Alzheimer’s Society PhD Studentship on Infections, Diabetes and Dementia

This research degree will involve investigating the effect of infections on cognition and dementia in people with diabetes using large datasets of electronic health records. The successful applicant will be supervised by Dr Charlotte Warren-Gash, Associate Professor in Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), with input from a project advisory panel that includes Professor Liam Smeeth (LSHTM), Dr Krishnan Bhaskaran (LSHTM), Professor Nish Chaturvedi (UCL) and Professor Carol Brayne, Director of the Cambridge Institute for Public Health.

The full-time studentship will run for three years from 16 April 2018. It will provide PhD fees at the Home/EU rate plus an annual stipend (GBP 17,000 in year 1, GBP 18,000 per year in years 2 and 3), data costs and GBP 1,000 per year for conferences.

Closing date for applications: Tuesday 16 January 2018 at 10:00 GMT
Interviews will take place: late January 2018.

Project summary

Globally, diabetes prevalence is projected to increase from 415 million in 2015 to 642 million by 2040. Diabetes increases the risk of both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Mechanisms involved include effects on metabolism, chronic hyperglycaemia, systemic inflammation and vascular changes. People with diabetes are at increased risk of a range of infections compared to the general population, and systemic infections can trigger inflammatory brain responses. This study aims to investigate the effect of infections on cognition and dementia in people with diabetes. Improved understanding of the relationship between different causes of dementia is essential to inform the development and targeting of effective prevention strategies.

This project uses powerful longitudinal datasets of electronic health records (EHR) from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink and detailed phenotypic data linked to primary care records from UK Biobank. Two related prospective cohort studies will investigate whether the presence, frequency and timing of common infections modifies the effect of diabetes on incident dementia, defined by Read codes/ICD-10 codes, and cognitive changes, ascertained through repeat cognitive measures. Data will be analysed using multivariable regression models controlling for potential confounders such as demographic factors, comorbidities, medications, health-seeking behaviour and calendar time.

Both diabetes and infections are potentially preventable and treatable. If these conditions interact to increase the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, they represent an important opportunity for early intervention. This project will provide excellent training for the PhD student in dementia and chronic disease phenotyping using EHR, epidemiology and biostatistics in LSHTM’s world-class environment.

Eligibility Requirements

Applicants must hold a 1st or 2.1 honours undergraduate degree, and preferably an MSc in epidemiology, medical statistics or equivalent, awarded with good grades. Applicants with a combination of relevant qualifications and experience that demonstrates equivalent ability and attainment will also be considered.

The award is only available to candidates who meet the eligibility requirements for Home/EU fees. (Please see the School’s Fee Assessment Policy for further details.)

How to Apply

Potential applicants are encouraged to contact Dr Warren-Gash by email to for an informal discussion prior to submitting a formal application.

To apply, the following documents must be submitted by email to

  • Curriculum vitae (2 pages) including details of your academic achievements to date and the names of two referees, one of whom should be able to comment on your academic ability; and
  • A covering letter (up to 500 words) outlining why you want to apply and describing your suitability for this project e.g. any previous training in and experience of analysing large-scale heath datasets, including published outputs; and
  • Copy transcripts of your undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications; and
  • A 2017-18 initial eligibility form.

The deadline for applications is 10:00 GMT on Tuesday 16 January 2018.