PhD studentship: The impact of disinfectant residuals on biofilms within drinking water distribution system

   Department of Civil and Structural Engineering

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  Prof J Boxall, Prof V Speight  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

PhD studentship: The impact of disinfectant residuals on biofilms within drinking water distribution system

Enhanced 3.5 year tax-free enhanced stipend of £20,000 per year and (home) tuition fees

Closing Date for Applications: 30th June 2023

Start Date: Expected to be late September 2023 (contract duration 3.5 years)

This funded studentship provides a unique opportunity to undertake advanced applied microbial research and be at the forefront of drinking water quality research. It will make a significant contribution to the UKRI EPSRC funded project on drinking water distribution system (DWDS) biofilms entitled ‘To chlorinate, or not to chlorinate’. As part of a large, multidisciplinary programme, this research will investigate the impact of disinfection residual regimes (chlorine/chloramine) on biofilms and their potential to harbour, proliferate and release pathogens. The new understanding will enable the optimisation of disinfection residual use in treated drinking water, helping to deliver a step change in protecting public health whilst minimising chemical and energy use.

UK Water Companies have invested over £250 billion in water supply infrastructure with drinking water piped networks being their greatest asset. However, DWDS are dynamic systems and biofilms on the pipe walls interact with the drinking water the pipes transport. This project will, for the first time, study the impact of disinfectant residual strategies on biofilms including pathogen sheltering, proliferation, and mobilisation to fill this important gap in DWDS knowledge.

You will conduct research using internationally unique, temperature controlled pipe loop facilities at water company partner sites. You will make use of the latest developments in microbiology (including flow cytometry and molecular biology techniques) to significantly advance biofilm research.


The project will be supervised by Prof Joby Boxall and Professor Vanessa Speight at the University of Sheffield. The normal place of work is expected to be at the University of Sheffield, with regular interaction with The University of Glasgow and UK Water Company field sites. Travel costs are provided plus a generous budget for professional development.

Eligibility Criteria

Funding is provided for enhanced stipend (20k per year) and UK fees. While applications are not restricted to home applicants, additional funding from other sources will be necessary to cover overseas fees (which cannot be covered by the stipend and no fee waivers are available). Fee information can be found here:

Selection Criteria

The selection criteria are a good first degree in relevant engineering or science discipline and enthusiasm for the topic area. Knowledge of molecular microbial approaches applicable to environmental samples, including flow cytometry, are desirable.

How to apply

Interested candidates should email a covering letter and their Curriculum Vitae to Miss Lindsay Hopcroft ([Email Address Removed]). For information and informal enquiries please contact: Prof. Joby Boxall ([Email Address Removed]).

Funding Notes

Enhanced 3.5 year tax-free enhanced stipend of £20,000 per year and (home) tuition fees.

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