FluoBait: Rapid Characterisations of in situ Biodegradation of Hospital Contaminants in Environmental Waters

FluoBait: Rapid Characterisations of in situ Biodegradation of Hospital Contaminants in Environmental Waters

Supervisor: Dr. Caroline Gauchotte-Lindsay, University of Glasgow (caroline.gauchotte-lindsay@glasgow.ac.uk); Dr. Russell Davenport, Newcastle University (Russell.davenport@newcastle.ac.uk); Prof. Rudi Marquez, Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (rudi.marquez@xjtlu.edu.cn); Sharon Pfleger, Consultant in Pharmaceutical Public Health, NHS Highland (Sharon.pfleger@nhs.net)

Description: This is an IAPETUS studentship: IAPETUS is the North East of England’s and Scotland’s multidisciplinary Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) for the environmental sciences, which is funded and accredited by NERC. More information can be found here: http://www.iapetus.ac.uk

In the last few decades, concerns have been raised over the ubiquity of new biologically active compounds in waterways and the marine environment. These xenobiotic compounds such as prescription (pharmaceutical), recreational drugs and personal care products arrive in the aquatic environment via the effluent of wastewater treatment plants. The concentrations of xenobiotics in various environmental compartments (water, sediment, plants and animals) are ever increasing and their ecological effects are not yet fully characterised. For these reasons, they have been labelled “emerging contaminants”. Particularly, patients in hospital have a high burden of medicines and these prescriptions may be more potent than pharmaceuticals from primary care e.g. some of the most potent antibiotics and chemotherapy are used for the sickest patients in hospital. Hospital waste is therefore a potential high source of emerging contaminants.

There is a pressing need to understand the fate of emerging contaminants in the environment. Notably, we need to characterise their natural attenuation and biodegradation by indigenous microbes in engineered, surface and ground waters.

This interdisciplinary research programme will incorporate synthetic chemistry, analytical chemistry and environmental biotechnology to develop a “FluoBait” device to “fish” emerging contaminant degraders in natural systems and elucidate their degradation pathways. Using meshed cartridges filled with fluorescently tagged emerging contaminants adsorbed onto activated carbon (the FluoBaits), biofilms will be extracted from environmental waters and fluorescent (i.e. metabolising) microbes enriched and/or sequenced. The FluoBaits have the potential to 1) demonstrate the occurrence of in situ biodegradation and 2) considerably accelerate the isolation and characterisation of emerging contaminants metabolising bacteria.

This novel project is in collaboration with CASE partner NHS Highland and the student will develop three FluoBaits for emerging contaminants of particular concerns: Triclosan, a synthetic antibacterial agent found in many commercially available products labelled “antibacterial” including antibacterial soaps and handwash found in hospitals; diclofenac, a commonly prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug in the United Kingdom and clarithromycin, an antibiotic normally used to treat respiratory and skin infections.

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Details on the methodology can be found here:  http://www.iapetus.ac.uk/iap-17-28-fluobait-rapid-characterisations-of-in-situ-biodegradation-of-hospital-contaminants-in-environmental-waters/

Funding notes: Funding is available to cover Home tuition fees, as well as paying a stipend at the Research Council rate (estimated £14,553 for Session 2017-18).

Eligibility: All applicants need to meet NERC’s eligibility criteria to be considered for an IAPETUS studentship and these are detailed in the current RCUK studentship terms and conditions.

IAPETUS is only able to consider applications from Home/European Union candidates. International candidates are not eligible to be considered and where an candidate from another EU country has not been resident in the UK for 3 years or more prior to the commencement of their studies with IAPETUS, they will only be eligible for a fees-only studentship.

How to Apply: Please refer to the following website for details on how to apply:


When applying you will need to complete their online postgraduate application form and state that you wish to be considered for an IAPETUS studentships when prompted how you intend to fund your postgraduate studies and highlight the specific doctoral research project that you wish to be considered for, quoting the doctoral research project’s reference (which are quoted in each doctoral research project’s brief) where possible.

In addition to completing an online application form, you will also need to provide the following documentation to your prospective Department/School:

  1. Current CV;
  2. A cover letter, no longer that 2 pages of A4 in length, detailing your reasons for applying for a PhD and why you have selected your chosen doctoral research project;
  3. Two references, where possible not from your prospective supervisor(s); &
  4. Transcripts of your previous qualifications obtained to date.

Deadline: 19 January 2018

Start Date: October 2018