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Understanding effects and mechanisms of anti-depressant drug pollution on molluscs

Pharmaceuticals, persisting in the environment are becoming a growing concern for wildlife health.  Antidepressants act by modulating the action of neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Because many biological mechanisms are conserved throughout evolution compounds may have unintended effects in non-target organisms. In molluscs serotonin is involved in important behaviours such as feeding, locomotion, reproduction and predator avoidance. Recent research has highlighted that molluscs, often under-represented in toxicology research, could be extremely sensitive to antidepressant drugs compared to standard vertebrate test species (e.g. fish). Understanding how sensitive molluscs are to this type of pollution, and if important population levels effects might occur, is necessary to adequately regulate pollution and protect ecologically important groups of animals. Detailed investigations into why such differences might occur between vertebrates and mollusc have yet to be conducted. Therefore the student will develop their research in this emerging field of toxicology. This project will require a multidisciplinary (e.g. ecology, physiology, toxicology, analytical chemistry, molecular biology etc.) approach to answer the research questions surrounding how and why molluscs might be more sensitive to anti-depressant drugs, and importantly, what the impacts of pollution might be to wild populations of molluscs. The students would be expected to develop the research project with the support and guidance of the supervisory team. Likely methodologies will include: some basic biology, in vivo experimentation as well as in vitro and in silico techniques, other methods such as field work and modelling may also be used depending on research outcomes.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the above PhD topic please follow the steps below:

  1. Contact the supervisor by email or phone to discuss your interest and find out if you would be suitable. Supervisor details can be found on this topic page. The supervisor will guide you in developing the topic-specific research proposal, which will form part of your application.
  2. Click on the 'Apply here' button on this page and you will be taken to the relevant PhD course page, where you can apply using an online application.
  3. Complete the online application indicating your selected supervisor and include the research proposal for the topic you have selected.

Good luck!

This is a self funded topic

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: The UK Government is also offering Doctoral Student Loans for eligible students, and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.