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A centre of excellence conducting pioneering research into human degenerative diseases. Our state of the art research environment is world leading.


Biomedical Science at Ulster University has an outstanding track record of success in research. Having obtained the highest possible rating in RAE1996, and in 2001, we were again ranked first place in terms of research power in RAE2008. In REF2014, we were judged to be among the top five universities in terms of research power (out of 92 UK submissions), with 100% of our research environment awarded the four-star rating.

All postgraduate students become members of the Biomedical Sciences Research Institute (BMSRI) and all research is managed by the BMSRI Director. The mission of the BMSRI is to conduct pioneering strategically focused research into personalised nutrition & medicine and the causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease including cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, osteoporosis and visual deterioration.

The University welcomes applicants interested in researching cancer, stem cells, melanoma, vision, blindness, food and nutrition, vitamins, stratified medicine, personalised medicine, pharmacy, drug delivery, CRISPr, gene therapy, cardiology, biomarkers, diabetes, drug discovery, Alzheimer's Disease, cystic fibrosis.

About this course

In this section


The BMSRI is composed of staff and students from the Biomedical Sciences School and the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. It is the largest Research Institute within Ulster University and supervision for postgraduate degrees is available in all of the research areas listed below. Further details of projects can be obtained from Professor Tara Moore, Director of the BMSRI, or from the Faculty of Life & Health Sciences Research Graduate School website.

The activities of the BMSRI are currently organised within distinct Recognised Research Groups (RRGs):

  • Diabetes;
  • Food & Health (through the Northern Ireland Centre for Food & Health – NICHE);
  • Genomic Medicine,
  • Pharmaceutical Science & Practice;
  • Precision Medicine;
  • Vision Science.

At Ulster University’s Coleraine campus, biomedical sciences research is undertaken in our Centre of Molecular Biosciences and our Saad Centre for Pharmacy and Diabetes. Clinical translational research is also undertaken at our award winning Clinical Translational Research & Innovation Centre (C-TRIC) at the Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry/Londonderry, and at our Wellcome Clinical Research Facility at the Belfast City Hospital (partnership between Ulster University, Queen’s University Belfast and Belfast City Hospital).

Multi-disciplinary collaboration between the RRGs is strongly encouraged and is widespread with research into, for instance, anti-diabetic and anti-oncogenic aspects of nutrition, the genomics of vitamin receptors and cancer, imaging of neo-vascularisation, and the interactions among diet, diabetes, dementia, vision, hypertension and vascular disease. In practice, the RRGs collaborate both internally and internationally on a range of prioritised multi-disciplinary themes in: ageing, drug discovery, personalised medicine and genomic medicine. The BMSRI has strong collaborations with regional and global pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies and many of our graduates and postgraduates are employed in the pharma, diagnostics and health care sectors.


As a full time student, the expectation is that you will work on your project on a daily basis, either on or off campus as agreed with your supervisor. You will be entitled to 40 days holiday per annum.

Part time students are expected to meet with their supervisors on a regular basis, most usually this would be monthly but this is dependent on the project area.

How to apply

Entry conditions

We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University’s General Entrance Requirements.

In this section

Entry Requirements

You will need to hold a First of Upper Second Class Honours degree (or equivalent) in an area relevant to your chosen project to be able to apply.

If you have obtained an undergraduate degree from a non-UK institution, we can advise you on how it compares to the UK system.

English Language Requirements

English language requirements for international applicants

The minimum requirement for research degree programmes is Academic IELTS 6.0 with no band score less than 5.5. This is the only acceptable certificate for those requiring to obtain a Tier 4 visa.

Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.

Careers & opportunities

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Career options

Although academia is considered to be the most obvious path for any PhD holder, with around two thirds of our graduates remaining in the Higher Education or Research sectors, the degree also paves way for a career in industries centred on research and innovation.

PhD graduates are recognised by employers to hold valuable transferrable skills, as the nature of the degree trains candidates in creativity, critical inquiry, problem solving, negotiation skills, professionalism and confidence.

