Applications open for 2023 PhD studentships

Applications are now open to join the EPSRC CDT in Aerosol Science. At a time when Aerosol Science has never been so crucial, we work to equip the next generation of Aerosol Scientists with the skills needed to tackle the numerous multidisciplinary challenges that fall at boundaries between the physical, engineering and health sciences.

After spending the first year training as part of the CDT cohort at the University of Bristol, our students undertake PhD projects hosted at one of our seven institutions, the Universities of Bristol, Bath, Cambridge, Hertfordshire, Imperial, Leeds and Manchester. Could you be part of our fifth cohort?

Choosing your PhD project
Examples of potential PhD projects are available on this page. Each studentship has a primary academic supervisor at the home institution. A second academic supervisor (who may be at a second institution) will host the student towards the end of year 1 for a thematic broadening research sabbatical. In either year 2 or 3, each cohort member will undertake a placement with an industrial partner, further developing your skills and gaining experience of aerosol science outside academia.

All PhD projects and sabbaticals are designed in complementary thematic areas of aerosol science. The five themes are: basic aerosol processes; measurement techniques; aerosols and health; aerosol technology; and atmospheric and environmental aerosol.

During the recruitment process, candidates will have the opportunity to learn more about specific projects and meet with potential supervisors.

What funding is available?
Each four-year PhD studentship is fully funded as part of the EPSRC CDT in Aerosol Science, by the EPSRC and / or by university institutional funding. Some of the projects are also part-sponsored by an industrial partner. Successful applicants who meet the funding criteria will receive a studentship covering tuition fees, research and training support grant, plus a stipend paid at the standard UKRI rate. Both UK and overseas candidates are encouraged to apply.
What are the entry requirements?
We welcome applications from candidates who aspire to work in a multidisciplinary field and who have or expect to achieve a minimum of an upper second-class MSci honours degree or a postgraduate MSc or international equivalent in any of the following areas: chemistry, physics, biological sciences, life and medical sciences, mathematics and computer science, chemical and mechanical engineering, pharmaceutical and environmental sciences. We may consider applicants with a lower second-class MSci honours degree or an upper second-class BSc honours degree who can demonstrate good potential for research.

Both UK and overseas candidates are encouraged to apply. Our funder allows us to award up to 30% of our funded PhD studentships to overseas candidates.

Deadlines / How do I apply?

Apply using the online application form. You can download a copy of the application form questions to help prepare your responses before applying, either as a word document (113kb) or PDF (138kb). For more information on how your application will be assessed and what criteria are used to shortlist candidates for interview, please read the Frequently Asked Questions

Shortlisting for interview will take place fortnightly after the deadlines below. We encourage early application to ensure the greatest availability of studentships.

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to take part in the CDT Interview & recruitment process, where you will have the opportunity to meet with potential PhD supervisors and narrow your shortlist to your preferred three projects. You will also meet with members of the CDT to explore whether the CDT in Aerosol Science is a good fit for you, and ask questions.

Find out more on our FAQs page and if you have any further questions, please contact us at aerosol-science@bristol.ac.uk

Shortlisting deadlines:

9am, Monday 12th December 2022

9am, Monday 9th January 2023

9am, Monday 30th January 2023

9am, Monday 20th February 2023

 

What happens next?
Shortlisted candidates will be invited to take part in the CDT Interview & recruitment process, where you will have the opportunity to meet with potential PhD supervisors and members of the CDT to explore studentship opportunities, learn more about aerosols find out whether the CDT in Aerosol Science is a good fit for you, and ask questions. You will also take part in a team-based activity to enable you to try out the CDT in Aerosol Science’s innovative team-based learning methods.

Find out more on our FAQs page and if you have any further questions, please contact us at aerosol-science@bristol.ac.uk

Example PhD studentships recruiting now for Cohort 5 (September 2023-27):

High-dose antibiotics inhalers for acute lower respiratory tract infections in primary care

Theme: Aerosol Technology

Since pulmonary drug delivery induces higher antibiotic concentrations in lung tissue, it can be used to reduce antimicrobial resistance and other effects. This project will produce the first type of inhaled antibiotics via electrospray drying (ESD). During ESD, electrically charged monodispersed microdroplets are generated, allowing us to design high-dose antibiotic powders with controlled particle size, shape, and crystal structure. The lung delivery and antimicrobial activity of these powders from a novel high-dose inhaler will then be assessed. This novel approach is supported by industrial partners (Nanopharm) who will host a three-month placement.

