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Phd Opportunity - Longitudinal assessment of health-related behaviours during childhood and adolescence and associations with predictive epigenetic markers of obesity-related non-communicable diseases

Deadline: Friday 22nd January

Informal enquiries about this opportunity can be sent to   

Project Description

The population increase in overweight and obesity has led to an unaffordable burden of obesity-related diseases, such as T2D, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. The surge in obesity prevalence suggests that change in the environment and subsequent health-related behaviours (HRB) such as physical activity, diet, smoking and alcohol intake may be key.

Early life events and HRB may be critical for the development of these diseases by altering programming via epigenetic mechanisms, such as DNA methylation. Epigenetic marks such as DNA methylation, enable cells to ‘remember’ and respond to exposures, by influencing gene expression and are established in early-life. DNA methylation could be one mediating mechanism by which early-life events and HRBs influence later-life outcomes. Indeed, evidence suggests methylation at birth can predict childhood obesity. Furthermore, recent studies indicate that specific epigenetic changes may be used to predict disease. This offers the potential for these epigenetic markers to be used as surrogate endpoints of disease, allowing us to assess epigenetic changes in late adolescence/early adulthood before the disease has manifested.

Longitudinal cohort studies collect data at multiple timepoints, allowing for in-depth analyses of the origins and progression of disease and unhealthy ageing. The Gateshead Millennium Study (GMS) has collected robust data on up to 1029 children since birth in 1999-2000, with detailed information at 7y, 9y, 12y, and 15y. A strength of this proposal is that body composition and the key HRBs known to affect health including physical activity, diet, smoking and alcohol intake have already been assessed in the cohort at multiple timepoints

The current proposal will use a novel approach to determine which critical early lifestyle factors have the potential to influence long term health, assessed through the use of surrogate end-point epigenetic biomarkers. The study will take advantage of the existing longitudinal dataset, whilst adding to the wealth of the GMS through the collection of additional data and biological samples from cohort participants at age 17-18y. Repeat measures of critical HRBs will be taken, along with saliva samples in which disease-predictive DNA methylation marks will be assessed. Historical and newly collected data will be used to investigate the impact of early-life exposures (i.e. socioeconomic status, smoking, alcohol consumption, diet, objectively measured physical activity) on predictive disease biomarkers. This will help to inform early prevention strategies for public health, and could have implications for the emerging field of personalised medicine through the provision of environmentally-sensitive biomarkers to predict individuals at high risk for disease development. Dr Angela Jones (8 years post-doc with expertise in dietary assessment and Prof Ashley Adamson (PI of GMS) will be 3rd and 4th supervisors.

Funding notes:
DiMeN (Discovery Medicine North) DTP studentships are funded for 3.5 years and include the following annual package of financial support over the duration of the studentship:
•A tax-free maintenance grant set at the UK Research Council’s national postgraduate rate
•Full payment of tuition fees at the Home/EU rate
•A research training support grant (RTSG) to support your research studies (managed through the host institution)
•Opportunity to apply to our Flexible Fund to enable you to attend training workshops and visit research groups to advance your skills training.

Successful Home students will receive a full studentship. EU students will be considered for a full studentship or just fee support depending on the excellence of their qualifications and their employment/residency status ( Overseas students are not eligible to apply.

Entry requirements:
You should be someone with an outstanding academic track record and can demonstrate your potential for the research project of your choice.
You must hold (or be expected to hold by October 2016) a First or a good 2:1 UK undergraduate degree, a suitable qualification at Masters level or an equivalent degree from a recognised EU institution, in the biosciences or a related area. The multidisciplinary training experience and interdisciplinary nature of some of our projects means that we welcome applications from students with physical science and/or mathematical backgrounds who are interested in using their skills to address the challenges of 21st century bioscience research.

