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Quantifying the risk of exposure to microplastics from meat and farm animals in the UK

   School of Veterinary Medicine

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  Dr Iñaki Deza-Cruz, Dr Maya Al Sid Cheikh  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Despite only being produced for around 70 years, the huge production of plastics and the lack of their disposal has led to pollution in the environment. A large concern is the resulting microplastic (plastic particles <5mm in size) contamination seen in marine animals, water, foodstuffs and even the human body. Such bioaccumulation is of great concern to the consumer, as potential human health risks may be associated with microplastic ingestion. However, to date, little work has been done to investigate the extent of microplastics in farm animals and meat products. This exciting fully funded PhD studentship opportunity aims to explore the burden of microplastic pollution in meat products sold in the UK for consumption.

The focus of this PhD is to progress our understanding of the different pathways by which microplastics reach farm animals and meats, and to quantify and model the risk of exposure to the consumer. To achieve this, the successful candidate will be involved in a multidisciplinary supervisory team that combines a broad range of expertise, including veterinarians, modellers, experts in radiolabelling, analytical and synthesis chemistry and will provide mentoring in research and technology transfer, as well as impact generation.

The study will be ecological in nature, but will provide you with an extensive training in spectroscopy techniques making use of extensive facilities at the University of Surrey, including Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) spectroscopy, plus relevant field visits.

We are keen for the candidate to develop their own ideas within this research area. These ideas can be summarised in the one-page research proposal which forms part of the application.

The project will provide the student with a valuable opportunity to interact and work with international partners, gain field experience, and appreciate the local contexts while working together with colleagues to create real world impact.  

Supervisors: Dr Iñaki Deza-Cruz, Dr Maya Al-Sid-Cheikh.

Entry requirements

Open to UK students starting in October 2022. Later start dates can also be considered.

This is an interdisciplinary project cutting across the disciplines of contaminants of emerging concerns (CECs) in environmental interface compartment such as chemistry/biology, food farming and meat production, and public health.

Applicants with a degree in biomedical sciences, chemistry or related subjects are welcomed if they have a strong interest in food safety, animal health or human health sciences. Public health, medical and veterinary graduates are encouraged to apply. A master’s degree or equivalent research experience in a related subject is desirable. Experience in meat production, farming or epidemiological approaches is useful but not essential.

English language requirements: IELTS Academic 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category, or equivalent. More about our English language requirements.

How to apply

Apply via the Veterinary Medicine and Science PhD programme page. Please clearly state the studentship title and supervisor on your application.

Applicants are requested to provide a personal statement or cover letter speaking to their interest and ability to undertake PhD studies, and to provide at least two reference letters from previous academic supervisors or employers.

Interested applicants are encouraged to contact Dr. Inaki Deza-Cruz to discuss the project informally prior to making an application.

Funding Notes

Funding will cover University tuition fees at the UK rate for three years and a stipend for three years at RCUK levels (£15,000 per year). Funding for 3 years. Funded by the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Surrey.
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