Postgraduate research 

Ageing, Health & Welfare PhD/iPhD/MSc (Research)

Heat map of an owl and some free range chickens

We address key questions in the fundamental biology of ageing, animal welfare and food security. How and why does ageing occur and what are its impacts on health and well-being? How do animals cope with pollutants? How do we achieve sustainable animal production whilst protecting animal health and welfare?

  • PhD: 3-4 years full-time; 5 years part-time;
  • IPhD: 5 years full-time;
  • MSc (Research): 1 year full-time; 2 years part-time;

Research projects


Dissecting how and why old mitochondria produce more Reactive Oxygen Species


Project description

Ageing is one of the most important biomedical challenges humanity will confront during the 21st century. Our laboratory studies how and why we age and which role the cell's powerhouses (named mitochondria) play in ageing. Our final goal is to develop therapies to prevent, delay or reverse human ageing. The accumulation of dysfunctional mitochondria that produce high levels of Reactive Oxygen Species (mtROS) is one of the few hallmarks of ageing conserved across evolution. We have learned the consequences of the pile-up of defective mitochondria, i.e., oxidative damage and disruption of redox signalling. However, we ignore how or why the former happens. In the past, our laboratory has demonstrated that Drosophila melanogaster flies require mtROS signalling to adapt to stress correctly [1].

In response to stress, fly mitochondria produce high levels of mtROS for a short period [2]. Recently, we have shown that aged mitochondria lose the capacity to respond to stress with ROS signals, and instead, they produce continuously high levels of ROS [3]. This project aims to dissect how and why old mitochondria produce more ROS than young mitochondria in detail.

The student will work with the model organism Drosophila melanogaster in a project with two clear aims:

  •  Firstly, the student will investigate: "how do old mitochondria produce more ROS"? The aim is to dissect how old mitochondria produce mtROS using a combination of hypothesis and non-hypothesis methods
  • Secondly, the student will interrogate: "why do old mitochondria produce more ROS"? Here the student will use state-of-the-art technology to modify the fly epigenome testing if this affects the way mitochondria produce ROS.


To complete the PhD, the student will learn different techniques and methods from various disciplines such as cell and molecular biology, bioinformatics, genetics and physiology. More importantly, the student will learn to generate relevant hypotheses in the field of ageing and test them using lifespan experiments taking advantage of the short lifespan of fruit flies.


  1. Mitochondrial ROS Produced via Reverse Electron Transport Extend Animal Lifespan. Scialò F, Sriram A, Fernández-Ayala D, Gubina N, Lõhmus M, Nelson G, Logan A, Cooper HM, Navas P, Enríquez JA, Murphy MP, Sanz A. Cell Metab. 2016 Apr 12;23(4):725-34. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2016.03.009.
  2. Mitochondrial complex I derived ROS regulate stress adaptation in Drosophila melanogaster. Scialò F, Sriram A, Stefanatos R, Spriggs RV, Loh SHY, Martins LM, Sanz A. Redox Biol. 2020 May;32:101450. doi: 10.1016/j.redox.2020.101450.
  3. ROS signalling requires uninterrupted electron flow and is lost during ageing in flies Graham C, Stefanatos R, Yek AEH, Spriggs RV, Loh SHY, Huerta-Uribe A, Zhang T, Martins LM, Maddocks ODK, Scialo F, Sanz A
  4. bioRxiv 2021.08.18.456795; doi:



Transgenerational consequences of exposure to chemical mixtures on reproductive and metabolic health


Project description

Human healthcare faces a number of immediate, significant and interlinked challenges pertaining to dramatic declines in metabolic and reproductive health. Specifically, an increase in metabolic disease, including type 2 diabetes (T2D), Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and obesity, collectively referred to as metabolic syndrome (MetS), has occurred in parallel with a global decline in fertility and increased incidences of male and female reproductive dysfunction. Although the etiologies of these conditions are complex, there is increasing evidence that they are associated with exposure to environmental factors, most notably the complex mixture of chemicals that surround us as a result of anthropogenic activity.

