NIHR Exeter BRC Studentship - Investigating the effect of hyperglycaemia on immune cell function

   College of Life and Environmental Sciences

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  Dr Martin Eichmann, Dr S Richardson  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Project description:

This PhD project explores the interface between metabolism and immunology. The goal is to increase our understanding of how high blood glucose levels (hyperglycaemia) alters immune cell function. This information may help us to make medicines to better treat people with diabetes during an infection.

In the UK, over 4 million people live with diabetes, a disease characterised by high blood glucose levels. Treatment effectiveness varies greatly, and hyperglycaemia increases the likelihood of major long-term complications. In people with diabetes that experience hyperglycaemia, immune responses to fight an infection (for example a virus) are worse, leading to increased hospitalisation and death, as was the case during COVID-19 for people with diabetes and hyperglycaemia compared to individuals without diabetes. This suggests that in people with diabetes, high blood glucose levels alter immune pathways and modify immune cell function.

During this PhD project, the student will aim to identify how hyperglycaemia modifies immune pathways and leads to altered immune responses to infection. The research will focus on the effect of hyperglycaemia on immune cell function. According to the results (and interest), the student will be supported to direct their own research focus. Studies will be performed in vitro, using human immune cell lines and primary immune cells from people with diabetes. To support the student’s scientific development, they will undergo training in key state-of-the-art immunological techniques such as flow cytometry and live cell imaging and will develop advanced data analysis skills including the use of bioinformatics.

The student will become part of the Islet Biology Exeter group (a closely integrated group of 8 PIs and their teams) that will provide a stimulating and fostering environment throughout the PhD training.

NIHR Exeter BRC Commitment

This Studentship will be nested within the National Institute of Health and Care Research Exeter Biomedical Research Centre (NIHR Exeter BRC), hosted by the Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust in partnership with the University of Exeter and in collaboration with South West NHS organisations. The first of its kind for the South West peninsula, the Centres fundamental objective is to improve health outcomes for patients and the public by translating scientific breakthroughs into potential new treatments, diagnostics and medical technologies.

This studentship will provide the opportunity to work with world-leading researchers and have access to state-of-the-art facilities. The NIHR Exeter BRC are committed to developing and nurturing a diverse and rich pipeline of talented researchers by equipping them with the knowledge and skills to excel and contribute significantly to the local and national economy via the delivery of high-quality and impactful translational biomedical research. Expertise will be harnessed from across the partnership to deliver the best possible training and career development opportunities, with the student provided the opportunity to be embedded in a rich research culture, with a growing body of early career researchers.

We are delighted to have already recruited some exceptionally talented researchers at various career stages to our NIHR Exeter BRC, including Senior Investigator Fellows, Translational Fellows and our first cohort of PhD students who started with us in September.

It should be noted that funding will not allow all projects to be appointed to, as such, the top performing candidates as chosen by the selection panels will be matched to their project of choice and only these will be awarded. You are able to apply for up to two projects being advertised within this funding round.

Fees and funding

For eligible students, the studentship will cover Home tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £18,622 (in alignment with standard Research Council UK rate) for 3 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study, in addition to a Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG). The student would be based at the Research, Innovation, Learning and Development (RILD) building based at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital site in Exeter, near to the St Lukes Campus.

*Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee and no stipend. International applicants need to be aware that you will have to cover the cost of your student visa, healthcare surcharge and other costs of moving to the UK to do a PhD.

The conditions for eligibility of home fees status are complex and you will need to seek advice if you have moved to or from the UK (or Republic of Ireland) within the past 3 years or have applied for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.


The closing date for applications is midnight on Tuesday 2nd January 2024.

Interview panels will be held virtually in late January/ early February 2023 for a September 2024 start.

Contact details

If you would like to discuss the studentships further, please contact the primary supervisor as stated in the advert. If you have any queries surrounding the application process or the BRC more generally, please contact Dr Sophie Gould (NIHR Exeter BRC Training and Events Manager) at [Email Address Removed].

Entry requirements

Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate subject area.

If English is not your first language you will need to meet the required level as per our guidance at

How to apply

In the application process, you will be asked to upload several documents.

CV – all aspects below must be included, if applicable

Contact details

Education history

Work history

Work experience (voluntary and/ or paid)

Professional development and skillset e.g. certification, courses, workshops, conference attendance/ presentations

Publications and awards

Letter of motivation (maximum 2 pages)

Biological Sciences (4) Chemistry (6) Medicine (26)

Where will I study?

 About the Project