Lead supervisor: Dr Bernardo Castro Dominguez

This project is sponsored in partnership with Nanopharm, An Aptar Pharma Company

Particle-surface adhesive forces and their role in resuspension phenomena

Theme: Basic Aerosol Processes

The resuspension of particles from surfaces into the air exposes people to hazardous dusts in a range of situations. This project will use atomic force microscopy to measure the adhesion force between particles and surfaces, and relate this to resuspension. Particles and surfaces with increasingly complex shape and surface properties will be prepared using techniques such as 3D printing and nanolithography, giving a systematic understanding of the influence of these factors. Results will be used to validate and improve an existing mathematical model that predicts particle resuspension in a range of environments, thus enabling risks to be controlled.

Lead supervisor: Dr Matthew Jones

This project is anticipated to be sponsored in partnership with DSTL

Tabletop experiments on how molten pollutants damage jet engines

Theme: Atmospheric and environmental aerosol

Experiments on how molten microparticles damage jet engines are extraordinary costly. Even basic questions remain unknown: do the particles stick, bounce, or splatter? You will perform tabletop experiments by rescaling droplet size and flow rates, replacing the molten particles by larger viscoelastic particles made of polymer materials. Your modelling will then translate these results into data relevant for jet engines. [Project to be confirmed, subject to funding]

Lead supervisors: Dr Anton Souslov & Dr Adam Squires

Acoustic forces for controlled aerosol transport

Theme: Basic aerosol processes

Acoustic forces generated using sound from a speaker (or transducer) can be used to levitate, orient, and move aerosol or other particles in mid-air, avoiding contact with the walls. In this project, you will explore the fundamental science behind how systems of many aerosol particles react to acoustic forces. You will use numerical modelling, theoretical tools, and experimental verification to predict how to exert forces on aerosol particles in a controlled manner. [Project to be confirmed, subject to funding]

Lead supervisors: Dr Anton Souslov & Dr Adam Squires

What aerosols do to surfaces: deposition, film growth and fouling

Theme: Basic aerosol processes

When liquid aerosol droplets hit surfaces, they can deposit the material they are carrying, causing fouling and damage to sensors and coatings, a challenge for aviation, and other sectors. Understanding how and when this happens is a major challenge – does the droplet stick, splash or bounce off? How does it spread on impact? – and would lead to design of anti-fouling coating materials. In this project, joint with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, you will carry out theoretical modelling and, in parallel, build experiments to fire droplets at surfaces, to study the processes that occur on impact, spreading and drying. [Project to be confirmed, subject to funding]

Lead supervisors: Dr Adam Squires & Dr Anton Souslov

Development of a Novel Single Droplet Mass Spectrometry Approach to Investigate Interfacial Photochemistry in Aerosol Droplets

Theme: Basic Aerosol Processes

Chemistry at the aerosol-air interface may be fundamentally different to that occurring in the bulk. However, vanishingly few approaches can measure chemical composition at the aerosol-air interface. This project will involve the development of a completely novel approach to study directly the chemical composition at the aerosol-air interface. The student will gain experience with single droplet levitation approaches, mass spectrometry, and the effects of electric fields on liquid droplets.

Lead supervisors: Dr Bryan Bzdek & Dr Jim Walker 

The Impacts of Phase Separation and Particle Shape on Aerosol Optical Properties Measured using Single Particle Cavity Ring-Down Spectroscopy

Theme: Basic aerosol processes

The interactions of light with aerosol particles of varying shape and internal structure are understood poorly, yet knowledge and predictions of these interactions are critical in areas such as preventing respiratory disease transmission and improving predictions of climate change. This project will utilise recently developed state-of-the-science spectroscopy instrumentation, involving the interrogation of single levitated aerosol particles via cavity ring-down spectroscopy. The resulting accurate characterisations of aerosol optical properties, as single particles undergo liquid-liquid phase separation in response to changing ambient conditions or crystallisation to form particles of complex shape, will be used to challenge electromagnetic models of aerosol-light interactions.

