NERC GW4+ DTP PhD studentship

[UK] This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the NERC Great Western Four+ Doctoral Training Partnership (GW4+ DTP). The GW4+ DTP consists of the Great Western Four alliance of the University of Bath, University of Bristol, Cardiff University and the University of Exeter plus six Research Organisation partners: British Antarctic Survey, British Geological Survey, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the Met Office, the Natural History Museum and Plymouth Marine Laboratory. The partnership aims to provide a broad training in earth and environmental sciences, designed to train tomorrow’s leaders in earth and environmental science. For further details about the programme please see

At least 37 fully-funded studentships that encompass the breadth of earth and environmental sciences are being offered to start in September 2016 across the GW4+ DTP. The studentships will provide funding for a stipend (currently £14,057 per annum for 2015-2016), research costs and UK/EU tuition fees at Research Council UK rates for 42 months (3.5 years) for full-time students (part-time students pro-rata).

Academic Supervisors:

Main supervisor: Doctor Mark van der Giezen (University of Exeter)

Co-supervisor: Doctor Chris Chuck (University of Bath)

Co-supervisor: Dr. Mike Allen (Plymouth Marine Laboratory)

Co-supervisor: Dr. Chris Bryan (University of Exeter)

Co-supervisor: Dr. Steve Aves (University of Exeter)

Project enquiries – Email: [email protected] Contact number: +44 (0) 01392723483

Host Institution: University of Exeter

Location: University of Exeter, Streatham Campus, Exeter

Project Description:

Water pollution is a major global problem and accounts for more than 14,000 deaths per day. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in areas with absolute water scarcity and two thirds of the world faces drinking water shortages. However, many essential industrial activities contribute greatly to water pollution and more sustainable production methods or waste management practices are required to support the global demand for products.

Affordable and sustainable energy provision is another global challenge. Biofuels are promoted as modern alternatives. However, current-generation biofuels have limited environmental benefits while putting pressure on land and water resources. Algal biofuels could overcome many drawbacks of terrestrial plant-based biofuels but are currently more energy-intensive and expensive.

AVaRICE is a successful GW4+ consortium that has developed an algal-based system for combined remediation and valorisation of metal ion contaminated waste streams. Our novel business model combines biofuel production and removal of metals to offset waste water remediation cost and could be economically viable, environmentally beneficial and globally applicable.

This proposal falls within NERC societal challenges ‘Benefiting from natural resources’ and ‘Managing environmental change’.

Previously, algae have been trialled to remediate mine waste but these systems are not competitive with chemical treatment (rate-wise) or compost wetlands (cost-wise).  Additionally, challenges in algal fuel production include low growth rates, high costs of drying and lipid extraction.

Our process includes a hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) step that converts algal cultures that have been mixed with contaminated waste stream in several fractions that all have applications. The oil fraction can be further upgraded to high quality chemicals and oils. The water fraction contains valuable nutrients that are fed back into our algal facilities. The gas fraction, containing carbon dioxide, is used to boost algal growth. The solid fraction contains the highly enriched metal waste that can be processed to retrieve value.

We have successfully processed waste from the mining and petrochemical industry and are currently planning to build an industrial scale facility to demonstrate its real-life potential.

The studentship research programme: Year 1, real world contaminated waste samples will be used to support algal growth and determine optimal growth conditions. All samples will be processed using HTL and process parameters will be optimised. Year 2, continuous culture/HTL processes will be developed. Year 3, Continuous HTL will be optimised. The student will write their thesis during the final year and publications throughout the studentship as appropriate.

Entry requirements:

Applicants should have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK.  Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have Master’s degree. Applicants with a minimum Upper Second Class degree and significant relevant non-academic experience are encouraged to apply. All applicants would need to meet our English language requirements by the start of the project The majority of the studentships are available for applicants who are ordinarily resident in the UK and are classed as UK/EU for tuition fee purposes, however up to 9 fully funded studentships across the DTP are available for EU/EEA applicants not ordinarily resident in the UK.  Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are not eligible for funding.

Come and see us at the GW4 Science and Engineering Fair to find out more.


Application deadline: 8th January 2016
Value: At least £14,057pa for 3.5 years and UK/EU tuition fees
Duration of award: per year
Contact: CLES PGR Support Team 01392 723706/01392 725150 [email protected]

How to apply

Click here to apply

Please be aware you will be asked to upload the following documents:

  • CV
  • Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project).
  • Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying)
  • If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your current proficiency in English (for further details of the University’s English language requirements please see

The closing date for applications is midnight on Friday 8th January 2016. Interviews will be held at the University of Exeter on 10th – 12th February 2016.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email [email protected] or phone +44 (0)1392 725150/723706. Project specific queries should be directed to the supervisor.

During the application process, the University may need to make certain disclosures of your personal data to third parties to be able to administer your application, carry out interviews and select candidates. These are not limited to, but may include disclosures to:

  • the selection panel and/or management board or equivalent of the relevant Programme, which is likely to include staff from one or more other HEIs;
  • administrative staff at one or more other HEIs participating in the relevant Programme.

Such disclosures will always be kept to the minimum amount of personal data required for the specific purpose. Your sensitive personal data (relating to disability and race/ethnicity) will not be disclosed without your explicit consent.


View original article at: NERC GW4+ DTP PhD studentship: AVaRICE: Algal Valorisation and Remediation of metal Ion Contaminated Effluents Ref: 1937

Algae World News post end logo



[interaction id=”565917e3b8db3ddc5e8b8c18″]


Leave a Reply