PhD - Using Mass Spectrometry and Computational Methods to Measure Environmental Chemicals and Discover Associations between Pollution and Environmental Health (NERC Industrial CASE PhD)

University of Birmingham

The EXPOSOME – representing all environmental exposures from conception onwards – is a quantity of critical interest to human and environmental health. With >70,000 synthetic chemicals used by industry, from pharmaceuticals to agrichemicals to consumer products, the challenge to measure the exposome is colossal. Since many of these chemicals enter our environment it is essential to understand the potential impacts of complex chemical mixtures, typically at low levels, on environmental and human health. METABOLOMICS is a transformative technology that measures 1000’s of metabolites in organisms, yielding information-rich molecular signatures that describe the responses to pollution. Building on the University of Birmingham’s decade-long track record in metabolomics, we will adapt mass spectrometry metabolomics approaches to measure both the exposome (‘exposure’) and metabolome (‘effect’). We will then undertake an ecological Exposome Wide Association Study (EWAS) to discover associations between environmental pollution and health of a sentinel freshwater species, Daphnia magna. Overall, this studentship will provide the community with novel methods to characterise the exposome, and build weight of evidence to support the application of EWAS approaches to discover links between pollution and health.

Our CASE PARTNER, Thermo Fisher Scientific (TFS), is a world leader in the development of liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry (LC-MS) and has identified metabolomics as a priority area. In 2013, TFS formed a Technology Alliance Partnership with the University of Birmingham, the first such partnership within Europe. This proposal builds upon four existing iCASE awards with TFS as part of their commitment to graduate training.

The student will be integrated within three pre-existing communities of PhD students and researchers, providing an exceptional TRAINING ENVIRONMENT: the growing Environmental Systems Biology network at Birmingham, comprising 7 research groups; the Computational Toxicology community, a network of several research groups from Birmingham and internationally; and the community of ca. 30 scientists who constitute the Partnership with TFS.

Are you the right person for this PhD?

We seek an exceptional candidate with a high quality undergraduate or Masters degree (can be pending) in fields such as analytical chemistry, environmental chemistry or forensics, who has a passion to develop bioanalytical approaches and importantly to apply them to a highly relevant 21st century challenge in the environmental sciences.

Funding Notes

This studentship is for 3.5 years and is funded by the NERC and Thermo Fisher Scientific. The studentship covers tuition fees and an annual stipend of £14,296 per annum for UK and EU nationals (where the EU nationals have resided in the UK for 3 years or more), as per NERC funding rules. In addition, as an iCASE studentship, Thermo Scientific will provide a further £1,000 per year towards the stipend. Consumables will be covered by the NERC studentship as well as an additional £1,500 towards these from Thermo Scientific.

Please apply through the University of Birmingham application portal at View Website:

When applying specifically include the name of the supervisor (MARK VIANT), state the funding source (NERC iCASE PhD) and the project title above.

Please contact Mark Viant - attaching your CV to the email - for further information.

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Midlands of England