Are vegetarians protected from infection? Molecular studies of a low protein diet and its effect on immune system function

Vacancy details:

Supervisor: Dr Edyta Wojtowicz
Co-supervisor: Dr Naiara Bereza (The Quadram Institute)
Reference: WOJTOWICZ_E24DTP1
Start date: 01 October 2024
Application deadline: 20 November 2023
Funding 4-year Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) PhD funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Western diets rich in fat and sugar are associated with obesity, liver disease, and a greater risk of viral and bacterial infections. 

However, there is a growing trend of people reducing their meat intake as part of a plant-based lifestyle. This diet is associated with increased longevity and fewer cases of infectious disease in later life. Transitioning from Western to plant-based diets involves an overall reduction in protein intake. 

However, the impact of low protein diets on health - especially host-pathogen interactions - is not well understood. 

In this project, we will study the functional and molecular consequences of low protein diets on immune system function, particularly macrophages. The student will apply single-cell RNA sequencing, lineage tracing, and spatial transcriptomics to identify molecular and environmental factors modulating macrophage function. 

We are offering a collaborative, multi-disciplinary PhD project between the Wojtowicz, Macaulay (both Earlham Institute), and Beraza (Quadram Institute) groups. 

The aim of the project is to apply single-cell RNA lineage tracing - combined with long- and short-read sequencing - to determine the origins, and molecular and functional consequences, of a low protein diet on macrophage phagocytic properties. 

The student will work in a rapidly developing field and gain unique expertise in experimental single-cell functional and molecular biology, technology development, and computational biology. 

The project will be conducted at the Earlham Institute and Quadram Institute, which are BBSRC-supported, world-leading research centres in single cell technology development, genomics, bioinformatics, and nutrition. 

The student will have access to training and career development opportunities at both host institutes and across the Norwich Research Park. 

Further Reading:


Further Information:

Application deadline: Monday 20 November 2023 (23:59 i.e.,midnight).

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 23, 24 or 25 January 2024.

Visit the NRPDTP website for further information on eligibility and how to apply.

Our partners value diverse and inclusive work environments that are positive and supportive. Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

This project is awarded with a 4-year Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) PhD studentship.

The studentship includes payment of tuition fees (directly to the University), a stipend to cover living expenses (2023/4 stipend rate: £18,622), and a Research Training Support Grant of £5,000pa for each year of the studentship.

Entry requirements:
At least UK equivalence Bachelors (Honours) 2:1 or UK equivalence Master's degree. English Language requirement (Faculty of Science equivalent: IELTS 6.5 overall, 6 in each category).



Wojtowicz Group

Exploring the mechanisms regulating blood cell production using single-cell approaches.