Lead supervisor: Dr Michael Cotterell & Prof Jonathan Reid

Data-informed modelling of aerosol resuspension under aerodynamic loads

Theme: Atmospheric and environmental aerosol

Resuspension of particles into the air is a complex phenomenon dependent on the interaction between particle morphology (e.g. size, shape), surface characteristics (e.g. roughness, hydrophilicity) and air flow (e.g. velocity, turbulence). The process can be hazardous to health, thus has received considerable research interest. Mechanistic models have been developed describing resuspension indicating adhesive forces are important but experimental and numerical sensitivity analysis exploring ranges is scarce to validate these resuspension models. The research project will explore how adhesive interactions alter the forces required to separate particles from a surface using a combined experimental and numerical approach. By using state-of-the-art measurement and numerical techniques, the project aims to provide a comprehensive description towards the parameters influencing the resuspension process.  

Lead supervisor: Dr  Alberto Gambaruto, Dr Karen Aplin & Dr Nick Zhang

Investigation of novel methods to study the survival of foot-and-mouth disease virus in aerosols 

Theme: Aerosols and health

Our ability to predict and control the spread of disease via aerosols is dependent on understanding how pathogens behave in an aerosolised state. This project will develop and validate innovative approaches to investigate the airborne survival of contemporary strains of foot-and-mouth disease virus. Generation of survival data using novel methods for this economically important livestock pathogen will contribute to understanding how and when airborne transmission events can occur and the role these events play in the epidemiology of the disease.  

Lead supervisor: Prof Jonathan Reid

This project is sponsored in partnership with the Pirbright Institute

Stability of dry powder formulations used in drug delivery to the lungs studied one particle at a time

Theme: Aerosols and Health

Dry powder inhalers are a widely used delivery method to administer medication to the lungs. Despite numerous advantages over other approaches, challenges exist in ensuring product stability and performance. An inability to manage performance changes can have implications for the shelf-life of the medication or can cause routine issues during commercial manufacture of the product. In this project, we will characterise product performance and stability using a variety of conventional tools and compare these studies with measurements of the physicochemical properties and stability of individual aerosolised particles using an electrodynamic balance.  

Lead supervisor: Prof Jonathan Reid

This project is sponsored in partnership with Viatris

Ice nucleation in aerosols containing biomolecules

Theme: Basic Aerosol Processes

Ice nucleation in environmental aerosols is an important atmospheric process, but many details are still poorly understood. This project addresses the physical chemistry of heterogeneous ice nucleation by bio-nanoparticles. You will develop apparatus to levitate and freeze water droplets, and gain relevant background through environmental modelling and interaction with the British Antarctic Survey.

Lead supervisor: Prof Walther Schwarzacher

Cross-domain digital twin incorporating aerosol data from particle sensors

Theme: Aerosol Technology

There are widespread efforts to digitalise the world to use data, machine learning and AI to support planning and understand long term change. However, information is often compartmentalised, and how to integrate data, and ensure openness and transparency remain a widespread problem.

This project will use Semantic Web technology (ontologies and knowledge graphs) to integrate aerosol data derived from particle sensors into large-scale cross-domain interoperable digital twins. The technology will be demonstrated by creating a digital twin and applying it to understand the exposure of people to particles in the environment.

The project would suit students with a passion for programming and modelling.

Lead supervisors: Prof Markus Kraft and Dr Jethro Akroyd

Towards Creating the High Strength Carbons that Can Sequester CO2

Theme: Aerosol Technology

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are an exciting material of the future due to their exceptional mechanical, electrical and thermal properties. The floating catalyst chemical vapour deposition (FC-CVD) process produces CNT mats and fibres, but better methods to align and bundle the CNTs within the bulk materials are required. This PhD project aims to investigate new processes to align CNTs in an aerosol state and subsequently in liquid form, which are key for scaled materials production. It will provide further advancement of bulk sustainable carbon materials that prevent the release of CO2 which can replace high CO2 steel, aluminium and carbon fibre.

