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Precision nutrition approaches to develop personalised recommendations that support healthy, sustainable, and affordable dietary choices in young adults living with obesity

   School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition

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  Prof Baukje De Roos, Prof Alexandra Johnstone, Prof E Reiter  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The Rowett Institute has an international reputation for teaching and research in human nutrition and food science. As part of its funding through the Scottish government we are advertising a number of high-profile PhD studentships in nutrition, food science, microbiology and analytical chemistry.

After smoking, Scottish eating habits are the second most important cause of the nation’s poor health. The diet of adolescents and young adults is too high in free sugar, saturated fat and salt, and too low in dietary fibre, fish and iron. Furthermore, food insecurity, defined as being worried about running out of food due to lack of money or resources, is most prevalent in this age range, indicating the importance of cost of foods to influence choice and consumption. However, there has been little research on supporting behaviour change in dietary choice in young people living with food insecurity.

In line with Scottish Government efforts to improve diet and reduce obesity prevalence, this studentship will focus on the effectiveness of precision nutrition intervention to improve dietary behaviours and lessen the impact of food inequalities in young adults living with overweight or obesity. The project will focus on weight wellness and improved healthy and sustainable food choices, rather than measures of weight loss.

The project will utilise the National Diet and Nutrition Survey database to review current dietary patterns in young people, and model the main dietary changes needed to improve dietary quality, reduce the environmental impact, whilst maintaining affordability. This will inform focus groups to discuss barriers and opportunities for healthy, sustainable, and affordable dietary choices. We will then develop a beta-version of an e-health app that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and Natural Language Generation (NLG) methods to create insights (a text explicitly stating a behaviour pattern in observed personal data) based on personal demographics, dietary habits/preferences and dietary intake data. These insights will then be applied to deliver appropriate recommendations or food swaps for users to alter their dietary behaviour. Finally, we will conduct a 12-wk dietary intervention study to assess the efficacy of this e-health app to change dietary behaviours in young adults living with obesity.

This PhD project offers a unique interdisciplinary opportunity to work with key experts in the fields of nutrition, mathematical modelling and tool development. The project will provide extensive training in both qualitative as well as quantitative research approaches, interpretation of data from large dietary surveys, advanced statistical analysis and mathematical modelling.

Essential background of student:

We are looking for a high quality candidate with a first-class honours or second-class honours (2.1) BSc or MSc degree in Nutrition or Life Sciences, or Computing Sciences.

Informal enquiries would be welcomed for a discussion, Please contact the lead supervisor, Professor Baukje de Roos ([Email Address Removed]) for more information.


This project will be based within the Rowett Institute, part of the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, at the University of Aberdeen. The Rowett Institute is located on the Foresterhill Health Campus, one of the largest clinical complexes in Europe, which also includes the Institute of Applied Health Sciences, a large teaching hospital and the the Institute of Medical Sciences (IMS)



International applicants are eligible to apply for this studentship but will have to find additional funding to cover the difference between overseas and home fees (approximately £17,000 per annum)

  • Formal applications can be completed online:
  • You should apply for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Medical Sciences to ensure your application is passed to the correct team
  • Please clearly note the name of the supervisor and exact project title on the application form. If you do not mention the project title and the supervisor on your application it will not be considered for the studentship.
  • Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2:1 Honours degree (or international equivalent).
  • General application enquiries can be made to [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

Project funded through the Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division (RESAS) of the Scottish Government.
Funding covers tuition fees at the UK/Home rate, bench fees, and a stipend at the UKRI rate.
This is a four-year project and the expected start date is October 2022.
Full funding is available to UK candidates only. International candidates can apply for this studentship but will have to find additional funding to cover the difference between overseas and home fees (approximately £17,000 per annum).


1. Scottish Health Survey 2020 update.
2. A Healthier Future: Scotland’s Diet & Healthy Weight Delivery Plan, Edinburgh: Scottish Government, 2018. 12
3. Revised Dietary Goals for Scotland, Edinburgh: Scottish Government, 2016.
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