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Masters by Research Opportunity: Creating a nutritional fortifier from human milk for low birth weight preterm infants

   Hertfordshire Knowledge Exchange Partnership (HKEP)

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  Dr Xenofon Tzounis, Dr R Fallaize, Ms Gillian Weaver  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Hatfield United Kingdom Biochemistry Cell Biology Microbiology Pharmaceutical Chemistry

About the Project

MRes studentship with the Human Milk Foundation and the Department of Clinical, Pharmaceutical and Biological Sciences, University of Hertfordshire.

Qualification type: MSc by Research

Location: Hatfield

Funding amount: The award includes cover for UK home tuition fees and subject to eligibility, a stipend at standard RCUK rates. For 2020-2021 this is set at £15,609.

Applicants must be UK nationals or have permanent UK residence status. Overseas candidates may be considered, however they must cover the difference between domestic and international tuition fees and obtain a student visa.

Time period: 1 year

Hours: Full time

Start date: 1st October 2021 (flexible)

Some very low birth weight premature infants (<1500 g) need nutritional supplementation to grow or there is a higher risk of poorer outcomes, particularly in terms of brain growth. To date, evidence supports feeding with human milk (including mothers’ milk, donor milk and/or human milk fortifiers) in preference to bovine-derived formula milks and/or fortifiers. Currently no human milk-derived powdered nutritional fortifier that has been rigorously tested and, crucially, sourced ethically from women who have freely donated their milk, is available. This project aims to explore the feasibility and practicalities of developing and producing a powdered, safe nutritional product that could safely provide additional calories and nutrients as part of a powdered multi-nutrient human milk fortifier. 

Key responsibilities and duties:

  • Conduct primary research that will underpin the goals of the project and perform microbiological and biochemical experiments. These will take place across two different sites (University of Hertfordshire and Human Milk Foundation site)
  • Plan and oversee the day-to-day technical running of the research work
  • Fulfil the requirements of the degree programme (MSc by Research) including any requirements for progress reports and final thesis submission
  • Participate as an independent researcher in the design and development of the research project, maintaining ethical standards in the design and conduct of the research
  • Maintain contact and discuss with supervisory team any issues arising, including any circumstances that might affecting the research commitments or assessment
  • Willing to undertake and participate in any training session required for the project
  • Follow the Health and Safety protocols as specified in each working environment when conducting research



  • A first- or second-class UK honours degree or equivalent in a science related discipline
  • Standard laboratory techniques and procedures; good microbiological laboratory practice; use of general lab equipment; existing skills in microbial culture.
  • Excellent oral and written English communication skills, including the ability to communicate with clarity on complex information
  • Ability to work independently and within a team
  • Able to record information from meetings in an accurate written format
  • Applicants must be self-motivated and be interested in applied scientific research
  • Good time management skills and organisation ability.


  • A first- or second-class UK honours degree preferably in food science, microbiology or nutrition
  • Work experience in a laboratory setting, and familiar with the theoretical and chemical analysis of foods
  • Knowledge of statistical analysis and use of statistical software

Supervisor Information

  • Dr Xenofon Tzounis (University of Hertfordshire)
  • Dr Roz Fallaize (University of Hertfordshire)
  • Ms Gillian Weaver (Human Milk Foundation)

How to apply

Applicants are required to provide the following documents:

  • a completed application form
  • two academic references to be provided by referee directly to the doctoral college
  • copies of qualification certificates and transcripts
  • a copy of passport photo page
  • Certification of English language competence (minimum IELTS 6.5 or equivalent) for candidates for whom English is not their first language

Please send completed applications to the Doctoral College at [Email Address Removed], using the following format in the email subject line: Human Milk Foundation Masters by Research HKEP Associate application.1.

If you have not had a reply within 3 weeks of the deadline, you have unfortunately been unsuccessful on this occasion.

Informal Enquiries

Informal enquires should be addressed to Gillian Weaver at [Email Address Removed].