Project code



School of Civil Engineering and Surveying

Start dates

April 2023

Closing date

28 February 2023

Applications are invited for a fully-funded 3.5 year PhD to commence in April 2023.

The PhD will be based in the School of Civil Engineering and Surveying and will be supervised by Dr Fay Couceiro, Professor Alex Ford and externally by Dr Sophie Leterme (Flinders, Australia). 

The successful candidate will be part of a new and innovative cluster of PhD students, dedicated to finding solutions to the global plastic crisis. Working as part of the cohort  you will explore the complex problem of marine pollution from plastic packaging and be expected to contribute to updates that demonstrate its impact. This interdisciplinary research programme is being supported by UK based material technologies company Aquapak, aiming to harness individual and collective discoveries to build new knowledge and deliver actionable strategies that can be taken to solve a growing problem.

Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for 3.5 years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£17,668 for 2022/23). 

The work on this project could involve:

  • Determining fragmentation rates of plastics to microplastics
  • Mesocosm to adjust controlling factors and mimic climate change 
  • Option to spend some months in Australia performing trials on tropical waters

This project will look to better understand fragmentation rates of plastics into microplastics initially focusing on the marine environments. A variety of traditional and new plastics will be used and subjected to different environmental and physical stresses in an enclosed environment, and the rate of formation of microplastics will be determined. To ensure that rates are determined for future scenarios, impacts of climate change on rates will also be determined. 

Data will be shared with colleagues who will look to include it into existing microplastics models to improve accuracy and forecasting of future scenarios. There may be an option to be involved in the modelling but that is not a requirement of the PhD and will be up to the chosen candidate.  

There will be an opportunity to spend a portion of the PhD in Adelaide, Australia, at Flinders University. This would allow for the exchange of methods and ideas between our microplastics groups and for the candidate to perform trials in different environments. 

As well as joining the departments PhD cohort, the candidate will become a part of the Microplastics PhD Research group at the University. This group spans multiple departments and Faculties providing a interdisciplinary research culture and a holistic way of thinking about the global problem of microplastics.   

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Excellent laboratory skills are a necessity, and skills in microplastics analysis are desirable. 

Experience in experimental design and a willingness to go into the field are required.

Good project management skills and ability to work on your own are desirable, particularly if the candidate wishes to take the opportunity to run some experiments in Australia.

Strong communication skills are wanted as the candidate will engage with supervisors in two universities and in outreach.



How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Fay Couceiro ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.  Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code SCES8140223 when applying.