Many of these environmental chemicals (ECs) are non-biodegradable and exhibit both bioaccumulation and biomagnification, and it is widely accepted that such ECs pose a “significant global public health concern”. ECs can disrupt physiological processes through modification of endocrine signalling or direct actions on underlying biological processes. Developmental exposure to ECs has already been shown to be associated with reproductive disorders and more recently MetS and/or obesity. While exposure could therefore pose a direct threat, there is also growing evidence that the health issues that we face today could be due to epigenetic effects of mixed chemical exposure experienced by previous generations.

The effects of chronic exposure to a complex mixture of chemicals such as that which exists within our environment is poorly understood. Much of the existing research has focused on acute pharmacological exposure, to single chemicals, in altricial animal models, often only in a single sex. We have developed a unique, more appropriate model, with which to investigate the effects of in utero exposure to a real-life mixture of chemicals in longer lived outbred mammals, the biosolids exposed sheep model. Biosolids are derived from the solid waste generated in wastewater treatment plants therefore contains a chemical load that reflects the normal human exposome. Biosolids are routinely used as an agricultural fertilizer and when animals are grazed on biosolids treated pasture, they are exposed to our exposome.

We have already shown that when pregnant sheep are grazed on biosolids treated pasture their offspring show alterations in thyroid, liver and gonadal function, bone development and behaviour. Using this model, this project will contribute to investigation of the longitudinal effects of exposure to a chemical mixture during in utero development, on the reproductive and metabolic health of F1, F2 and F3 offspring. The project will use a combination of in vivo animal based interventional and observational studies e.g. timing of puberty, glucose tolerance tests and ex vivo investigation of physiological function using immunohistochemical and molecular biological approaches.


  1. C.S. Elcombe, A. Monteiro, M. Ghasemzadeh-Hasankolaei, N.P. Evans, M. Bellingham (2021) Morphological and transcriptomic alterations in neonatal lamb testes following developmental exposure to low-level environmental chemical mixture. EnvironToxicol Pharmacol 86:103670. doi: 10.1016/j.etap.2021.103670.
  2. M. Bellingham, P.A. Fowler, ES. Macdonald S.M. Rhind, C. Cotinot, B. Mandon-Pepin, R.M. Sharpe and N.P. Evans (2016). Timing of maternal exposure and fetal sex determine the effects of low-level chemical mixture exposure on the fetal neuroendocrine system in sheep. J. Neuroendocrinology. 28(12). doi: 10.1111/jne.12444.
  3. Evans NP, Bellingham M, Sharpe RM, Cotinot C, Rhind SM, Kyle C, Erhard H, Hombach-Klonisch S, Lind PM, Fowler PA. 2014 Does grazing on biosolids treated pasture pose a pathophysiological risk associated with increased exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds? J Animal Sci. 92: 3185-3198.



A novel tool to assess quality of life and aid ethical decision making in kennelled dogs


Project summary

The project will develop a novel instrument for routine use in rescue kennels to provide a valid and reliable measure of quality of life (QOL) of kennelled dogs on a continuum from poor to good. The student will then embed the instrument into an ethical decision-making tool which will support rescue centre staff to make important decisions on behalf of the dogs in their care. This work will have positive impacts on all kennelled dogs as well as on rescue centre staff caring for them, and will establish a development process that can be used for other captive species.

Aims & objectives

The aim of this PhD project is to develop methods to objectively assess the quality of life (QOL) of dogs in a shelter environment. The specific objectives are:

  1. To work with a national animal rescue organisation to raise awareness of current concepts of animal QOL and potential approaches to ethical decision-making, to ensure buy in from end users
  2. To develop a novel prototype digital instrument to measure rapidly and reliably the QOL of dogs in a shelter environment (in light of specific needs identified by the rescue organisation) and to embed that instrument in an ethical decision-making tool for the purposes of: Identifying the need for veterinary or environmental intervention, Evaluating the effectiveness of veterinary or environmental intervention, Aiding end of life decision making.
  3. To test the validity, reliability and practicability of the instrument and decision-making tool in shelter environments.


On behalf of the animals in their care, rescue centre staff make daily decisions that can be demanding and stressful, including decisions about euthanasia. These decisions must take account of negative and positive impacts of treatment and other factors impacting upon animal QOL such as short- and long-term welfare impacts of kennelled environments, and ethical conceptions of quantity vs quality of life, as well as resource implications. For such complex ethical decision making to be robust and transparent, a valid, reliable and practicable measure of QOL for kennelled dogs, integrated into a similarly robust and practicable decision-making tool, is essential.

