PhD Studentship: Rapid detection and monitoring of pathogens within industrial cooling water systems

Closing date: 30 June 2020

Start date: September 2020 (flexible, but must start before 1 October 2020)

PhD Duration: 3.5 years

Stipend: This post will fully cover university tuition for UK students and provides a tax-free stipend of £17,325 per year (this represents a £2000 enhancement to the standard UKRI stipend).

Partners: The University of Sheffield, Sheffield Water Centre in collaboration with the Health and Safety Executive and Sellafield Limited.


Project Description

This interdisciplinary project seeks to safeguard public health by reducing infection risks from microorganisms that proliferate within water systems of our built environment. Of particular interest is the bacteria Legionella, which is spread if aerosolised and can cause respiratory infections, including Legionnaires’ disease. Evaporative cooling systems, such as industrial cooling towers, and their associated pipework, are particularly susceptible to Legionella contamination and present an exposure route with the possibility of wide-spread dispersal, affecting large numbers of people. Improving our understanding, detection and monitoring of microorganisms in these environments is critical to reducing public infection risks.

The fully-funded studentship will require the student to conduct applied research with the unique opportunity to investigate the microbial ecology in cooling towers at a nuclear installation. The student will work with regulatory, industrial and academic collaborators to further the understanding of the microbial ecology of evaporative cooling systems, particularly the fate and behaviour of Legionella. They will investigate practical interventions to manage the risk of Legionella in cooling systems, including the impact of biocides. In so doing they will evaluate current and alternative Legionella testing and monitoring methods to provide rapid data on the presence and spread of Legionella within these systems. The student will have the potential to impact regulatory and operational practices, as well as contributing to world-leading research.

On a practical level this project will require travel to field site(s) as well as incorporating laboratory working. The project will be supervised at the University of Sheffield by Prof Joby Boxall and Dr Katherine Fish, in collaboration with partners from the Health and Safety Executive and Sellafield Limited. 


Eligibility Criteria

Funding eligibility restrictions apply, award will be subject to candidates undertaking and clearing a security clearance check.

Selection criteria

A good first degree in a relevant science or engineering discipline and enthusiasm for the topic area. Experience in microbiological or environmental analysis, and experimental work would be beneficial. 

How to apply

Interested candidates should email a covering letter and CV to Lindsay Hopcroft.

For information and informal enquiries please contact Dr Katherine Fish.