University of East Anglia Featured PhD Programmes
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University College London Featured PhD Programmes

Understanding the link between the gut microbiome and health: probing the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying prebiotic effects

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Thursday, April 30, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Supervisory Team: Professor Kimberly Watson (Biological Sciences), Professor Glenn Gibson (Food Biosciences) and Dr. Lucien Harthoorn (Clasado Ltd)

Project Overview: The human intestinal tract is home to more than 100 trillion bacteria. This gut microbiome is considered a symbiotic organ operating within the human host, to process nutrients for our body’s needs, with both bacteria and host benefiting from this interaction. A large number of microbial metabolic processes, beneficial to the host, are involved in the degradation of dietary polysaccharides. Such polysaccharides act as a food/calorie source to the host and are metabolised to short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and other metabolites beneficial to the host. Additionally, oligosaccharides such as fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS) and galactooligosaccharide (GOS), as prebiotics, have been shown to be beneficial for maintaining gut health. The upsurge of knowledge of gut microbiota and its effects on host physiology fuels an increasing interest in understanding the detailed mechanisms by which the gut microbiome is linked to and effects human health and wellbeing. The challenges now lie in unravelling these mechanisms and, using this knowledge, further improving these beneficial effects.

We are seeking an excellent PhD candidate to join our multi-disciplinary team. The candidate will be based in the School of Biological Sciences and will work closely with the wider team members, gaining a breath of generic and specific scientific skills. Over the course of the project, the candidate will develop expertise in a range of methodologies including molecular biology, protein engineering, protein expression, fermentation, purification, chromatography, in vitro gut models and metabolite analysis, and structural/computational biology. The applicants should ideally have experience in molecular biology, microbiology, protein expression, gut microbiology, and/or protein structure.

Research Environment: The School of Biological Sciences (SBS) scored 100% 3* and the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences (FNS) scored 100% 4* in the environment sections of the 2014 REF, indicating an internationally excellent and world leading research environment. The new building for SBS, represents the largest single investment in Life Sciences at Reading (>£50M investment completion Spring 2020) and will bring together, for the first time, researchers across the entire breadth of Biological Sciences including, cell and molecular medicine, microbiology, biomedical engineering, zoology, ecology and evolution, and creating a dynamic and diverse research environment. The wider collaborative network, offers the candidate the opportunity to access facilities at Diamond Light Source, the Research Complex at Harwell and Clasado Laboratories to achieve their project objectives.

Eligibility: Applications for this studentship are encouraged from highly motivated candidates with an interest in multi-disciplinary approaches. Applicants should hold or expect to gain a minimum of a (UK equivalent) 2:1 Bachelors Degree in a relevant discipline. Due to restrictions on the funding, this studentship is only open to candidates from the UK/EU.

Funding Notes

Funding Details: The studentship will cover Home/EU Fees and pay a tax-free stipend of £15,009 per year for a period of 3 years. The studentship will begin in October 2020.

How to apply: To apply for this studentship please submit an application (including a cv and names of two academic referees) for a PhD in Biological Sciences to the University – see View Website When prompted as part of your online application, you should provide details of the funding you are applying for, quoting the reference GS20-008.

Further Enquiries: Please contact Prof. Kim Watson () for informal enquiries.

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