Nutrition Innovation Centre for Food & Health - NICHE - Research

Ulster University - Coleraine

Nutrition Innovation Centre for Food & Health - NICHE - Research

Based in Northern Ireland at the Coleraine Campus of Ulster University, NICHE performs research to investigate the role of food and nutrition in the promotion of better health and well-being throughout the lifecycle, from pregnancy through to older age. We are the largest nutrition research group in Ireland and one of the largest in the UK and Europe, with 100 members including academic, research, technical and business support staff, together with PhD researchers, masters research students and undergraduate student interns.

Our mission in NICHE is the achievement of global excellence in nutrition research and education. Our nutrition research activities are aimed across the lifespan and with a particular focus on early life on one hand, and ageing on the other. Investigating nutrition in health and disease, and the underlying mechanisms involved, our overall aim is to promote better health and to help prevent nutrition-related disease, including, obesity and related metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, autoimmunity, diseases of the gut, cognitive dysfunction and mental health conditions.

We are proud to have a world-leading research environment, as evidenced by our performance in UK-wide external assessments of university research, the Research Excellence Framework (REF), achieving 100% (4*) ratings in 2014, and again in the 2021 assessment. Our research is recognised, not only for outputs of world leading quality, but also credited with having significant global translation, impacting positively on the health and wellbeing of the public and patient groups, influencing health professionals, and driving innovation in the food industry. NICHE has attracted research income for nutrition research of over £50 million in the past 25 years from national and international funding bodies.

Our nutrition and health studies span throughout the lifecycle, from pre-conception and pregnancy, through childhood and adolescents, to young, middle- and older adulthood, often conducted in collaboration with other centres of excellence throughout Ireland, the UK, Europe, North America and beyond. Our research involves collaboration with clinicians, academics and businesses in the health and food sectors, contributing to the development and launch of innovative health solutions, novel ingredients, and therapeutics. In addition to our high-spec capabilities, such as human genome sequencing, flow-cytometry and tissue culture, the close proximity of our research centre to hospitals and health centres permits direct access to NHS diagnostic laboratories, clinical staff, and expertise in research governance and healthcare economics.

NICHE is located on two floors of the Centre for Molecular Biosciences (CMB) building at the Coleraine campus of Ulster. The infrastructure provides expertise and state-of-art facilities for conducting nutritional intervention trials on human volunteers. NICHE offers a wide range of analytical equipment for nutritional and metabolic assessment, including an exercise suite with BodPod (for body composition analysis), ViScan (for abdominal body fat analysis), ergometer, treadmill, ergospirometer (to determine metabolic energy expenditure and cardiovascular and respiratory function at rest or during exercise), accelerometers (to assess activity and energy expenditure levels), two bone densitometers (to assess bone mineral density and body composition), access to nutritional intake analysis software, as well as equipment for anthropometry and 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring. The unit also encompasses phlebotomy rooms, a gastrointestinal laboratory, a Category II laboratory for blood sampling and state-of art instrumentation for relevant nutrient biomarker analysis.

Our NICHE resources include a state-of-the-art Human Intervention Studies Unit (HISU), which houses cutting-edge equipment and specialised facilities for conducting highly controlled human studies. The unit includes a residential facility with 10 ensuite bedrooms, a metabolic kitchen, as well as phlebotomy and clinic rooms for sample collection, enabling metabolic and feeding studies, requiring a strict control of the study environment, to be conducted. Our bespoke Nutrition and Vascular Studies Unit enables significant strengths and capability in vascular health research, offering significant potential to cater for the high levels of demand for clinical trials in this area. The emphasis on diet and chronic diseases of ageing led to the establishment of the Centre of Excellence in Nutrition and Ageing (CENA) within NICHE.

Of note, NICHE has a dedicated Clinical Trials Manager who oversees all human studies being conducted at the Centre and provides support on practical, ethical and legislative issues associated with human trials. The Centre operates under a comprehensive Quality Management System (QMS), based on Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) and Good Clinical Practice (GCP), and is fully aligned with University and UK policy and practice in relation to all aspects of research ethics and governance.

Entry requirements

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study. We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master’s Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.

Application dates

All applications are made online and applicants are advised to discuss their application prior to submission with relevant staff in order to develop an appropriate research proposal (see "Application Date Weblink").


€1995. To secure your place on the course the full fee is required. All fees must be paid in full before the course begins. Please note, the full course fees are inclusive of all course materials and certification costs.

Post Course Info

Careers and opportunities
PhD graduates are recognised by employers to hold valuable transferrable skills, as the nature of the degree trains candidates in creativity, critical inquiry, problem solving, negotiation skills, professionalism and confidence.

The most recent Ulster survey of PhD graduates found that 92% had secured employment within the first year since graduation (HESA Destination of Leavers Survey 2015), and while two thirds end up in the Higher Education or Research sectors, the range of skills acquired equips the remainder for employment in a wide range of contexts.

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  • Qualifications

    Degree - Doctoral at UK Level 8

  • Attendance type

    Full time,Daytime

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