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PhD Studentship: New Research on the History and Technology of Materials in Paintings and other Cultural Heritage Artefacts using Advanced Mass Spectrometry Techniques

University of Bristol - School of Chemistry

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Bristol
Funding for: UK Students
Funding amount: £15,009
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 31st July 2019
Closes: 28th August 2019

Funding amount Fees, facilities costs and a £15,009 tax free stipend for 3 years (plus £550 additional payment for Collaborative Doctoral Students and a further 6 months funding for students who engage in development placements during their PhD)

The project:

AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral PhD Studentship with the University of Bristol and the National Gallery

The scholarly study of paintings and other artworks involves research into an artist's creative processes, the nature of the materials and techniques used and the current condition of objects resulting from natural deterioration. Such studies benefit enormously from chemical analysis, wherein small samples of paint are physically removed from artefacts in order that the chemistry can be assessed in relation to the aforementioned factors. The organic components are of particular interest and can include a wide range of natural products, such as: oils, waxes, resins and proteins, all of which have the potential to profoundly influence the appearance of a work, its current condition and the planning of conservation treatments. These organic materials can be original components, such as paint constituents (binder, colorant or other additives) or later additions (e.g. repairs or retouchings, varnishes or other surface coatings). The chemical analysis of organic components is challenging for a number of reasons: (i) The complexity of the materials themselves (ii) The organic material(s) of interest will generally be quite minor components of the overall paint sample, and (iii) The heterogeneous nature of the samples and age of the artefact. Hence, to obtain the maximum amount of chemical information from the minimum amount of paint it is important to use highly sensitive & specific analytical techniques.  

The advertised studentship offers the successful candidate the opportunity to help answer both art historical and conservation-related questions using state-of-the-art mass spectrometry (MS) approaches. High resolution MS offers substantial advantages over the current instrumentation typically used by heritage scientists. The studentship brings together researchers from the University of Bristol and the National Gallery and will use these new technologies to explore question relating to: (i) The detection of specific organic materials; (ii)The identification of the biological (or geological) source of organic materials; (iii)The status of organic materials. Achieving this will involve refining analytical protocols based on advanced instrumentation using reference samples selected from the extensive collection of natural products held within the National Gallery scientific department. The protocols developed will then be applied to real problems within the cultural heritage sector using authentic case studies, selected from on-going projects in the art-historical study or conservation of paintings from the National Gallery collection.

How to apply:

Please make an online application for this project at Please select Chemistry (PhD) on the Programme Choice page. You will be prompted to enter details of the studentship in the Funding and Research Details sections of the form.

Candidate requirements: Candidates should possess a degree in a relevant subject area, such as a 2:1 or higher in chemistry, or a related discipline aligned to the studentship. Students must also meet the eligibility requirements of the UK Research Council for graduate students.

Funding: The successful student will receive a studentship covering fees and providing a stipend of £15,009 p.a. plus £550 additional payment for Collaborative Doctoral Students.

Contacts: Professor Richard Evershed: Email:;  Telephone: 0117 9287671 or Dr David Peggie: Email:; Telephone: Tel: 020 7747 2825

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