Biological Sciences: Fully-funded Swansea University and Mowi Feed PhD Scholarship: Functional Microbiomes: Unravelling Diet, Environment and Host Pathogen Interactions (RS531)

  • DeadlineDeadline: 4 March 2024
  • WalesWales


Closing date: 4 March 2024

Funding provider: Swansea University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering and Mowi Feed

Subject areas: Biosciences, Microbiome, Metabolomics, Host-pathogen interactions, Aquaculture, Animal health 

Project start date:

  • 1 October 2024 (Enrolment open from mid-September)

Project supervisors: 

Aligned programme of study: PhD in Biological Sciences

Mode of study: Full-time

Project description:

Microbiota can positively influence animal physiology and health in many ways, including by enhancing nutrient uptake, immunity and pathogen resistance. At the same time, microbiomes are readily influenced by both various host and environmental factors, including diet and temperature. However, key questions remain regarding the functional nature of host-microbiome relationships and, especially, interactions with pathogens and the environment.

Aquaculture will likely make an important contribution to future global food security, given the depletion of wild fish stocks and increasing demand for high-quality protein. Functional feeds offer great promise for improving fish health and productivity, including by enhancing nutrient uptake and pathogen resilience. This will be crucial for the sustainability of the industry, especially under climate change scenarios predicted to increase pathogen transmission. We expect that the gut microbiome plays an important role in mediating these dietary benefits, we do not yet know how.

This PhD will focus on unravelling microbiome-pathogen interactions in Atlantic salmon, and how this relationship is shaped by diet and environment. The project represents an exciting collaboration between Swansea University and Mowi Feed, where we ultimately aim to better understand how functional feeds can improve fish health and disease resistance. All dietary & pathogen experiments will be conducted by Mowi Feed, in Norway and Scotland. The student, based in Swansea, will be focused on conducting molecular, bioinformatic and community-modelling analyses to determine microbiome-pathogen-environment interactions, including 16S rRNA sequencing, metabolomics and transcriptional profiling, as well as some in vitro microbial interaction assays. The main objectives are:

1. Determine the impacts of functional feeds on microbiome diversity, structure and function.
2. Establish causal links between feed, microbiome, host immunity and pathogen resistance.
3. Characterise temporal microbiome-pathogen interactions in fluctuating environments.

The student will join a dynamic, supportive and enthusiastic research team in Swansea, broadly focusing on impacts of environmental factors on microbiomes, pathogens and animal physiology, with complementary supervision from Drs Tamsyn Uren Webster, Konstans Wells and Claudio Greco. The student will also closely collaborate with the industry partner, Mowi-Feed, with supervision from Dr Laura Martinez Rubio.

The project would suit a student with a keen interest in microbiomes, host-pathogen interactions and (eco)physiology, as well as enthusiasm for unravelling complex interactions. Some experience in molecular techniques, metabolomics, microbiology, bioinformatics and statistical analysis in R would be an advantage.

The candidate will adopt an exciting interdisciplinary approach that combines laboratory work, bioinformatics and ecological modelling. The student will capitalise on the well-established and newly refurbished laboratories and computational facilities in Swansea, and world-leading experimental facilities for aquaculture nutrition from Mowi. A comprehensive training programme will be provided by the interdisciplinary supervisory team’s expertise in microbiomes and molecular physiology (Dr Uren Webster), animal health and disease ecology (Dr Wells), metabolomics and natural products (Dr Greco), and aquaculture nutrition (Dr Martinez Rubrio).

For more details please see here:

Entry Requirements

Candidates must hold an undergraduate degree at 2.1 level in Biosciences or a related subject (microbiology, animal ecology, veterinary science or epidemiology, evolutionary, molecular or computational biology) with an emphasis existing molecular skills data analysis, or a master’s with a merit (or Non-UK equivalent as defined by Swansea University) (see country specific qualifications). Candidates with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have a master’s degreePlease note that you may need to provide evidence of your English Language proficiency. 

Our aim to support students from a range of backgrounds and circumstances. Where needed, we will work with you to take into consideration reasonable project adaptations (for example to support caring responsibilities, disabilities, other significant personal circumstances) as well as flexible working and part-time study requests, to enable greater access to a PhD. All our supervisors support us with this aim, so please feel comfortable to discuss to see what is feasible. 

Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is open to applicants eligible to pay tuition fees at the UK rate only, as defined by UKCISA regulations. 

If you have any questions regarding your academic or fee eligibility based on the above, please email with the web-link to the scholarship(s) you are interested in.


This scholarship covers the full cost of UK tuition fees and an annual stipend of £19,180.

Additional research expenses will also be available.

How To Apply

To apply, please complete your application online with the following information:

1. Course choice – please select Biological Sciences / PhD / Full-time / 3 Year / October 

In the event you have already applied for the above programme previously, the application system may issue a warning notice and prevent application, in this event, please email where staff will be happy to assist you in submitting your application.

2. Start year – please select 2024
3. Funding (page 8) –

  • ‘Are you funding your studies yourself?’ – please select No 
  • ‘Name of Individual or organisation providing funds for study’ – please enter ‘RS531 – Functional Microbiomes

*It is the responsibility of the applicant to list the above information accurately when applying, please note that applications received without the above information listed will not be considered for the scholarship award.

One application is required per individual Swansea University led research scholarship award; applications cannot be considered listing multiple Swansea University led research scholarship awards.

We encourage you to complete the following to support our commitment to providing an environment free of discrimination and celebrating diversity at Swansea University:

As part of your online application, you MUST upload the following documents (please do not send these via email). We strongly advise you to provide the listed supporting documents by the advertised closing date, where possible:

  • CV
  • Degree certificates and transcripts (if you are currently studying for a degree, screenshots of your grades to date are sufficient)
  • A cover letter including a ‘Supplementary Personal Statement’ to explain why the position particularly matches your skills and experience and how you choose to develop the project.
  • Two references (academic or previous employer) on headed paper or using the Swansea University reference form. Please note that we are not able to accept references received citing private email accounts, e.g. Hotmail. Referees should cite their employment email address for verification of reference.
  • Evidence of meeting English Language requirement (if applicable).
  • Copy of UK resident visa (if applicable)
  • Confirmation of EDI form submission (optional) 

Informal enquiries are welcome, please contact Dr Tamsyn Uren Webster (

*External Partner Application Data Sharing – Please note that as part of the scholarship application selection process, application data sharing may occur with external partners outside of the University, when joint/co- funding of a scholarship project is applicable.

Who is eligible to apply?

Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is open to applicants eligible to pay tuition fees at the UK rate only.

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