Below is a list of Studentship Opportunities including the associated supervisors, project titles and further information.

 

Mechanistic Research in Environment and Health

Ageing is one of the principal risk factors for non-communicable disease and the decline in physiologic function. It has been proposed that DNA methylation may represent a good predictor of age-related diseases and mortality risk and therefore in this study we wish to examine whether long-term exposure to urban air pollution, particularly that derived from traffic emissions, promote these age-related changes. This project will be supervised by  Dr Ian Mudway (Imperial College London) and  Dr Oliver Robinson and will align with the  Children’s Health in London and Luton and  Airwave cohorts . A strong background in molecular sciences and bioinformatics would be desirable prerequisites for this project, which aligns with the Molecular Signatures and Disease Pathways theme within the MRC Centre for Environment & Health and the Air Pollution and Health and the Biomarkers of exposure and effect themes within the Health Protection Research Unit in Environmental Exposures & Health.
New material types (advanced polymers, fibres, composites, nanomaterials etc.) are constantly being developed and applied in products with the potential for human inhalation exposure. Assessing their potential toxicity using human relevant models on an appropriate timescale for efficient regulatory control is an ever-growing issue. To address this challenge this project supervised by Dr Martin Leonard and Dr Adam Laycock (UK Health Security Agency) and  Dr Stephanie Wright (Imperial College London), will use advanced aerosol-exposure air-liquid-interface systems to mimic realistic human respiratory system exposure scenarios and ‘omics and other analytical techniques to understand their biological responses. Recent studies have highlighted the importance of macrophages as important in this context so the focus will be on macrophage and other immune cell reactions and interactions and how these are modified by material properties and pre-existing disease conditions. Experience in cell culture and toxicology is desirable. This project is aligned with the Biomarkers of Exposure and Effects and Emerging Environmental Issues and Preparedness themes within the Health Protection Research Unit in Environmental Exposures & Health. The successful student will be based (75%) at the UKHSA Chemical, Radiation and Environmental Hazards Laboratories in Oxfordshire.

Epidemiology and Exposure Assessment

The incidence of male and female infertility has increased in recent years, and is recognised as a global public health issue, and is of considerable public concern. Advanced maternal age is known to be the leading factor responsible but other factors that affect both men and women including air pollution, may contribute. Epidemiological evidence linking exposure to ambient air pollution with fertility disorders in women and men (e.g. reduced fecundity as measured by time to pregnancy) is still inconsistent and is subject to many study limitations, but given that we are all exposed to air pollution it is essential to understand if this aspect of our environment is contributing to fertility problems. An opportunity to address this topic is available by using UK COSMOS, an ongoing large cohort study that provides information on many potential confounding variables. First, an overall design and model will be developed, based on available air pollutant information and verified across England. Second, exposure to ambient air pollutants such as NO2, NOX, PM2.5 and PM10 will be attributed to each participant by using residential history, retrospectively collected through questionnaires. Third, the association between exposure to ambient air pollution and reduced fecundity will be evaluated. If it is of interest to the student, they would be encouraged to explore public concern/understanding of the issue and routes to effective dissemination of study findings via small-scale qualitative work/public involvement and engagement. This project offers the student an opportunity to develop a broad skillset covering environmental exposure modelling, epidemiological analysis, reproductive epidemiology and potentially also Public and Community Involvement, Engagement and Participation (PCIEP), which would stand them in excellent stead for their further career. This project is supervised by  Dr Sean Beevers and  Professor Mireille Toledano (Imperial College London). It is aligned with the Emerging Environmental Issues and Preparedness theme within the Health Protection Research Unit in Environmental Exposures & Health.
Perfluorinated chemicals, or “forever chemicals” include a large number of synthetic compounds which are bioaccumulative and very persistent in the environment and in the human body. Despite their common use in a wide range of daily products, a recent briefing by the European Environment Agency highlighted that risks to human health and the environment were still poorly understood. Some studies have suggested an impact on infant birth weights, the immune system, cancer and Covid19. This multi-disciplinary project, conducted in close partnership with the UK Health Security Agency (UK HSA), will involve i) reviewing current evidence of health risks; ii) modelling based on measurements in the environment; and iii) conducting epidemiological analyses at population level. This project is supervised by  Dr Fred Piel and  Dr Leon Barron (Imperial College London) and Dr Ovnair Sepai (UK HSA), and conducted in collaboration with the Environment Agency. It is aligned with the Emerging Environmental Issues and Preparedness theme within the Health Protection Research Unit in Environmental Exposures & Health.
To respond to the growing housing needs brownfield sites are increasingly being targeted for housing redevelopment. Depending on their previous use, ex-brownfield sites might pose potential risks to the health of residents in housing developments either in, on or in the vicinity of, redeveloped sites. This PhD will identify ex-brownfield sites in the UK, with a focus on redeveloped ex-gasworks sites, develop an exposure assessment of affected populations and conduct epidemiological analysis on potential adverse health effects. This project is supervised by Dr Daniela Fecht (Imperial College London). It is aligned with the In vitro testing and integration with epidemiological data theme within the Health Protection Research Unit in Chemical and Radiation Threats and Hazards.

Epidemiology and Exposure Assessment at NHLI

This project will examine the role of indoor and outdoor bioaerosol exposures on the onset and exacerbation of asthma and COPD, as well as other adult respiratory and allergic health outcomes. This may include examining high-risk subgroups, genetic susceptibility, and the effect of combined exposures or interactions between indoor and outdoor factors. It will use data from cohorts and data sources available within the MRC Centre with opportunities for new data collection.
This project will examine the role of workplace exposures in chronic lung diseases in available cohorts including the Burden of Obstructive Lung Disease (BOLD) study. BOLD has information from adults in several low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and in UK Biobank. The student may also develop a new tool suitable for collection of lifetime job histories in LMICs .
This project will examine the relationship between respiratory health and environmental factors (e.g., household air pollution from biomass use; outdoor air pollution; vegetation index; pesticide use) in LMICs using baseline and follow-up data from the Burden of Obstructive Lung Disease (BOLD) study. BOLD collected high-quality post-bronchodilator lung function data and information on risk factors from about 30,000 people from 41 sites, mostly in LMICs. There will be opportunities for new data collection.