Efforts to develop such a QOL measure have so far been unsuccessful failing to focus sufficiently upon the affective state of the individual which is at the heart of animal welfare, and to apply best practice in instrument development established in related fields. The construct of animal QOL has been defined as ‘the subjective and dynamic evaluation by the individual of its circumstances (internal and external) and the extent to which these meet its expectations (that may be innate or learned and that may or may not include anticipation of future events), which results in, or includes, an affective (emotional) response to those circumstances (the evaluation may be a conscious or unconscious process, with a complexity appropriate to the cognitive capacity of the individual.

Despite the intangible and subjective nature of animal (and human) QOL, there are well-established psychometric approaches to the development of instruments to measure it. Defined steps lead to the creation of a structured questionnaire instrument with formal scoring mechanism, based on an appropriate scaling model, which can be tested to establish its validity and reliability for the intended purpose(s).

Validity is the most fundamental quality in any measurement instrument. The most basic kind of validity is ‘content validity’, a measure of the extent to which an instrument’s items appear to be relevant and adequate for its purpose, is ensured by the method of item generation, selection and scaling and can be evaluated by expert groups. Instruments must also have ‘construct validity’ which is established through hypothesis testing, based on predictions about how the instrument will perform with particular groups or in particular circumstances.

The reliability of an instrument is the extent to which it performs consistently whether applied to the same unchanging subject at different times, or at the same time by different observers. Reliability is essential for validity, and is also determined during instrument development. Our proposed psychometric approach to instrument development has previously been applied by Dr Wiseman-Orr to measure companion animal health-related QOL and farm animal QOL. That methodology will be refined to develop a novel, validated digital instrument to measure, routinely, the generic QOL of kennelled dogs.

Following best practice, the instrument will be developed from observations reported at first hand by those rescue centre staff who will use the new instrument, with contributions from other key informants such as veterinary surgeons and others working in rescue centres.

The generated measurements of QOL will then be integrated into a novel ethical decision-making tool designed for use in rescue kennels, utilising Dr McKeegan’s expertise in veterinary ethics which has already led to the development of ethical reasoning tools for vets8. Dr Hill will co-supervise the project, providing key support in behavioural assays and statistical analysis.

Importance and impact of the work

This project, carried out in close collaboration with a national animal rescue organisation, will develop a novel QOL instrument for use in rescue kennels, which will be used routinely and non-invasively to validly and reliably measure QOL, improving dog welfare by facilitating the robust evaluation of the effectiveness of interventions (eg. enrichment).

The project will go further by embedding that instrument into an ethical decision-making tool which will support rescue centre staff to justify the daily decisions that they make on behalf of the dogs in their care. This work will have positive impacts on animal welfare and on decision-makers for whom the stress of making difficult ethical decisions is well recognised. As such, the project is guaranteed to be impactful through our end-user collaboration and we expect the work to be applicable to the wider dog shelter community.

In addition, the project will develop relevant training and raise ethical awareness for centre staff, and establish a development process that will facilitate the development of similar tools for other animal species. Findings will be disseminated through peer-reviewed journal articles and conference presentations.


  1. Rogelberg SG, DiGiacomo N, Reeve CL, Spitzmuller C, Clark OL, Teeter L, Walker AG, Carter NT & Starling PG (2007) What shelters can do about euthanasia-related stress: an examination of recommendations from those on the front line. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 10(4): 331 347
  2. Kiddie JL & Collins LM (2014) Development and validation of a quality of life assessment tool for use in kennelled dogs (Canis familiaris). Applied Animal Behaviour Science 158: 57-68
  3. Polgar Z, Blackwell EJ & Rooney NJ (2019) Assessing the welfare of kennelled dogs - A review of animal-based measures. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 213: 1-13
  4. Streiner G, Norman GR & Cairney J (2015) Health Measurement Scales: a practical guide to their development and use. 5th Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  5. Wiseman-Orr ML, Scott EM, Reid J and Nolan AM (2006) Validation of a structured questionnaire as an instrument to measure chronic pain in dogs on the basis of effects on health-related quality of life. American Journal of Veterinary Research 67(11): 1826-1836
  6. Davies V, Reid J, Wiseman-Orr ML, Scott M (2019) Optimising outputs from a validated online instrument to measure health-related quality of life (HRQL) in dogs PLOS ONE 14(9): e0221869
  7. Wiseman-Orr ML, Scott EM, Nolan AM (2011) Development and testing of a novel instrument to measure health-related quality of life (HRQL) of farmed pigs and promote welfare enhancement (Part 1) Animal Welfare 20(4): 535-548
  8. Yeates J and McKeegan DEF (2019). Ten steps for resolving ethical dilemmas in veterinary practice. In Practice 41: 130-133.

