Fully Funded DTC PhD Studentship: Circular Economy Approaches to Biological Wastes in Developing Nations

Swansea University - Chemistry

Project Supervisors:

Supervisor 1 Dr Ian Mabbett

Supervisor 2 Prof Kam Tang

Supervisor 3 Dr Aisling Devine

Start date:  January 2018

Project description:

This project is an exciting opportunity to explore how we can derive value from waste streams such as faecal sludge in developing nations. The project is aims to deliver impact in developing nations via development of transformative technologies for provision of water, sanitation and hygiene. The student will join a multi disciplinary team of chemists, biologists and engineers, part funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and will assess the viability of using processed sludge, usually ashes or biochars, as sources of biocrudes and as soil conditioners and fertilisers. 

The need for better sanitation in the developing world is clear. A third of the world’s population—2.5 billion people—practice open defecation or lack adequate sanitation facilities, and the consequences can be devastating for human health as well as the environment. Even in urban areas, where household and communal toilets are more prevalent, over 2 billion people use toilets connected to septic tanks that are not safely emptied or use other systems that discharge raw sewage into open drains or surface waters. 

Creating sanitation infrastructure and public services that work for everyone and that keep waste out of the environment is a major challenge. The toilets, sewers, and wastewater treatment systems used in the developed world require vast amounts of land, energy, and water, and they are expensive to build, maintain and operate. Existing alternatives that are less expensive are often unappealing because they do not kill disease-causing pathogens, have impractical designs, or retain odors and attract insects. 

By improving how we deal with human waste, we can save lives, improve child health, and ensure greater dignity, privacy, and personal safety, particularly for women and girls. Better sanitation also contributes to economic development, delivering up to $5 in social and economic benefits for every $1 invested through increased productivity, reduced healthcare costs, and prevention of illness, disability, and early death.   

Solving the sanitation challenge in the developing world will require radical innovations that are deployable on a large scale. Innovation is especially needed in densely populated areas, where billions of people are only capturing and storing their waste, with no sustainable way to handle it once their on-site storage—such as a septic tank or latrine pit—fills up. Solutions will require improvements along the entire sanitation service chain, including waste containment (toilets), emptying (of pits and septic tanks), transportation (to sewage treatment facilities), waste treatment, and disposal/reuse.


Academic Requirements:

Candidates must have a first, upper second class honours or a Masters degree (with Merit), in a relevant discipline. Applicants with practical knowledge of environmental science, microbiology, chemical analysis, circular economy and bio chemical engineering are particularly welcomed. There may be some opportunity to travel to remote sites (such as South Africa).  

For candidates whose first language is not English, we require IELTS 6.5 (with 6.0 in each component) or equivalent. Please visit our website for a list of acceptable English language tests.

Residency Criteria:

Due to funding restrictions, this studentship is open to UK/EU candidates only.

The studentship covers the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees plus an annual stipend of £14,553 (RCUK rate) for 3 years.

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