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Water fingerprinting with mass spectrometry for public health assessment

   Department of Chemistry

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

About the Project

A fully funded PhD studentship is available from October 2023 to develop new approaches towards evaluation of public and environmental health risks from hazardous chemicals. 

Overview of the Research:

Urban water represents a fingerprint of a city’s metabolism (exposome). It is a complex mixture of substances of biological and chemical origin including community stressors (e.g. toxicants and infectious agents) and urban physiological processes (e.g. specific disease-linked proteins, genes and stressor metabolites). The quantitative measurement of these substances continuously pooled by the water system can provide evidence of community-wide exposure to stressors as well resulting health effects.

Human biomonitoring allows for the verification of public exposure to chemical substances. Unfortunately, due to logistical difficulties and high cost, it evaluates only small study groups and a limited number of chemical targets. Water-based chemical mining utilizing metabolic biomarkers of exposure and effects that are produced collectively by studied populations and ultimately end up in urban water, provides a timely alternative to traditional approaches.

This project will aim to develop new, water-based chemical mining approaches using mass spectrometry for comprehensive assessment of community-wide exposure to hazardous chemicals. Wide-ranging harmful chemicals belonging to several usage groups: industrial chemicals (e.g. plastics), chemicals in personal care products (e.g. those with endocrine disruption actions), pesticides (e.g. those found in food), and prescription pharmaceuticals (e.g. antibiotics linked with antimicrobial resistance) will be investigated

This studentship is funded by UKRI and is part of the European flagship programme: Partnership for the Assessment of Risk from Chemicals (PARC). PARC aims to develop next-generation chemical risk assessment in order to protect health and the environment

The research student will receive training in a range of modern analytical and bioanalytical techniques including state-of-the-art chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry techniques. In addition, he/she will work with the leading water utility company in the UK. He/she will also join interdisciplinary teams at the University of Bath with substantial research expertise in the area and excellent research infrastructure. Experience of academic / industrial research, interdisciplinary and international working and development of legislation and water policy, will provide an exciting opportunity for further professional development.

Water-based chemical mining (water fingerprinting) has the potential to revolutionise health-care provision as it can provide real-time and cost-effective community-wide public health diagnostics, since urban water can be considered as a diagnostic medium for the health status of a community and surrounding environment. 

Project keywords: pollution, exposure to hazardous chemicals, environmental analysis, mass spectrometry, public health, epidemiology.

Candidate Requirements:

Applicants should have, or expect to receive, an Upper Second Class (2:1) Honours Degree or above (or equivalent) in Chemistry (Analytical, Environmental, Pharmaceutical, Physical), Environmental Sciences or Biochemistry. A master’s level qualification would be advantageous but not essential.

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

Enquiries and Applications:

Informal enquiries are encouraged and should be directed to Prof Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern on email address [Email Address Removed].

Formal applications should be submitted via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Chemistry prior to the closing date of this advert.

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

NOTE: Applications may close earlier than the advertised deadline if a suitable candidate is found. We therefore recommend that you contact Prof Kasprzyk-Hordern prior to applying and submit your formal application as early as possible.

Funding Eligibility:

To be eligible for funding, you must qualify as a Home student. The eligibility criteria for Home fee status are detailed and too complex to be summarised here in full; however, as a general guide, the following applicants will normally qualify subject to meeting residency requirements: UK and Irish nationals (living in the UK or EEA/Switzerland), those with Indefinite Leave to Remain and EU nationals with pre-settled or settled status in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list. Additional information may be found on our fee status guidance webpage, on the GOV.UK website and on the UKCISA 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

A studentship includes Home tuition fees, a stipend (£17,668 per annum, 2022/23 rate) and research/training expenses (£1,000 per annum) for 3 years. Eligibility criteria apply – see Funding Eligibility section above.


1. Kasprzyk-Hordern, B., K. Proctor, K. Jagadeesan, L. Lopardo, K. J. O'Daly, R. Standerwick and R. Barden (2021). Estimation of community-wide multi-chemical exposure via water-based chemical mining: Key research gaps drawn from a comprehensive multi-biomarker multi-city dataset. Environment International 147.
2. Lopardo, L., A. Rydevik and B. Kasprzyk-Hordern (2019). A new analytical framework for multi-residue analysis of chemically diverse endocrine disruptors in complex environmental matrices utilising ultra-performance liquid chromatography coupled with high-resolution tandem quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 411(3): 689-704.
3. Proctor, K., B. Petrie, L. Lopardo, D. C. Muñoz, J. Rice, R. Barden, T. Arnot and B. Kasprzyk-Hordern (2021). Micropollutant fluxes in urban environment - A catchment perspective. J Hazard Mater 401: 123745.
4. Kasprzyk-Hordern B, Proctor, K, Jagadeesan, K, Edler, F, Standerwick, R, Barden, R. (2022). Human population as a key driver of biochemical burden in an inter-city system: Implications for One Health concept, Journal of Hazardous Materials 429: 127882.

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