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Reproductive ageing. Human Genetics, PhD Studentship (Funded)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, May 19, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

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).

Ten generous, fully-funded studentships are available for the best applicants, five offered by the University of Exeter and five by the University of Queensland. This select group will spend at least one year at each University and will graduate with a joint degree from the University of Exeter and the University of Queensland.

Find out more about the PhD studentships

Successful applicants will have a strong academic background and track record to undertake research projects based in one of the three themes of: Physical Activity and Nutrition; Healthy Ageing; and Environmental Sustainability.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 19 May 2019 (BST), with interviews taking place week commencing 8 July 2019. The start date will be January 2020.

Please note that of the seven Exeter led projects advertised, we expect that up to five studentships will be awarded to Exeter based students.


Exeter Academic Lead: Anna Murray, Associate Professor, Genetics of Complex Traits, Medical School.

Queensland Academic Lead:Professor Gita Mishra, The School of Public Health.

Project Description:

Women will spend half of their lifetime post-menopause as the number of over 60 year olds worldwide is predicted to double, from 10 to 22% in the next 50 years. The fastest growing age group is the over 80s, where women outnumber men by 2:1. The menopause is associated with dramatic changes in circulating hormone levels and concomitant physiological changes such as weight gain and depression. Reproductive ageing has been associated with various health outcomes: women with later menopause have increased risk of breast cancer and decreased risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease, but we do not yet know the full impact of menopause timing and treatments, such as hormone replacement therapy, on age-related conditions and lifespan.

In this studentship the student will work with world-leading groups in the genetics and epidemiology of reproductive lifespan. Professor Murray’s group in Exeter has led recent high profile studies on the genetics of menopause and menarche timing, published in Nature and Nature Genetics. Professor Mishra’s group in Queensland has led the InterLACE International consortium on women’s health which includes mostly longitudinal data from over 200,000 women. The Queensland group has particular strengths in the development of methods for longitudinal analyses.

These studies have demonstrated links between reproductive lifespan and health outcomes such as type 2 diabetes and depression.

In this studentship the student will

1. Use genetic data to investigate the health outcomes associated with menopause timing. Students will have access the various large genetic datasets available to the supervisors such as the UK Biobank with 500,000 individuals and the 100,000 Genomes Project with whole genome sequence data from individuals with rare conditions. Previous projects have used genetic risk scores for menopause to prove a causal association between menopause timing and breast cancer. Future projects will include testing the role of menopause timing on cardiovascular disease.

2. Investigate the lifelong factors that influence reproductive ageing. An invaluable study in this aspect of the studentship will be the prospective data from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH). Health assessments have been made at 7 time points since 1996 and include detailed information on reproductive history, such as fertility and pregnancy loss. In 2018 biological data including various hormone measures will also be available to the student.

The objective of this study is to increase our understanding of the factors and processes that contribute to female reproductive ageing and determine the impact of reproductive ageing on health.

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

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