The most recent Ulster survey of PhD graduates found that 92% had secured employment within the first year since graduation (HESA Destination of Leavers Survey 2015).


Ulster University welcomes applications from all sections of the community and from persons with disabilities. It is University policy to assess all applications using academic criteria and on the basis of equality of opportunity and you should be assured that reasonable adjustments will be made should you require them.

Once you have selected your chosen project from the lists available on the Faculty pages, you are advised to make contact with the named supervisor on the project as they will be able to guide you in writing your research proposal.

You should then apply using our online application system:

How to apply

Fees and funding

A number of funded scholarships are available across the University each year for PhD projects. Applications for studentships will be considered on a competitive basis with regard to the candidate's qualifications, skills, experience and interests.

Sources of funding

Fees (per annum)

Full Time:

Home and EU £4121

Overseas £13400

Part Time:

Home and EU £1455

Home and EU (with External Sponsor paying fees) £2070

Overseas £7635

Distance Research Study (Home and EU) £6225

Research facilities and groups

The BMSRI offers a state-of-the-art research environment for high profile researchers to undertake internationally agenda-setting research in strategically prioritised areas of biomedicine. This research environment earned Biomedical Sciences at Ulster a No. 1 ranking in RAE2008, and was again rated as 100% “world-leading” in REF2014.

Our research is carried out in well-equipped laboratories allowing the latest methods to be applied to individual projects. Our entire infrastructure is managed as Core Facility Units with equipment and laboratories dedicated to: advanced molecular bioimaging/microscopy, bioinformatics and computational biology, cell biology, chemical analysis, genomics, proteomics/ metabolomics (including Mass Spectrometry & NMR analysis), transgenics, physiology and pharmacology. The BMSRI research infrastructure also includes centralised resources for: clinical research & human intervention studies/ trials; the use and storage of mammalian cells and tissues; and in vivo studies in animal models that replicate human disease.

The BMSRI uses its equipment, specialist laboratories, infrastructure and internationally recognised biomedical expertise to offer clinical & translational services to academic researchers and business. We routinely engage in collaborative research with some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical and biomedical companies, and through the support of Ulster’s Office of Innovation, the University has established a track record of success in the commercialization of its research outcomes.

At C-TRIC, clinicians, academics and businesses in the life and health sector can collaborate to facilitate the research, development and launch of innovative health technologies, medical devices and therapeutics. In addition to high-spec capabilities such as FLOW cytometry and tissue culture, C-TRIC’s hospital location also permits direct access to NHS diagnostic laboratories and Clinical Research Nurses, and its on-site office of the Western Trust’s Research and Development department provides access to expertise in research governance and healthcare economics.

The expansion of biomedical research during the last 10 years and more has led to the construction of the £14.5M Centre for Molecular Biosciences (CMB) at the Coleraine campus. This expansion in research infrastructure later led to the creation of a number of “virtual” centres of excellence which are housed within the CMB building, i.e., the Centre for Functional Genomics, the FEI Centre for Advanced Bioimaging, and the Centre for Nutrition & Bone Health, whose overall aim is to develop a new “all-Ireland” expert research capability focused on nutrition and bone health, particularly targeted at identifying strategies to prevent osteoporosis.

The SAAD Centre for Pharmacy and Diabetes provides contemporary and state-of-the-art facilities to support our diabetes and metabolomics research activities, as well as facilities for mass spectrometric and NMR analysis. This building also provides infrastructural support for our newly launched pharmacy/pharmaceutical sciences courses and associated research activities. These include: the formulation and production of antimicrobials for pharmaceutical applications; health promotion in community pharmacies; and the discovery and development of novel therapeutics such as anti-cancer agents, luminescent and nanoparticle sensors, bioimaging, photo/sono-dynamic therapy, and polymeric and nanoparticle drug delivery systems.

