This opportunity is now closed.

Funded PhD Opportunity

Changing dietary patterns in the Seychelles and implications for public health

Subject: Biomedical Sciences


Summary

The Seychelles Child Development Study (SCDS) is an ongoing observational study (circa 30 years) of over 2500 mother-child pairs, which is investigating the effects of prenatal methyl mercury (MeHg) exposure on child development. Dietary information has been collected at various stages of the lifecycle using diet diaries, food frequency questionnaires (FFQ) and fish use questionnaires (FUQ). The data generated provides an estimate of semi-quantitative nutrient and food intakes, as well as qualitative data on food consumption patterns. There is increasing interest in the analysis of dietary patterns and their associations with various health and disease outcomes (1). In the SCDS a plethora of information exists on the health (e.g. cardiovascular disease, asthma, autoimmunity and dental) and cognitive development of the participants. As yet, body composition has not been fully investigated in any of the SCDS cohorts. The diet of this developing country is changing with a rising incidence of Western diseases. It is possible that these changes could impact negatively on the risk of obesity and osteoporosis (2).

The aim of this project is to investigate dietary change in the SCDS and to evaluate the implications for public health outcomes, including markers of body composition, in the Seychelles (3-6). Working closely with Public Health Seychelles, this project will work with existing data and collect new dietary, anthropometric, body composition, health and cognitive data collected across several ages within the SCDS. For the first time we will assess bone density of mothers and children. Information derived from this PhD will impact on policies within Seychelles including healthly eating guidelines.

This PhD will:

(1) Investigate changes over 30 years in dietary habits in three SCDS cohorts using existing data. Data is available across the lifespan, spanning pregnancy up to 60 years of age.

(2) Collect new dietary data in each cohort to re-evaluate dietary patterns in this developing country.

(3) Assess body composition (by TANITA and Achilles bone densitometer) in each cohort and collect blood samples for the analysis of biomarkers of health and nutritional status.

(4) Examine associations between dietary patterns and various health outcomes, including body composition

The PhD researcher appointed to this 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. Cade JE, et al (2002) Pub Health Nutr 5, 567-87.

2. Fabiani R, Naldini G and Chivarini M (2019) Dietary patterns in relation to low bone mineral density and fracture risk: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Adv Nutr 10(2): 219- 236.

3. Conway MC et al. Dietary Determinants of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid (PUFA) Status in a High Fish-Eating Cohort during Pregnancy. Nutrients. 2018 Jul 20;10(7). pii: E927. doi: 10.3390/nu10070927.

4. Myers GJ, Davidson PW and Strain JJ. Nutrient and methyl mercury exposure from consuming fish. J Nutr 2007; 137: 2805-2808.

5. van Wijngaarden E et al. Methyl mercury exposure and neurodevelopmental outcomes in the Seychelles Child Development Study Main cohort at age 22 and 24 years.  Neurotoxicology Teratology, 59, 35-42, 2017 PMID 27989696.

6. Strain JJ et al. Prenatal exposure to methyl mercury from fish consumption and polyunsaturated fatty acids: associations with child development at 20 months of age in an observational study in the Republic of Seychelles. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 101(3), 530-537, 2015. PMC: 4340059.


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 Alison Yeates


Other supervisors

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