Funding notes

Funds will be needed to cover software development, which may be met by collaboration with a national animal rescue organisation.




Individual research projects are tailored around the expertise of principal investigators within our Schools. A variety of approaches are used, including experiments in field and laboratory conditions, epidemiology, mathematical, computational and statistical modelling, bioinformatics, physiology, molecular biology, parasitology, immunology and polyomics (genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics). Basic and applied science projects are available for study, as are field-based projects with research programs underway in both the UK and overseas.

Specific areas of interest include:

  • interplay between physiology, behaviour and life history
  • wild immunology
  • avian reproduction
  • mammalian reproductive physiology and neuroendocrinology
  • poultry science
  • environmental factors, chemical exposure and reproductive function
  • maternal smoking and development
  • the effect of environmental stressors on ageing and longevity
  • evaluating stress in companion animals
  • organic production systems and animal welfare
  • physiology, ecology and migration of birds
  • annual and daily rhythms of wild organisms
  • biological clocks and response to environmental change
  • neuroendocrinology and steroid biochemistry
  • livestock and wildlife management
  • behavioural ecology, evolutionary ecology, life history strategies and environmental change
  • thermal biology of temperature regulation and cold adaptation in marine mammals and birds.
  • veterinary ethics and animal welfare assessment
  • welfare and wildlife conservation
  • ethics and welfare of wildlife interventions
  • behavioural, physiological and ecological impacts on ageing
  • maternal and transgenerational effects
  • causes and consequences of variation in metabolic rate, mitochondrial functioning and oxidative stressGenetic and environmental interventions that extend healthspan and lifespan: dietary restriction, insulin/IGF1, mTOR
  • resource allocation trade-offs
  • mechanisms of ageing in animals: mitochondria, oxidative stress,proteostasis, telomere biology, stem cell function

Ageing affects almost all species, but the rate at which it occurs varies considerably among and within species. People are now living much longer than previous generations, with ageing being the major risk factor for many diseases. This has given rise to the concept of not only our ‘life span’ but also our ‘health span’ which is the length of a disease free life. We know that the environment we live in can influence how we age. It is now increasingly recognised that the ageing process and its' associated disease risk can be ‘set up’ or programmed by events experienced before we are born, ‘prenatal programming’, or during postnatal development i.e. pre and peripubertal as well as in adult life. Consequently, understanding why we age, how we age, the factors responsible for variation in ageing and longevity, and the impact ageing has on health and wellbeing is a major challenge in science today.

We are uniquely placed to employ a highly integrative, comparative and collaborative approach for the study of ageing, health and animal welfare. We study ageing at the molecular, cellular and organism level, in the field and in the laboratory, and combine mechanistic, functional and applied perspectives. We currently use a range of interventions and techniques to examine key issues in both laboratory and field settings. Using these approaches we are interested in a range of factors (e.g. stress, pollution, chronobiology, diet, growth pattern, metabolism, reproduction, epidemiology, immunity), how they are affected by ageing and their impact on human and animal health.

Given the rapidly expanding human population, a second major societal challenge is the requirement to produce sufficient safe, nutritious, affordable and sustainable foodstuffs. We are particularly interested in ways to sustain efficient animal production in a manner which protects animal health and welfare, while mitigating against pests and disease and reducing environmental impact. We have expertise in the development and application of behavioural, physiological and neurophysiological approaches to welfare assessment in managed and wild animals.

