Funded (UK/EU and international students)

Project code



School of the Environment, Geography, and Geosciences

Start dates

October 2023

Application deadline

6 April 2023

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three-year PhD to commence in October 2023.

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Science and Health, and will be supervised by Professor Craig Storey, Dr Fay Couceiro and Dr James Darling.

Candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for one of a small number of bursaries available. Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees at the UK/EU rate for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£17,668 for 2022/23). Bursary recipients will also receive an annual contribution of £1,500 p.a towards consumables, conference, project or training costs.

The work on this project could involve:

  • Setting up new microanalytical techniques
  • Working in an exciting new area of measuring trace metals in plastics
  • Contributing to understanding of the role of microplastics in the environment in terms of toxicity

This project will establish new analytical techniques for the measurement of trace metal concentrations hosted by plastic in the environment. As we document evermore parts of the environment and in different species where microplastics can accumulate, there is a pressing need to understand the implications for toxicity. Although methods do exist for measuring metal concentrations in plastics, these are “bulk” digestion methods, which necessitate analysing multiple “grains” of microplastics in order to measure concentration. This means that we miss out on the ability to sample heterogeneity within a sample of microplastics and to determine the concentration in different polymer-types. In turn, this means that we do not yet have a good understanding of the roles of different types of plastic in terms of potential toxicity in the environment. New in situ microanalytical techniques will be developed using existing technologies but requiring protocol development to analyse polymers. These methods will be Raman spectroscopy, electron microscopy with energy dispersive spectroscopy and electron backscatter diffraction, and femtosecond laser ablation and laser induced breakdown spectroscopy. Once these new techniques are developed, they will be applied to natural samples from different environments.

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.

You should have a good background in chemistry and analytical techniques, such as ICP-MS, SEM, XRF or some other quantitative method. Good numeracy is required and the ability to work with and manipulate large datasets. The project will be lab-based, so the candidate should be happy with working prolonged periods in the lab.


How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Prof Craig Storey ( 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 SEGG7980423 when applying.