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Current opportunities at the Ezcurra Lab:

Masters by Research project 2022/2023:

The molecules underlying microbiome health benefits

Co-supervised with Dr Jenny Tullet

The gut microbiome profoundly impacts human health, but how it does this is largely unknown. Studies suggest that the microbiome acts through the transcription factor Nrf, a regulator of stress-responses, lifespan and appetite. A major challenge in studying host-microbiome interactions is the difficulty and cost of mammalian models and the complexity of the human microbiome. This project will use a simple and versatile organism C. elegans to explore the molecular basis of the gut-brain-axis by which the microbiome and Nrf impact health. Training: Microbiology, molecular-biology, immunology, biochemistry, microscopy, genetics, bioinformatics.

For informal enquiries, email

Masters by Research project 2022/2023:

The microbiome-muscle connection – how gut microbes improve muscle function

Co-supervised with Professor Dan Mulvihill

The gut microbiome affects many important functions including gut health, immunity and cognition. Recent exciting studies in athletes and mice suggest gut microbes also alter muscle function and performance, raising the exciting possibility that the microbiome can be targeted to improve muscle function and health. In this project we will investigate microbiome effects on molecular determinants of muscle contraction, muscle morphology and physical output using the model organism C elegans. The project will provide with training in a range of biochemical, molecular, genetic and imaging approaches.

For informal enquiries, email

Past opportunities at the Ezcurra Lab (expired):

Full-time research technician:

We are looking for a full-time technician to work on an exciting project using C. elegans to study host-microbiome interactions. The appointment will start in October 2020 and end in November 2021. We are looking for a self-motivated team player with C. elegans experience. For informal enquiries, get in touch. Apply here.

Masters research project: Maintaining health in old age is more important than ever. The current COVID-19 crisis highlights the importance of healthy ageing and the vulnerability of societies with ageing populations. Our group has found that the microbiome affects ageing in the model organism C. elegans, and identified microbial species that suppress age-related decline:

Live strong and healthy – Understanding the links between the microbiome, muscle function and healthy ageing

Supervisors: Dr Marina Ezcurra and Professor Dan Mulvihill

The disastrous consequences of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic highlights the importance of healthy ageing for wider society. Frailty is a major risk factor for ill-health in old age and is the result of changes such as muscle weakness, immune dysfunction and chronic inflammation, leading to reduced physiological functions and increased vulnerability to infections. In this project we will investigate how the microbiome can be used to maintain muscle function and motility in late life, and determine links between muscle function, immunity and age-related health. We will dissect molecular mechanisms underlying microbiome effects on frailty, muscle function and immunity using the model organism C. elegans to perform behavioural and physiological studies in vivo, complemented with in vitro and biochemical approaches. Our aim is to establish evolutionary conserved host-microbiome interactions that can be utilised to support healthy ageing in humans.

The South Coast Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership: Come and do a PhD at the The South Coast Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership! We’re involved in two really cool projects aimed at understanding how host-microbiome interactions affect ageing.

One project involves working with an industrial partner, Sibelius Natural Products on microbial compounds: Bioactive natural products from the microbiome – an innovative approach to healthy ageing

The other project is a collaboration with Prof Jessica Teeling at Southampton University looking at how microbial pathogens contribute to dementia: Microbes and the ageing brain: do host-microbe interactions accelerate age-related cognitive decline?

Get in touch if you are interested! You can read more and apply here

Fully-funded PhD opportunity. The worm-bug: a new model to study how gut microbes affect the brain. We have been awarded the Jane Irons Studentship for 2020 to establish the nematode C. elegans together with its natural commensals as a combined model, the “worm-bug”, for host-microbiome studies. This simple but effective system will allow us to test hypotheses generated from metagenomics, and identify mechanisms by which host-microbiome interactions affect the nervous system. Specifically, we will investigate routes of communication between microbes and the host affecting mitochondrial biology, neuroinflammation and neurodegenerative disease. The project is co-supervised with Dr Campbell Gourlay at University of Kent, who has extensive expertise of mitochondrial biology. Contact Marina Ezcurra for informal inquiries. Note: The studentship does not cover fees or visas for overseas students.

Fully-funded PhD opportunity. Defining the molecular basis and health benefits of traditional Asian medicines. Developing countries such as Thailand are experiencing rapidly ageing populations; by 2050 one in four Asians will be over 60 years old. These dramatic changes are threatening multiple aspects of socioeconomic development and population health. Interventions that promote healthy ageing are therefore vital. We have been awarded a PhD studentship by the Global Challenges Doctoral Centre for an exciting project to investigate the biological effects of traditional Thai medicine and to work towards scientifically proven interventions promoting healthy ageing in developing countries. This project is co-supervised by Dr Jenny Tullet at Kent and provides with world-class doctoral training in a vibrant research environment and interdisciplinary collaborations with our partners at University of Kent and BIOTEC Institute in Thailand. Apply here. Contact Marina Ezcurra for informal inquiries. Note: The studentship does not cover fees or visas for overseas students.

Masters research projects. Interested in doing a Masters degree with us? We offer several Masters projects, you can find them here and read more about the application process at School of Biosciences, University of Kent.