Specialist research area: Probiotics and musculoskeletal health in older adults


Australian Catholic University is offering two (2) domestic full-time, 3-year PhD RTP Stipend scholarships – described in section below “About the PhD Stipend Scholarships”. The PhD scholarships are available to undertake research in the areas of probiotics and musculoskeletal health in older adults.

The successful candidates will join the Bone Health and Fractures Research Program at the Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research (MMIHR) which includes a multidisciplinary team of vibrant researchers with expertise in bone health, gut health, healthy ageing, exercise physiology, endocrinology, nutrition, cognitive functioning and psychological medicine.

The Bone Health and Fractures Research Program focuses on improving and maintaining musculoskeletal health as part of the healthy ageing process in our local and global communities. By advancing our understanding of the interactions between the musculoskeletal system, gut microbiome and metabolic health in older adults using established databases, clinical cohort studies and randomised controlled trials, we aim to identify novel clinical risk factors for fall injury and fracture in order to optimise appropriate prevention and intervention strategies for osteoporosis and improve fracture risk prediction.

You will have opportunities of training in the required imaging techniques to characterise the musculoskeletal health in ageing populations. These imaging modalities will include high-resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography (HR-pQCT) and dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA).

About Australian Catholic University

ACU is a world-leading research university in our priority areas of education, health, and theology and philosophy. Research excellence at ACU is founded on the principles of social justice and attracts leading experts, students and collaborators from across the globe. These PhD scholarships are offered in the fields of Clinical Sciences. According to the Academic Ranking of World Universities, ACU is ranked in the top 100 Young Universities, worldwide. In the 2018 Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) assessment, research in the field of Clinical Sciences at ACU was ranked well-above world-average (5/5).

About the Mary MacKillop Institute for Health and Research (MMIHR)

The MMIHR prioritises focus on finding and advocating for effective strategies to create healthier societies. Our research aims to address critical public health issues by identifying and responding with innovative programs that deliver better health outcomes and transform lives.

ACU provides MMIHR with world-class research infrastructure that facilitates large-scale research studies. The research environment is outstanding in terms of resources (world-class research facilities, infrastructure support, research support staff with experience in collecting data for large-scale projects, and secondary databases), intellectual capital (critical mass of world-class researchers, postdoctoral researchers, international visiting scholars and collaborators, and external linkages), and research mentoring and PhD supervision.

About the PhD Stipend Scholarship

Two (2) PhD RTP Stipend Scholarships are being offered in 2022 to support the work of Professor Vandenput and her team in the areas of probiotics and musculoskeletal health in older adults. The Scholarships are available for driven and high-performing candidates, preferably with prior experience in the musculoskeletal field, and interest in undertaking research in the following broad areas:

  • Probiotics, gut permeability, and bone density/ microstructure
  • Probiotics, exercise, and bone density/ microstructure

The successful candidate will be expected to take part in various MMIHR activities and training opportunities. The successful applicants’ supervisory team will include Professor Liesbeth Vandenput, Professor Mattias Lorentzon, and Dr Anoohya Gandham.

It is anticipated that the successful applicant will have the opportunity to be involved in randomized clinical trials, preclinical translation studies and/or pilot studies.

PhD Eligibility criteria
Scholarship criteria

Essential requirements:

  • Highly motivated, with a strong interest or experience in musculoskeletal health and/or ageing
  • Excellent English written and verbal communication skills

Desirable skills:

  • Experience in writing publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals
  • Experience with statistical analysis software
  • A health or science background, e.g. a Bachelor´s degree in health sciences
  • Experience in clinical trials
Study mode and location
  • Full-time for three (3) years based at the Bone Health and Fractures Research Program in the Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research, Melbourne Campus, commencing as soon as possible.
Value and duration

The Successful (domestic) applicant will be awarded:

  • An Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) stipend scholarship of A$28,854 per annum (tax-free, indexed). The stipend duration is for three (3) years, subject to satisfactory progress and full-time study mode; plus
  • A Research Training Program Fees Offset Scholarship; that is, a tuition fee waiver for three (3) years
Application closes

Currently Open until ideal candidate is found. Closing date TBC.

Application instructions:

This scholarship is only open to domestic candidates who are either a citizen or permanent resident of Australia, or a citizen of New Zealand.

Interested candidates are encouraged to contact Prof. Liesbeth Vandenput before submitting an application for the PhD program and this scholarship:


To be considered for these scholarships, applicants must submit all documentation required for an application to the PhD program at ACU, as detailed in the ‘How to Apply’ instructions on the ACU Research Web Page, plus:

  • A CV detailing relevant academic and practical experience;
  • A cover letter detailing demonstrated interest and/or experience in the program of research described.

For general candidature enquiries, email Candidature Services on res.cand@acu.edu.au, with the subject line “SRA: Probiotics and musculoskeletal health in older adults”.

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