We are actively looking for highly motivated researchers to join our international, interdisciplinary, and dynamic team.

Openings may be available for

- Master students

- PhD students

- Postdoctoral fellows

- Software engineers

Applications can be sent directly to Prof. Ines Thiele: ines.thiele(at)nuigalway.ie and should contain a detailed CV and a cover letter detailing the researcher's interest in our research and for joining our research group.

Funded PhD position – Marie Sklodowska-Curie ITN Fellowship:

Gut-Brain-axis: Targets for improvement of cognition in the elderly (SmartAge)

Ref. No. NUIG RES 078-21

Applications are invited from suitably qualified candidates for a full-time fixed term position as an Early Stage Researcher/PhD student within the Molecular Physiology Research group, led by Prof. Ines Thiele, at the National University of Ireland, Galway.


This position is funded by European Commission Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Innovations Training Networks (ITN) and is available from 1st June 2021 for three years fixed term.


In Europe, the population is aging. The age-associated decline in cognitive functions represents a serious social and medical problem. Recent studies show that changes in lifestyle such as physical activity and nutritional interventions – even late in life –are beneficial for cognition. The microbiome in the gut is a central effector in the maintenance of brain plasticity and therefore represents a promising target as well as sensor for interventions that aim to improve cognitive ability in the elderly. Detailed and concise scientific investigations of gut-brain interactions, in particular in the elderly, are limited. Such studies require a multidisciplinary approach and a combination of experts from various fields. The aim of our network is to train a new generation of young scientists within a multidisciplinary consortium. The student will engage in individual and well defined, jointly supervised research projects, securing excellent career perspectives and employability. 


By enabling students to design and conduct studies in this economically and socially important field, SmartAge will elucidate the role of the microbiome-gut-brain axis in ageing and its impact on cognition. SmartAge will apply a translational approach combining animal and human studies, nutritional and lifestyle interventions, cognitive tests, brain imaging, cutting edge OMICS and systems biology as well as faecal transfer as proof of principle to identify key regulators of gut-brain communication with the aim to develop microbiome-based therapies. An expert team of scientists from both academia and industry such as clinicians, psychologists, nutritionists, biotechnologists and bioinformaticians will closely collaborate to strengthen microbiome research in aging which will have a direct impact on cognitive health in Europe. Specialists for public communication outreach will ensure effective and efficient transfer of outcomes to policymakers and into the everyday life of the European population.


This PhD position is part of the SmartAge international, interdisciplinary project and aims at using advanced computational and statistical analysis approaches to identify metabolic pathways involved in ageing. Therefore, metabolomic and metagenomic data will be computationally and statistically analysed in the context of large-scale computational models of host-microbiome co-metabolism.


Suggested reading:

Thiele et al., "Personalized whole-body models integrate metabolism, physiology, and the gut microbiome", Molecular Systems Biology, 16:e8982 (2020).

Heirendt et al., “Creation and analysis of biochemical constraint-based models using the COBRA Toolbox v.3.0”, Nature Protocol, 2019.

Job Description:

The successful candidate will analyse metagenomic and metabolomic data in the context of microbial and human metabolic reconstructions to investigate in silico host-microbiome co-metabolism and to predict personalised metabolic pathways involved in the ageing process. The predictions will be carried out in close collaboration with our international collaborators. The project involves the developments of constraint-based modelling tools for host-microbiome metabolic modelling, integration of large-scale omics data with the host-microbiome models, application of advanced statistics, mining literature mining for relevant health information. Furthermore, two brief research secondments within the training network are also envisaged.


  • Acquire a profound understanding of key technologies and knowledge in computational systems biology, statistical analysis, (medical) biochemistry, and bioinformatics.

  • Perform the research as defined by the PI and the funding source (see above).

  • Contribute to the writing of scientific publications, progress reports, and grant applications.

  • Present at national and international conferences.

  • Acquire working skills in time and project management

  • Assist in the supervision of student projects and in teaching.

  • Participate in outreach activities, seminars, and workshops for the development of scientific and transferable skills.

  • Actively collaborate in an interdisciplinary, international team.

  • Engage actively with international collaborators.


Qualifications/Skills required:


Essential Requirements:

  • Master degree (or equivalent) in Statistics, Bioinformatics, Computer Science, Biochemistry, Microbiology, or related fields.

  • Strong interest in metabolism, biochemistry, and computational modelling.

  • Demonstrable skills/experience in programming and/or statistical data analysis.

  • Excellent communication skills.

  • Excellent working knowledge of English.

  • High motivation and interest in interdisciplinary research.


Desirable Requirements:

  • Demonstrable experience in the constraint-based reconstruction and analysis approach.

  • Experience in metagenomic and metabolomic data analysis.

  • Experience in statistics and machine learning.


Stipend: €29,393 to €35,922 per annum pro-rata for shorter and/or part-time contracts (public sector pay policy rules pertaining to new entrants will apply).


Start date: The position is available immediately.

Further information on research and working at NUI Galway is available on Research at NUI Galway Researchers at NUI Galway are encouraged to avail of a range of training and development opportunities designed to support their personal career development plans. NUI Galway provides continuing professional development supports for all researchers seeking to build their own career pathways either within or beyond academia.  Researchers are encouraged to engage with our Researcher Development Centre (RDC) upon commencing employment - see www.nuigalway.ie/rdc for further information.


For information on moving to Ireland please see www.euraxess.ie


Further information about Molecular Systems Physiology Group is available at http://thielelab.eu


To Apply:

Applications to include a covering letter, CV, and the contact details of three referees should be sent, via e-mail (in word or PDF only) to Professor Ines Thiele: ines.thiele[AT]nuigalway.ie

Please put reference number NUIG RES 078-21 in the subject line of the e-mail application.



The closing date for receipt of applications is 5.00 pm Thursday 13th June 2021


Due to the University closure related to COVID-19, interviews may have to take place virtually and start dates may need to be delayed


NUI Galway reserve the right to readvertise or extend the closing date for this post.


All positions are recruited in line with Open, Transparent, Merit (OTM) and Competency-based recruitment


National University of Ireland, Galway is an equal opportunities employer.