Doctoral student in a lab

The gut microbiota as a novel nutritional target to influence systemic inflammation associated with prevalent health disorders

  • School: School of Science and Technology
  • Starting: 2019
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / Fully-funded


A PhD scholarship is available funded by Nottingham Trent University, working with Prof. Philip McTernan, Dr Neil Williams, Dr Graham Sharpe and Dr Carl Nelson.

The successful candidate will investigate novel dietary interventions to target the gut microbiota as a means to influence systemic inflammation associated with prevalent health disorders. This will draw upon the expertise of a multidisciplinary supervisory team with experience in obesity and asthma.

Asthma and obesity are prevalent disorders, each with a significant public health impact, and a large and growing body of literature suggests an association between the two. A number of studies describe compositional and/or activity differences of the gut microbiota in lean compared to obese individuals, likewise similar differences are evident in the gut microbiota of individuals with asthma compared to healthy controls.

The gut microbiota induce a wide variety of host responses within the intestinal mucosa and influence the gut’s permeability and endocrine functions. Furthermore, the gut microbes influence the metabolism of cells in tissue outside of the intestine including the liver and adipose tissue modulating lipid and glucose homeostasis, as well as systemic inflammation in the host.  The gut microbiota is, therefore a potential novel nutritional target to influence health conditions associated with increased systemic inflammation. Although the composition of the gut microbiota stabilises at around 3 years of age, the gut microbiota is highly responsive to dietary changes in adulthood too. Previous research shows that prebiotics can counteract the overexpression of several host targets that are involved in the development of adiposity, metabolic disorders and inflammation. However, knowledge on the extent that this can occur in human trials is still limited.

Notably dietary interventions of prebiotic (non-digestible carbohydrates) and probiotics (live beneficial microorganisms) offer a potential feasible means to target the gut microbiota of overweight, obese, and asthmatic individuals. Particularly, as gut derived bacterial fragments can enter the circulation to increase inflammation, exacerbated in conditions of metabolic or chronic disease. Therefore, this project would investigate circulatory analytes and in vitro molecular biology changes in order to ascertain the impact of inflammation on metabolism, such as mitochondrial function aligning clinical studies with molecular insights.

Therefore, this PhD will require the successful applicant to run human nutritional intervention research trials to establish the efficacy of prebiotic interventions in inflammatory related health disorders and be keen to undertake molecular biology lab based research.

The successful applicant will gain diverse training and support from both The Department of Biosciences, and The Department of Sport Science within the School of Science and Technology at Nottingham Trent University, the 2017 UK University of the year (Times Higher Education). The successful applicant will have a Bachelor’s degree in either biosciences, exercise science, or, nutrition and/or Master’s degree in a relevant subject area.


Professor Philip McTernan

Dr Neil Williams

Dr Graham Sharpe

Dr Carl Nelson

Entry qualifications

Applicants should hold, or be expected to hold, an UK Master’s degree (or UK equivalent according to NARIC) with a minimum of a commendation, and/or a UK 1stClass / 2.1 Bachelor’s Honour’s Degree (or UK equivalent according to NARIC) in Cell Biology, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, or a related Biosciences related subject.

How to apply

How to apply

The deadline for applications is 23:59 pm (UK time) 01 March 2019.

Download an application form here.
Please make sure you take a look at our application guidance notes before making your application.

Further information on how to apply can be found on this page.

Fees and funding

This studentship covers UK/EU fees and paying a stipend in line with UKRI.

Guidance and support

Further information on guidance and support can be found on this page.

Still need help?

Philip McTernan