Autumn 2013 saw the launch of an £11.5 million collaborative project between the BMSRI, C-TRIC and the Western Health and Social Care Trust. The Stratified Medicine Research Group, located at C-TRIC, aims to identify how subtle differences in measured biomarkers or medical images can be used to divide patients into groups based on their risk of developing specific diseases or their response to particular therapies. Research focuses on degenerative diseases of ageing with shared genetic, lifestyle and dietary determinants, including hypertension, diabetes, inflammatory disease, mental health, cancer and eye disease.

Taken together, these facilities make Ulster University one of the UK’s leading personalised or precision medicine research centres.

Staff research areas

Abdel-Wahab, Y Dr (Reader in Biomedical Sciences)

Discovery, targets and action of antidiabetic drugs from natural resources; Antidiabetic actions of structurally modified peptides; Glycation of pancreatic islet peptides and proteins; Stem cell and gene therapy in diabetes.

Anderson, R Professor(Professor of Vision Science)

Non-invasive assessment of the visual system using chromatic and achromatic measures of spatial acuity and the relationship between structural and functional measures of visual integrity; The separation of neural and optical limits to both foveal and peripheral.

Atkinson, SD Dr (Lecturer in Stratified Medicine)

Ocular disorders; Personalised diagnostics and therapeutics.

Banat, I Professor(Professor of Microbiology)

Environmental biotechnology; Research industrial microbiology.

Beirne, R Dr (Lecturer in Optometry)

Human visual psychophysics in ageing and ocular disease; Clinical studies of human visual function (which have focused on the normal short-wavelength visual system, how it is affected by age and the changes that can occur in the ocular diseases of glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration).

Bjourson, AJ Professor (Professor of Genomics)

Genomics based personalised medicine; Molecular biology and pharmacogenomics.

Callan, B Dr (Lecturer in Pharmaceutics)

Polymeric drug delivery systems for targeted drug release; Supramolecular chemistry; Medicinal chemistry bioimaging.

Callan, J Professor (Professor of Pharmaceutical Science)

Supramolecular chemistry; Luminescent sensors; Nanoparticle sensors; Polymeric and nanoparticle drug delivery systems; Photodynamic therapy.

Cobice, DF Dr (Scientific Officer, Metabolomics and Proteomics)

Imaging Mass Spectrometry of endogenous metabolites by MALDI and DESI MSI platforms; Development of novel MALDI reactive matrices for poorly-ionisable compounds; Investigation of ion molecule reactions in gas-phase by Mass Spectrometry.

Conway, C Dr (Lecturer in Stratified Medicine)

Oncology; Histopathology; Genomics of early cancer; Diagnostic and prognostic marker discovery in human cancer; Stratified medicine.

Dooley, JSG Professor (Professor of Microbiology)

Developing a greater understanding of the biology of human and animal pathogens, such as: Improved molecular techniques for diagnostic microbiology and epidemiology, Pathogenic mechanisms of Cryptosporidium species, Role of protozoa in the ecology of pathogenic bacteria (e.g., Campylobacter species).

Flatt, PR Professor (Professor of Biological & Biomedical Sciences)

Insulin secretion; Pancreatic islet cell function and demise; Antidiabetic drugs; Gene therapy; Brain and gut peptides; Glucose homeostasis; Insulinoma and obesity.

Gallagher, A Professor (Professor in Public Health Nutrition)

Human nutrition; Obesity and development of risk factors for disease; Physical activity and health; Health effects of plants and plant components; Determination of low calorie sweetener intakes (and relationship to health)

Gault, V Professor (Professor of Experimental Medicine)

Development of novel long-acting incretin mimetics; Metabolic factors regulating expression and activity of 11beta-HSD1; Insulin signalling and neuronal activity in diabetes/obesity.

Gibson, DS Dr(Lecturer in Stratified Medicine)

Biomarkers of drug response in inflammatory disease; Siglecs in regulation of tolerance in the immune system; Mass Spectrometry based methods for protein identification and quantification in clinical samples; Mass spectrometry based multiplex assays -MRM and iMALDI; Dried blood spots as a remote monitoring platform.

