Unlocking pulse protein: A new look at mechanisms that limit bioaccessibility


Inadequate protein nutrition is a major health concern to children and the institutionalised elderly. Although animal proteins are the best source of protein nutrition, 76% of the global population currently rely on plant protein. Alternative proteins that can act as sustainable substitutes for animal-sources are currently of great interest. However, the quality and bioavailability of amino acids from protein is a critical consideration.

You will join a research group that is studying the relationship between processing, food structure and nutrient bioavailability in the human gut. The group’s current activities span from mechanistic laboratory research to human intervention studies and is highly inter-disciplinary. We are pioneering new approaches to optimise the nutritional value of pulses (chickpeas, beans, lentils etc.) and other plant-based foods, and work closely with the food industry to translate our research. This environment provides for training in various biochemical and physical laboratory techniques, and there are many opportunities for participation in international conferences, meetings or training schools, and to write manuscripts for publication in high quality journals.

The focus of the PhD project is to develop new understanding of the mechanisms controlling bioaccessibility of protein from pulses. The latest biochemical models of the human gut will be used in combination with analytical techniques (LC-MS, FTIR, confocal microscopy etc.) to study factors influencing protein digestion. There are further opportunities to undertake human studies at the QI Clinical Research Facility and/or to make use of genetic resources through collaboration with the Domoney Group at the John Innes Centre.

We seek a proactive and committed student who is interested in nutritional science with a degree in biochemistry or a similar subject. Whilst some knowledge of protein biochemistry is highly desirable, a scientific mindset and a willingness to learn and engage in inter-disciplinary research is most essential. Full training will be provided.