimum upper second class undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in microbiology or a related discipline. A Masters degree in a relevant subject and/or experience in a microbiology or related subject area is desirable.

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 PhD Microbiology.

Funding Notes

BBSRC CTP Award with Croda Ltd. Studentship funding is for a duration of four years to commence in September 2020 and covers UK/EU tuition fees and an annual minimum stipend (£17509 per annum 2019/20).

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.

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