The relationship between the immune response in pregnancy, birth outcome and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA)


Toni Spence completed the Summer Studentship at the Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health, Ulster University under the supervision of Dr Emeir McSorley, Dr Alison Yeates and Dr Maria Mulhern

Project Title: The relationship between the immune response in pregnancy, birth outcome and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA).

About the Project:


The aims of my project were to investigate the relationship between markers of immune function and birth outcome and to assess the influence of maternal polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) status on this relationship. The study found no relationship between the maternal immune response at 28 weeks gestation and birth anthropometrics irrespective of maternal PUFA status.

What was the best aspect of your summer studentship experience?

I thoroughly enjoyed the lab work involved in my project as I gained experience in using Mesoscale Discovery (MSD) multiplex ELISA equipment and software.

What was the most challenging part of your studentship?

The most challenging aspect of my project was the statistical analysis of the results. I had little experience using statistical analysis software for a large dataset prior to the studentship.

What’s the one thing you learnt that is transferable to future work you might do?

I learnt how important good attention to detail is when working in research. For example, record keeping, data entry and analysis.

Tip for anyone who is interested in applying for the NS – SS or a similar fellowship:

Be enthusiastic, it’s a great opportunity to learn new skills.

Would you be interested to do more research in the future and if so what topic(s) would interest you?

I hope to pursue a career in biomedical/nutrition research.


The Nutrition Society (NS) offers a unique funding opportunity to a limited number of students to undertake a research project during the summer months. The Summer Studentship Series is a collaboration with six students that took part in the 2016 NS Summer Studentship (NS-SS). I decided to ask everyone a couple of questions related to their projects and general experience, in an attempt to give you an idea of the variety of projects we completed and the interesting elements of each project. My hope is to inspire more students to do research and provide useful information and tips for those who may be interested in applying for the NS Summer Studentship or other similar research projects. I firmly believe research is the way forward in nutrition and I hope these series inspires more of you to get involved in research projects. This year’s Nutrition Society Summer Studentship application is now open and you can find it here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s