PhD studentship in the Centre for Food, Agriculture and Environmental Management

The role of diet in the management of non-GI autoimmune conditions


Qualification type: PhD

Location: Hatfield, United Kingdom

Funding: These studentships are fully funded for three years and will cover university tuition and provide a tax-free stipend for UK students of £15,285 per year tax free.

Hours: Full time

Closing application date: 27 July 2021

Remote interviews: 3 August 2021

Expected start: September 2021 (funding available for three years)

About the Project


The PhD studentship is available at the Centre for Food, Agriculture and Environmental Management (CAFEM).

The aim of the project is to explore the role of diet in the management of non-GI autoimmune conditions (e.g. psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis). The project will combine epidemiological and patient experience data to contextualise the observed and reported effects of dietary treatments. The objectives and focus of the PhD can be prioritised depending on the preferences of the student.


Dietary modification and/or nutritional supplementation of nutrients exhibiting therapeutic benefits have been proposed in the management of numerous non-GI autoimmune conditions through the alleviation of symptom severity and pain management. These include psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.

Key dietary factors proposed to alleviate symptoms include the immune profile of foods, fatty acid content and properties and non-essential nutrient compounds including phytochemicals. For example, there is evidence of the benefit of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation from fish oils in the management of psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis although evidence for other supplements is limited.

Despite limited clinical data, dietary restrictions (e.g. avoidance of gluten, dairy, nightshades, alcohol, and meat) are frequently recommended within patient support groups to assist with symptom management. This project aims to extend upon previous work investigating the role of different foods/diets in alleviating non-GI autoimmune conditions and provide novel insight into the impact of patient support group advice on dietary intake/disease management.

The research will be conducted in a multi-disciplinary team within the Nutrition and Dietetics Team at the University of Hertfordshire. The exact programme of work will be established between the candidate and supervisory team following selection.

The project will provide expertise in a range of skills including systematic reviewing, ethics, quantitative data analysis, qualitative methods.


These can be prioritised and/or adjusted depending on the preferences of the student:

  • comparison of dietary patterns and clusters, nutrient intakes, the pro/ anti-inflammatory properties of nutrients/ foods and biochemical markers of immune and nutritional status in participants with a diagnosis of psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis compared with a matched control group
  • exploration of self-directed dietary adaptations, aimed at improving symptoms, in individuals diagnosed with non-GI autoimmune conditions, using qualitative methodology
  • exploration of the dietary advice and/or signposting provided by healthcare professionals involved in supporting individuals with non-GI autoimmune conditions (e.g., general practitioners, dermatologists, rheumatologists, registered nutritionists, and registered dietitians)
  • primary research exploring the association between self-reported diet quality and disease severity in participants with non-GI autoimmune conditions using validated tools.

Supervisor information

Dr Rosalind Fallaize

Professor David Barling

Dr Kate Earl

Dr Athanasios Tektonidis

Essential criteria:

  • the successful applicant will have, or expect to obtain, at least a 2:1 or above in a relevant discipline, including nutrition, dietetics, epidemiology, health or medical sciences
  • experience of doing a research project (e.g., undergraduate dissertation).

Desirable criteria:

  • A Master’s degree or equivalent qualification or other evidence of research skills and experience is desirable but not essential.

Application process

To apply for the studentship please:

You will also need to provide:

  • two academic references
  • copies of qualification certificates and transcripts
  • a copy of passport photo page
  • certification of English language competence (minimum IELTS 6.5 or equivalent) for candidates for whom English is not their first language.

Please email completed application forms and supporting documents to the Doctoral College

Referees should email your reference directly to the Doctoral College

Who to contact

For enquiries about this studentship please email Dr Roz Fallaize

For enquiries regarding research degrees and the application process, please email Lynette Spelman