Gill, C Dr (Senior Lecturer)

Effect of diet on cancer (with specific interests in dietary components and colorectal cancer - especially phytochemicals in fruits, vegetables and seaweed including brassica, olive oil, and berries); Gut microflora; Faecal water toxicity and the implications for colon cancer risk.

Hack, C Dr(Lecturer in Process Biotechnology)

Process Biotechnology; Bioinformatics; Biotransformations.

Hill, A Dr (Lecturer in Dietetics)

Investigation of diet and glycaemic control in the management of diabetes; Pregnant women and relationship to pregnancy outcomes; Investigation of relationships between diet and glycaemic control in those who develop gestational diabetes.

Irwin, N Dr (Lecturer in Pharmacology)

Therapeutic development of human peptide hormones; Glucose homeostasis in ageing; Hormonal regulation of feeding/obesity.

Lees Murdock, D Dr (Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences)

Epigenetic reprogramming, in particular: Methylation dynamics in the mouse oocyte; Establishment of paternal imprints in male primordial germ cells; Methylation of various classes of repeat sequences in the mouse germ line; Post-transcriptional control of DNA methyltransferases and DNA methylation reprogramming; Role of DNA methylation in stem cell plasticity.

Little, J Dr (Lecturer in Optometry)

The developing visual system and the impact of intellectual disability on vision; Investigating how the structure of the eye impacts on functional vision; Testing the vision of children with and without special educational needs and complex visual problems; The measurement and assessment of ocular biometry in children with cerebral palsy.

Lowery, C Dr (Lecturer in Medical Microbiology)

The development of rapid molecular techniques for diagnostic microbiology and epidemiology (with a major focus on difficult to culture pathogens, particularly the protozoan parasite Cryptosporidium parvum).

Magee, PJ Dr (Lecturer in Human Nutrition)

Phytoestrogens, soy and vitamin D in breast and prostate cancer.

McAnena, L Dr(Scientific Officer)

Folate and related B vitamins; Polyunsaturated fatty acids; Food product development; Dietary iron, copper and zinc.

McCann, M Dr(Lecturer in Nutrition)

Nutrition and bone health; B-vitamins and disease prevention; Appetite control, satiety and food intake.

McCarron, P Professor(Professor of Pharmaceutics)

Nanoparticles and nanomedicines; Photodynamic therapy, Topical hydrogel drug delivery systems for wound management; Patent technologies for transdermal drug delivery.

McClean, S Dr (Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences)

The isolation and characterization of bioactive peptides and small molecules from amphibian skin secretions and from reptile and arachnid venoms (using QTOF MS/MS de novo sequencing of peptides, Edman degradation sequencing, FMOC solid phase peptide synthesis and MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry); The application of chromatography and mass spectrometric technologies to the analysis of a range of molecules in biological matrices (e.g. the quantitation of licit and illicit drug compounds in human hair samples).

McClelland, J Dr(Lecturer in Optometry)

Refractive error development in neurologically impaired children; Epidemiology of refractive error in different populations; Visual function in children with cerebral palsy.

McClenaghan, N Professor (Head of School of Biomedical Sciences)

Bioengineering pancreatic beta cells; Stimulus- secretion coupling mechanisms; Beta cell metabolism; Ionic modulation of islet cell function; Signal transduction pathways; Apoptosis and mechanisms of beta cell demise and destruction; Novel beta cell drug targets; Actions of new insulinotropic antidiabetic agents; Insulinotropic drug desensitization.

McGilligan, V, Dr (Lecturer in Stratified Medicine)

Inflammatory & Cardiovascular Disease: inflammatory signalling pathways in risk prediction, diagnostic test and therapy development.

McHale, AP Professor(Professor of Medical Biotechnology)

The therapeutic application of electric and ultrasonic fields in the treatment of cancer; The application of modified ultrasonic fields in areas such as site-specific delivery of active cancer chemotherapeutic agents; Site-specific delivery of genes for applications in gene therapy approaches to the treatment of cancer.

