Funded PhD Studentship in the Role of Perinatal Gut Microbiota in Neurovascular interactions in the Developing Brain at the University College Cork in Ireland

Funded PhD Studentship in the Role of Perinatal Gut Microbiota in Neurovascular interactions in the Developing Brain at the University College Cork in Ireland

Funded PhD Studentship in the Role of Perinatal Gut Microbiota in Neurovascular interactions in the Developing Brain at the University College Cork in Ireland. 


About University College Cork (UCC)

UCC is an award-winning institution with a history of independent thinking stretching back over 170 years. UCC has a student population of over 21,000.  The University was named Irish University of the Year by the Sunday Times in 2017.  In 2015, UCC was also named as top performing university by the European Commission funded U-Multirank system, based on obtaining the highest number of “A” scores (21 out of 28 metrics) among a field of 1200 universities.  UCC has been ranked as one of the leading universities in the world for sustainable social and economic impact, in the inaugural 2019 Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact rankings.

University College Cork is an Equal Opportunities Employer. All interested candidates irrespective of age, gender, disability, race, religion or ethnic background are encouraged to apply.


PhD Studentship

(Unique ID: SFIPATH.APC PhD Studentship)

Increasing evidence points to the importance of gut microbiota in the aetiology of neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric conditions. However, the mechanisms and conduits through which microbiota influences brain development in the critical perinatal period, potentially leading to cognitive deficits in later life, remain largely unknown. This project will explore the role of early-life gut microbiota in modulating neurovascular interactions in the developing brain through circulating microbial signals derived from perinatal microbiota (the maternal microbiota in embryonic life and the neonatal microbiota in early postnatal life). Proper communication between vascular and nervous cells are essential for proper cytoarchitecture in the developing brain. In this context, mirobial signals as modulators if these interactions are yet to be explored. The main aim is to mechanistically understand the interactions between gut microbiota and microbial signals and neurovascular interactions at a cellular and molecular levels. To accomplish this, we will employ distinct models of early-life microbiota disruption in mice and assess the impact on brain vasculature, blood-brain barrier development and the deleterious consequences of improper neurovascular communication in neurodevelopment. We will employ in vivo tracer imaging, ex vivo and in vitro models combining cell culture and explant cultures with microbial metabolites from a faecal fermenter, and an integrated multi-omics analysis. We will identify key microbial metabolites that operate at the vascular interface, discern their signalling mechanisms and their potential to rescue neurodevelopmental deficits as well as later life aberrant behaviours.

Key duties and responsibilities

  • The PhD candidate will conduct a specified programme of research under the supervision of Dr. María R. Aburto and Prof. John F. Cryan.
  • The successful candidate must be able to apply immunofluorescence and molecular biology skills in the laboratory. Significant interdisciplinary interactions with collaborators in APC Microbiome Ireland will be required.
  • Good communication, organisation, interpersonal skills and the ability to work within a project team are essential.

Additional tasks will include:

  • The dissemination of results at conferences and through scientific articles.
  • Attendance at postgraduate training courses.
  • Regular reporting of research data.
  • Involvement in Educational and Public Engagement (EPE) activities.
  • Occasional laboratory supervision of Bachelor or Master students.


  • Minimum 2:1 undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in Neuroscience, Microbiology, molecular biology or a similar discipline.
  • Enthusiasm and an awareness of Neuroscience issues in society.
  • Applicants whose first language is not English must show evidence of English proficiency, please check the minimum requirements at:

Funding Details

This full-time PhD position is funded for 4 years including a stipend of €18,500 per annum.  The studentship will cover UCC fees at the rate for EU students.

The scholarship for the PhD degree is subjected to academic approval, and the candidate will be enrolled in one of the general degree programmes at UCC.

Further information applicable to your post

The PhD candidate will work with a team of scientists in the APC Microbiome Ireland and Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience (College of Medicine and Health).

APC Microbiome Ireland is a trans-disciplinary research centre, with clinicians, clinician-scientists and basic scientists from diverse backgrounds working in teams, sharing ideas and resources. Although focused upon the gastrointestinal bacterial community (the microbiota), the scale and scope of the work has become one of the fastest moving areas of biology. The microbiota is not only a target for treatment and prevention of disease, it is a repository for functional food ingredients and even new drugs and is a source of novel biomarkers of disease risk. The scientific organisation of the APC consists of a matrix of ‘spokes’ or themes of intellectual pursuit which are supported by multiple horizontal or shared technology platforms.

Informal enquiries about the post should made by email to Dr. María R. Aburto ([email protected] ).


How to Apply:

Please email the following information to Dr. María R. Aburto ([email protected]) as a single PDF file:

  • A one-page cover letter outlining any relevant experience and your reasons for wanting to participate in the project.
  • A Curriculum Vitae including your education history, courses, awards and skills.  Also, if appropriate, please include details of any publications and conference presentations.

The deadline for applications is 20 May 2022. Applications received after the deadline will not be considered.

Please quote ‘SFIPATH.APC PhD Studentship’ on the subject line of your email.


Closing Date for Applications: 20 May 2022


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