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PhD Studentship in Environmental Science, University of Reading, UK

Project title:  Developing optical methods for catchment management to protect drinking water

Department: Geography & Environmental Science

Supervisors:  Dr Joanna Clark (Reading), Prof Chris Collins (Reading), Dr Robin Oliver (Syngenta), Alister Leggatt (Affinity Water) 

Project Overview:   Pesticides provide essential crop protection for food production, but can cause problems if they enter our drinking water.  Removal of pesticides during water treatment processes comes at a resource and waste cost.  Water companies need to be able to deal with dynamic pesticide concentrations at the treatment works, and to reduce pesticide transport from fields through catchment management.  Likewise, farmers want pesticides to stay in fields to protect crops, as pesticide loss in drainage water wastes an expensive resource.  The challenge here is to engineer pesticides that are effective with limited mobility and no long-term toxicity. 

This exciting project will focus on improving our understanding of pesticide binding to organic matter of different qualities affected by soil types, manure, crop residue etc.  This knowledge will be used to evaluate whether optical sensors can provide rapid proxy measurements of pesticide concentrations in surface waters.   Work will be supported through a novel collaboration between Syngenta’ (global crop protection company) and Affinity Water (water supply company). The student will work with Affinity Water’s current programme of pesticide monitoring within the Loddon Catchment and the Syngenta product safety group.  This research will be part of a £4m EPSRC consortium grant, TWENTY65, dedicated to solving the grand challenge or clean water for all.   

This PhD offers excellent opportunities to gain industry relevant skills and experience in a novel area of cross-disciplinary science.  Technical training will include field and laboratory skills in novel sensor technology, monitoring, experimentation and analytical techniques (13C NMR, FTIR, Fluorescence and UV-Vis spectroscopy, GC-MS).  The student will join an active group of PhD students and postdocs working in this area.


  • Applicants should hold or expect to gain a minimum of a 2:1 Bachelor Degree or equivalent in Environmental Science, Agriculture, Chemistry, Civil Engineering or equivalent. 
  • Open to UK/EU students.

Funding Details:   

  • EPSRC DTP Funded
  • Starts September 2016
  • 3 year award confirmed, with possible extra funding for year 4
  • Funding includes tuition fees and a stipend of £15,540 per year (tax free)
  • Additional funding provided to support research training, conference attendance, field work, laboratory work and other research expenses

How to apply:    To apply for this studentship please submit an application for a PhD in Environmental Science at http://www.reading.ac.uk/graduateschool/prospectivestudents/gs-how-to-apply.aspx

*Important note* Please quote the reference ‘GS16-011’  in the ‘Scholarships applied for’ box which appears within the Funding Section of your on-line application.

Application Deadline:  18th April 2016

Further Enquiries:  Please note that, where a candidate is successful in being awarded funding, this will be confirmed via a formal studentship award letter; this will be provided separately from any Offer of Admission and will be subject to standard checks for eligibility and other criteria. 

For further details please contact Dr Joanna Clark (j.m.clark@reading.ac.uk) or Prof Chris Collins (c.d.collins@reading.ac.uk)
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