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Retinal microvascular analysis – a potential early indicator of renal and visual complications in diabetes in the UK Biobank

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  • Full or part time
    Dr G McKay
    Prof A P Maxwell
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description


Retinal blood vessels are amenable to direct non-invasive visualisation and measurement allowing investigation of early microvascular changes prior to development of diabetic complications such as retinopathy and nephropathy. Clinical data derived from the UK Biobank will be used to identify individuals with diabetes who have measurements of kidney function (serum creatinine and cystatin C; urinary albumin/creatinine ratio). These individuals will be stratified into groups using renal functional measures. The control kidney function group (chronic kidney disease [CKD] stage 1 and stage 2) are those individuals in whom the estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) measurements are >60mL/min/1.73m2. Retinal vessel measurements in this “control” kidney function group will be compared with retinal vessel data in individuals with reduced kidney function (cases). This “reduced renal function” or “case” group will contain individuals with eGFR <60mL/min/1.73m2. Retinal vessel measurements will then be correlated with chronic kidney disease or retinal complications, such as non-proliferative or proliferative retinopathy. Captured retinal measures will include microvascular parameters and estimates of retinal and choroidal thickness. This research will help determine whether measuring retinal microvascular parameters, would offer additional clinical value in identifying patients at highest risk of developing renal failure or sight threatening retinopathy.


Candidates should have or expect to obtain a 2:1 or higher Honours degree or equivalent in a relevant biomedical or life sciences subject.

English Language

Candidates applying from countries where the first language is not English should produce evidence of their competence through a qualification such as IELTS or TOEFL score.

The minimum recommended score for the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Science is:
• IELTS score of 6.0 with not less than 5.5 in each of the four component elements of listening, reading, speaking and writing taken within the last 2 years;
• TOEFL score of 80+ (internet basted test), taken within the last 2 years, with minimum component scores of; Listening 17, Reading 18, Speaking 20, Writing 17);
• A valid Certificate of Proficiency in English grade A or B;
• A valid Certificate of Advanced English grade A; or
• A first or upper second class honours degree from a university based in the UK, Republic of Ireland or other suitably quality assured location in a country deemed by the UK Border Agency to be majority English speaking.

For a list of English Language qualifications also accepted by the School and University please see the following link:

The English Language Unit (ELU) offers both pre-sessional and in-sessional courses in English for academic purposes and study skills. Courses vary in length and full information can be obtained from the ELU http://www.qub.ac.uk/tefl/

Funding Notes


DEL Research Studentships

Eligibility for both fees and maintenance (£14,057 for 2015/16, 2016/17 TBC) depends on the applicants being either an ordinary UK resident or those EU residents who have lived permanently in the UK for the 3 years immediately preceding the start of the studentship.

Non UK residents who hold EU residency may also apply but if successful may receive fees only.

For further details re eligibility criteria (including academic, citizenship and residency criteria) please click on the following link: http://www.delni.gov.uk/index/further-and-higher-education/higher-education/studentfinance/he-student-info-postgrad-finance.htm


Please visit the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Centre for Public Health, website for further details about the Centre:


When applying, please choose 'MEDICINE' as your subject area/School.

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