Health of managed and wild animals, as well as of humans, is also at risk from processes and products that arise during food production, for example endocrine disruptors and animal and human digestive end products. We investigate effects of such substances and of various other pollutants and stressors in projects at the intersection of animal biology and veterinary medicine.

To achieve these overall aims, this research theme actively collaborates with others in this university (e.g. biomedics, clinicians, veterinarians, Glasgow Polyomics facility) and elsewhere, including Government agencies (e.g. DEFRA), external institutes (e.g. The James Hutton Institute, Moredun Research Institute) and commercial partners.

Study options


  • Duration: 3/4 years full-time; 5 years part-time

Individual research projects are tailored around the expertise of principal investigators.

Integrated PhD programmes (5 years)

Our Integrated PhD allows you to combine masters level teaching with your chosen research direction in a 1+3+1 format. 

International students with MSc and PhD scholarships/funding do not have to apply for 2 visas or exit and re-enter the country between programmes. International and UK/EU students may apply.

Year 1

Taught masters level modules are taken alongside students on our masters programmes. Our research-led teaching supports you to fine tune your research ideas and discuss these with potential PhD supervisors. You will gain a valuable introduction to academic topics, research methods, laboratory skills and the critical evaluation of research data. Your grades must meet our requirements in order to gain entry on to a PhD research programme. If not, you will receive the masters degree only.

Years 2, 3 and 4

PhD programme with research/lab work, completing an examinable piece of independent research in year 4.

Year 5

Thesis write up.

MSc (Research)

  • Duration: 1 year full-time; 2 years part-time

Entry requirements

A 2.1 Honours degree or equivalent.

English language requirements

For applicants whose first language is not English, the University sets a minimum English Language proficiency level.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic module (not General Training)

  • 6.5 with no subtests under 6.0
  • Tests must have been taken within 2 years 5 months of start date. Applicants must meet the overall and subtest requirements using a single test.

Common equivalent English language qualifications accepted for entry to this programme:

TOEFL (ibt, my best or athome)

  • 79; with Reading 13; Listening 12; Speaking 18;Writing 21
  • Tests must have been taken within 2 years 5 months of start date. Applicants must meet the overall and subtest requirements , this includes TOEFL mybest.

Pearsons PTE Academic

  • 59 with minimum 59 in all subtests
  • Tests must have been taken within 2 years 5 months of start date. Applicants must meet the overall and subtest requirements using a single test.

Cambridge Proficiency in English (CPE) and Cambridge Advanced English (CAE)

  • 176 overall, no subtest less than 169
  • Tests must have been taken within 2 years 5 months of start date. Applicants must meet the overall and subtest requirements using a single test.

Oxford English Test

  • Oxford ELLT 7
  • R&L: OIDI level no less than 6 with Reading: 21-24 Listening: 15-17
  • W&S: OIDI level no less than 6

Trinity College Tests

Integrated Skills in English II & III & IV: ISEII Distinction with Distinction in all sub-tests.

University of Glasgow Pre-sessional courses

Tests are accepted for 2 years following date of successful completion.

Alternatives to English Language qualification

  • Degree from majority-English speaking country (as defined by the UKVI including Canada if taught in English)
    • students must have studied for a minimum of 2 years at Undergraduate level, or 9 months at Master's level, and must have complete their degree in that majority-English speaking country and within the last 6 years
  • Undergraduate 2+2 degree from majority-English speaking country (as defined by the UKVI including Canada if taught in English)
    • students must have completed their final two years study in that majority-English speaking country and within the last 6 years

For international students, the Home Office has confirmed that the University can choose to use these tests to make its own assessment of English language ability for visa applications to degree level programmes. The University is also able to accept UKVI approved Secure English Language Tests (SELT) but we do not require a specific UKVI SELT for degree level programmes. We therefore still accept any of the English tests listed for admission to this programme.

Pre-sessional courses

The University of Glasgow accepts evidence of the required language level from the English for Academic Study Unit Pre-sessional courses. We also consider other BALEAP accredited pre-sessional courses:

Fees and funding



  • UK: To be confirmed by UKRI [23/24 fee was £4,712]
  • International & EU: £30,240

Prices are based on the annual fee for full-time study. Fees for part-time study are half the full-time fee.