Lead supervisor: Prof Adam Boies

HYDRA – Hydrogels for aerosol capture

Theme: Aerosols & Health

Viruses and bacteria have evolved to become adept at invading, and remaining viable inside, natural hydrogels like mucus; suggesting hydrogels possess an innate ability to sustain the viability of a bioaerosol sample. This project will combine aerosol science, engineering and polymer chemistry to develop aerosol capture devices with soft hydrogel components. Engineering new synthetic hydrogel materials with tuneable physicochemical properties could transform our capability to protect a collected bioaerosol sample and optimise recovery of viable pathogens for identification of airborne pathogens. Experimental testing will utilise simulants and explore capture and recovery of foot-and-mouth virus from aerosols produced by infected livestock.

Lead supervisors: Dr Michael Cook, Dr Loic Coudron and Dr Ian Johnston

Dry water for future inhaled medicines

Theme: Aerosol technology

Dry powders are often ideal for delivery to the airways due to their finely controlled particle size and compatibility with “green” devices for administration, such as user-actuated inhalers. However, many biological molecules cannot be formulated in the dry state due to instability. This project aims to explore “dry water” formulations for delivery to the airways. Dry water is a method of coating water droplets with solids so that they appear as a flowable powder but contain large amounts of water entrapped inside. These materials appear perfect for respiratory delivery and there are enormous opportunities for exploitation remaining.

Lead supervisors: Dr Michael Cook, Prof Darragh Murnane

Exposure on a chip to better design aerosolised drug delivery deep into the lungs

Theme: Aerosols and health

By 2030, organ-on-a chip technologies will play a key role in mechanistic biomedicine and pharmacology research and in the clinic, in diagnostic and treatment workflows, informing the right personalised drug dose. We propose to develop a microfluidic alveolus-on-a-chip (AOC) whereby multiple exposure regimes by means of pressure and flows can be modelled and integrate it on a microscope coupled with a high-resolution/high-speed camera to resolve quantitatively molecular spatiotemporal events by means of image correlation spectroscopy.

By the end of this project, we will have built a highly versatile AOC imaging platform that will fill the current gap in in-vitro airways exposure methods and techniques This project will bring bioengineering approaches to impact the crossdisciplinarity fields of biophysics, biochemistry and 4D molecular respiratory physiology.

Lead supervisor: Dr Jorge Bernardino de la Serna

The impact of environmental conditions on the prevalence and aerosol transmission of Streptococcus pyogenes

Theme: Aerosols and Health

This project is addresses for airborne bacterial infections, focusing on streptococcus pyogenes. This bacteria is most well-known for causing Scarlet Fever but also leads to an estimated 2000 cases of sepsis in otherwise healthy people in England per annum. Outbreaks have tripled between 2015 and 2019 with case fatality reaching 29% among those receiving community care and it is therefore of growing concern.

The project will use state-of-the-art instrumentation, firstly in the TBS in Bristol, then at Imperial College London to explore the influence of environmental factors such as temperature, humidity and air pollution on strain specific survival in air.

Lead supervisors: Dr David GreenProf Shiranee Sriskandan

Determination of the effect of inhaled tyre wear particles on the function and integrity of the human gas–blood barrier

Theme: Aerosols and health

Tyre wear particles (TWPs) are an important component of particulate air pollution; increased use of heavy electric cars will increase the amount of airborne TWPs, which are predicted to have adverse health effects. To investigate the effects of inhaled TWPs on the gas-exchange interface of the lung, TWPs will be collected in real time whilst driving during various environmental and driving conditions. Advanced microscopical and analytical techniques will be used to characterise the TWPs. Their bioreactivity will be examined in unique in vitro models of the human lung gas-blood barrier using a wide variety of cellular-molecular techniques.

Lead supervisors: Prof Terry Tetley & Dr Marc Stettler 

Statistical emulation to understand atmospheric aerosol behaviour in models and observations

Theme: Atmospheric and environmental aerosol

Aerosols cause a very large uncertainty in climate models, in particular through the effect of aerosols on clouds. Model simulations are now extremely realistic. However, it is hard to reduce the uncertainty because there are a large number of factors involved, and the simulations are computationally very expensive. The aim of this project is to build fast model emulators of aerosol and cloud behaviour, which would enable effectively millions of simulations to be performed and evaluated against observations.

