Self-funded PhD students only

Project code



School of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Start dates

February and October

Closing date

Applications open all year round

Applications are invited for a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD studentship, to commence in February 2019 or October 2019. This project is supervised by Dr Mike FowlerDr Andy Gibson and Dr Dean Bullen.

Health problems related to asbestos fibres are very well known, which is why legislation and occupational health guidance are now in place to minimise the otherwise catastrophic consequences for affected individuals.

However, less is known about many other naturally occurring minerals which have similar crystal morphology. These may pose similar or higher risks than asbestos, and are present in locations that may provide easy exposure to humans.

The most commonly occurring example of this (in the UK and worldwide) is erionite, a fibrous zeolite, thought to be many times more carcinogenic than the most potent asbestos minerals (amphibole group). Erionite recognised as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and by the WHO as the most carcinogenic mineral.

Despite this, its distribution in the natural environment is poorly known, and current detection methods are complex and time-consuming.

You'll build on the results of a pilot study conducted by the project supervisors, contributing to the development of a method for confident, rapid, field-based identification of erionite and related fibrous zeolites, using NIR spectrometry.

The work will include:

  • developing a quick, field-based NIR spectrometry identification method for erionite and related fibrous zeolites
  • adapting the geo-envrionmental conceptual model of erionite distribution in the plateau lavas of the UK, using the results from detailed field surveys
  • characterising the environmental persistence of erionite once released by quarrying or natural weathering

Fibrous zeolites are most likely to occur in zones of low grade metamorphic rocks, including volcanic tuffs and basalts where they crystallise in vugs and amygdales as a result of water-rock interactions at low temperature and pressure.

Erionite distribution has been investigated, for example in Italy and in Dakota (USA) but despite its known presence in host rocks in the UK (principally the British Tertiary volcanic rocks of Antrim and western Scotland), its abundance and distribution are effectively unknown.


Self-funded PhD students only

Funding Availability: Self-funded PhD students only

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the Government Doctoral Loan

2019/2020 entry

  • Home/EU/CI full-time students: £4,327 p/a*
  • Home/EU/CI part-time students: £2,164 p/a*
  • International full-time students: £15,900 p/a*
  • International part-time students: £7,950 p/a*

Bench fees may also apply - for more information please contact the project supervisor

By Publication Fees 2019/2020

  • Members of staff: £1,610 p/a*
  • External candidates: £4,327 p/a*

*All fees are subject to annual increase.

Entry requirements

Entry Requirements

  • A good 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.
  • 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 start your application, or enquire further about the process involved, please contact Dr Mike Fowler (, Dr Andy Gibson ( and Dr Dean Bullen ( quoting both the project code (SEES4451018) and the project title.

You can also visit our How to Apply pages to get a better understanding of how the PhD application process works.

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