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

 

Mechanistic Research in Environment and Health

This project supervised by  Professor Catherine Hawrylowicz (King’s College London) and  Dr Ian Mudway (Imperial College London) will investigate the mechanisms by which contemporary urban air pollution aggravates asthma. It will consist of in vitro studies in primary human cells, linking the variable composition of ambient and source specific particulate matter (diesel, biodiesel etc) to adverse response pathways. We will also explore the potential role of vitamin D in mitigating against these harmful actions. Previous experience of flow cytometry, cell culture, molecular techniques, and a sound immunology background are desirable. This project is aligned 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.
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.
Fentanyls are a class of opioid drugs used to treat pain, but which are also misused for their psychoactive properties. With high potency, fentanyl doses are much lower meaning they become much harder to monitor in humans. Several fentanyl analogues have also been produced illicitly with little/no quality control, representing a potential threat to public health. This project will investigate new mass spectrometry analysis approaches for sensitive characterisation and monitoring of the misuse of fentanyl substances in complex biological matrices and in wastewater samples to estimate population misuse at scale. Previous experience of analytical chemistry, particularly separation science, mass spectrometry and R/Python coding are desirable. This project will be supervised by  Dr Leon Barron (Imperial College London) and  Dr Tim Marczylo (UK Health Security Agency) and is aligned with the Healthy Cities, Healthy People theme within the MRC Centre for Environment & Health and the Emerging Environmental Issues and Preparedness theme within the Health Protection Research Unit in Environmental Exposures and Health.
Micro- and nano-sized plastic particles and fibres known as microplastics are an emerging component of particulate air pollution, contaminating ambient and indoor environments. They span a range of shapes and plastic types and there remain considerable uncertainties concerning their capacity to induce injury and acute inflammation in the lung following inhalation at environmentally relevant levels. This project supervised by  Dr Stephanie Wright (Imperial College London) and  Professor Tim Gant (Public Health England) will investigate whether there are adverse cellular and molecular responses following microplastic exposure in the human airway. Using in vitro human cell lines, it will determine which physicochemical properties render microplastic particles a (low or high) risk and the underlying mechanisms involved. Experience in toxicology and cell culture is desirable. This project is aligned with the Emerging Environmental Issues and Preparedness theme 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 Rachel Smith (Public Health England) 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.

Epidemiology and Exposure Assessment

Previous studies have identified volatile and semi volatile organic compounds ((S)VOCs) in the indoor environment, as being of particular public health concern, however, the lack of documented indoor emission properties for many chemicals as well as the limited data on human exposure routes lead to uncertainties in estimating the associated health risk. The overall objective of this project is to further develop and validate a microenvironmental exposure model to incorporate predictions of indoor concentrations of SVOCs and other pollutants in the home environment. The student will extend an existing integrated exposure model and carry out fieldwork to evaluate the performance of the model. The enhanced model will then be applied to investigate links between residential exposure to pollutants and health outcomes. This project is supervised by Dr Benjamin Barratt (Imperial College London) and Dr Sani Dimitroulopoulou (National Institute for Health Protection). It is aligned with the Environmental Exposures theme within the MRC Centre for Environment & Health and  the Assessment of Population Exposures theme within the Health Protection Research Unit in Environmental Exposures & Health.
Separating short-term health effects of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is important for policy.  The student will study whether (i) the relative risk for NO2 in time-series analysis reduces as the NO2/PM2.5 ratio increases, with particle trap use, (suggesting an apparent effect due to PM2.5 rather than NO2); (ii) controlling the NO2 effect for PM2.5 actually controls more for secondary than primary PM and (iii) causal inference methods provide further insight. This project is supervised by Dr Heather Walton (Imperial College London) and  Helen Crabbe (Public Health England/UK Health Security Agency). It is aligned with the Policy Translation theme within the MRC Centre for Environment & Health and the Air Pollution and Health theme within the Health Protection Research Unit in Environmental Exposures & Health. 
The incidence of male and female infertility has increased in recent years. 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. 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. 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 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. The multi-disciplinary project, conducted in close partnership with Public Health England, will involve a wide range of techniques from reviewing current evidence, to epidemiological analysis at population level based on measurements in the environment. This project is supervised by  Dr Fred Piel and  Dr Leon Barron (Imperial College London) and Dr Ovnair Sepai (Public Health England). 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 need and protect the countryside from development, 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 brownfield sites in the UK, 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.
The incidence of male and female infertility has increased in recent years. 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 with many study limitations. 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. It is aligned with the  Air Pollution and Health  theme within the Health Protection Research Unit in Environmental Exposures & Health. 

Epidemiology and Exposure Assessment at NHLI

The aim of this PhD is to identify molecular markers of injury and their long-term outcomes using information from the prospective study of a cohort on UK servicemen severely injured in the Afghan conflict. The student will focus on state-of-the-art multi-omic integration of aptamer-based proteomic profiles for 7,000 circulating proteins and untargeted metabolomic profiles reporting on 800-1200 metabolites and lipids measured by ultra-performance liquid chromatography with high-resolution mass spectrometry. The PhD student will identify associations in injured cases and controls that are nested within the cohort, using metabolomic and proteomic profiles, ensure the multi-omic signatures are unrelated to pre-existing conditions and their treatments and develop machine learning approaches aiming to distinguish the contributions of genetics, clinical phenotypes and environmental exposures on proteomic and metabolomic profile. 
This PhD will test the hypothesis that adverse indoor exposures have a detrimental effect on the onset and exacerbation of asthma and COPD, as well as other adult respiratory and allergic health outcomes. Additional aspects could include examining high-risk subgroups, genetic susceptibility, and the effect of combined exposures or interactions between indoor and outdoor factors (e.g. traffic-related air pollution). It will use data from cohorts available within the MRC Centre with opportunities to contribute to new waves of data collection that are planned.
Several studies suggest that workplace exposures contribute to chronic lung diseases, with some researchers proposing that about 14% of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is caused by exposures that occur during work. However, most studies supporting this estimate are not easily comparable, are cross-sectional and were conducted in high-income countries. The aim of this project is to assess the longitudinal associations between chronic lung disease and occupation using data from the multinational Burden of Obstructive Lung Disease (BOLD) cohort (www.boldstudy.org), which has high-quality post-bronchodilator lung function and occupational data from adults in several low- and middle-income countries. To close an important gap in occupational epidemiology, the student will also develop a new tool suitable for collection of lifetime job histories in low- and middle-income settings.
 The aim of this project is to 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 low- and middle-income countries. The student will have the opportunity to use baseline and follow-up data from the large multinational Burden of Obstructive Lung Disease (BOLD) study. This is a population-based cohort study that, at baseline, collected high-quality post-bronchodilator lung function data and information on risk factors for disease from about 30,000 people from 41 sites, mostly in low- and middle-income countries. There will be also opportunity to develop a study for new data collection.