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The Forensic Microbiome: Investigation Of The Human Microbiome For Time Since Death Estimations And Human Identifications (Ref: SF20/APP/PROCOPIO)

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

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Dr N Procopio Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The analysis of the microbiome is gaining more interest in the forensic community, with applications going from post-mortem interval (PMI) estimation to human identification. The composition of the human microbiota is strongly affected by sex, lifestyle, health condition and geographical location, and it has been shown to be unique to each single individual, making the analysis of the human microbiome a strong alternative to the forensic genotyping for human identification purposes. The microbial community is also a good target for the estimation of PMI, due to the successive changes in microbial population that are specific at different decomposition stages. The aim of the project is to explore the oral microbiome of dead human donors collected at different decomposition stages, to get insights on the changes involved with the decomposition and to identify which one will be the best microbial source between oral cavity and teeth (dental calculus). Furthermore, the project will also involve a comparative study between the oral and the skin microbiome of living individuals originated from two different countries (UK and Italy), to clarify if groups of individuals sharing the same geographical location will have similar microbiomes or not, and to finally identify potential microbial markers for identification purposes. Finally, part of the study will also involve the amplification and the analysis of the microbial DNA that has been co-extracted with the human DNA, using different methodologies, from real past forensic caseworks and which has been preserved frozen after the extraction. The aim is to clarify if the DNA extracts could be informative from a microbial point of view, and if they should be preserved after the closure of the case due to their potential to reveal new important forensic information once specific microbial markers for PMI estimation and personal identification will be completely unveiled.

Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications should include a covering letter that includes a short summary (500 words max.) of a relevant piece of research that you have previously completed and the reasons you consider yourself suited to the project. Applications that do not include the advert reference (e.g. SF20/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 1st July for October start, or 1st December for March start
Start Date: October or March

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Please direct enquiries to Dr Noemi Procopio ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

Please note, this is a self-funded project and does not include tuition fees or stipend; the studentship is available to Students Worldwide. Fee bands are available at . A relevant fee band will be discussed at interview based on project running costs.


Metabarcoding to investigate changes in soil microbial communities within forensic burial contexts (Procopio et al., 2019)

Successive bacterial colonisation of pork and its implications for forensic investigations (Handke, Procopio et al., 2017)

Forensic proteomics for the evaluation of the post-mortem decay in bones (Procopio et al., 2018)

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