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PhD Studentship: Quantifying the Role of Fe-bearing Clay Minerals for Abiotic Natural Attenuation of Halogenated Contaminants

Newcastle University

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne
Funding for: EU Students, International Students, Self-funded Students, UK Students
Funding amount: £15,609 Full home fees and annual living allowance
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 10th September 2021
Closes: 1st October 2021
Reference: ENG083


Halogenated contaminants such as chlorinated solvents are prevalent pollutants in contaminated soils and groundwater and remain among the most difficult to remediate. The potential contribution of abiotic natural attenuation (ANA) to halogenated contaminant degradation has recently received increased recognition but there are still significant gaps in our understanding and quantification of fundamental processes underpinning ANA. The aim of this project is to characterize the degradation of halogenated contaminants by Fe-bearing clay minerals under changing biogeochemical site conditions. Specifically, we will address current data gaps on the reduction of specific halogenated contaminants (e.g. dichloroethenes) by Fe-bearing clay minerals, evaluate relative contributions of reductive vs oxidative degradation of a range of chlorinated and fluorinated contaminants, and investigate cause and effects of reactive mineral intermediate (RMI) phases formed during changes in biogeochemical conditions. Our overall approach combines detailed characterization of the biogeochemical conditions (ICP-OES/MS, in-situ DO probes), the mineral assemblage (Mössbauer spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction), and the rates and products of halogenated contaminant degradation (GC-MS/FID, LC-MS-MS).

This project is part of a larger, collaborative study with the Oregon Health & Science University and the University of Iowa.

Start Date: November 2021

Award Duration: 3 years

Application Closing Date: 1 October 2021 



Eligibility Criteria

You must have, or expect to achieve, a minimum of an upper-second-class Honours degree or international equivalent, in environmental science/engineering/chemistry, geochemistry or a related subject and have experience in the laboratory. You should be motivated to conduct extensive laboratory work, including aqueous and solid phase analyses (ICP-OES, GC-MS, HPLC, LC-MS-MS, XRD, Mössbauer spectroscopy). Experience in any of these techniques would be advantageous. The project involves collaboration with overseas universities, requiring excellent communication skills and proficiency in the English language.

The studentship is open to both Home and International applicants. However, the funding only covers Home fees and an annual living allowance of £15,609. Therefore any international applicants must be able to self-fund the difference between Home and International fee amounts.

How To Apply

You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system. To do this please ‘Create a new account’.

All relevant fields should be completed, but fields marked with a red asterisk must to be completed. The following information will help us to process your application. You will need to:

  • insert the programme code 8040F in the programme of study section
  • select ‘PhD Civil Engineering (Environmental)’ as the programme of study
  • insert the studentship code ENG083 in the studentship/partnership reference field
  • attach a covering letter and CV. The covering letter must state the title of the studentship, quote reference code ENG083 and state how your interests and experience relate to the project
  • attach degree transcripts and certificates and, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualifications

You should also send your covering letter and CV to Dr Anke Neumann email to

Contact Details

Dr Anke Neumann –

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