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Funded PhD Opportunity

Detection and elimination of antimicrobial organisms and genes in water using advanced oxidation processes / Chemical engineering and wastewater treatment

Subject: Engineering


Globally, about 1.8 Billion people live without access to improved water sources. Alarmingly, Contaminants of Emerging Concerns (CECs) such as pharmaceuticals, personal care products, pesticides, metal based nanoparticles, and other pollutants, including pathogens, antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARBs) and genes (ARGs) were reported to be present in the treated sewage as well as in drinking water around the world. Hence, a concerted effort water treatment system that remove CECs in treated wastewater, and drinking water sources are urgently needed to protect the world environment and health. Photoelectrolytic (or electrochemically assisted photocatalytic) treatment of water is an interesting approach for the tertiary treatment of wastewater.

This novel technology has been porrly investigated up to date for the simultaneous degradation or organic pollutants and removal of microorganisms present in wastewater.

The objective of this PhD project relates to the development of an application of Advanced Oxidation Processes (AOPs) for the removal of Antimicrobial Resiantant (AMR) organisms and genes (ARG) in water. This PhD project will focus on the detection of the main AMR organisms and ARGs in natural waters and on their elimination via the use of several AOPs.

The main objectives of this project are:

-Selection of the most frequently found AMR organism and ARGs in narural water sources based on lit review and analysis of systematic sampling of several water sources.

-Detection of AMR organism and ARGs using molecular techniques (qPCR) in water.

-Assessment of the response of selected AMR and ARGs to several AOPs.

-Proposing a treatment process for the disinfection of water with special emphasis on AMR and ARGs.

The data and results of this project will be published in high impact peer reviewed journals. The main novelty of this proposal is the contribution to the knowledge to the identification and removal of antimicrobial resistance in water. The expected impact is to reduce water stress in areas of water scarcity.

This project aligns with the recently awarded H2020-PANIWATER (PI Dr Fernandez), which primarily addresses UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 ‘Ensure access to water and sanitation for all’. PANIWATER is a multidisciplinary research project where several European and Indian partners collaborate to investigate on novel and sustainable technologies for purifying wastewater and reduce water stress and water scarcity in India.  This will allow for the PhD student to learn for the expertise of other groups and to be integrated into a large multidisciplinary team.

The proposal addresses the Ulster 5 & 50 strategic themes of Healthy Communities, Sustainability and Social Renewal.   There is significant opportunity for impact through the PANIWATER network leading to real outcomes for Europe and India.

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 £14,777 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.


    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 14,777 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Key dates

Submission deadline
Monday 18 February 2019

Interview Date
March 2019


Apply Online


Jordanstown campus

Jordanstown campus
The largest of Ulster's campuses

Contact supervisor

Dr Pilar Fernandez-Ibanez

Other supervisors

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