UK: PhD studentship – BBSRC Doctoral Training programme in Food Security at University of Surrey

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4 year PhD studentship to study the effect mild vitamin B12 deficiency has on aberrant DNA methylation and genesis of age-related cognitive impairment.


Dr Kourosh R Ahmadi (principle supervisor), Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Surrey

Dr Catharine Gale, MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton

Dr Toby Andrew, Department of Genomics of Common Disease, Imperial College London

Application deadline: January 31st 2014

Funding body: BBSRC Doctoral Training programme in Food Security

The project: Mild vitamin B12 deficiency has been identified as an important, modifiable risk factor associated with increased risk of age-associated cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. In this project, we will (1) carry out a classical twin study to gain important insight into the relative importance of genetic/genomic and environmental factors in governing individual differences in vitamin B12 status in older adults; and (2) use data from two intervention studies to identify aberrant methylated loci associated with (i) mild vitamin B12 deficiency; and/or (ii) beneficial response to vitamin B12 supplementation through association with improved cognitive function.

Results from this project will make an important contribution in the global effort in combating the projected increase in numbers of people living with dementia through (1) identification of novel molecular biomarkers that underpin the connectivity between mild B12 deficiency and dementia; and (2) promotion of rational use of vitamin B12 as part of a preventative programs aimed at reducing the risk of cognitive impairment, AD or dementia in older adults.

This is a joint project between the Universities of Surrey, Southampton and Imperial College London. The student will be based at Surrey University. For further information: contact

Eligibility: Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in Biomedical Sciences or relevant subject. Interest in human genetic/genomics and/or nutrition is preferable. Please note that, due to restrictions by the BBSRC, this studentship is for UK applicants. EU applicants may be eligible but must satisfy the BBSRC residence criteria, which is available on the BBSRC website.

Funding Details:  Studentship will cover Home/EU Fees and pay the Research Council minimum stipend adjusted for 2014-15 (rate for 2013-2014 is £13,726)  for up to 4 years. The studentship will begin in October 2014.

To apply: Fill in the online form on the University of Surrey Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences Graduate school website

A research proposal is not needed. Please attach a CV and covering letter.


  1. 1.       Wald, D. S. et al. Serum homocysteine and dementia: meta-analysis of eight cohort studies including 8669 participants. Alzheimers Dement. 2011 Jul;7(4):412-7 
  2. 2.       Douaud, G. et al. Preventing Alzheimer’s disease-related gray matter atrophy by B-vitamin treatment. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2013, 110, 9523 
  3. 3.       Andrew, T. et al. Unravelling the basis of variability in cobalamin levels in the general population. Br J Nutr. 2013 Nov;110(9):1672-9 
  4. 4.       Parle-McDermott A, Ozaki M. The impact of nutrition on differential methylated regions of the genome. Adv Nutr 2011, 2, 463.
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