Don't miss our weekly PhD newsletter | Sign up now Don't miss our weekly PhD newsletter | Sign up now

  Developing (bio)remediation options for high pH radionuclide contaminated land and water

   Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

Click here to search for PhD studentship opportunities
  Prof J Lloyd, Prof K Morris, Prof S Shaw  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

The management of radioactively contaminated land is a global “grand challenge”. In the UK this represents a £multi-billion project that will take many decades to complete. This UK Nuclear Decomissioning Authority (NDA)-funded project aims to help address this challenge by developing novel bioremediation options for the nuclear sector.    

The NDA estate contains sites contaminated with radioactive materials that encompass a wide pH range. Much work has focused on chemical and biotechnological approaches to remediate circumneutral pH contaminated waters and sediments, but there is little information on the long-term effectiveness of these approaches at higher pH values, relevant to areas of contamination on multiple nuclear sites in the UK (including those containing high pH chemical plumes and cement wastes).  This is a critical knowledge gap as natural attenuation or induced biotechnological approaches may not perform as expected at this upper margin for microbial life.

This project builds upon recent advances in (bio)remediation options for circumneutral pH radionuclide contamination, including the use of novel stimulants for radionuclide biomineralization (phosphates/sulfides/oxides as appropriate). It also links to the large body of Manchester/NNL collaborative work on high pH radionuclide biogeochemistry for cement-based nuclear waste geodisposal systems. It will support the NDA mission by helping identify innovative, low cost/non-invasive (bio)remediation options for high pH impacted contaminated land and water, suitable for both interim (quick fix) and end-state (long-term) scenarios.

The PhD student will join a large cohort of 40+ researchers working in two recently refurbished co-located research centres in the Dept of Earth and Environmental Sciences, co-directed by the PI and co-supervisors. The supervisory team has extensive expertise in geomicrobiology, (bio)mineral analysis, geochemistry, X-ray absorption spectroscopy and its application to speciation of radionuclides/stable elements in complex environmental samples, and we anticipate using all of these approaches for this study. The student will also obtain transferable skills from Manchester’s well-regarded Doctorial Training College programme, including research, communication and management skills.

Entry requirements:

Applicants should have or expect to achieve at least a 2.1 honours degree in Environmental Science, Biology, Microbiology, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Civil Engineering Environmental Engineering or related disciplines.

 The duration of the PhD is 4 years and the start date is September 2023.

How to apply:

You will need to submit an online application through our website here:

When you apply, you will be asked to upload the following supporting documents: 

• Final Transcript and certificates of all awarded university level qualifications

• Interim Transcript of any university level qualifications in progress

• CV

• You will be asked to supply contact details for two referees on the application form

• English Language certificate (if applicable)

We strongly recommend that you contact the supervisor to discuss the application before you apply. The email address for Prof Jon Lloys is [Email Address Removed].

Please note, the advert will be closed once we have filled the position.

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact. We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status.

We also support applications from those returning from a career break or other roles. We consider offering flexible study arrangements (including part-time: 50%, 60% or 80%, depending on the project/funder). 

Biological Sciences (4) Chemistry (6) Engineering (12) Environmental Sciences (13) Geology (18)

Funding Notes

This is a collaboration with Collaboration with the National Nuclear Laboratory. The 4 year PhD is fully funded by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). Fees covered at standard UKRI rates (£18,622 for 2023/ 2024).

How good is research at The University of Manchester in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities