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Environment and Health PhD


About the course

Research students are welcomed to Brunel as valued members of our thriving, research-intensive community. A research degree provides the opportunity to investigate a topic in depth, and contribute new knowledge to your discipline. A PhD involves demonstrating through original research or other advanced scholarship the creation and interpretation of new knowledge, a systematic acquisition and understanding of a substantial body of knowledge at the forefront of an academic discipline or professional practice, the ability to conceptualise, design and implement a project for the general of new knowledge, applications or understanding at the forefront of the discipline. Both full-time (3 years) and part-time (6 years) study routes are available.

MPhil option
Research students are welcomed to Brunel as valued members of our thriving, research-intensive community. A research degree provides the opportunity to investigate a topic in depth, and contribute new knowledge to your discipline. An MPhil involves the exploration of a research topic and is typically studied over a shorter period of 1 year for a full-time student and 2 years for a part-time student. MPhil students are required to demonstrate a systematic understanding of knowledge and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights informed by the forefront of their discipline, field of study or professional practice.

Research profile
Environmental factors influence our health and wellbeing, as well as affect ecosystems and wildlife. An intimate understanding of such factors – chemical substances, for example, or changes in radiation or temperature – is urgently needed to better understand disease trends in humans and adverse effects on wildlife. Our research in the area of environment and health provides the foundations necessary to pinpoint preventable causes of ill-health and adversity and to underpin development of evidence-based primary prevention policies. A second important focus for our research is to understand the impacts of human civilisation on Earth's natural systems and the ecosystem services that support us. We are developing technologies and approaches to prevent and remedy pollution as well as to renew and restore degraded ecosystems.

The Environment and Health theme is one of the largest in the Institute of Environment, Health and Societies (IEHS); there are now more than 50 theme members whose research focuses on five areas:

  • Biological Pathways and Systems
  • Environmental Health and Ecosystems
  • Environmental Change
  • Environmental Solutions
  • Environmental Policy and Communication

While we welcome all multidisciplinary topics in the area of Environment and Health here is a list of potential research areas we would like to supervise. For details of these and other potential topics please visit our Doctoral Opportunities webpage.

  • Development of a novel assay for testing androgens and anti-androgens in fish. 
  • Degradation and Transformation of Pharmaceuticals in the Environment 
  • Development of a novel model to quantify nitrous oxide emissions in the biological nutrient removal process of wastewater treatment plants
  • Human Toxicology and Epigenetics 
  • Development of an evidence- based risk management system for Legionella control in domestic water systems.
  • Identification of microplastics in freshwater environments.

Find out more:

College of Health and Life Sciences

Institute for Environment, Health and Societies

Environment and Health Theme



All research degrees are administered by the Postgraduate Research Programmes Office in Colleges. Once you have identified your area of research and a potential supervisor, please use the contact details below for enquiries. You may approach your potential supervisor directly - browse Environment and Health Theme Members Profiles.

College of Health and Life Sciences 
Tel: +44 (0) 1895 268161


Special Features

Our research is widely recognised internationally and benefits from strong international collaborations with pharmaceutical industries (e.g. AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Glaxo), water companies (Severn Trent Water, South West Water, Thames Water, Anglian Water) and with government authorities such as the European Environment Agency, the UK Environmental Agency of England and Wales and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Membership of London NERC – DTPs
Staff from Environment and Health participate in the London NERC Doctoral Training Program (DTP), a program that currently funds 70 PhD students in the natural sciences.  The aim of the London NERC DTC is to attain new standards of excellence in environmental science research training, and deliver a transformative inter-disciplinary experience for PhD students in the heart of London. Students are trained at 9 of the World-leading research centres, which cover a huge range of environmental science research, from those driven by contemporary environmental challenges to those exploring complex questions about the evolution of planet Earth.  Student projects within Environment and Health are mainly in the themes of Environmental Pollution, Natural and Biological Hazards and Past Life and the Environment. Examples of projects offered by the theme can  be found here

Specialist equipment and facilities
Students have access to our state of the art research facilities, where we perform molecular biological and toxicological research, as well as chemical analyses and separation chromatography. We have specialist laboratories to house fish and invertebrate species.

Excellent research support and training
Extensive training and support is offered to all research students by the Graduate School, with regular Masterclasses and individual advice on academic issues as part of the Researcher Development Programme. Read more about the available Research Support and Training.

