Understanding the structure and function of resistant starch in glycaemia (FoodBioSystems DTP)

The FoodBioSystems Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) brings together six university partners: University of Reading, Cranfield University, University of Surrey, Queen’s University Belfast, Aberystwyth University, and Brunel University London.

The Partnership’s vision is to develop the next generation of bioscientists with in-depth knowledge and technical expertise of food systems and biological processes across the Agri-Food system from pre-farm to post-fork. They will become the urgently needed experts - able to transform the food value chain and address challenges of sustainability, efficacy, authenticity and safety in food production systems whilst delivering better nutrition and concomitant health benefits for society.

Start date

1 October 2021


4 years

Application deadline

Funding source

BBSRC FoodBiosystems Doctoral Training Partnership

Funding information

Funding is for the full 48 months of the studentship with a stipend of £15,609 per annum with annual increases for inflation.

Studentship fees are covered for UK /EU citizens only. Up to 30 per cent of the studentships may be awarded to international students. For international FoodBioSystems DTP studentships based at the University of Surrey, the University will be covering the difference in the UK/Republic of Ireland fees and International Fees for international UKRI funded students.

Full eligibility, funding and application details can be found on the FoodBioSystems DTP page.

This research project is one of a number of projects at this institution. It is in competition for funding with one or more of these projects. Usually the project which receives the best applicant will be awarded the funding.


Come and join an enthusiastic multidisciplinary team working at the forefront of chemistry, food science and molecular modelling. Research, that was featured on the BBC, shows that heating pasta and adding olive oil, then chilling and reheating produced the lowest blood glucose levels compared to fresh or chilled pasta meals1,2 . We think this is due to the formation of novel resistant starches (specifically amylose-lipid complexes) which can limit the rise in blood glucose (glycaemia) after a meal, but this has not yet been proven3 .

In your PhD, you will be characterising and investigating the formation of amylose-lipid complexes from starch in the pasta and fatty acids in the olive oil.

You will produce amylose-lipid complexes in the lab and then characterize them using a combination of analytical techniques and an in vitro model of digestion, 4 and quantify them with differential scanning calorimetry, X-ray diffraction, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, complexing index and total resistant starch assays. This combination of experiments has not been done before.

An important part of the project involves molecular modelling of complex formation with different fatty acids and the interactions of the complexes with the digestive enzyme, alpha-amylase, to investigate how and why their structure may be responsible for them being resistant to digestion in the small intestine.

Finally, having produced foods with increased content of amylose-lipid complexes, sensory analysis will be carried out to determine if the sensory characteristics are adversely affected.

This sounds like a lot, but you will be supervised by international experts in their field who will train you in all the techniques so that when you graduate you will have a battery of cutting-edge techniques (not to mention research and critical thinking skills) to offer future employers in a wide range of disciplines.

The research is important because it supports the “Healthy Ageing Grand Challenge” of the UK Industrial Strategy, and the policy on “Tackling obesity: empowering adults and children to live healthier lives”.

Training in all the techniques required will be provided at the University of Surrey or the University of Reading as appropriate. In addition, you will be encouraged to take courses accredited by the Institute of Food Science and Technology in sensory science (which could lead to Registered Sensory Scientist status), to engage with a career mentoring scheme, and will have the opportunity to demonstrate in laboratory practicals following training in learning and teaching from the Surrey Institute of Education (which may be an additional source of funds).

The DTP is currently advertising 52 projects. From these, it is expected 26 studentships will be awarded to the strongest application to start their studies in October 2021.

Related links

FoodBioSystems DTP website

Eligibility criteria

We expect successful applicant to hold a BSc degree (with at least UK 2:1 honours, or equivalent) or an MSc degree with distinction in a discipline relevant to the specific project.

This project would be suitable for students with a minimum of a 2:1 degree in chemistry, food science/technology, biology, biochemistry, nutrition, or a closely related subject. Significant laboratory experience is desirable. Expertise in all aspects in not required/expected as full training will be given. Students should be keen to be involved in a multidisciplinary project which takes research from the bench/model to real-world applications.

This studentship is available for UK and international students.

IELTS requirements: The standard requirement is for a score of 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category, in an IELTLS Academic test taken in the last 2 years. 

How to apply

To apply, please use the FoodBiosystems online application system. References requirements set out in the online application system.

Successful applicants for the Surrey-based studentships will subsequently be required to complete the University of Surrey online postgraduate researcher application.

Interviews will be conducted remotely over Zoom.

Application deadline

Contact details

Terri Grassby
22 AY 03
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 686405
E-mail: t.grassby@surrey.ac.uk

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