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Investigation of new and emerging pollutants and microplastics sources in atmosphere and their toxicological effects

   Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience

  Dr Svetlana Stevanovic,  Monday, October 25, 2021  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Melbourne Australia Climate Science Ecotoxicology Environmental Chemistry

About the Project

This PhD project is part of the Cotutelle arrangement between Coventry University, UK and Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.

(CU Led project)

The successful applicant will spend the 1st year at Coventry University and the following year at Deakin University and then the final 1.5 years at Coventry University

The supervision team will be drawn from the two Universities.

There is a strong concern over growing number of allergies and premature deaths from poor air quality. Particulates are the most harmful form of air pollution due to their ability to penetrate deep into the lungs, blood streams and brain. These particulates are loaded with 1000s of organic chemicals, however, only a small fraction of particulates’ organic carbon is identified at molecular level (<20%). So-called new and emerging pollutants (NEPs) e.g. pharmaceuticals, pesticides, industrial chemicals, personal care products and microplastics have been relatively recently identified in aquatic and soil environments. Although NEPs is a term used for soil and aquatic environments, most of them have chemical properties enabling their easy transfer into atmosphere.

The project will investigate, NEPs (including microplastics) in atmospheric particulates. This will be done through analytical method development for measuring NEPs, field campaigns (near NEPs emission sources and at a background urban site), lab experiments to understand NEPs transfer mechanism from their sources and assessment of cytotoxicity and the inflammatory response in human bronchial epithelial cells cultured in vitro at air-liquid interface.

The project will utilise state-of-the arts analytical instruments including Orbitrap High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry coupled to Thermal Desorption and Pyrolysis Gas Chromatography, and Infrared Microscopy.

 Training and Development

The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities. 

Academic Environment

Coventry University has been the UK’s top modern university for seven consecutive years (Guardian University Guide 2013-2019) and holds a number of other prestigious accolades. Established in 2014 through substantial university investment, the Centre for Agroecology, Water & Resilience (CAWR) is rapidly building a global reputation for transdisciplinary research into processes of resilience in social-ecological systems. Among its key lines of research is work focusing on modelling of water and food systems, aided by high performance computing facilities.


Training and Development


Deakin University

The multi-disciplinary and novel nature of the project offers an excellent

opportunity for higher degree research training. The PhD student will be

working under the supervision of Dr Stevanovic at Deakin University and will be involved in the aspects of physical and chemical characterization of aerosols as well as measurements of their oxidative capacity. Working together with Dr Stevanovic, Dr Kourtchev and Dr Bogush the student will

establish the impact of waste-water treatment plants on emission of NEPs (including microplastics) into atmosphere and their effects on human health. The student will be trained to use highly sophisticated methods for particle characterisations, measurement of oxidative potential and toxicity using high tech air-to-liquid cell exposure system.

Coventry University

The successful candidate will acquire a wealth of new competences in environmental analytical chemistry research, including new analytical skills and instrumental methods under the guidance of Dr Kourtchev and Dr Bogush (co-supervisor). The applicant will benefit from the unique opportunity of using the powerful instruments available for determining the molecular composition of environmental samples. Training on cutting-edge High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry (HRMS), hyphenated techniques (e.g. Thermal Desorption and Pyrolysis GC-MS) and FTIR and Raman microscopes will provide knowledge of off-line analytical methods. Furthermore, the training provided in the advanced data analysis tools (PCA, PMF, HCA) will furnish the applicant with new technological competencies that are increasingly being used in environmental chemistry research to interpret highly complex datasets, such as those generated in field measurements, including in organisms. The new knowledge and training acquired by the applicant will significantly improve his/her scientific skills base and provide a strong platform for building an independent research career integrating methods from both chemistry and biology fields.

The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities. 

How to apply

To find out more about the project please contact Dr Ivan Kourtchev and/or Dr Svetlana Stevanovic (

To apply on line please visit: 

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus an upto 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project. 

Please note that applications must be made to both Universities

To apply please visit:

For Coventry University

For Deakin University

Candidate Specification

Applicants must meet the admission and scholarship criteria for both Coventry University and Deakin University for entry to the cotutelle programme.  

This includes;  

  • Applicants should have graduated within the top 15% of their undergraduate cohort. This might include a high 2:1 in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 70% mark (80% for Australian graduates) in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 70% overall module average (80% for Australian graduates). 
  • A Masters degree in a relevant subject area, with overall mark at minimum Merit level. In addition, the mark for the Masters dissertation (or equivalent) must be a minimum of 80%. Please note that where a candidate has 70-79% and can provide evidence of research experience to meet equivalency to the minimum first-class honours equivalent (80%+) additional evidence can be submitted and may include independently peer-reviewed publications, research-related awards or prizes and/or professional reports. 
  • Language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component).  
  • The potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a prescribed period of study.  

For an overview of each University’s entry requirements please visit:  

Funding Notes

£15,000 bursary plus tuition fees - UK/EU/International

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