2017 Intake – Population Health Projects

Projects for an October 2018 start are now available on our Available Projects page. To give you an idea of the types of project that might be on offer, please find below a brief outline of the projects that were advertised for an October 2017 start under the Population Health theme below.  Projects for an October 2018 start under this theme can be found here.


Fetal-maternal genetic interactions and the effects of maternal age at first  pregnancy on breast cancer susceptibility
A woman’s age at her first full-term pregnancy impacts on her life-long breast cancer risk. Pregnancy before the age of 20 induces a genomic expression profile that is still identifiable in post menopausal breast tissue. This PhD will be to find out how fetal gene expression influences mammary gland development in the mother.
Supervisor: Dr Adele Murrell.
Lead Institution: Bath.

Avoiding bias in medical research due to data that are Missing Not At Random (MNAR) in the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD)

A collaborative project with the Universities of Bath and Bristol using the Clinical Practice Research Datalink primary care database to develop methods of identifying and handling data that are Missing Not At Random (MNAR). The project offers an interdisciplinary environment and training in advanced epidemiology and statistical modelling.
Supervisor: Dr Alison Nightingale.
Lead Institution: Bath.

Trauma exposure and cardiometabolic health

Young people exposed to trauma are vulnerable to mental health problems. Trauma is increasingly linked to cardiovascular disease. This project straddles psychology and epidemiology, including epigenetics. It will investigate the role of trauma in  shaping cardiometabolic health and potential underlying mechanisms using  longitudinal cohort data.
Supervisor: Dr Abigail Fraser.
Lead Institution: Bristol.

Rational vaccine design: can one identify protective antigens systematically in silico? A pilot study focusing on epitope design for Shigella and Salmonella vaccines

By adapting existing computational vaccinology workflows, we will test if localised, moderate variability in surface/secreted antigens identifies protective antigens/epitopes in silico. We will develop our method on Salmonella, using published information to validate our approach, then apply our method to Shigella.
Supervisor: Professor Julian Gough.
Lead Institution: Bristol.

Towards personalised behavioural obesity treatment in children and adolescents

This project will identify effective measures to characterise obesity-related eating behaviours in children recruited from a hospital clinic and community, such as impulsive over-eating, eating fast or large portions. We will develop tailored interventions provided as ‘apps’, and assess their effects using brain imaging and experimental psychology.
Supervisor: Dr Elanor Hinton.
Lead Institution: Bristol.

Dietary patterns and the progression of type 2 diabetes

A unique opportunity for a student with strong quantitative skills to investigate the role dietary patterns in modifying the progression of type 2 diabetes, responsiveness to diabetes medication and development of diabetes complications. Findings will inform the development of individualised approaches to treatment of Type 2 diabetes.
Supervisor: Dr Laura Johnson.
Lead Institution: Bristol.

Increasing physical activity in pre-school aged children: systematic review, individual participant meta-analysis and intervention pilot
The project will use epidemiology, systematic review and qualitative methods to explore the associations between physical activity and pre-school environments to design and pilot an intervention to increase physical activity. The project will use data from the MRC International Children’s Accelerometry Database and a nursery feasibility trial.
Supervisor: Dr Ruth Kipping.
Lead Institution: Bristol.

Blood pressure change in pregnancy: genetic determinants and  consequences

High pregnancy blood pressure is associated with poor outcomes in mothers and babies; whether these associations are causal is unclear. The student will have quantitative skills and will train at 2 world-leading centres, developing expertise in the use of genetic data for understanding causes and consequences of high pregnancy blood pressure.
Supervisor: Professor Deborah Lawlor.
Lead Institution: Bristol.

Gene-environment interplay in the generation of health inequalities

This project will advance understanding of gene-environment interactions in the generation of health inequalities. Combining methods from genetics and social science, it will test whether privileged environments protect against genetic susceptibility to risky health behaviours, using ‘natural experiments’ to deal with unmeasured confounding.
Supervisor: Dr Stephanie von Hinke.
Lead Institution: Bristol.

Network Meta-Analysis and Extrapolation of Survival Outcome Data

Policy decisions for many drugs rely on robust estimates of life expectancy gains. Methods will be developed to combine evidence on multiple treatments from multiple RCTs and registry data. Methods combine network meta-analysis, flexible survival models, joint models of progression-free and overall survival, and adjustment for treatment switching.
Supervisor: Dr Nicky Welton.
Lead Institution: Bristol.

Is there a role for placental DNA methylation in the association between maternal obesity-related traits and offspring birth weight?

We know that maternal fasting glucose levels and maternal blood pressure are causally related to offspring birth weight, but we don’t yet understand the underlying mechanism, this PhD project aims to investigate how the epigenome may mediate such associations using a unique cohort of families with  placenta and umbilical cord material available.
Supervisor: Dr Emma Dempster.
Lead Institution: Exeter.

Body mass index and obesity: investigating gene-environment interactions

This studentship will investigate gene environment interactions in obesity. The student will use genotype and phenotype data from world leading resources including 500,000 individuals in the UK Biobank and 20,000 from the ALSPAC cohort. The student will develop computational, bioinformatics, statistical and epidemiological skills.
Supervisor: Professor Tim Frayling.
Lead Institution: Exeter.

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