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GW4 FRESH CDT PhD Studentship: Speciation of emerging contaminants in wetland systems

Project Description

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the NERC Centre for Doctoral Training in Freshwater Biosciences and Sustainability (GW4 FRESH CDT) which is offering up to 14 studentships to start in September 2020.

GW4 FRESH is a consortium of the UK’s top research intensive universities: Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter and research organisations, British Geological Society and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

This project will be based at the University of Bath.


Prof Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern, University of Bath (environmental chemistry), lead supervisor
Prof Richard Evershed, University of Bristol (biogeochemist), co-supervisor
Prof Charles Tyler, University of Exeter (environmental biology), co-supervisor
Ms Ruth Barden, Wessex Water (environmental management), industrial supervisor


Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs: pharmaceuticals and antimicrobial agents, endocrine disrupting chemicals) are unregulated environmental pollutants. They enter the environment principally through communal wastewater. They are bioactive, ubiquitous and persistent. A major concern regarding their release into the environment is their impact on biota. Examples of the adverse effects of pharmaceuticals on wildlife include a high incidence of intersexuality in fish due to exposure to contraceptive estrogens in water and localised population extinctions in Asian gyp vultures due to the use of the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac in livestock. Usage of PPCPs continues to increase due to an ageing population in western countries and a general increase in consumption in the developing world. Urban waters and its users are likely to be at the highest risk of exposure. Some pharmaceuticals including ethinyloestradiol, diclofenac, and a selection of antibiotics are now on the European Chemicals Watch list due to environmental health concerns and tighter regulation of these and other PPCPs in water is envisaged in the near future. A growing population and changing climate will influence the accessibility of clean water and force new solutions for water reuse. An introduction of a natural attenuation driven treatment processes, such as wetland systems, offers a highly sustainable and safe water resource management solution for water treatment.

This project will focus on understanding fundamental bio-physicochemical processes driving degradation of a series of selected PPCPs in wetland systems, with emphasis on PPCPs uptake and metabolism by plants.

Objective 1. To understand life-cycle of PPCPs in a full scale wetland system. This will involve mass spectrometry based chemical analysis (using methods available at the University of Bath and Bristol) screening the aqueous samples and biota for specific PPCP groups.

Objective 2. To verify key transformation pathways of PPCPs in lab-controlled wetland simulating microcosms. 5-10 chemical targets representing key PPCP groups will be subject to comprehensive verification of their transformation pathways in lab-controlled wetland simulating microcosm systems.

Objective 3. To verify effectiveness of the wetland system in PPCPs removal via biological activity assessment of selected chemicals using biossays (University of Exeter). A series of bioassays (including cell based assays and transgenic fish engineered to detected specific chemical classes – e.g. oestrogens, oxidative stress) will be employed to asses PPCP removal efficacy in both the full-scale wetland systems and microcosms. 16S sequencing will be also applied to verify the microbial assemblages present in the wetland for considerations into what organism might be key in the biodegradation pathways for selected PPCPs.

This studentship will take advantage of the first full size constructed wetland in the UK being developed by Wessex Water. The project findings will inform water industry design and Environment Agency permitting policy on the use of wetlands. The research student will receive training in modern bioanalytical techniques. In addition, he/she will work with the leading water utility company in the UK. Furthermore, he/she will join interdisciplinary teams at the University of Bath, Bristol and Exeter with key research expertise and excellent research infrastructure.


Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an area appropriate to the skills requirements of the project.

In order to apply, you should apply direct to the CDT using online application form. See

You do NOT need to apply to the University of Bath at this stage – only those applicants who are successful in obtaining an offer of funding from the CDT will be required to submit an application to study at Bath.


Funding Notes

Studentships cover Home tuition fees, training support grant and stipend (£15,009 p/a, 2019/20 rate) and are open to UK and EU citizens who have been resident in the UK since September 2017. A limited number of studentships are available to EU candidates who do not meet the residency requirement.

How good is research at University of Bath in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 33.10

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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