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How does the microbiome affect behaviour? Discovering neuroactive compounds made by bacteria

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, December 01, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The risk of psychiatric diseases and neurodegeneration is influenced by genetics and external environment. Increasingly, it is also thought to be influenced by the internal environment through gut microbes. Given the complexity of the microbiome—it is both diverse and dynamic—observational studies in humans can only provide preliminary evidence for the role of any particular phylum in a human disease. Causality, let alone mechanism, remains difficult to establish. In this project, you will take advantage of technology that we have recently developed [1] to screen hundreds of bacterial strains for behavioural effects on the nematode worm C. elegans. Because worms can be raised in large numbers in the lab and they naturally eat bacteria, they provide a unique niche for finding and characterising so-called psychobiotics. You will have an exciting opportunity to discover new animal-microbe interactions, use mass spectrometry to discovery new neuroactive compounds, and use genetics to discover where and how they act in the nervous system.

Depending on student interests, the project can incorporate imaging, machine learning, and wet lab work to varying extents.

To Apply: Please visit our website ( to download an application form.

Funding Notes

This project is one of multiple available projects potentially funded by the MRC. If successful the studentship would cover all tuition fee payments and includes a tax-free stipend amounting to £21,000pa (paid in monthly installments directly to the student) for 3.5 years.

Whilst this funding is available to students worldwide, due to the higher tuition fee rate of overseas students competition is higher and so only exceptional OS applicants will be considered.


Javer et al. (2018) Nature Methods 15:645

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