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Pollution of freshwaters with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors: a health perspective


Project Description

A range of pharmaceuticals including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) have routinely been measured in waterways, such as rivers and estuaries, in the ng/L range (e.g. Letsinger et al. Sci Total Environ. 2019 Aug 15;678:74-84). However, human health consequences of exposure to these environmentally relevant concentrations of SSRI and other pharmaceuticals, in e.g. recreational and other water systems, have not been fully explored.

There is limited evidence for behavioural effects of low SSRI concentrations on a variety of animal species and you will use fish, crayfish and human cell models to 1) interrogate the biochemical pathways that are activated in various experimental conditions, including exposure to SSRI under current and future temperature scenarios, and 2) investigate the relationship between pollution of waterways with pharmaceuticals, climate change and human health.

We are looking to recruit a PhD student with a Biochemistry, Molecular Biology or related background. You will use a combination of methods that can include analytical assays, molecular biology and biochemistry techniques, protein mass spectrometry and cell and tissue culture, according to your interests.

More about this research team

We’re looking to recruit three PhD students to join our “Happy Chemical Cluster” and work with us on Animal Behaviour and/or Molecular Biology. These projects will focus on the role of serotonin - a chemical known to contribute to wellbeing and happiness - and often called the happy chemical, and of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). In fact, SSRI are some of the most frequently prescribed drugs for the treatment of depression but the role of serotonin is complex, associated with appetite, anxiety, temperature regulation, sexual activity and sleep.

Here at the University of Hull, we have the opportunity to examine the role of serotonin in various animal behaviours and better understand the molecular pathways involved, and the likely impacts of pollution of waterways with SSRI, using our superb aquarium systems and molecular laboratories. You will join a thriving and supportive community of postgraduate students across the Departments of Biological & Marine Sciences and Biomedical Sciences, with regular lab meetings, journal clubs, departmental seminars and annual postgraduate conferences. Depending on the PhD project, you will be supported with Home Office training for licensed procedures, animal tracking and behavioural analysis, animal husbandry, biochemical analyses, molecular biology methods, bioinformatics, ecotoxicology and pharmacology. Candidates with some experience already in any of these areas would be welcome.

Our Happy Chemical team is led by Dr Domino Joyce and we are supported by a number of other academics with expertise in ecotoxicology, animal behaviour, genetics and evolution, proteomics and biochemistry and so the ability to work together and communicate as part of a team would be ideal. Each of our PhD scholarships has a lead supervisor who you can feel free to contact for details about specific projects.

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a 1st class undergraduate degree together with relevant research experience or a Masters level qualification in a related subject. A 2:1 may be considered, if combined with relevant experience.

Scholarships will start on 21 September 2020.

Funding Notes

This is a funded scholarship over a three year period for full-time study. The funding you receive will cover the fees for your PhD programme and also an annual maintenance grant at the level of UKRI (£15,009 in 2019/20).

There is an optional writing up period if you need to complete your thesis after the three year period of your research degree, for which there is a small charge. Your maintenance grant will not cover you during this optional writing up period.

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