Sarcopenia and nutritional needs during recovery from acute disease

Research Opportunity
PhD, Masters by Research, Honours, Master of Biomedical Science
Project Status
Medicine and Radiology
Royal Melbourne Hospital
Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Professor Andrea Maier Personal web page
Dr Esmee Reijnierse Personal web page

Project Details

It is estimated that the number of people aged 60 years and older worldwide will triple over the next 30 years. However, the increase of an individuals’ lifespan is accompanied by an accumulation of age-related diseases associated with diminishing health and functional independence. Sarcopenia, or age-related low muscle mass and/or strength, is central to the development of physical deconditioning. Sarcopenia, often underdiagnosed, is associated with falls, morbidity and mortality.

The importance of sarcopenia has been underlined with its recognition as an independently reportable chronic disease (ICD-10-CM code M62.84) in October 2016. Among geriatric patients in a rehabilitation program, prevalence is estimated at 40%, placing a major burden on the healthcare system. Geriatric rehabilitation care is focused on community-dwelling older persons, who are admitted to short-term rehabilitation programs after hospitalization and accompanied physical deconditioning. Evidence based protocols to regain physical condition in geriatric rehabilitation are currently not available. As such, 80% of patients in geriatric rehabilitation programs have insufficient dietary intake to support muscle metabolism that facilitates recovery from a hospital stay.


This PhD project will investigate the triangular relationship between muscle health, energy expenditure and nutritional status in patients admitted to geriatric rehabilitation wards. In the first and second year, the PhD candidate will collect data on the geriatric rehabilitation wards and perform data analysis of the observational study. In the second and third years, the PhD candidate will be involved in a randomized controlled trial and assist in the nutritional intervention based on the results of the observational study.

Research Environment:

@AgeMelbourne Research Group, led by Professor Andrea Maier, conducts innovative, translational and multi-disciplinary research in Gerontology and Biogerontology. The group's mission is to prolong the healthy lifespan of an individual by the prevention of age-related diseases. Ageing is the major risk factor of age-related diseases resulting in multi-morbidity of the majority of the population aged 60 years and over. Understanding the basis of the human ageing process and its influence on age-related diseases is the starting point for establishing targeted interventions. @AgeMelbourne is currently conducting four large, longitudinal, studies examining the clinical and biological phenotypes of geriatric populations in inpatient and outpatient settings. All @AgeMelbourne studies demonstrate a strong translational component that is, improving diagnostics and therapies for age-related diseases based on a solid methodological and biological understanding. The @AgeMelbourne Research Group includes an internationally-recognised and dedicated team of academic research staff and students with a diverse background of clinical research skills and knowledge, making it an exciting and inspiring group to work with.

Selection Criteria:

  • Undergraduate education in science, statistics, biostatistics or epidemiology
  • First Class Honours in a discipline relevant to the Research Scope
  • Competitive academic track record
  • Strong interest in academic research
  • Capacity to work independently and as a part of a research group

Desirable criteria:

  • Bachelor and/or Master in Nutrition & Dietetics or Nutrition Science

Who Can Apply:

The position will suit an excellent student with a background in Nutrition & Dietetics or Nutrition Science. The student will be supported by an experienced panel of supervisors (Prof. Andrea Maier and Dr. Esmee Reijnierse) and will become part of the @AgeMelbourne Research Group in the Department of Medicine and Aged Care.

It is essential that applicants meet the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Science’s requirements for Graduate Research candidature.

Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences PhD course information:

Project duration: 3 years full-time

How to Apply:

Please send your CV and motivation letter to Professor Andrea B. Maier (


@Age Melbourne Postgraduate Research Scholarship is equivalent to APA rate (AU$ 26,288 per annum). A waiver of the tuition fees may be considered for a competitive international candidate.

School Research Themes


Research Opportunities

PhD, Masters by Research, Honours, Master of Biomedical Science
Graduate Research Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other Graduate Research requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

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Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.


Medicine and Radiology

Research Group / Unit / Centre


Research Node

Royal Melbourne Hospital

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