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Pipeline development for algae as a viable sustainable dietary protein source to support human nutrition. PhD Sport and Health Sciences, PhD Studentship (Funded by the QUEX Institute)

College of Life and Environmental Sciences

Monday, August 31, 2020 Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Join a world-leading, cross-continental research team

The University of Exeter and the University of Queensland are seeking exceptional students to join a world-leading, cross-continental research team tackling major challenges facing the world’s population in global sustainability and wellbeing as part of the QUEX Institute. The joint PhD programme provides a fantastic opportunity for the most talented doctoral students to work closely with world-class research groups and benefit from the combined expertise and facilities offered at the two institutions, with a lead supervisor within each university. This prestigious programme provides full tuition fees, stipend, travel funds and research training support grants to the successful applicants. The studentship provides funding for up to 42 months (3.5 years).

Project Description

Although dietary protein is of crucial importance for human nutrition (particularly within sports nutrition and in support of healthy ageing), our information undergirding dietary protein guidelines and recommendations comes almost exclusively from research carried out with animal-derived proteins (Wall et al. 2014). Given we live in rapidly increasing (in number), ageing, wealthier and more urbanised populations, paired with the scientific community calling for increases in dietary protein recommended daily intakes (RDI) in various populations (Wall et al. 2014), the global demand for protein production is set to rise considerably in the coming decades.

Various major organisations and government bodies, including the University of Exeter, have declared a climate emergency. One of the major action points unanimously proposed to reduce carbon emissions is reduced reliance on the environmentally costly production of animal-derived protein sources. It is therefore of urgent importance to identify a range of potential non-animal derived, sustainable dietary protein sources and develop an evidence base for their efficacy within human nutrition.

Though numerous more sustainable alternative protein sources have been proposed as having potential to support a sustainable food future (e.g. various plant, insect or fungal derived protein sources) one as yet untapped source is algae. The present project takes a multidisciplinary approach to exploring the potential for algae as a dietary protein source to support human nutrition.

The early part of the project, based in the University of Queensland, Australia, will utilise a biosciences approach to optimising processes to obtain a protein rich extraction from algae that is fit for human consumption. The second half of the project will be an in vivo metabolic physiology approach where the aforementioned algal protein sources will be fed to human volunteers and the digestion and absorption kinetics assessed as well as subsequent metabolism of the dietary derived amino acids. The latter experiments will be performed in both young and older adults, within the context of resting and exercised skeletal muscle, with a focus on the potential application of algal protein to support sports nutrition and active healthy ageing.

For more information about this studentship including how to apply, please follow the instructions detailed on the following webpage http://www.exeter.ac.uk/studying/funding/award/?id=3899

Funding Notes

Full tuition fees, stipend of £15,000 p.a, travel funds of up to £15,000, and RTSG of £15,000 are available over the 3.5 year studentship


Wall et al. 2014 Sports Med 44:185-94.

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