More than just nutrition - the synergistic effects of the immune components in human milk

How immune factors in breast milk grow and protect our babies


There are a host of immune components in human milk that protect the infant against infections and diseases as well contributing to the maturation of the infant immune system.

The level of these immune components change in response to changes in the health of the lactating women and her infant. However, the interaction of these immune components in protecting and responding infections and diseases is not well understood. Therefore, this project sets out to investigate which immune components are strongly related to specific infections and diseases, and determine how they interact to provide protection for the infant.

Project goals:

  • Determine the level and dose of human milk immune components in relation to infant growth, development and health over 12 months of lactation
  • To explore potential changes in the immune components in the milk in response to maternal or infant illness

This PhD student project will involve the application of a variety of different methods to measure the concentration of immune components in the milk such as lactoferrin, lysozyme as well as cytokines.

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Research team leader: Professor Donna Geddes

Prof Geddes is a lactation biologist, with a major focus on the mechanisms by which breastfeeding programme early and later life health outcomes. She is located at the School of Molecular Sciences at UWA where she measures milk composition in relation to infant outcomes. She leads a large group that works in the areas of human milk microbiome, metabolomics, biochemistry and physiology.


How to Apply 

Check criteria
  • To be accepted into the Doctor of Philosophy, an applicant must demonstrate they have sufficient background experience in independent supervised research to successfully complete, and provide evidence of English language proficiency
  • Requirements specific to this project:
    • A minimum 2A Honours degree or Masters degree in a related field
    • Undergraduate degree in science/ biomedical science/relevant degree
    • Eligible to enrol in a PhD at UWA
    • Excellent communication skills including oral presentation and writing
Submit enquiry to research team leader 
  • Contact the research team leader by submitting an Expression of Interest form via the button below
  • After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, contact [email protected] to proceed with your application


Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

Indigenous students
Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.
Forrest Foundation scholarships
All international and Australian students who wish to study towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at The University of Western Australia may apply for Forrest Scholarships.

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