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  NERC Red-ALERT CDT: Microwave sensors and thin film monitors for real-time detection of dissolved metals in the environment

   Cardiff School of Engineering

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  Dr D Sapsford, Dr D Slocombe, Dr Heungjae Choi  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Natural Environment Research Council funded RED ALERT Centre for Doctoral Training (NERC Centre for Doctoral Training in Real-Time Digital Water-Based Systems (RED-ALERT CDT) ( will provide training in water-based early warning systems for environmental and public health protection focused around 4 UK and 3 international Living Labs aimed to provide the in-depth knowledge and enable a step-change in managing environmental and public health.

Dissolved metal contaminants have multiple sources in UK rivers including highway runoff; domestic and industrial wastewater; landfill leachates; legacy mine sites. This makes monitoring and source apportionment a priority activity to inform interventions for environmental managers, regulators, and policy makers.

Microwave sensors can potentially provide a means to achieve real-time, continuous monitoring capabilities at low cost. The focus of the PhD will be (i) the direct detection and quantification of dissolved metals using microwave sensors (ii) Aquatic surveillance and the development of early warning systems (iii) Combined thin film (iron/iron oxide/graphene nanoparticle-hydrogels) for sensor and monitoring applications.

The student will benefit from being involved in a highly interdisciplinary research environment, combining microwave sensor technology development with contaminant environmental geochemistry, environmental chemical analyses (earth science/environmental engineering) and nanotechnology. This will involve working with (i) Schools in Engineering and Earth sciences and (ii) more widely as part of the activities of the Red Alert CDT (

Learning and Development Opportunities will include the following: Laboratory-based chemical characterisation of waters, sediments and materials; Principles and use of microwave sensors and associated electrical engineering; Laboratory techniques for nanoparticle synthesis; Use and interpretation of monitors for water quality surveillance.

Academic Criteria

Candidates should hold or expect to gain a first-class degree or a good 2.1 (or their equivalent) in Engineering or a related subject. 

More information can be found on the website (

Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to demonstrate proficiency in the English language (IELTS 6.5 or equivalent)

Contact for further information

Please contact Prof. Devin Sapsford ([Email Address Removed]) or Dr Daniel Slocombe ([Email Address Removed]) informally discuss this opportunity

How to apply

Applicants should submit an application for postgraduate study via the Cardiff University webpages ( ) including;

·        an upload of your CV

·        a personal statement/covering letter

·        two references (applicants are recommended to have a third academic referee, if the two academic referees are within the same department/school)

·        Current academic transcripts

Applicants should select Doctor of Philosophy (Engineering), with a start date of October 2024.

In the research proposal section of your application, please specify the project title and supervisors of this project and copy the project description in the text box provided. In the funding section, please select "I will be applying for a scholarship / grant" and specify that you are applying for advertised funding, reference DS NERC CDT 24

Deadline for applications

28th March 2024. We may however close this opportunity earlier if a suitable candidate is identified.

Chemistry (6) Engineering (12) Environmental Sciences (13)

Funding Notes

NERC Doctoral Training Grant
Amount of Funding: Tuition fees at the home/EU rate (£4,806 in 2024/5) and an annual stipend equivalent to current Research Council rates (£19,237 stipend for academic year 2024/5), plus support for travel/conferences/consumables.
Full funding is currently available to Home and International applicants on a full time basis

Where will I study?