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To develop diagnostic indicators of community-wide stress, pain and mental health using mass spectrometry

   Department of Chemistry

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  Prof Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The University of Bath is inviting applications for the following PhD project commencing in October 2022 under the supervision of Professor Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern in the Department of Chemistry.

Eligible applicants will be considered for a fully-funded studentship – for more information, see the Funding Notes section below.

Overview of the Project:

The year 2020 witnessed a crisis in healthcare systems due to the COVID19 pandemic. SARS-CoV-2 has had an unprecedented impact on humanity globally. It exposed the acute inability to manage the virus due to lack of reliable surveillance systems focussed on rapid identification of SARS-CoV-2 hotspots. Wastewater Based Epidemiology (WBE) has since enabled SARS-CoV-2 surveillance in the UK (UKHSA Sars-Cov-2 WBE surveillance). This is now developed further to include the advancement of big data driven WBE systems for new biological and chemical threats. This studentship will contribute to the development of strategically important post-pandemic infrastructure to deliver future early warning systems (EWSs) for disease outbreaks. Assessment of community-wide mental health status as well as stress and pain burden via WBE are lacking due to absence of methods and validated biomarkers. The student will investigate characteristic endogenous biomarkers (e.g. hormones) as well as pharmaceuticals and their metabolites (e.g. antidepressants, anti-inflammatories, analgesics) as biomarkers of pharma interventions and as a proxy for mental health and stress/pain in an intercity study. Epigenetic markers will also be investigated. The student will develop new mass spectrometry methods to allow biomarker identification and quantification. The student will take advantage of Environmental Chemistry & Public Health (EChPH) group digital mass spectra repository (samples collected in years 2015-21) and new urban water samples collected from selected cities in the UK. New normalisation approaches of wastewater fingerprints will be developed to enable inter-city comparison of population-wide mental health status, stress and the pain burden. Obtained data will be triangulated with socioeconomic and health indicators to provide comprehensive understanding of public health in the intercity study.

The research student will receive training in a range of modern analytical and bioanalytical techniques including state-of-the-art chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry techniques. In addition, he/she will join an interdisciplinary team at the University of Bath with critical research expertise in the area and excellent research infrastructure. Experience of academic/government/industrial research, interdisciplinary and international working and development of legislation and water, public health policy, will provide an exciting opportunity for further professional development.

Project keywords: mass spectrometry, environmental chemistry, public health, pharmaceuticals, biomarkers, water.

Candidate Requirements:

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First Class or good Upper Second Class Honours degree (or the equivalent) in Chemistry (Analytical, Environmental, Pharmaceutical, Physical or Computational) or Biochemistry. A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous.

Non-UK applicants must meet our English language entry requirement.

Enquiries and Applications:

Informal enquiries are welcomed and should be directed to Professor Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern (email: [Email Address Removed]).

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Chemistry.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found on our website.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion:

We value a diverse research environment and aim to be an inclusive university, where difference is celebrated and respected. We welcome and encourage applications from under-represented groups.

If you have circumstances that you feel we should be aware of that have affected your educational attainment, then please feel free to tell us about it in your application form. The best way to do this is a short paragraph at the end of your personal statement.

Funding Notes

Candidates applying for this project may be considered for a 3.5-year Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC DTP) studentship. Funding covers tuition fees, a stipend (£15,609 per annum, 2021/22 rate) and research/training expenses (£1,000 per annum). EPSRC DTP studentships are open to both Home and International students; however, in line with guidance from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the number of awards available to International candidates will be limited to 30% of the total.


Sims, N. and B. Kasprzyk-Hordern (2020). "Future perspectives of wastewater-based epidemiology: Monitoring infectious disease spread and resistance to the community level." Environ Int 139: 105689.
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