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Pigment-additive interactions in synthetic emulsion materials and implications for the conservation of modern and contemporary art


Project Description

Project
• The University of Leeds, in partnership with Tate, is offering a PhD studentship suitable for applicants with a background in science or engineering to investigate if, and how, pigments affect the formulation stability of synthetic emulsion materials developed since the 1950s.

• These materials are widely used in conservation treatments and contemporary works-of-art. The chemistry of additives (surfactants) used as stabilisers in emulsion paints and related materials will form a particular focus. Surfactants can migrate to paint and other surfaces, potentially altering surface gloss and saturation, encouraging soiling and influencing paint properties such as flexibility. This could have implications for artwork condition, appearance, and conservation.

• Materials of interest include acrylic paints, emulsion-based varnishes and coatings, paint mediums, gel additives, polyvinyl acetate paints, and water-miscible oil paints.

• Materials characterisation will encompass length scales from molecule to bulk characterisation of formulations in the liquid and/or solid state. Analytical techniques are likely to encompass spectroscopy (FTIR, XPS), spectrometry (GC-MS), microscopy (SEM, AFM) and assessment of bulk material properties e.g. mechanical strength, colour, gloss.

• The PhD studentship is funded for 3 years as part of an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) scheme (http://www.ahrc-cdp.org/) and is supported by training and networking events. The studentship is a unique opportunity to work across arts and STEM on industrially relevant materials making it attractive to a variety of career paths.

Your role
• Develop an in-depth understanding of the chemistry of synthetic emulsion materials starting with acrylic paints.
• Develop practical and theoretical knowledge of analyical techniques for characterisation of these materials in the bulk and at surfaces/interfaces.
• Investigate the chemistry of pigments in relation to other components of synthetic emulsion materials.
• Explore the implications of the above on the appearance of and preservation treatments for works-of-art.
• Participate in a supplementary training programme offered by the CDP (Previous activities listed here: http://www.ahrc-cdp.org/category/past-training/) and the White Rose College of Arts and Humanities (WRoCAH).
• Work primarily at the University of Leeds with visits to the Conservation Science Department at Tate Britain (London).

Essential Requirements
• A degree at undergraduate level equivalent to at least a UK Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) degree in a scientific or engineering discipline.
• UK/EU residency: Typically, UK residents receive full funding including fees and a maintenance grant (ca £15k/year tax free). EU residents are typically eligible for a fees-only award and will not receive a maintenance grant.

Desirable Requirements
Practical or theoretical knowledge through education or professional experience in at least one of the following, or related, areas: chemistry, conservation/heritage science, chemical engineering, colour chemistry, forensic science, pigments, paints, adhesives, colloid and interface science, spectroscopy or fine arts.

Supervisory team
The project will be jointly supervised by Dr Elizabeth Willneff at the University of Leeds in the School of Design and Dr Bronwyn Ormsby who is Principal Conservation Scientist at Tate, London. Additional mentoring will be provided by Dr Judith Tucker (School of Design) in Fine Arts and by Prof Sven Schroeder (School of Chemical and Process Engineering) in chemistry and materials characterisation.

To apply
Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until a suitable applicant is found. For full consideration, submit applications by Nov 1, 2017. The starting date for the scholarship is Jan 1, 2018.

(1) complete the online application form (https://www.leeds.ac.uk/info/130206/applying/91/applying_for_research_degrees) and

(2) send the following documents in one email to with the subject line: ‘AHRC PhD application – Willneff Leeds/Tate’

1. Transcript and certificate from Bachelor’s degree
2. Transcript and certificate from Master’s degree (if applicable)
3. IELTS score of 6.5 overall with no less than 6.0 in any skill area, or equivalent (if applicable)
4. two academic references (name and contact details)
5. CV
6. A covering letter including a 500-word statement on how you will approach the research topic and what you would like to achieve during the project

Full project details including application procedure and eligibility requirements are available to download at http://scholarships.leeds.ac.uk/ or by contacting Dr Willneff ().

Funding Notes

Applicants should meet the AHRC eligibility criteria: View Website.

The link above outlines the residency requirements for receiving either a full award (including fees and maintenance) or a partial fees-only award. To summarise, students ordinarily resident in the UK are likely to be eligible for a full award. Students ordinarily resident in the EU are likely to be eligible for a fees-only award.

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