Funded PhD Opportunity Biofortified meat: A potential vehicle for vitamin D enrichment and fortification (Bio-D Project)

This opportunity is now closed.

This project is funded by: Devenish Nutrition Ltd Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute (AFBI)

Subject: Biomedical Sciences


Evidence of both low dietary intakes of vitamin D, as well as poor vitamin D status is frequently reported in nationally representative population surveys. Preventing vitamin D deficiency is of vital public health importance due to its multifactorial roles in the human body, but most importantly for optimal musculoskeletal health. Our main source of vitamin D is endogenous synthesis following exposure to the UV-B light from the summer sun. With today’s modern lifestyles, however, it has become evident that this may not be an effective means of maintaining an adequate vitamin D status across the year. Therefore, we are reliant on topping up our body’s stores with food sources of vitamin D (both natural and fortified sources) and/or dietary supplements.

In 2011, the update of the Dietary Reference Intakes for calcium and vitamin D by the US Institute of Medicine prompted the re-evaluation of dietary reference values (DRV’s) for vitamin D in many other countries. Previously in the UK, there were no set DRV’s for vitamin D for the majority of the population (aged 4-64 years), as it was believed that adequate amounts could be synthesised from the sun. Such DRV’s were only in place for certain ‘at-risk’ groups, including infants/young children, elderly adults, and pregnant/lactating females (7-10µg/day). After considering the latest research, the Vitamin D Working Group of the UK’s Scientific Advisory Committee for Nutrition (SACN)(5) has recommended a Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) for vitamin D of 10µg/day for everyone aged 4+ years. For infants (0-11 months) and children (1-4 years) old, a safe intake of 8.5–10µg/day has been advised.

Given the habitually low dietary intakes of vitamin D typically reported (2-4µg/day), and the generally low uptake of supplementation, it is clear that alternative food-based strategies are required to help the UK population meet these revised DRV’s. There is increasing evidence to support the role of vitamin D food fortification in maintaining or improving the vitamin D status of the consumer, and indeed, both mandatory policies and voluntary fortification practices are in place for a range of staple food products across the world. Emerging research, including studies lead by the current project team, have provided preliminary evidence on an innovative method to increase the vitamin D content of animal foods (pork, poultry, milk) by manipulating animal feeding and/or housing regimes. We are now ready to determine the effectiveness of these novel biofortification strategies as an innovative way to boost the vitamin D content of commonly consumed foods to help consumers meet the revised DRV’s for vitamin D.

This CAST award will involve four multidisciplinary and interrelated projects:

1.On-farm vitamin D biofortification of pork

2.Consumer acceptability of vitamin D-enriched meat products

3.Human trials designed to examine the bioavailability of vitamin D from the novel meat products (pork and poultry) and determine its efficacy to increase consumers’ vitamin D status

4.Dietary modelling to determine the efficacy of novel vitamin D-enriched meat products as a vehicle for vitamin D fortification in UK/Irish consumers

Essential Criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Completion of Masters at a level equivalent to commendation or distinction at Ulster
  • Research project completion within taught Masters degree or MRES
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed
  • Experience of presentation of research findings


This project is funded by: Devenish Nutrition Ltd Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute (AFBI)

The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the home rate and, for applicants with UK residence only, a maintenance allowance of not less than £15,480 per annum for three years. EU residents may also apply but if successful will receive fees only.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Launch of the Doctoral College

Current PhD researchers and an alumnus shared their experiences, career development and the social impact of their work at the launch of the Doctoral College at Ulster University.

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My experience has been great and the people that I have worked with have been amazing

Kieran O'Donnell - 3D printing of biological cells for tissue engineering applications

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Completing the MRes provided me with a lot of different skills, particularly in research methods and lab skills.

Michelle Clements Clements - MRes - Life and Health Sciences

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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.

William Crowe

Key Dates

Submission Deadline
Monday 19 February 2018
Interview Date
6, 7 and 8 March 2018

Contact Supervisor

Dr Kirsty Pourshahidi

Other Supervisors

Apply online

Visit and quote reference number #240997 when applying for this PhD opportunity