The relationship between dietary micronutrients (e.g. iron, zinc and vitamins), and the gut microbiota: Can dietary micronutrient regime be exploited to support gut health?

   Department of Biomedical Sciences

   Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The gut microbiota has a significant influence on host health, including nutrition, development of the immune system, infection, IBD, colorectal malignancies and obesity. Essential micronutrients, such as iron, zinc and vitamins, have a major influence on the propagation of bacteria. Indeed, bacteria devote considerable resource to the acquisition and utilisation of exogenous micronutrients, and often compete with each other and their host in their capture. However, it remains largely unclear how iron micronutrient regime influences the makeup of the intestinal microbiota and whether differences in iron regime micronutrient availability that cause alterations affect the gut microbiota and might have any consequential effects on the health- or disease-promoting activities of our microbiota.  

The aim of this research is to investigate this possibility. For this purpose, we will employ in vitro gut models to determine how the microbiota change as micronutrient availability is manipulated. We will measure the gut microbiota composition using 16S rRNA gene amplicon NGS (community profiling) and determine growth by FlowFISH. We will also measure health indicators such as short-chain fatty acid profiles. In addition, the impact of micronutrient regime on the metatranscriptome of the gut microbiome will be determined, under steady-state growth conditions in a gut model. This will provide insight on the manner in which the microbiota, as an entire community, responds to changes in micronutrient regime.  

The project is a collaboration with Prof Gibson, and Drs Walton, Lewis and Monteagudo in Food & Nutritional Sciences. Our research also involves human dietary intervention studies and appropriate animal models (e.g. piglets). Such studies may lead to findings that allow us to establish beneficiary dietary micronutrient regimes supporting a healthy gut microbiota. The project will allow the applicant to experience a wide range of important molecular techniques and will provide much scope for independence, publication and contribution to scientific conferences. Our labs are appropriately equipped and the candidate would join a well-established and supported group working on a set of related projects.  

School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading:   

The University of Reading, located west of London, England, provides world-class research education programs. The University’s main Whiteknights Campus is set in 130 hectares of beautiful parkland, a 30-minute train ride to central London and 40 minutes from London Heathrow airport.   

Our School of Biological Sciences conducts high-impact research, tackling current global challenges faced by society and the planet. Our research ranges from understanding and improving human health and combating disease, through to understanding evolutionary processes and uncovering new ways to protect the natural world. In 2020, we moved into a stunning new ~£60 million Health & Life Sciences building. This state-of-the-art facility is purpose-built for science research and teaching. It houses the Cole Museum of Zoology, a café and social spaces.  

In the School of Biological Sciences, you will be joining a vibrant community of ~180 PhD students representing ~40 nationalities. Our students publish in high-impact journals, present at international conferences, and organise a range of exciting outreach and public engagement activities. 

During your PhD at the University of Reading, you will expand your research knowledge and skills, receiving supervision in one-to-one and small group sessions. You will have access to cutting-edge technology and learn the latest research techniques. We also provide dedicated training in important transferable skills that will support your career aspirations. If English is not your first language, the University's excellent International Study and Language Institute will help you develop your academic English skills. 

The University of Reading is a welcoming community for people of all faiths and cultures. We are committed to a healthy work-life balance and will work to ensure that you are supported personally and academically. 



Applicants should have a good degree (minimum of a UK Upper Second (2:1) undergraduate degree or equivalent, or Master’s degree) in a biological subject (e.g. Biology, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Genetics, Biomedicine, Biological Chemistry, Molecular Biology, Food Sciences) or a strongly-related discipline.  

Applicants will also need to meet the University’s English Language requirements. We offer pre-sessional courses that can help with meeting these requirements. 


How to apply: 

Apply for a PhD in Biological Sciences or Biomedical Sciences at 


Further information: 


Funding Notes

We welcome applications from self-funded students worldwide for this project.
If you are applying to an international funding scheme, we encourage you to get in contact as we may be able to support you in your application.


Andrews, S.C., Robinson, A.K. & Rodriguez-Quinones, F., (2003). Bacterial iron homeostasis, FEMS Microbiology Reviews, 27, 215-237. 
Jenkins et al. Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology 49 (2018) 79–85 Obesity, diabetes and zinc: A workshop promoting knowledge and collaboration between the UK and Israel, November 28–30, 2016 – Israel"
Ishawu Iddrisu, Andrea Monteagudo-Mera, Carlos Poveda, Simone Pyle, Muhammad Shahzad, Simon Andrews, Gemma Emily Walton (2021) MALNUTRITION AND GUT MICROBIOTA IN CHILDREN. Nutrients-1296916
Web link:
You can see further references on Prof Andrews’ profile:
Professor Simon Andrews – University of Reading

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