Medicine: Fully Funded PhD Scholarship at Swansea: An analytical and epigenetic investigation

  • Phd
  • Full cost of tuition fees and an annual stipend
  • 2 August 2021
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Fully Funded EPSRC and Microsaic Systems PhD Scholarship: An analytical and epigenetic investigation of the environmental and human health impacts of per- and polyfluoroalkyl ‚Äėforever chemicals‚Äô

This scholarship is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Microsaic Systems plc.

Start date: October 2021

Subject areas: Analytical science, environmental medicine, environmental monitoring, epigenetics

Environmental pollution has been strongly linked to adverse human health outcomes, leading to growing research in this area. Given the breadth of chemicals used in everyday life and their resistance to environmental breakdown, the risk of pollution through release via production, use, ineffective wastewater (WW) remediation, and/or leachate from landfill is significant. ‚ÄėFit-for-purpose‚Äô monitoring approaches are critical to understanding these relationships by determining the pollutant(s), degree of exposure, risk, and efficacy of management processes to better control release and mitigate harm. Monitoring approaches typically require individual sample collection onsite, with sample preparation and analysis using complex instrumentation in a laboratory. This results in the delayed deployment of mitigation measures and has driven research for remote monitoring solutions that provide real-time data to inform automated and/or AI-driven management processes, to quickly react to reduce environmental and public health risks.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are pollutants of increasing concern, notorious as ‚Äėforever chemicals‚Äô given their environmental persistence following use as protective, non-stick and fire-retardant coatings within electronics, textiles, cleaning agents and cookware. With a shortage of environmental testing (including drinking water sources) within the UK, and initial human epigenetic studies showing reproductive, developmental, immunological, kidney and carcinogenic effects from exposure via skin, contaminated food or water, there is an increasing need to monitor these pollutants. Furthermore, given there are conflicting accounts of the epigenetic mechanisms of specific PFAS (e.g. DNA methylation from PFOS and PFOA), questions remain as to how these phenotypic changes occur across the breadth of PFAS pollutants and their mixtures. By combining in-house environmental sample preparation and epigenetic approaches, with Microsaic‚Äôs miniature mass spectrometer, this project will¬†develop a monitoring platform capable of measuring PFAS at source and within a laboratory setting, and help establish the health impacts of PFAS pollution. Therefore, through partnership with stakeholders of the environmental sector, this work will better inform pollution remediation and capture processes for the safer management of PFAS.

This project will be based within a multidisciplinary research partnership between academia (Swansea University Medical School- SUMS), industry (Microsaic and Siltbuster) and an environmental regulator (Natural Resources Wales- NRW). This partnership seeks to better understand the links between environmental pollution and public health, and has the benefits of cutting-edge facilities and technologies specifically for environmental and epigenetic testing. For the project, the student will use instrumentation and laboratory approaches that include analytical technology and method development (including mass spectrometry), 3D culture, epigenetic cell and molecular assays, and related data analysis techniques, providing a diverse and much needed skillset to bridge the sectors. The supervisory team have a strong track record in innovation-led research and training, with past projects concerning technology development (SUMS, Microsaic, NRW and Siltbuster), environmental monitoring (SUMS and NRW), and epigenetic testing of xenobiotics (SUMS). Therefore, with co-development of research at the interface of environmental and public health, this project provides a multidisciplinary training setting, with opportunities to publish high impact work and present at relevant international conferences. The student will also be provided with office space, supported through bi-weekly supervisory meetings (virtual and in-person) and actively encouraged to participate in SUMS training and professional accreditation/membership (e.g. RSB/RSC) to further their development.

Eligibility

Candidates must have a minimum of upper second class Honours degree in a relevant discipline including chemistry and biochemistry.

Candidate should have experience of analytical instrumentation (liquid chromatography (LC) and mass spectrometry (MS)) and respective software, tissue culture and sample preparation for environmental matrices, analytical (MS) and sample preparation method development for quantitative analysis. 

For candidates whose first language is not English, we require IELTS 6.5 (with 5.5 in each component) or equivalent. Please visit our website for a list of acceptable English language tests. 

This scholarship is open to candidate of any nationality.

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Benefits

This scholarship covers the full cost of tuition fees and an annual stipend of £15,609.

Application

Please visit our website for more information.
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