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PhD research projects

StudentProject SupervisorsTitleDescription
Nicola Beresford Prof Susan Jobling and Dr Alice Baynes Development of a novel assay for testing androgens and anti-androgens in fish.  Endocrine disrupting chemicals in the environment are a cause for concern as they are inadvertently affecting wildlife and humans. The majority of research to date has concentrated on natural and man-made chemicals that mimic steroidal oestrogens. More recently chemicals with other types of endocrine activity have been studied, including those with androgenic and anti-androgenic activity. Whilst an excellent in vivo assay exists for examining oestrogenic activity, the only good in vivo assay for detecting (anti)-androgenic mimics is specific to sticklebacks and other test species use endpoints that lack sensitivity and consistency. Stickleback fish exhibit male parental care whereby the male constructs its nest using a glue glycoprotein (spiggin) produced in the kidney under the control of androgens. In female sticklebacks, spiggin production can be induced in the kidney following androgen exposure. Other fish species with male parental care also produce similar proteins, albeit from different organs. The aim of this project is to look for sexually dimorphic proteins similar to spiggin in other fish species, and to use these to produce a novel fish test for androgens and anti-androgens.
Ojoghoro Oreva Jasper Dr Mark Scrimshaw and Dr Abdul Chaudhary Degradation and Transformation of Pharmaceuticals in the Environment   
Theoni-Maria Massara Dr Evina Katsou and Dr Mark Scrimshaw Development of a novel model to quantify nitrous oxide emissions in the biological nutrient removal process of wastewater treatment plants This PhD project aims to develop, test and validate a new software tool for the online monitoring, control and mitigation of the carbon footprint of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). Gaseous emissions are produced at various stages during the wastewater treatment in a WWTP. Strategies to decrease the required amount of energy for this operation may in fact cause greater harm due to the increase of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions. Various GHGs emissions are associated with the construction and operation of WWTPs; these include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (NO2), with nitrous oxide being 298 times more harmful than CO2. The development of a tool being able to accurately record online the various gaseous emissions during the construction and the different treatment processes of WWTPs is important in order to detect the emissions at the moment of their occurrence, immediately apply measures to reduce the gaseous contaminants and link the emissions with a particular activity in the plant. The online GHGs emissions monitoring and control system will be an innovative, low-cost and flexible configuration based on wireless sensor networks for the real-time detection of the GHGs and with a view to reducing them during the operation of WWTPs.
Phoebe Maund Dr Elisabeth Silva and Prof M. Widchwendter (UCL)  Human Toxicology and Epigenetics  Environmental contaminants are rapidly increasing in volume, as a result of their widespread use and production in industrial, agricultural and household settings. The presence of chemicals in the environment has been linked to a large number of negative outcomes in wildlife, including reproductive and developmental disorders. Also, several human diseases, such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, leukaemia and neurodevelopment disorders have already been linked with environmental contaminants, for example air pollution, benzene and heavy metals, respectively. Dramatic increases in certain diseases such as cancers, which appear to be related to environmental factors, have not yet been fully proven. Although it is strongly believed that there is a relationship between exposure to chemicals and cancer, the specific mechanisms behind these effects are not as clear. One proposed mechanism relates to potential changes to the epigenome elicited by chemicals, both in isolation and in combination. Often referred to as ‘the link between the environment and our genome’ the epigenome, when affected by external factors such as environmental pollutants, can lead to altered expression of specific target genes resulting in cancer development. This PhD aims at studying the impact of chemicals and mixtures of chemicals on the epigenetic profile of breast cells and investigating the potential links between these epigenetic changes and breast cancer risk.
Stanley Okam Dr Andrew Russell and Dr Mark Scrimshaw Impacts of projected precipitation changes on sugar beet yield in Eastern England  Projected climate change impacts in the UK include reduced precipitation, increasing temperature and increased chances of extreme events. The impacts resulting from this sort of events have been shown to affect agriculture and agricultural food productions more negatively than positive especially in food producing regions. This research focuses on the expected variability in precipitation and its impacts on sugar beet productivity in Eastern England between now and 2050.  
Aji Peter Dr Edwin Routledge and Professor Xiaohui Liu  Development of an evidence- based risk management system for Legionella control in domestic water systems. Inhalation of aerosols containing Legionella pneumophila, a water-borne bacteria commonly found in natural and manmade water systems, is the main causative agent of Legionnaires’ disease (LD). Risk assessment and risk management are the two important steps to protect the public from LD.

Kofi Renner

Dr Mark Scrimshaw and Dr Edwin Routledge  Identification of microplastics in freshwater environments. Microplastics such as polyethylene are used as ingredients in personal care products such as facial scrubs and toothpaste. The frequent use of these products release unknown quantities of these contaminants through waste treatment plants to the aquatic environment. Waste treatment plants do not the capacity remove these microplastics from waste waters effectively, before discharge to the aquatic environment. The lack of a standardised protocol for the characterisation of microplastics has hindered progress in identifying these contaminants and assessing their impact on the aquatic environment. The benchmark of this study is to develop a method or a series of methods to characterise microplastics in personal care products, with the aim of identifying them in wastewater effluents and in freshwater environments.development through music education