Plastics In Museum Collections – A Study Of Their Chemical And Physical Degradation Using A System Dynamics approach

University College London

4 year PhD studentship to start September 2017

This project will view museum artefacts in a new way: as complex systems which undergo multiple, inter-related chemical and physical processes. Focussing on plastic objects, which are found in increasing numbers in museum collections, and present significant problems in relation to their stability, the successful student will conduct experiments that seek to understand these processes and their inter-relationships in more depth. The project is based at UCL, in partnership with the Museum of London and Lacerta Technology Ltd. The research will involve degradation experiments and laboratory-based materials analysis using techniques such as Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). The student will also perform on-site analysis at the Museum of London using portable, non-destructive analytical techniques. This research aims to develop a new approach to understanding material degradation that can be applied in many fields, such as medicine or defence, and provide practical solutions for heritage professionals, such as providing guidance on controlling museum storage environments.

Academic supervisors: Dr Katherine Curran and Prof Ivan Parkin, UCL

Heritage supervisors: Abigail Moore, Museum of London

Industrial supervisor: Dr John Duncan, Lacerta Technology Ltd

Full information about the project can be found at:

Academic entry criteria: The candidate will ideally have a background in Chemistry, Polymer or Material Science or a related field. 

Training path: The student will be part of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training SEAHA (Science and Engineering for Arts, Heritage and Archaeology). Students will register for the one year MRes SEAHA at UCL in year 1 and then continue to PhD studies for years 2-4 of the studentship. The student will be encouraged to spend time working at both the Museum of London and Lacerta Technology Ltd

Funding: The SEAHA Studentship will cover fees for both UK and EU students and a stipend of up to a maximum of £18,172 per year (current rate) for eligible applicants, and a substantial budget for research, travel, and cohort activities. Non-EU applicants are not eligible for funding.

Enquiries: Please contact the academic supervisor for further information (

Application Deadline: 20th August 2017, 5PM GMT

How to apply:

Your application should include:

  • A substantial covering letter (2-3 pages) including:
    • a clear explanation of your motivation for applying for this project
    • a statement of your understanding of your eligibility according to criteria specified by SEAHA and the EPSRC.
  • A short research proposal (max. 2000 words) taking into consideration the project research questions
  • A full CV
  • Contact details for two academic references (names, postal and email addresses)
  • Proof of meeting the UCL English language proficiency requirements where necessary. For SEAHA candidates, an advanced level certificate is normally required. See UCL’s English language requirements page for further details.

Interviews are likely to happen in late August. Please mention in your covering letter if you will not be available at this time. Remote interviews (e.g. via skype) are possible if necessary.

Apply: the application should be submitted by email directly to the UCL SEAHA Manager and not via the UCL online admissions system. Please email applications to: SEAHA Centre Manager,

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