Library services
Brunel's library is open 24 hours a day, has 400,000 books and 250,000 e-books, and an annual budget of almost £2m. Subject Information Specialists train students in the latest technology, digital literacy, and digital dissemination of scholarly outputs.

  • state-of-the-art research information management tools including a research publication and grant database
  • one of the largest UK’s full text repository
  • an integrated data management system
  • analytical tools such as Altmertic and InCites
  • Open Access centrally managed fund

Facts and Figures

The Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

Our research revealing the link between chemicals in rivers and reproductive health has won the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education. By uncovering a link between exposure to water pollution and sex change in male fish in UK rivers, Professor John Sumpter’s research team provided the impetus for human health research also linking chemical exposure with declining sperm counts, increased incidence of male genital abnormalities, and testicular, breast and prostate cancer in human populations.

Brunel University London REF2014 Submission:  Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences
Brunel University London is firmly within the top quarter of research universities in the UK according to REF 2014, with a number of areas of study including environmental and earth sciences, recognised as world-leading or internationally excellent for research impact.  The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The results of the REF2014 have been made public in December 2014, replacing the previous REF conducted in 2008.  The next REF will be undertaken in 2020. Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 - A Guide for PhD Students

Teaching and Assessment


Supervisors with insight

Our supervisors create knowledge and advance understanding, and equip research students with the confidence to apply what they have learnt for the benefit of society. Take a look below at just a few of them and browse all potential supervisor profiles further here.



Doctoral students graduating from Brunel University London in Environment and Health are highly valued by numerous employers and attain prominent roles as academics, PDRAs and Research Fellows in prestigious Universities worldwide.  Some graduates find influential roles in Government Agencies, such as the Environment Agency and Food and Environmental Research Agency, or as environmental managers and ecotoxicologists in Industry, including Syngenta, Atkins and Proctor and Gamble.  PhD Graduates have also joined various environmental consultancies as analysts, or have established their own consultancies serving on several National and International committees (e.g. OECD) dealing with current health/environment issues.

At Brunel we provide many opportunities and experiences within your degree programme and beyond – work-based learning, professional support services, volunteering, mentoring, sports, arts, clubs, societies, and much, much more – and we encourage you to make the most of them, so that you can make the most of yourself.

» More about Employability

Fees for 2016/17 entry

Fees per year for 2016/17

Home/EU students

Full time: £4,121
Part time: £2,060

International students

Full time: £17,200
Part time: £8,600

Funding for doctoral studies
A number of studentships and other research funding opportunities are available at Brunel. Please see full list here: Research degree funding.

Fees quoted are per annum and are subject to an annual increase.

Entry Criteria 2016/17

The general University entrance requirement for registration for a research degree is normally a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree and additionally, for a PhD, a Master’s degree or equivalent.  All international students must show evidence that they meet the English requirement for their course of study: IELTS 7.0 (with no less than 6.0 in any section). This applies even if English is the native language of your home country. An appropriate level of English language competence is also expected as listed below. Find out which alternative English language qualifications we accept. Applicants may also be required to attend compulsory in-sessional English language support. The Senate reserves the right to assess the eligibility of applicants on an individual basis.

Entry criteria are subject to review and change each academic year.

International and EU Entry Requirements

If your country or institution is not listed or if you are not sure whether your institution is eligible, please contact Admissions

This information is for guidance only by Brunel University London and by meeting the academic requirements does not guarantee entry for our courses as applications are assessed on case-by-case basis.

English Language Requirements

  • IELTS: 7 (min 6 in all areas)
  • Pearson: 64 (51 in all subscores)
  • BrunELT: 70% (min 60% in all areas)

Brunel University London strongly recommends that if you will require a Tier 4 visa, you sit your IELTS test at a test centre that has been approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) as being a provider of a Secure English Language Test (SELT). Not all test centres have this status. The University can accept IELTS (with the required scores) taken at any official test centre or other English Language qualifications we accept as meeting our main award entry requirements.

However, if you wish to undertake a Pre-sessional English course to further improve your English prior to the start of your degree course, you must sit the test at an approved SELT provider. This is because you will only be able to apply for a Tier 4 student visa to undertake a Pre-sessional English course if you hold a SELT from a UKVI approved test centre. Find out more information about it.

Brunel also offers our own BrunELT English Test and accepts a range of other language courses. We also have Pre-sessional English language courses for students who do not meet these requirements, or who wish to improve their English.

Our International Pathways and Language Centre offers a number of foundation and pre-masters courses to provide you with the academic skills required for your chosen course.