Population Health Projects

Applications for studentships for our 2019/20 intake have now closed. The below information refers to the 2019/20 recruitment round. 

Please find the details of the available projects for the Population Health theme outlined below. A full list of our available projects can be downloaded here.
Full project descriptions, including contact details for the lead supervisor, can be downloaded by clicking on the link in the project title.


Causal inference methods for randomised trials

In randomised trials comparing two or more treatments, patients often change from their randomised treatment during follow-up. This project will explore how methods developed for causal inference in non-randomised studies can be used and extended to disentangle the effects of each treatment in randomised trials.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Jonathan Bartlett.
Institution: Bath.

Applying behavioural and implementation science to improve group behaviour change programmes

Drawing on behavioural and implementation science, this project involves the translation of a new framework for group-based behaviour change interventions (such as for weight-loss) into practice. It will include developing training and toolkits for group facilitators, and evaluating the impact on participant outcomes and group dynamics.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Fiona Gillison.
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.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Abigail Fraser.
Institution: Bristol.

Understanding the impact of eating rate on satiety, food intake and BMI

Slowing the speed of eating may influence food intake, satiety and BMI over time. This project will examine the physiology and psychology of individual differences in oral processing behaviours and slowing speed of eating by various methods. How traits, dietary choices and impulsive behaviours may interact with eating speed will be investigated.

Lead Supervisor: Professor Julian Hamilton-Shield.
Institution: Bristol.

Modelling syndemics: hepatitis C virus (HCV) and drug related mortality among people who inject drugs

People who inject drugs have increased risk of hepatitis C virus (HCV) and drug related death (DRD). In the UK, 85% of HCV is transmitted through injecting, and DRD has increased 3-fold in 10 years. This PhD will develop mathematical models to determine the effect of interventions on HCV and DRD to assess which combination is most effective.

Lead Supervisor: Professor Matthew Hickman.
Institution: Bristol.

Identifying causal risk factors for disease progression

Many studies focus on risk factors for disease onset, however disease progression may be more important for treatment. This studentship provides cross-disciplinary training in state-of-the-art genetic epidemiological approaches (using large-scale datasets) and cutting-edge cell biology to address important questions underlying disease progression.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Lavinia Paternoster.
Institution: Bristol.

Use of linked clinical and genotypic databases to understand the genetic contributions to clinical outcomes in individuals with HIV

This project will investigate genetic predictors of response to antiretroviral treatment for HIV infection, based on high density genotyping of 6000 individuals (HIV NIHR BioResource), linked to phenotypic data from the UK Collaborative HIV Cohort Study and UK HIV Drug Resistance Database, two of the world’s most productive HIV cohort studies.

Lead Supervisor: Professor Jonathan Sterne.
Institution: Bristol.

Modelling the role of homelessness in the transmission and prevention of blood borne viruses among people who inject drugs

People who inject drugs (PWID) experience high rates of blood borne viruses (BBV). Emerging evidence suggests that incarceration and homelessness increase their transmission risk of BBV. Infectious disease modelling will be used to project the role of these social factors to BBV epidemics among PWID and evaluate interventions to mitigate this risk.

Lead Supervisor: Professor Peter Vickerman.
Institution: Bristol.

Risk and progression of colorectal cancer in people with type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is associated with increased cancer risk. The aim of the project is to identify and investigate causal pathways that link type 2 diabetes to colorectal cancer. This interdisciplinary project will involve epidemiological analysis of multi-omics datasets and molecular cancer cell biology techniques.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Emma Vincent.
Institution: Bristol.

Exploring the interactions between ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’

This project will examine the role of interactions between genes and early life health, economic and policy environments in shaping later life outcomes. By combining methods from genetics and social science, it goes beyond the old ‘nature vs. nurture’ debate and instead explores how the two interact in creating inequalities in health and disease.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Stephanie von Hinke.
Institution: Bristol.

Living fast and showing off? Evaluating individual and social influences on risky behaviour

Young adults often do risky or dangerous things, particularly in front of their peers. This project will use collision data, smartphone-based experiments and cutting-edge genetic analyses to determine the individual and social factors that influence reckless driving behaviour, a leading cause of death and disability.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Tim Fawcett.
Institution: Exeter.

Using genetics to understand the links between early growth and later respiratory health

Infants with low birth weight are at risk of poor respiratory health, but the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. This project will combine world-class training in genetics, epidemiology and clinical research to test the hypothesis that intrauterine exposures and genes that cause poor early growth also reduce lung function.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Rachel Freathy.
Institution: Exeter.

Exploring the molecular mechanisms underlying pre-diagnostic thrombocytosis in lung cancer patients and evaluating its diagnostic value

We have recently discovered the platelet count rises in patients with cancer. This is exciting – for some cancers this means the diagnosis may be made earlier. This PhD examines to see if it happens in all types of lung cancer. Then it examines in the lab why this occurs; what biological signals are involved? This may well improve cancer outcomes.

Lead Supervisor: Professor Willie Hamilton.
Institution: Exeter.

Understanding how eating behaviours mediate genetic susceptibility to obesity

Genetic risk for obesity is partly mediated through changes in eating behaviours such as increased disinhibition (a lack of control over eating). This project analyses existing cohort data and uses new neuroimaging experiments to examine whether genetic risk for BMI is mediated through eating behaviours via neural and behavioural responses to food.

Lead Supervisor: Professor Natalia Lawrence.
Institution: Exeter.

Using big data and genetics to characterise the transition of women into the post-reproductive stage of life

Reproductive ageing in women is associated with hormonal changes, debilitating symptoms and increased risk of disease. In this project the student will characterise the transition to menopause using large datasets, aiming to identify novel biological pathways involved in the process.

Lead Supervisor: Professor Anna Murray.
Institution: Exeter.

Multiple scale modelling of skeletal muscle bioenergetics with applications to cystic fibrosis

This project will develop and analyse a mathematical model of muscle metabolism and energetics during exercise. The model will link the energy demands of electrical activity associated with muscle contraction at the single-cell level, with those at the tissue level. The model will be used to explore aerobic fitness in patients with cystic fibrosis.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Kyle Wedgwood.
Institution: Exeter.

Echocardiography, cardiorespiratory fitness and rehabilitation in paediatric congenital heart disease

After a child has undergone corrective heart surgery, cardiorespiratory fitness is an important factor of successful outcome, but its prescription is under-utilised. This project will use systematic reviews, cardiorespiratory and echocardiography testing and an intervention providing bespoke biomedical information for the patient and clinicians.

Lead Supervisor: Professor Craig Williams.
Institution: Exeter.


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