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Funded PhD Opportunity

The application of graded ligno-cellulose fibres as sustainable media for the removal of antibiotics and antimicrobial resistant bacteria in the tertiary treatment of wastewater in western and emerging economies

Subject: Architecture, Built Environment and Planning


Summary

21st September 2016 represented a watershed for humanity when the General Assembly of the United Nations declared that ‘Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has become one of the biggest threats to global health and endangers other major priorities, such as human development’ (Tell et al 2019). Thus, engineers and scientists need to develop low-cost sustainable means for the removal of antibiotics and human pathogens from wastewaters, which can be implemented in developed and developing countries alike.

In many respects another critical issue is that wastewater treatment standards and methodologies have not kept pace with modern societal demands. This, combined with an aging population, has resulted in an increasing volume of organic compounds being discharged into the natural environment, thus leading to bacterial mutation and AMR. Another often overlooked factor is that present tertiary treatment methods were never intended to deal with this type of contaminant and the problem is compounded by aging treatment infrastructure, which is now stretched beyond the original design capacity. The conventional methods of wastewater treatment such as biological degradation and membrane filtration is only partially effective with regards to the removal of these emerging contaminants.

The application of tertiary treatments such as chlorination and ozonation may result in good disinfection efficiencies but generate toxic disinfection by-products and the formation of unknown, more harmful antimicrobial entities, thus contributing to the AMR proliferation. Adsorption is a versatile wastewater treatment process alternative to the abovementioned conventional technologies. This method offers higher efficiency for contaminant removal with simplicity of application and operation. Moreover, it can deal with the very low concentrations of antibiotics present in wastewaters. Activated carbon, the most frequently used tertiary treatment adsorbent, is expensive. Thus, research focusing on the efficient and cheaper options that could replace activated carbon is becoming increasingly important. Tretsiakova-McNally et al (2019) already demonstrated that a ligno-cellulosic substrate derived from sawdust can serve as an effective solution for treatment of wastewaters containing excessive amounts of antibiotics. This work could be combined with the work of Moreira et al (2018) to address the broad range of pathogens that commonly occur in wastewater discharges.

The aim of this project is to apply the adsorbent produced from ligno-cellulosic fibres at wastewater treatment works to remove antibiotics and antimicrobial resistant bacteria and other microbial indicators of pathogens commonly present in wastewater. This research will investigate, the feasibility of converting the wood processing waste containing ligno-cellulose fibres into a novel value-added product for wastewater treatment systems capable of dealing with antimicrobial pollutants. The proposed work intends to develop a bench-scale methodology, which can be easily translated into a simple working prototype.

References

Tell, J. et al (2019). Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, Vol. 15, pp. 312-319.

Tretsiakova-McNally, S. et al (2019). 13th European Waste Water Management Conference.  16–17 July 2019, Birmingham, UK. Moreira, N.F.F. et al (2018). Water Research, Vol. 135, pp. 195-206.


Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
  • Clearly defined research proposal detailing background, research questions, aims and methodology

Funding

    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

    Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

    Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

    Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies


Other information


The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Key dates

Submission deadline
Friday 7 February 2020

Interview Date
Week beginning 9 March 2020


Applying

Apply Online  


Campus

Jordanstown campus

Jordanstown campus
The largest of Ulster's campuses


Contact supervisor

Dr Svetlana Tretsiakova-Mcnally


Other supervisors

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