How to apply:
Please carefully read the instructions on how to apply at our website and use the link on the page to apply:

Marie Sklodowska-Curie Research and Innovation Staff Exchange (RISE)

The Marie Sklodowska-Curie RISE scheme will promote international and inter-sectoral collaboration through a number of research and innovation staff exchanges within a partnership of institutions. Admission: Free, but registration required. Contact for further information: Grania Rogers Tel: 0191 208 8959 Email:

Thursday, 14 January 2016 - 12.00 to 14.00 - Research Beehive, Room 2.22

The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research and Innovation Staff Exchange (RISE) scheme will promote international and inter-sectoral collaboration through a number of research and innovation staff exchanges within a partnership of institutions. Exchanges can be purely inter-sectoral, purely international, or a combination of the two. Inter-sectoral exchanges are between the academic and non-academic sector – the latter sector includes businesses, SMEs, multinational companies, NGOs, public sector bodies, governmental bodies, charities, etc. International exchanges are between European institutions and those outside Europe, irrespective of whether they are academic or non-academic.

The 2016 call is now open and has a deadline of 28 April 2016. The event will start with lunch at 12.00, followed by the briefing itself at 12.20.

Please register at

Biotechnology YES (Young Entrepreneurs Scheme)

The Graduate School would like to congratulate the two teams that took part in this year’s Biotechnology YES (Young Entrepreneurs Scheme).

The Graduate School would like to congratulate the two teams that took part in this year’s Biotechnology YES (Young Entrepreneurs Scheme). Both teams did fantastically well to win through to the finals from their regional heats, fighting off stiff competition in Manchester and Edinburgh. The teams comprised research students from the Institute of Genetic Medicine and the Institute of Cellular Medicine (Hannah Swinburne, Beccie Brennan, Valeria Chichagova and Ellie Meader) and research staff based at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research (Natalia Martinez-Soria, Natalie Bell, Alex Elder, Sarah Fordham and Frida Ponthan). With more than a hundred teams involved it is testament not only to the hard work our teams put in but also to the collaborative efforts of the Careers Service, Entrepreneurial Development Unit and those involved in the Research Student Development Programme for the bespoke training and advice provided to the teams.

The finals were a very grand affair held in one of the best hotels in Westminster followed by a drinks reception and dinner in Whitehall. Each team received a finalists award but the staff team also received the Best Healthcare Business Plan award sponsored by GSK. The standard of presentations at the finals was remarkably high and the winning team from Nottingham University were incredibly slick and professional. As inspiring as this current success was the involvement of two of Newcastle’s former participants, Matt Wilcox and Andrew Jenkins, who were invited as special guests and feature in a publication about success stories from the last 20 years (

Matt was also called up to share the stage with compère Maggie Philbin, providing a brief account of his work since taking part in the competition. Neither Matt nor Andrew won in the year they took part but both benefited greatly from the experience and from the support of the Entrepreneurial Development Unit, not just in the competition but in protecting their Intellectual Property Rights and the commercialisation of their research findings. 

Prize Winners: North East Postgradaute Conference organising team

The Graduate School would formally like to offer it's congratulations to the NEPG Conference organising team who have been awarded a special prize in recognition of all of their hard work 

The Graduate School would formally like to offer it's congratulations to the NEPG (North East Postgradaute Conference) organising team who have been awarded a special prize in recognition of all of their hard work putting on a fantastic conference earlier this year. The Prize will provide an opportunity for a celebratory dinner and a chance to meet up again to recount an excellent day thoroughly well planned. The team was lead fantastically well be Hannah Swinburne and ably support by research students from across the faculty and from SAgE faculty and Northumbria University.

Planning for next year's confenence starts tomorrow (16 December) with an initial meeting. If you are interested in being involved, please register for this meeting at 


NUS Survey regarding Disabled Student Allowance

The aim of this survey is to evaluate disabled students’ wellbeing and experiences in further and higher education. 

We hope to capture what the educational landscape looks like for disabled students 20 years on from the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) - an anti-discrimination law which made this country a better place for many disabled people.

You will be asked questions about the accessibility of your institutions and learning environment, your understanding of your rights and experiences of discriminatory behaviour.

The information that you provide will be stored securely and personal data such as your email address will not be revealed to people outside of NUS.

If you have any questions about the survey which you would like to ask before or after taking part, please email Sally Thomas, Policy Officer (Liberation) 

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