McKay, B Dr (Scientific Assistant)

Identification of genetic markers of disease, e.g., cancer, diabetes and eye disease, to improve prediction and prognosis; Epigenetic modifications underlying various diseases; Molecular effects of traumatic stress, e.g., DNA damage and repair.

McKenna, DJ Dr(Lecturer in Haematology)

Role of microRNAs in disease; Prostate cancer and tumour hypoxia; Epigenetic regulation; Serum biomarkers; Cardiovascular disease; Public engagement in science.

McKerr, G Dr (Senior Lecturer)

Neuroregeneration in primitive animals; Atomic force imaging of the living cell surface; Advanced microscopical techniques, e.g., dual-beam cryo-technology; Tumour biology; Cell ion signalling; Developmental neurobiology; Single receptor site pharmacology.

McKillop, A Professor (Professor of Biomedical Sciences)

Clinical biochemistry and diabetes proteomics; Cellular glucose handling and metabolism; Pancreatic beta- cell peptides and proteins; Mechanisms of insulin resistance and diabetes pathogenesis; Glycation of insulin and other key regulatory proteins; Structural and functional characterization of novel biomolecules; Insulin receptor dysfunction and novel treatments for diabetes.

McMullan, G Professor (Professor of Microbiology)

Microbiology; Biotechnology; Use of genomic information to provide a deeper understanding of how microorganisms function; Exploitation of microbial genomic information to study the expression of proteins within bacterial cells; Identification of cellular signalling mechanisms within bacteria that cause hospital acquired infections (e.g. Ochrobactrum anthropi); Role of the microbiome in human gut health.

McNulty, HM Professor (Professor of Nutritional Science)

Folate and metabolically related B-vitamins in disease prevention: neural tube defects, cancer, cardiovascular disease, cognitive function; Food folate analysis and bioavailability; Food fortification; Micronutrient requirements/ recommendations for humans.

McSorley, E Dr(Senior Lecturer in Human Nutrition)

Nutrition and autoimmune disease; Dietary modulation of immune function; Nutrition and pregnancy; n3 PUFAs; Vitamin D; Marine derived bioactives; Mercury toxicology.

Mitchell, C Professor (Professor of Tissue Regeneration)

The morphological, cellular and molecular determinants of pattern formation in the vasculature; Angiogenesis; Investigating determinants of wound healing; In-vivo microscopy.

Moore, T Professor (Professor of Personalised Medicine)

Ocular immunology; Disorders of the ocular surface, associated genetics and immunological responses; Diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for disorders of the ocular surface; Optimization of gene therapy for use in treatment of Corneal Dystrophy and assessment of potential therapeutic approaches.

Mulhern, MS Dr (Lecturer in Food Science)

Vitamin D in health and disease; Influence of nutrition on cognitive development and immune function; Nutritional status during pregnancy; Agri-food farm-to-fork research; LC-PUFA; selenium and iodine requirements for health.

Murray, EK Dr(Lecturer in Stratified Medicine)

Mental health; Inflammatory and epigenetic processes in psychiatric disorders; Gender differences in pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders; Stratified medicine.

Naughton, PJB Dr(Senior Lecturer in Medical Microbiology)

Clinical microbiology; Gastrointestinal disease.

Naughton, V Dr (Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences)

Physiology and path physiology of gastrointestinal tract and the role of the microbiome in human gut health.

O'Hagan, B Dr (Scientific Officer)

Nano systems biology; Bioimaging

O’Harte, FPM Professor (Professor of Endocrinology & Metabolism)

Structurally modified peptides in therapy and drug development; Role of regulatory peptides in control of feeding and obesity; Incretin hormone analogues in diabetes therapy; Structure-function activity of peptides; Hormone receptor modelling and NMR; Glucagon receptor antagonists in diabetes therapy.

Owusu-Apenten, R Dr (Lecturer in Food & Nutrition)

Bioactive peptides as nutraceuticals and medical foods; Dietary protein; Redox reactions and chronic disease.

