Centre Studentships 2016

PhD studentship in Microplastics and Health

Environmental Research Group, King's College London

The closing date for application is 10th July 2016 (23:59 GMT). 

Interviews to be held early August 2016



Project Title: The potential for microplastics to impact human health

Supervisors: Dr Stephanie Wright and Professor Frank Kelly


Project Outline: Microscopic plastic litter is a ubiquitous global marine pollutant. Known as microplastics, they form through the wear and fragmentation of plastic exposed to the sea and sunlight, or can be purposefully made e.g. for exfoliating cosmetics. Microplastics have been reported in seafood species. Recent evidence also suggests these plastic particles can be airborne (ambient). Thus humans may be exposed to microplastics via both dietary sources and by inhalation. Microplastics can be small enough to be engulfed by cells and be transported by the lymphatic and/or blood systems, with the potential to bioaccumulate. They may contain harmful chemical additives incorporated during manufacture, or may adsorb pollutants from the surrounding environment, which could be released to tissues. Many of these are recognised priority pollutants with known adverse health effects. Additionally, the persistent nature, surface chemistry and irregular shapes of the particles may cause inflammation. Despite the potential for human exposure to microplastics, any health effects are unknown. This research aims to explore the potential for micro and nanoplastics to impact human health. 
A range of microplastics reflecting the most common plastic types and litter items will be examined in a toxicological screen. Using model human cell lines and cutting-edge imaging techniques, the potential cellular toxicity and uptake, distribution, and elimination of microplastics will be assessed. These results will provide the first comprehensive insight into whether exposure to environmental microplastics has the capacity to elicit biological responses, negatively impacting human health. The proposed project provides an excellent opportunity to conduct novel multidisciplinary research. The outputs have application in a range of disciplines. Drug delivery; material design; food safety, and policy science all present future avenues for further research and application of results.



Academic eligibility

Applicants should have, or expect to receive, a first or upper second class degree or equivalent in a relevant subject such as toxicology, biomedical sciences or biochemistry, with substantial laboratory experience. Candidates will develop in vitro testing in order to evaluate the toxicity of microplastics. This would appeal to a candidate with an interest in environment and health and will provide broad-based laboratory training in areas from molecular biology to analytical chemistry


Studentship Stipend and eligibility

  • Fully or part funded studentships are only available to UK and EU nationals. 
  • EU nationals who have not been a resident in the United Kingdom will not be eligible for this studentship
  • Fully funded Studentships will include tuition fees and a minimum stipend of £17,500 per annum for UK and EU nationals living in the UK for the past three years


The MRC-PHE Centre for Environment and Health is an internationally recognised centre of excellence for leading cutting edge multidisciplinary research on the health effects of environmental pollutants and the translation of this knowledge to inform national and international policies to improve health. ​We are uniquely placed to collaborate with expert research groups nationally and internationally to produce high quality cutting edge research and work with public health agencies to apply the results to improve population health. A key component of our Centre’s strategic aim and mission is to train and develop the next generation of research and policy leaders in the environment and health arena. 


Successful candidates will be supported by the Centre’s training programme structure and will be provided with bespoke research training to ensure our students are equipped with the appropriate skills and experience to become first class researchers.


Application guidance

Applicants should complete the form electronically and return the completed application form to: e.hayes@imperial.ac.uk stating “Centre PhD Application” in the title.


Click here for “Application form for Centre studentship in Microplastics and Health”


The personal statement should not be longer than 1 A4 page using Arial 11 font and should include why you are applying for a Centre studentship, the area of research you wish to focus on and why you believe that research in this area is important.


Incomplete applications will not be considered. You will receive a confirmation email within five business days of submitting your application. If you do not, please email e.hayes@imperial.ac.uk to enquire about the status.


The closing date for application is 10th April 2016 (23:59 GMT)