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Pre- and post-weaning nutritional strategies to increase piglet growth and reduce antimicrobial usage

  • Full or part time
    Dr G Gardiner
    Dr P G Lawlor
  • Application Deadline
    Thursday, April 30, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Post summary

The student will be part of the UCD/Teagasc/WIT project PigNutriStrat. The aim of this project is to use a multidisciplinary research approach to develop solutions to prevent and manage multifactorial enteric diseases in pigs as a means of reducing the need for antibiotic use. Reducing infection pressure and optimising gut microbiome, immunity and enzyme secretory capacity will be the focus. The student will evaluate pre- and post-weaning management and nutritional strategies as a means of improving lifetime pig health, microbiome and productivity and reducing antibiotic use. The impact of the strategies tested will be evaluated by measuring variables such as pig growth performance, gut health, gut microbiome and immune parameters. The student will also contribute to tasks where specific alternatives to antibiotic feeding approaches are investigated and where hygiene and biosecurity, management, sow and piglet nutrition, health and antibiotic use are linked to economic outcomes. The work will be a combination of animal trials and laboratory analysis with the opportunity to conduct novel interdisciplinary research across areas such as animal nutrition, microbiology, molecular biology and immunology. The student will also receive discipline-specific and generic skills graduate training and will complete a number of courses tailored towards their area, as well as universal modules in areas such as project management, research integrity, academic writing and statistical analysis. The student will be based at Teagasc Moorepark but will be registered at WIT and will have the opportunity to spend time at the WIT and UCD collaborator sites.

Standard duties and responsibilities of the scholarship
• Literature review on pre- and post-weaning nutritional strategies to increase piglet growth and reduce antimicrobial usage
• Preparation of protocols and ethics and licence applications for animal experiments
• Animal work (maintaining records, sampling, weighing etc) on the following project tasks:
• Split suckling and post-partum analgesia to increase colostrum intake
• Supplementary milk for suckling pigs to introduce novel non-antibiotic dietary additives and improve pre- and post-weaning survival, growth and health
• Provision of supplementary liquid milk replacer and/or liquid feed to newly weaned pigs to reduce nutritional stress at weaning
• Low acid binding capacity and protein content diets to help ensure an acidic gastric barrier early post-weaning
• Planning and conducting laboratory analyses on samples from animal trials including gut microbial community (high-throughput 16S rRNA gene sequencing) and resistome (high-throughput shotgun sequencing) analyses, intestinal histology and gene expression analyses, immune assays etc
• Data collation and statistical analysis
• Preparation of reports, publications and conference papers, as well as oral and poster presentations, as required.

Person specification



Applicants should hold or expect to attain, as a minimum a 2:1 Honours degree, or equivalent, in Agricultural Science, Animal Science, Veterinary Science, or a related discipline.


A Masters in Agricultural Science, Animal Science, Veterinary Science, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Biology, or a related discipline.

Knowledge & Experience


• Experience of working with animals
• Experience in laboratory techniques e.g. Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Immunology etc


• Experience in/knowledge of some/all of the following: high throughput sequencing-based microbiome analysis, gene expression analysis, gut histology, immunology techniques
• Experience of statistical analysis
• Knowledge of pig production

Skills & Competencies


• Excellent laboratory, data analysis and IT skills, organizational skills and communication skills (both written and oral)
• Ability to work as part of a team as well, as under own initiative
• Ability to work under pressure to meet project deadlines
• Flexibility and ability to problem-solve
• Applicants whose first language is not English must submit evidence of competency in English, please see WIT’s English Language Requirements for details.
• Full drivers licence


• Individual authorisation under Scientific Animal Protection legislation (personal licence)

Further information

For any informal queries, please contact Dr Gillian Gardiner, +353 (0)51 302626; or Dr Peadar Lawlor, +353 (0)25 42217;

For queries relating to the application and admission process please contact the Postgraduate Admissions Office via email or telephone +353 (0)51 302883.


Application procedure

Please download the Research Postgraduate Application Form from the WIT Website and return completed applications to quoting ‘WD_2020_07’ in the email subject line. Please note that paper submissions will not be accepted.
Any queries relating to the application process should be emailed to .

Funding Notes

This is a 4 year full-time structured PhD programme

Stipend: €19,500 per annum for 4 years

Fees are covered by the scholarship for 4 years

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