Deploying microbial and metabolite markers in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – PhD Scholarship


Deploying microbial and metabolite markers in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Aberystwyth University, IBERS

Project ID: AUE10010

Annual Stipend: £14,628

Application Deadline: 20th December 2019

Project Description:

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a leading cause of death and is linked around 3 million global deaths annually COPD describes a number of lung diseases usually caused by smoking. Chronic bronchitis is described as an increase in mucus production due to hyperplasia of goblet cells and hypertrophy of mucus glands. This is accompanied by inflammation and/or irreversible bronchial tube narrowing resulting in a shortness of breath known as “exacerbation”.  Emphysema arises due to destruction of tissue surrounding the alveoli. From these baseline conditions, COPD patients experience acute exacerbations, a sudden worsening of symptoms, which may be triggered by infection or environmental pollutants.  Approximately 75% of acute exacerbations are attributed to viral or bacterial infection, or a combination of both.

This project will be based on the use of ‘omic approaches, particularly based on metabolomic and microbiomic studies. The microbiome describes the entire collection of microorganisms in a specific niche, such as the lung. Microbiome studies are particularly appropriate for COPD as microbiological changes have been linked to inflammatory changes which could accelerate the progression of the disease or elicit an exacerbation event.  Metabolomics describes changes in many thousands of biochemicals in a sample and provides an excellent description of the human and bacterial cell environment.  We have recently completed a longitudinal study based on repeated sampling of the saliva and sputum 15 patients. This current PhD proposal seeks to validate and extend and this study by considering a larger patient cohort and considering the contribution of periodontal disease to COPD.

The project would be relevant to persons with a strong interest in clinical science and how the latest scientific    approaches can be used to improve patient care. Fully training will be provided in all of the ‘omic techniques.

The prospective applicant should have a minimum of a 1st or good 2:1 in a relevant degree, and be available to take up the studentship by January 2020. The project is part-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) through the European Union’s Convergence programme administered by the Welsh Government. KESS II PhD scholarships are collaborative awards with external partners. (Applicants need to only apply, they do not need to search for partners.)

To apply, please submit the following to the Postgraduate Admissions Office (address below) by 20th December 2019:

  1. A completed Research Programme Application Form, two references. Application and reference forms may be downloaded from
  2. A completed KESS II Participant proposal form (put the reference number AUE10010 in the top right hand box of the application form) and an up-to-date CV. KESS II application forms are available to download at the link below.

  1. A PhD proposal of up to 1,000 words where you expand on your experience and interests and describe why you are a good candidate for this research studentship. Please refer to the Project Description.

Value of Award: A stipend of £14,628. Each scholarship has an additional budget for travel, equipment/consumables and training to support your research. KESS II PhD Scholarship holders do not pay fees.

Length: Full-time for 3 years. (Theses must be submitted 6 months after the funded three year study period.)

Training: The achievement of a Postgraduate Skills Development Award (PSDA) is compulsory for each KESS II scholar (The PSDA is based on a 60 credit award, which is an additional award to the PhD).

Eligibility: Due to ESF funding, eligibility restrictions apply to this scholarship. To be eligible, the successful candidate will need to be an EU national and resident in East Wales on University registration, and must also have the right to work in the region on qualification.

East Wales means the following counties of Wales:







Vale of Glamorgan

Informal enquiries should be made to Prof Luis Mur at or 01970 622981

Address for applications:

Postgraduate Admissions Office
Recruitment & Admissions
Student Welcome Centre
Aberystwyth University
SY23 3FB

Quote Reference: AUE10010

Closing date for applications: 20th December 2019