Irish nationals who are living in the Common Travel Area of the UK, EU nationals with settled or pre-settled status, and Internationals with Indefinite Leave to remain status can also qualify for home fee status.

Alumni discount

We offer a 20% discount to our alumni on all Postgraduate Research and full Postgraduate Taught Masters programmes. This includes University of Glasgow graduates and those who have completed Junior Year Abroad, Exchange programme or International Summer School with us. The discount is applied at registration for students who are not in receipt of another discount or scholarship funded by the University. No additional application is required.

Possible additional fees

  • Re-submission by a research student £540
  • Submission for a higher degree by published work £1,355
  • Submission of thesis after deadline lapsed £350
  • Submission by staff in receipt of staff scholarship £790

Depending on the nature of the research project, some students will be expected to pay a bench fee (also known as research support costs) to cover additional costs. The exact amount will be provided in the offer letter.


The iPhD  is not supported by University of Glasgow Scholarship/Funding



We have excellent facilities for lab, field and farm-based research. This includes aquaria, aviaries, insectaries and labs for conducting analyses in:

  • bioinformatics
  • cellular physiology
  • developmental biology
  • evolutionary biology
  • endocrinology
  • molecular ecology
  • physiological ecology

We also have:

  • a state of the art field research centre on Loch Lomond (SCENE)
  • a university farm (Cochno) and research centre north of Glasgow
  • excellent computing facilities
  • a vibrant and supportive community of researchers
  • access to additional specialist facilities through our wide network of collaborators in NGOs, communities, government agencies and research institutes worldwide

Graduate School

The College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences Graduate School provides a vibrant, supportive and stimulating environment for all our postgraduate students. We aim to provide excellent support for our postgraduates through dedicated postgraduate convenors, highly trained supervisors and pastoral support for each student.
Our overarching aim is to provide a research training environment that includes:

  • provision of excellent facilities and cutting edge techniques
  • training in essential research and generic skills
  • excellence in supervision and mentoring
  • interactive discussion groups and seminars
  • an atmosphere that fosters critical cultural policy and research analysis
  • synergy between research groups and areas
  • extensive multidisciplinary and collaborative research
  • extensive external collaborations both within and beyond the UK 
  • a robust generic skills programme including opportunities in social and commercial training

Our excellent facilities and dedicated staff will equip you with training complementary to a range of career options, and you can tailor your study pathway to the precise aspects that suit your objectives. 

How to apply

Identify potential supervisors

All Postgraduate Research Students are allocated a supervisor* who will act as the main source of academic support and research mentoring. You may want to identify a potential supervisor and contact them to discuss your research proposal before you apply. Please note, even if you have spoken to an academic staff member about your proposal you still need to submit an online application form.

You can find relevant academic staff members with our staff research interests search.

*iPhD applicants do not need to contact a supervisor, as you will start your programme by choosing a masters from our Taught degree programmes A-Z [do not apply directly to a masters].

Gather your documents

Before applying please make sure you gather the following supporting documentation:

  1. Final or current degree transcripts including grades (and an official translation, if needed) – scanned copy in colour of the original document.
  2. Degree certificates (and an official translation, if needed): scanned copy in colour of the original document
  3. Two references on headed paper and signed by the referee. One must be academic, the other can be academic or professional [except iPhD applicants, where only one academic or professional reference is required]. References may be uploaded as part of the application form or you may enter your referees contact details on the application form. We will then email your referee and notify you when we receive the reference.  We can also accept confidential references direct to, from the referee’s university or business email account.
  4. Research proposal, CV, samples of written work as per requirements for each subject area. iPhD applicants do not need to submit any of these as you will start your programme by choosing a masters.
  5. Completed the College of MVLS Postgraduate Research Cover Letter

Notes for iPhD applicants

  • add 'I wish to study the MSc in (chosen subject) as the masters taught component of the iPhD' in the research proposal box
  • write 'n/a' for the supervisor name
Apply now

Contact us

Before you apply

PhD/MSc/MD: email

iPhD: email

After you have submitted your application

PhD/MSc/MD/iPhD: contact our Admissions team

Any references may be submitted by email to: