Reproduction and development
Is our lifelong health determined before we are even born? The environment in which a fetus develops can permanently affect a person’s physiology and lifelong health.
During pregnancy, the mother’s diet, hormonal and microbial systems as well as other environmental factors can all influence the critical stages of fetal development.
Physiologists in this area work closely alongside clinicians and patients, to understand how some of these factors can be modified to improve everyone’s health in the future. This is a highly important field of study, because for the first time in human history, today’s children are predicted to have a shorter life-expectancy than their parents. This startling statistic can be partly linked to maternal obesity, which in turn is associated with type 2 diabetes in children and cardiovascular disease when they are older.
Healthy ageing and development is an exciting research field as new treatments are constantly being explored. Interventions such as dietary supplements, probiotics and seeding the infant gut bacteria are now a hot topic in trying to control obesity.
By working in this area, you will have a global and long-term impact in improving the health of future generations, even before they are born.
How do I get involved in reproduction and developmental research?
An undergraduate degree in any life science subject (including physiology, biomedicine, medicine, sports science, neuroscience, genetics etc.) will open the door to a career in physiology research.
Following this, you will have to apply for a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) if you wish to pursue a research career in a university. This involves a substantial research project, typically 3-4 years in length, and training in scientific as well as transferable skills. These are usually fully funded by Research Councils, charities or increasingly industry.
Graduates often complete a Master’s degree before undertaking a PhD. Master’s degrees like a MSc (Master of Science), MRes (Master of Research) and, increasingly, integrated Master’s degrees (e.g. M.Biol or Master of Biology) help to develop a greater understanding of a particular scientific area. This will give graduates a better grounding and make them more competitive for PhD positions.