Lead supervisor: Prof Ken Carslaw

Optimising the performance of air cleaning technology for mitigation of infection in hospital environments

Theme: Aerosols and health

The pandemic has significantly raised awareness of the inadequacy of ventilation in many buildings including healthcare settings where there can be significant infection risks posed by poor ventilation. Air cleaning technologies offer a feasible approach for improving indoor air with increasing evidence that filter based units are effective to mitigate airborne infection risks. However, there is limited data around their role at preventing surface contamination, use for reducing other air pollutants, complex interactions with indoor air flows and smart operation of devices. This collaboration between the University of Leeds and Air Sentry Ltd will explore the design and optimisation of novel approaches to filter-based air cleaning.

Lead supervisor: Prof Catherine Noakes

This project is sponsored in partnership with Air Sentry

Aerosol emissions from future generation aircraft and their impact on climate

Theme: Atmospheric and environmental aerosol

The project will develop and use state-of-the-art models to quantify the full impact on climate of aviation emissions from current and future generation aircraft. While recognised as an important climate forcing term, aerosol-cloud interactions are currently not included in global assessments of the aviation impact on climate. The project will directly address this by providing robust estimates of this important but still unquantified effect. This will ensure that the full aviation climate impact is accounted for when designing the best pathways for achieving net-zero carbon emission aviation by 2050, an ambitious target recently set by the aviation industry.

Lead supervisor: Dr Alex Rap & Prof Benjamin Murray

Understanding how pollutant aerosol particulates impact airway inflammation

Theme: Aerosols and health

Exposure to particulate matter (PM) contributes to respiratory diseases with major impacts from early life exposure yet we know little of the underlying immunological mechanisms. Increasing evidence implicates a process of “innate imprinting” whereby prior inflammation alters subsequent responses increasing inflammation. This is particularly problematic for infant development and subsequent responses to infection and allergy. This project will develop a range of particulates in order explore the cellular response to PM aerosols and innate imprinting in airway inflammation.

Lead supervisor: Prof Sheena Cruikshank 

Chemical and toxicological properties of aerosol emissions subject to atmospheric processing

Theme: Atmospheric Aerosol

As our understanding of atmospheric aerosols improves, we need to account for emissions not just in terms of primary particulates, but also ‘condensable’ material that is capable of forming secondary aerosols in the atmosphere. For the purposes of accounting for long range pollution and studying the effects on human health, this project will work with Dekati to develop their Oxidation Flow Reactor (OFR) for standardised simulations of atmospheric processing of aerosols such that condensable particulates can be measured at the point of emission. The chemical and health-affecting properties of the aerosols produced will also be studied in detail.

Lead supervisors: Dr James Allan & Prof Gordon McFiggans

Multidimensional correlative imaging of aerosolized particulate matter

Theme: Aerosol measurement techniques

Industry, agriculture and natural phenomena create great diversity in particulate matter shape, size and chemistry, affecting toxicity and mitigation. This project uses x-ray techniques during PM production, transport, and deposition, answering questions about what makes particulates harmful, how we can measure PM, and technologies for removing PM from the air.

Lead supervisor: Dr David Eastwood

Combining state of the art real-time multi-technique optoelectronic bioaerosol spectrometry with neural network algorithms to discriminate, monitor and model different biological aerosol emissions from agriculture

Theme: Atmospheric Aerosol

This studentship will combine state of the art real-time single particle integrated optoelectronic bio-aerosol and dust-aerosol spectrometry techniques with neural network data analysis and micrometeorological flux measurement techniques, augmented by laboratory wind tunnel studies, and UK Met Office dispersion models to transform our understanding and quantification of bioaerosol emission fluxes from different agricultural landscapes under different atmospheric conditions and agricultural applications. Using the same flux techniques, spray pesticide dispersion cloud properties and deposition efficiencies may also be monitored over and within agricultural canopies using high speed liquid droplet spectrometers and turbulence sensors. 3D plume mapping techniques using drone based aerosol measurements will also be investigated for inverse emission flux model studies to improve emission quantification.

Lead supervisor: Prof Martin Gallagher

EPSRC CDT in Aerosol Science

University of Bristol
School of Chemistry
Cantock’s Close
Bristol, BS8 1TS
aerosol-science@bristol.ac.uk

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