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GW4 FRESH CDT PhD Studentship - Stereoisomerism of antimicrobial agents and risks to freshwater ecosystems

Department of Chemistry

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Prof Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

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.


Lead supervisor: Professor Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern, Department of Chemistry, University of Bath, email [Email Address Removed]
Co-supervisors: Dr William Gaze (University of Exeter) and Ms Ruth Barden (Wessex Water)


The risk of promotion of antibiotic resistant bacteria is the greatest human health concern with regards to medicinal products. The continuous introduction of sub-inhibitory quantities of antimicrobial agents (AAs) to the environment is directly linked with antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Unfortunately, there is little understanding of mechanisms due to the multi-dimensional nature of the AMR problem. Surprisingly, the environmental fate and biological effects of AAs are assessed without considering their stereoisomeric forms (this is despite our knowledge on isomer dependent toxicity, taking thalidomide as a prime example). Such an approach leads to the incorrect verification of biological effects of AAs and direct risk to the environment and human health.

This FRESH CDT studentship will focus on understanding of the impact stereoisomerism of antimicrobial agents might have on biological effects linked with ecotoxicity and the development of AMR in freshwater ecosystems. We will focus on two critical hotspots linking human activities with the environment: (i) wastewater treatment (incl. activated sludge, trickling filters as well as anaerobic digestion to account for different process related physicochemical conditions as well as prevalence of certain microbial communities, and (ii) receiving aqueous environment. The project will address above via the three main objectives:

Objective 1. To understand the mechanisms of transformation of chiral antimicrobial agents in the environment at both nanocosm, microcosm and macrocosm scale.

Objective 2. To verify how stereoselective processes of AAs in the environment are associated with the higher prevalence of specific resistant strains of bacteria.

Objective 3. To undertake environmental risk assessment of AAs in the Avon Catchment.

The research student will receive training in a range of modern analytical and bioanalytical techniques including state-of-the-art chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry techniques, digital PCR technology and bioassays. In addition, he/she will work with Wessex Water, the leading water utility company in the UK, Wessex Water. Furthermore, he/she will join interdisciplinary teams at the University of Bath, and Exeter with substantial research expertise in the area and excellent research infrastructure. Experience of academic / industrial research, interdisciplinary and international working and development of legislation and water policy, will provide an exciting opportunity for further professional development.

Real Life challenges this project will address:

Stricter regulation of antibiotics in the environment is envisaged. The European Commission has recently proposed an inclusion of antibiotics on the Watch List under the Water Framework Directive. Antibiotics are also key targets within UKWIR National Chemical Investigation Programme. A full understanding of the fate and effects of antibiotics is therefore of crucial importance to the water and pharmaceutical sectors represented in this project by Wessex Water.

What expertise you will develop:

1. Expertise in advanced bioanalytical techniques
2. Skills in ecotoxicology, microbial ecology, environmental and water sciences
3. Operational understanding of the UK water industry and regulatory systems.


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.

You should apply direct to the CDT using online application form:

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.


More information about the application process may be found here:

Anticipated start date: 28 September 2020.

Funding Notes

A GW4 FRESH CDT studentship is available covering Home tuition fees and providing a training support grant and a stipend (£15,285 p/a, 2020/21 rate) for a period of up to 3.5 years. To be eligible, applicants must be citizens of the UK or other EU country and have been residing in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the PhD (apart from temporary or occasional absences).
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