PhD opportunities for 2018 are now open

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Applications for the main DTP/CDT studentships (for October 2018 entry) are now closed. However from time to time we do have extra non-DTP/CDT opportunities. We will list these below as they become available.

Organic geochemistry
Machine learning models of organic soil contaminant bioavailability for the sustainable redevelopment of post-industrial brownfields

BGS supervisor: Dr Chris Vane and Dr Darren Beriro

University supervisor: Dr Matthew Jones, University of Nottingham


DTP project details:

Project description

Project description: This CASE PhD studentship will use a combination of organic geochemistry and data-driven modelling to elucidate the factors responsible for the skin absorption of hazardous organic chemicals in contaminated soils. With increasing pressure to build on brownfield sites there is an urgent need to fully understand the factors responsible for the release of organic contaminants in soil to the skin. Your research will be supervised by a team of globally acknowledged leaders from the British Geological Survey (Dr Christopher Vane, Dr Darren Beriro and Dr Paul Nathanail), University of Nottingham (Dr. Matthew Jones) and WSP (Prof. Russell Thomas).

You will create a comprehensive dataset of in vitro dermal bioavailability and physico-chemical properties for a range of real-world contaminated soils and interrogate the data using predictive numerical modelling-machine learning methods to evaluate the relationship between organic and inorganic interactions. The results generated from this PhD will be used to explain the factors responsible for the release of the organic chemicals form the soil and the subsequent skin absorption for used in risk-based redevelopment of brownfield land. The project builds on the past experience of the academic and industrial supervisors in human health risk assessment, geochemistry and machine learning for post-industrial brownfield sites. The project will address a current industry need and includes significant CASE funding from National Grid. You will investigate some of the key controls on the release of these contaminants from soil by completing a placement in Australia of up to 6 months with a world leading research laboratory at the University of Newcastle, NSW under the supervision of Prof. Ravi Naidu.

Your research outputs will include key lines of evidence to predict bioavailability of key contaminants required for site remediation and an improved understanding geochemical process controls. The project combines cutting edge science and human health risk assessment practice in the UK and rest of the world. The applied nature of the PhD means that this research project will provide you with an excellent chance of post-study employment in academia, government or the private sector.


The applicant will hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level in subjects such as Chemistry, Environmental Geoscience or Natural Sciences. A post-graduate qualification is desirable as is some industrial experience. A strong foundation in chemistry would be advantageous. Competition will be strong so the highest calibre candidates are encouraged to apply.

How to apply

This PhD will be hosted at the British Geological Survey (BGS) with University of Nottingham as the degree awarding body. Applications must be made through the Envision DTP website:

Further information

Please contact Dr Christopher Vane or Dr Daren Beriro.

Application deadline

Friday 13 July 2018.

Minerals and waste
Sustainable sourcing of platinum-group metal (PGM) from unconventional resources for supply to hydrogen production and fuel cell electric vehicles

BGS Supervisor: Dr Evi Petavratzi and Dr Alicja Lacinska

University Supervisor: Dr Hannah Hughes – University of Exeter, Dr Iain McDonald – Cardiff University


DTP project details: (Clean growth)

Project description

Advances in hydrogen production and fuel cells are vital for the decarbonisation of transport, infrastructure and industry, as highlighted by the UK Clean Growth Strategy and in similar strategies worldwide. Concerns about climate change, air pollution and energy security suggest future growth, but uncertainties over prevailing technologies, rate of market penetration and the balance between hydrogen and battery driven technologies make forecasting future raw materials demand difficult.

Platinum-group metals (PGM) are critical raw materials (due to their security of supply primarily from southern Africa and Russia) with diverse applications ranging from autocatalysts to investment. PGM are essential in electrolysis for hydrogen production and in fuel cells for electric vehicles. Both processes utilise electrolysers that contain PGM catalysts in higher concentrations than in the catalytic converters in conventional vehicles. Thus these emerging technologies will require a significant increase in the production (primary or otherwise) of PGM, whilst also fulfilling sustainability principles to align with the clean growth challenge. This project will explore secondary PGM resources, assess the PGM supply chain and evaluate potential environmental gains associated with their use.

First class Honours degree and/or Masters in Geology/Earth Sciences (or equivalent), with demonstrable interest in mineral resources, commodity markets, critical metals, security of supply, industrial ecology and sustainability. The candidate should have excellent communication skills to allow effective interaction with relevant stakeholders from government, industry and academia.

How to apply

This PhD will be hosted at the British Geological Survey (BGS). As the BGS cannot award degrees, applicants must complete online application form here: at the University of Exeter, where they will be registered, no later than 9 July 2018 11.59 BST. In addition to this they should send by e-mail to a current CV, names and addresses of two referees, personal statement written by the candidate, no longer than one page of A4, containing project title and detailing their reasons for applying to study a PhD and why they have selected their chosen doctoral research project.

Further information

Please contact Dr Evi Petavratzi

Application deadline

9 July 2018 11.59 BST