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A digital solution for real-time prediction and management of road runoff microplastic pollutant load

   Hydro Nation Scholars Programme

About the Project

The accumulation of plastics is now recognized as one of the major threats facing the natural environment. While steps have been taken to reduce many sources of plastic pollution, the accumulation of plastic particles on road surfaces, which then make their way into the stormwater drainage system, has been severely neglected. These plastics are primarily composed of vehicle tyre tread worn down during regular use into micro-sized particles of styrene-butadiene microplastics, vulcanised rubber, and highly toxic additives such as 6PPD-quinone.

Applications are invited for a PhD studentship tackling this problem of microplastic pollution in road runoff water. Specifically, this research will involve:

1) combining historic and real-time datasets on road infrastructure, traffic conditions, weather, and watercourse characteristics within a Geographical Information System (GIS). The output will be to create a digital tool for predicting and mapping road runoff pollutant hot spots.

2) a targeted field monitoring campaign to quantify the amount and chemical composition of tyre microplastics in road runoff.

3) identifying microplastic retention effectiveness in a typical sustainable urban drainage system along with the retention mechanism,

4) integrating the field and lab data into the mapping tool so as to prioritise engineering and management interventions through which microplastics pollutant load to receiving watercourses can be minimised.

What we are looking for in a candidate is an undergraduate/master's degree in a relevant field and a strong motivation to carry out cross-disciplinary research that will involve laboratory work, computational modelling, and presenting their research at academic conferences. Previous experience of practical lab work would be desirable but is not a requirement and all necessary training to undertake this research will be provided.

The successful applicant will be joining the Centre for Water, Environment, Sustainability and Public Health ( is a dynamic multidisciplinary forum for young researchers with 15members of staff, over 40 PhD students, and a suite of modern facilities with Labs dedicated to analytical chemistry, microbiology, microplastics characterisation, and environmental engineering.

In addition to their research project, the applicant will also carry out formal training leading to a Postgraduate Certificate in Researcher Professional Development (PG Cert RPD) which is the first academic award in the UK to recognise and reward the wide array of skills and experiences that postgraduate research students achieve during their PhD research. Through this training, together with the proposed research and publishing subsequent academic papers, the applicant will gain a multidisciplinary skillset (including practical lab work, data processing, numerical modelling, and report writing) making them suitable for a range of employment options in academia and as a water professional in industry.

Applicants are strongly advised to make an informal enquiry about the PhD to the primary supervisor well before the final submission deadline. Applicants must send a completed Hydro Nation Scholarship application form (available here and their Curriculum Vitae to James Minto () by the final submission deadline of 6th January 2023.

Funding Notes

The Hydro Nation Scholars Programme is an open competition for PhD Scholars to undertake approved projects, hosted within Scottish Universities and Research Institutes. This project will be hosted by the University of Strathclyde. Full funding is available from the Scottish Government (to host institutions via the Scottish Funding Council). The funding available will be in line with the UKRI doctoral stipend levels and indicative fees. Applicants should have a first-class honours degree in a relevant subject or a 2.1 honours degree plus Masters (or equivalent). Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed on 26th or 27th January 2023

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