Pentieva, K Dr (Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences)

Micronutrient requirements and recommendations for intake in humans; B-vitamin status, homocysteine and disease; Food folate bioavailability; Food folate analysis; Food fortification; Functional foods; Micronutrients and antioxidant status; Micronutrients and toxicity.

Pourshahidi, LK Dr (Lecturer in Food Science/Research Fellow)

Vitamin D requirements for health; Nutritional attributes of cow’s milk from farm to fork; Coffee and health (risk-benefit approach); Consumer understanding of food portion sizes; Assessment of body composition; Obesity as an inflammatory condition.

Saunders, KJ Professor (Professor of Optometry and Vision Science)

The impact of neurological impairment on the developing visual system; The improvement of vision care for children with special needs; The epidemiology of myopia.

Singh (Née Nigam), P Dr(Senior Lecturer in Biotechnology)

Industrial and Applied Microbiology.

Sittlington J, Dr (Scientific Assistant)

Sports and exercise nutrition; Nutrition and disease prevention; Understanding health behaviour in relation to 1) infant feeding 2) chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and 3) adolescent smoking; Qualitative research strategies.

Strain, JJ Professor (Professor of Human Nutrition and Director of the Northern Ireland Centre for Food & Health)

Maternal fish consumption; Riboflavin; Blood pressure and gene-nutrient interactions.

Ternan, N Dr (Lecturer in Microbiology)

Proteomics Biochemistry and enzymology of thermophilic Geobacilli; Molecular and cell biology of metabolizing microorganisms; Investigating the catalytic activities of novel microbial enzymes; Investigating stress responses in human pathogens (e.g., Clostridium difficile) and the role of the microbiome in human gut health; The development of nanostructured coatings to prevent biofouling of medical devices; The development of in situ treatment processes for reducing infective load in healthcare environments.

Thompson, P Dr(Senior Lecturer in Molecular Biology)

Biological activities of the nuclear vitamin D receptor (VDR) and the mechanisms through which it mediates the wide range of physiological responses to its cognate vitamin D ligand; Gene regulatory pathways and molecular mechanisms that mediate the plethora of physiological responses to the lipophilic nutrient vitamin D.

Walsh, CP Professor (Professor of Genetics)

DNA methylation; Epigenetics; Fertility; Transgenic mice stem Cells.

Ward, M Professor(Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics)

Homocysteine and cardiovascular disease; Dietary influences on plasma homocysteine; Folate requirements in different population groups; Folate bioavailability.

Watterson, S Dr (Lecturer in computational biology)

Cardiovascular disease; Cholesterol metabolism; Atherosclerosis; Stratified medicine

Webba da Silva, M Dr (Reader in Pharmaceutical Chemistry)

DNA sequence analysis; DNA complex structures; Structure of nucleic acid quadruplexes; Modulation of gene expression through quadruplex folding design and engineering of functional biomolecules.

Yeates (née McAfee), Alison Dr (Research Fellow in Nutritional Biochemistry)

Food chain nutrition and impact of animal derived foods on human health; Fatty acid metabolism and biochemistry; Maternal fish consumption; Impact of iodine, selenium and LC PUFA on cognitive development and genetic modifiers.


Professor Tara Moore Director of Biomedical Sciences Research Institute
Tel: +44 (0)28 70124577 Fax: +44 (0)28 70123023


My name is William Crowe and I’m a final year PhD student in the School of Biomedical Sciences at Ulster University, Coleraine. I previously completed a BSc in Human Nutrition with a Diploma in Industrial Studies at UU which I thoroughly enjoyed. I applied for a PhD as I have an interest in the nutritional immunology research which is being conducted at the University and I was aware of the advanced laboratory facilities available. Throughout my PhD I’ve been provided with continuous support and guidance by my supervisors and the staff at the University. I’ve also received many opportunities to further enhance my professional development in the form of teaching experience and presenting my work at conferences which will aid in my pursuit of a career in academia or industry.