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Insects as a dietary protein source in nutrition and health: Feasibility of a sustainable alternative to animal-based protein sources (Ref FHMS - FF - 13 BIO)


   Faculty of Health & Medical Sciences

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  Dr Ralph Manders  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Insects have been used as a source of dietary protein for many years in East-Asian and African populations and more recently the interest in this potential protein source has been growing in Western countries due to issues with food availability and delivery (e.g. Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine) and increased awareness of animal welfare issues in the food chain. However, up until now there is no clear evidence that insect-derived protein has the same nutritional properties as it’s animal counterpart. This current PhD project therefore aims to determine the potential of insects as a viable alternative to animal-derived proteins for human consumption. You will compare bioavailability and subsequent anabolic and endocrine effects of an insect protein with a well characterised animal protein in healthy human participants. This project will be the first to examine the acute metabolic and hormonal responses to insect protein in direct comparison with animal protein in humans. You will also examine the use of insect protein in combination with a resistance training programme on skeletal muscle protein synthesis, the project will enable direct comparison between healthy young and healthy older individuals. In addition, you will also be evaluating attitudes toward the consumption of insects and knowledge of the environmental and ethical issues in the production of insects and animal-based protein for food. The project will give unique insights into the potential benefits of insect-based protein and barriers to consumer acceptance of insect-based products. The project will impact not only the food production industry but will have direct benefit to the environment and inform food production in a move towards reducing the carbon footprint of the food industry, reduce food waste and provide a valuable source of protein for an increasing human population.

Principle Supervisor - Dr. Ralph Manders

Dr Ralph Manders | University of Surrey

Specific training regarding this project will be provided through the supervisory team who have considerable and complementary expertise in conducting human dietary interventions and exercise training studies and the measurement of endocrine and anabolic function. Within this project, will not only benefit from the experience of the supervisory team but also from the knowledge that is present within the collaborating technical team and our external industrial partner that will provide with invaluable experience about translating research data into commercial applications. Thanks to our unique collaboration with HOP®, will learn about how a business works, be able to contribute their thoughts and suggestions, and see the short and long-term real-world impacts of their research to the business. Alongside the research project specific support, the supervisory team will also arrange for additional scientific training aimed at increasing the student’s transferable, academic and employability skills beyond the project. We will also ensure that will have sufficient time to engage with the multitude of different Doctoral College-provided training schemes in terms of generic skills and career development. To further help develop cross disciplinary skills, will also be able to take advantage of free access to undergraduate and postgraduate taught modules in nutrition, physiology, sport and exercise sciences and food science to further their understanding and skills [Email Address Removed]

Entry requirements

Open to UK and international students with the project starting in October 2023. Note that a maximum of 30% of the studentships will be offered to international students.

You will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for our PhD programme https://www.surrey.ac.uk/postgraduate/biosciences-and-medicine-phd#entry.

How to apply

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the relevant principal supervisor(s) to discuss the project(s) before submitting their application.

Applications should be submitted via the [https://www.surrey.ac.uk/postgraduate/biosciences-and-medicine-phd programme page (N.B. Please select the October 2023 start date when applying).

You may opt to apply for a single project or for 2 of these Faculty-funded studentship projects.

When completing your application, in place of a research proposal, please provide a brief motivational document (1 page maximum) which specifies:

  • the reference numbers(s) for the project or two projects you are applying for
  • the project title(s) and principal supervisor name(s)
  • if applying for two projects, please also indicate your order of preference for the projects
  • an explanation of your motivations for wanting to study for a PhD
  • an explanation of your reasons for selecting the project(s) you have chosen

Additionally, to complete a full application, you MUST also email a copy of your CV and 1-page motivational document directly to the relevant project principal supervisor of each project you apply for. Due to short turnaround times for applicant shortlisting, failure to do this may mean that your application is not considered.

Please note that online interviews for shortlisted applicants are expected to take place during the week commencing 30th January.


Funding Notes

Funding is for 3.5 years and includes UKRI-aligned stipend (£17,668 pa for 2022-23), approved University of Surrey fees and a research budget. This studentship is funded by Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey.
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