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Funded PhD Opportunity

Maternal adiposity and vitamin D supplementation: implications for maternal and fetal bone metabolism

Subject: Biomedical Sciences


Summary

Pregnant women who are overweight or obese are particularly vulnerable to vitamin D insufficiency owing to the higher physiological requirement and lower status (25-hydroxyvitamin D, 25(OH)D concentrations) associated with obesity. Vitamin D is involved in calcium and phosphate homeostasis and is essential for the maintenance of bone health.  Maternal vitamin D supply is the main source of fetal vitamin D and vitamin D status of the neonate has been shown to be highly correlated with maternal vitamin D status, accounting for 60-80% of infants’ status at delivery. Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy is associated with poor fetal and postnatal growth and it has been observed that neonates of obese mothers had significantly lower vitamin D status in cord blood compared to neonates of normal weight mothers despite no difference in maternal 25(OH)D status. During pregnancy, the maternal physiology adapts to meet the increased calcium demands of the fetus. The effect of this adaptation on maternal and fetal bone status, particularly in the context of obesity, combined with a low vitamin D status is not fully understood.

While numerous studies have examined vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy, none have examined the impact of obesity on bone turnover markers in response to vitamin D supplementation throughout pregnancy.  We have recently completed a large intervention study in pregnant women to assess the effect of supplementation (10μg-vs-20μg vitamin D3/d) throughout pregnancy (from 12 weeks gestation until delivery) on vitamin D status of normal weight, overweight and obese pregnant women and on infant cord blood, using a double-blind randomised vitamin D intervention study (MO-VITD). Based on our findings of the high prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency in early pregnancy, maternal vitamin D supplementation of 20µg/d may be advisable to maintain maternal vitamin D status in pregnant women in Northern Ireland.

This PhD will be a continuation of our work and will aim to investigate the impact of obesity and vitamin D supplementation on the associated maternal and fetal bone turnover markers.

This aim will be addressed through the completion of the following analysis:

1. The association between maternal adiposity, vitamin D status and bone turnover markers: a systematic review.

2. To investigate the impact of maternal adiposity on bone turnover marker status in early pregnancy.

3. To investigate the effect of supplementation of 10μg vs 20μg vitamin D3/d on maternal and fetal bone turnover markers in normal weight, overweight and obese pregnant women.

4. To assess the impact of supplementation of 10μg vs 20μg vitamin D3/d during pregnancy on bone density in the offspring (MOVITD follow-up study).


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 Mary McCann


Other supervisors

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