Shaping healthy urban environments: from the microbiome to the metropolis


An opportunity to apply for a funded full-time PhD in the College of Health and Social Sciences, UWE Bristol.  The studentship will be funded by UWE Bristol.

Ref  2425-OCT-HSS01

The expected start date of this studentship is Tuesday 01 October 2024

The closing date for applications is Friday 24 May 2024.

Studentship details

Urban environments constitute complex ecosystems, from microscopic organisms to complex social networks, with the capacity to powerfully influence the trajectory of human health. In the face of an exponential rise in non-communicable diseases (NCDs), now accounting for 80% of years lived with disability globally (WHO, 2020), rapid urbanisation poses both challenge and opportunity in the context of human and environmental health.  

This PhD will take a highly interdisciplinary, systems approach to the prevailing increase in non-communicable diseases (NCDs), working across the fields of psychology, architecture, anthropology, biology, ecology, and computational neuroscience. As part of this doctorate, novel environmental metrics will be generated from existing, large-scale datasets to advance an index of urban health; computational models will be developed to help predict the trajectories of health given particular conditions; in addition, primary research will be undertaken using anthropological methods of inquiry to better understand the lived experiences of illness in urban environments.

Principal research question: to what extent do interactions with different forms of biodiverse built environments shape long-term health outcomes (NCDs)?

Project Aims and Objectives 

  1. To establish a robust measure of biodiversity in urban settings across micro, meso, and macro scales of inquiry.
  2. To examine the relationship between different forms of biodiverse environments, inflammatory markers and symptoms of non-communicable diseases in a large cohort study (ALSPAC, Bristol).
  3. To investigate the lived, embodied experience of ill health in relation to the biodiversity of public, shared, and private spaces. 

For an informal discussion about the studentship, please email the Director of Studies, Dr Abby Tabor at or Dr Heather Rumble at or Professor Danni Sinnett at


The studentship is available from 01 October 2024 for a period of three years, subject to satisfactory progress and includes a tax exempt stipend, which is currently £18,622 (2023/24) per annum. 

In addition, full-time tuition fees will be covered for up to three years (Home). 


Applicants must have a higher-class undergraduate degree and preferentially a Masters in psychology, public health, neuroscience, ecology or related discipline (given the interdisciplinary nature of this PhD, we are open to applications from diverse backgrounds that can be oriented around system health). 

The studentship is available both for UK and overseas applicants.

A recognised English language qualification is required.

How to apply

Please submit your application online. When prompted use the reference number 2425-OCT-HSS01 .

Supporting documentation: You will need to upload your research proposal, all your degree certificates and transcripts and your proof of English language proficiency as attachments to your application, so please have these available when you complete the application form.

References: You will need to provide details of two referees as part of your application. At least one referee must be an academic referee from the institution that conferred your highest degree. Your referee will be asked for a reference at the time you submit your application, so please ensure that your nominated referees are willing and able to provide references within 14 days of your application being submitted.

Closing date

The closing date for applications is Friday 24 May 2024.

Further information

It is expected that interviews will take place on the week commencing 10 June 2024. If you have not heard from us by the end of July 2024, we thank you for your application but on this occasion you have not been successful.

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