Project code



School of Biological Sciences

Start dates

February and October

Application deadline

Applications accepted all year round

Applications are invited for a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD studentship, to commence in October 2020 or February 2021.

This practice-based PhD project involves determining whether environmental exposure to neuroendocrine disrupters can alter the neurophysiology of key crustacean species. It's supervised by Professor Alex Ford (

A wide range of biologically active pharmaceutical compounds can be detected in rivers and estuaries as a result of human, veterinary and industrial waste. Currently the technology in our sewage treatment processes is unable to eliminate the vast majority of these chemicals.

This results in highly biologically active compounds impacting the health of our ecosystems. Antidepressants in particular can have a negative impact on aquatic wildlife.

The work will include:

  • training in ecotoxicology, immunohistochemistry and molecular techniques
  • applying advanced neurobiological techniques to speed the creation of useful ecotoxicological biomarkers in invertebrate crustaceans

Antidepressants act by modulating the action of the neurohormone and neurotransmitter, serotonin.

Within many invertebrates, serotonin not only controls behaviour, but also growth, reproduction, metabolism and maturation. Therefore, any chemicals in the environment with the capacity to alter serotonin also has the capability to disrupt wide-scale biological functions (Fong and Ford, 2014).

Currently, the ability to determine neuroendocrine disruption in wildlife has been hindered by a lack of appropriate biomarkers. For example, altered behaviour can be very transient in time, hard to quantify and practically impossible to detect in the wild.

Fortunately, the nervous systems of animals (invertebrates and vertebrates) are relatively conserved. This means that advanced techniques employed in the biomedical sciences are more easily-transferred to non-model organisms.

Humans exposed to antidepressants in the long-term have displayed increased neurological dysfunction, so it is conceivable that wildlife exposed to long-term neurological disrupting chemicals may also display irregularities in neural function and architecture.

The aim of this project is to transfer and optimise skills and techniques employed in advanced neurobiology to assist in the development of appropriate ecotoxicological biomarkers in invertebrate crustaceans.

Specifically, you'll be trained in ecotoxicology, immunohistochemistry and molecular techniques with the view of determining whether environmental exposure to neuroendocrine disrupters can alter the neurophysiology of key crustacean species.

Fees and funding

Visit the research subject area page for fees and funding information for this project.

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only).

Bench fees

Some PhD projects may include additional fees – known as bench fees – for equipment and other consumables, and these will be added to your standard tuition fee. Speak to the supervisory team during your interview about any additional fees you may have to pay. Please note, bench fees are not eligible for discounts and are non-refundable.

Entry requirements

  • A minimum of a second-class honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject or a master’s degree in an appropriate subject.
  • Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered. An online portfolio submission may be required as part of the selection process. All applicants are subject to interview.
  • English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Make an enquiry

For administrative and admissions enquiries please contact

How to Apply

To find out more about applying for this project, please contact Professor Alex Ford (, quoting both the project code BIOL2890217 and the project title.

When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Biological Siences PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake. 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.