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PhD Studentship: Managing Biofilms and Disinfection Residuals to Protecting Drinking Water Safety

University of Sheffield - Sheffield Water Centre

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Sheffield
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £19,000
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 6th February 2020
Closes: 17th April 2020

A partnership between The University of Sheffield, Sheffield Water Centre and Scottish Water, as part of the Water Infrastructure and Resilience EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training

EPSRC PhD studentship in: Managing biofilms and disinfection residuals to protecting drinking water safety

4-years tax-free stipend of £19,000 per year and all tuition fees paid

Start Date: 28 September 2020 (contract duration 4 years)

Interview Date: 6 May 2020

This fully funded project provides an unrivalled opportunity to conduct research using bespoke pipe loop experimental facilities at Scottish Water sites.  Key to success will be the application of the latest DNA based and other characterisation and analysis techniques to understand and manage biofilms within drinking water distribution systems. Ultimately the research will help ensure high quality drinking water and hence protecting public health and well-being

Drinking water distribution systems (DWDS) are extensive, heterogenic, ageing pipe networks. They are essentially large bioreactors that have a significant influence on the quality of drinking water. Biofilms that persist on the vast internal surfaces of distribution assets are central to this. A move from chlorination to chloramination in order to minimise the formation of disinfection by-products, especially Trihalomethanes, in DWDS is growing. Critically, this will affect the biofilms potentially causing water quality issues or failures. Such changes are known to alter bacterial communities and, anecdotally, to cause discolouration of drinking water. The overarching aim is to determine the impact of changing disinfection strategies (e.g. from chlorination to chloramination) on biofilm characteristics and water quality parameters and the risks to water quality and infrastructure resilience.  Understanding the consequences that changing disinfection practices have is essential to enable better management and to predict DWDS performance, and ultimately to ensure safe drinking water.

The PhD will benefit from being part of WIRe (Centre for Doctoral Training in Water Infrastructure and Resilience). WIRe is a collaboration between the three leading UK Universities in water resilient infrastructure. Students will benefit from a bespoke training scheme delivered by world leading authorities from academia and industry, access to world leading experimental and computational facilities as well as close and regular contact with industry and end user partners. Resources are also available for international collaboration and conference attendance. WIRe is committed to promoting a diverse and inclusive community, and offer a range of family friendly, inclusive employment policies. For further information on the CDT WIRe scheme visit the web site at:


The project will be supervised by Prof Joby Boxall, Dr Katherine Fish and Prof Vanessa Speight at the University of Sheffield in collaboration with Scottish Water. The normal place of work is expected to be at the University of Sheffield, with close regular interaction with Scottish Water and periods at water treatment works where the pipe loop facility will be located, with travel and subsistence costs provided for these periods.

Eligibility Criteria

Normal EPSRC funding eligibility applies to this award, so students must have a relevant connection with the UK (usually established by residence).

Selection Criteria

The selection criteria are a good first degree in relevant engineering or science discipline with enthusiasm for the topic area.

How to apply

Interested candidates should email a covering letter and their Curriculum Vitae to Lindsay Hopcroft (

For information and informal enquiries please contact: Prof Joby Boxall (

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