Meet doctoral researchers at University of Surrey

We currently have 7 PhD students at University of Surrey. Co-incidentally they are all involved in projects co-supervised at either University of Reading or Queen’s University Belfast (although new projects will be co-supervised at other universities). Projects at Surrey tend to focus on aspects of nutrition, food science or animal health. Meet some of our researchers here:

photo of researcher

Abi Bournot

2021-25 cohort

Project title: Elucidating the link between vitamin D and immune health in ethnic groups: mechanistic & population-based studies

Academic partner: University of Reading

What is your project about?
My project will investigate whether there is a link between vitamin D and markers of immune health in ethnic groups. Recent studies suggest that vitamin D may have a role in the body’s immune response to respiratory viruses, including COVID-19 infection. However, the evidence is limited and my project will provide key scientific data in this field.

Why did you decide to do a PhD?
I decided to pursue a PhD because I enjoy the freedom to be curious, to learn from experts in the field, and to be able to perform my own research that can contribute towards making a tangible improvement to individual lives.

Photo of researcher

Sara Healy

2020-24 cohort

Project title: Assessing the food-borne risks of Toxocara infection in support of public health and food quality assurance

Academic Partner: Queen’s University Belfast

Tell us a bit about your project
is a parasite transmitted by infected cats, dogs and foxes which can lead to severe clinical disease in humans if they become infected, including brain disorders, blindness and organ damage. Contaminated food is believed to play a part in human infections, but currently we don’t fully understand the risk it poses or test for it during food production processes.

What have you enjoyed most about DTP training so far?
My project investigates the risk of food-borne Toxocara transmission to humans and the impact of possible intervention measures to ensure food is safe to consume, thus protecting public health. My upcoming focus is to assess the prevalence of Toxocara eggs on lettuce leaves and to look for the presence of larvae in meat and blood antibodies against Toxocara in farm animals.

During the first year of my project I enjoyed meeting (virtually so far) the other PhD students on the programme, learning more about their research and supporting each other. We also learned more about food systems, and how your project fits in to this on a wider level. I really like that the DTP can provide further training workshops/courses which can be tailored to each candidate depending on their interests and needs.

photo of researcher Faye Wheller

2021-25 cohort

Project title: Understanding the structure and function of resistant starch in glycaemia

Academic Partner: University of Reading

What is your project about?
When starchy foods are processed in certain ways the properties change, and it can be made less digestible in the gut. This “resistant starch” doesn’t then get absorbed into the blood stream and so the impact on blood sugars is less, which can have many long and short- term health benefits. I am investigating what happens to the molecules in resistant starch 5, studying its formation and the effect of enzymes, and seeing if I can fortify pasta with resistant starch to make a healthier food product.

What led you to doing a PhD?
A love of studying and just wanting to find out more. When I finished my MSc in Food Science, I wanted to keep going so a PhD was the next logical step. It was the right move for me as I am really enjoying it!
I chose FoodBioSystems DTP because of the opportunity to work with two different universities, the additional expertise and equipment that comes with it. Plus the extra aspects of the programme such as summer schools and the networking opportunities within the DTP.