Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease activated by dietary gluten affecting between 1 and 3% of individuals globally. The celiac immune response occurs due to genetic and poorly defined environmental factors. The rate of coeliac disease in Canterbury (New Zealand) is 1/82. This is one of the highest rates globally, making our local population particularly interesting to study the effect of environmental factors such as the microbiome.

This PhD will define the microbiome of children with celiac disease and investigate how their microbiome impacts the digestion of gluten. You will be working closely with clinicians to obtain new patient samples and have access to a fluid library from children with and without celiac disease. Research success will improve the diagnosis, management and identify risk factors for coeliac disease, benefitting children, their families and clinicians by providing quantitative disease metrics and fundamental knowledge on disease activation.

Student profile

You must hold a BSc (Hons) or MSc in a related discipline (e.g. Biological Sciences, Microbiology, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Bioinformatics), achieving highly in the subject. It is highly desirable to have experience and/or motivation to learn microbiome analysis and protein mass spectrometry. The ideal candidate is enthusiastic and self-motivated with a can-do attitude.

This project will suit a student who can learn quickly and has the confidence to undertake independent lab-based research. As the project is interdisciplinary, the ideal candidate has hands-on experience with biochemical and molecular biological methods and the motivation to work in a collaborative high-paced research environment.

The team 

The supervision team is interdisciplinary and spans multiple Universities. Your advisory team will include Dr Olivia Ogilvie (University of Canterbury), Prof. Ren Dobson (University of Canterbury), Dr Laura Domigan (University of Auckland) and Prof. Andrew Day (University of Otago). This PhD project is funded by the Health Research Council. 

Skills and opportunities, you will gain

You will develop interdisciplinary technical skills, including liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC-MS), gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS), qPCR, ELISA, RNA-sequencing and bacterial culture and isolation. The PhD program offers opportunities to travel for research purposes, and the supervision team promotes the attendance and presentation of student research at relevant conferences.

You will be affiliated with the Riddet Institute, a national Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE) that undertakes world-class research in food and nutritional sciences. Riddet hosts student conferences and events throughout the year, including opportunities to develop soft skills and undertake industry placements. You will also be affiliated with The Biomolecular Interaction Centre (BIC), a multi-disciplinary research centre dedicated to studying molecular interactions critical to biological function. Through BIC, you will access a network of world-leading investigators and have conference attendance opportunities. 


The scholarship is funded via The Health Research Council and provides a non-taxed stipend between NZ$30,000-35,000 per annum for three years, plus fees. This will cover your cost-of-living of Canterbury. 

Start date

1st November 2022 (or before)

How to apply

Send your CV and a cover letter that includes a description of your research experience and motivations to undertake a PhD to olivia.ogilvie@canterbury.ac.nz. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis starting from July 15, 2022.

The University of Canterburyis placedin the top 1% of universities worldwide and was the first in New Zealand to receive a five-star rating from QS World University Rankings. UC delivers creative and innovative research for the benefit of both local and global communities. Our academic leaders are courageous, forward-thinking and generous with their knowledge.

They explore their fields of expertise with integrity and vigour, encourage conversations and challenges, and share their discoveries with the intent of creating better outcomes for everyone. The University of Canterbury is situated in the South Island of Aotearoa New Zealand, close to beaches and mountains. Canterbury is an ideal location for those who love the outdoors and city life. 

Leave a Reply