This opportunity is now closed.

Funded PhD Opportunity

Vitamin D across the lifecycle to inform nutritional policies

Subject: Biomedical Sciences


Summary

Vitamin D is essential for calcium and phosphate metabolism and plays a major role in bone health(1).  Research has also shown that vitamin D has other non-skeletal roles including muscle function, immune regulation, brain development and anti-cancer effects(2).  The primary source of vitamin D is via sun exposure, with limited rich dietary sources available.  Ensuring optimal vitamin D status is now a recognised worldwide public health problem(3,4) and strategies, such as the food fortification strategy successfully implemented in Finland(5), are needed to reduce deficiency and insufficiency as well as prevent excess intake.

In July 2016, the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) published new guidelines on vitamin D, recommending a reference nutrient intake (RNI) of 10µg of vitamin D per day throughout the year for everyone in the population aged 4 years and older(6).  This intake refers to all dietary sources of vitamin D including: natural food sources, fortified foods and supplements. Currently there is a paucity of data from randomised controlled trials to inform specific dietary requirements for young children. A safe intake of between 8.5 and 10µg vitamin D/day is supported for this age group albeit no clear guidance exists. Factors such as sun-exposure, diet (including fortified foods) and optimal concentration need to be considered. The aim of this proposed PhD is to investigate factors predicting vitamin D status across the lifecycle to inform nutritional policies.

The main objectives of this PhD research will be met using a range of research methods, to:

* systematically review the literature to critically evaluate changes in vitamin D status and intake across the lifecycle, with a particular emphasis on the current evidence in children

* determine factors predicting status across the lifecycle (using all available ‘biobank’ data from previous studies)

* using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to map vitamin D status of a sample of the population and identify spatial variations that may exist.

* conduct a study to determine the vitamin D status of the population (potentially via postal survey using blood spot samples)

The proposed research will extend the vitamin D research expertise of NICHE, building on the existing evidence-base and the REF Impact Case Study on ‘Vitamin D and Health’ for Biomedical Sciences. The PhD researcher appointed to the project will be given every opportunity to maximise on training by participating in relevant workshops, specialist skills sessions, relevant online courses, PhD researcher initiatives and personal development activities organised by the Doctoral College. In addition, the student will be expected and strongly encouraged to prepare and present their research findings when appropriate at national and international conferences.

References

1. Wintermeyer E, Ihle C, Ehnert S, Stöckle U, Ochs G, de Zwart P, Flesch I, Bahrs C, Nussler AK. Crucial Role of Vitamin D in the Musculoskeletal System. Nutrients 2016,1;8(6), 319-335.

2. Wacker M & Holick MF. Vitamin D—Effects on skeletal and extraskeletal health and the need for supplementation. Nutrients 2013,5, 111–148.

3. Hollick MF, Chen TC. Vitamin D deficiency a worldwide problem with health consequences. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:10805–68

4. Holick MF. The vitamin D deficiency pandemic: Approaches for diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Rev Endocr Metab Disord (2017) 18:153-165.

5. Raulio S et al. Successful nutrition policy: improvement of vitamin D intake and status in Finnish adults over the last decade. Eur J Public Health (2017) 27(2):268-273.

6. Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) (July 2016) Vitamin d and Health https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/scientificadvisory-committee-on-nutrition. Accessed July 2016.


Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal

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.

  • Completion of Masters at a level equivalent to commendation or distinction at Ulster
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed
  • Publications record appropriate to career stage
  • Experience of presentation of research findings
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • Use of personal initiative as evidenced by record of work above that normally expected at career stage.
  • Relevant professional qualification and/or a Degree in a Health or Health related area

Funding

    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

    Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

    Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

    Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies


Other information


The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

Profile picture of Kieran O'Donnell

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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Profile picture of Michelle Clements Clements

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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Profile picture of William Crowe

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
Friday 7 February 2020

Interview Date
9 to 20 March 2020


Applying

Apply Online  


Campus

Coleraine campus

Coleraine campus
The feeling of community at our Coleraine campus makes for a warm and welcoming student experience.


Contact supervisor

Dr Pamela Magee


Other supervisors

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