Funded PhD Opportunity SAFEWATER: Health impacts of implementing household-based water treatment interventions in rural communities in Colombia and Mexico

This opportunity is now closed.

Subject: Biomedical Sciences



Water borne diseases from drinking unsafe water contribute to high incidence of illness in developing regions.  At least 1.8 billion people globally use a source of drinking water that is faecally contaminated and thus likely to lead to diarrheal illness: nearly 1,000 children die each day due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrhoeal diseases. In 2010, the UN General Assembly explicitly recognised the human right to water and sanitation. Everyone has the right to sufficient, continuous, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use.  Low cost technologies for safe drinking water have significant potential to improve the health of communities who rely on unsafe water, and thus improve their quality of life through reduced illnesses, reduced absence from employment, improved school attendance, improved family life, and less stress on females (normally responsible for water in households).

This research project is directly linked to the SAFEWATER Project, ‘Low cost technologies for safe drinking water in developing regions’ funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund RCUK.  Provision of safe drinking water can be anticipated to have major impacts across the health of the community, the family and the individual (adults and children).


The overall aim of this PhD project is to determine the health impacts of implementing household-based water treatment interventions in rural communities in Mexico and Colombia. The student will be supervised and mentored by academic staff with expertise from the separate disciplines of Nutrition and Psychology in order to address the following project objectives:

Determine Nutrition, Growth and Child health outcomes, by conducting field work to assess changes in growth, malnutrition risk and related health outcomes in children from households in Mexico and Columbia, before and after implementation of water treatment intervention.

Conduct Behaviour analysis to assess Family-related outcomes, by investigating behaviours involved in collecting and using water by caregivers, and assessing how these behaviours change after water treatment intervention.

Overall this PhD project will generate scientific evidence and deliver outcomes that will contribute to the overall objectives of the SAFEWATER project.

Academic impact – This research project will deliver results concerning the health impacts of implementing household-based water treatment interventions in low income regions. The research findings will be published in high impact peer-reviewed scientific journals and presented at international scientific conferences.

Overseas impact – This PhD research is part of the SAFEWATER GCRF RCUK project which is a large transdisciplinary research project in partnership with universities and NGOs in Colombia, Mexico and Brazil.   The overall goal is to deliver low cost technologies for safe drinking water in rural areas of Colombia and Mexico, and to build capability in the UK and capacity overseas for addressing global challenges.  The research student will be expected to work closely with the overseas partners, including research visits to Colombia, Mexico or Brazil.

Essential Criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £15,009 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Launch of the Doctoral College

Current PhD researchers and an alumnus shared their experiences, career development and the social impact of their work at the launch of the Doctoral College at Ulster University.

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My experience has been great and the people that I have worked with have been amazing

Kieran O'Donnell - 3D printing of biological cells for tissue engineering applications

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Completing the MRes provided me with a lot of different skills, particularly in research methods and lab skills.

Michelle Clements Clements - MRes - Life and Health Sciences

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Throughout my PhD I’ve been provided with continuous support and guidance by my supervisors and the staff at the University.I’ve also received many opportunities to further enhance my professional development in the form of teaching experience and presenting my work at conferences which will aid in my pursuit of a career in academia or industry.

William Crowe

Key Dates

Submission Deadline
Monday 19 February 2018
Interview Date
End of February 2018

Contact Supervisor

Professor Helene McNulty

Other Supervisors

Apply online

Visit and quote reference number #246523 when applying for this PhD opportunity