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PhD Opportunities

QUADRAT DTP: Potential human health risks from Ni and Cr in agricultural lands following repeated amendment with basalt dust for carbon sequestration

School of Natural and Built Environment | PHD

Applications are now CLOSED
Funding
Funded
Reference Number
SNBE-2022-SC1
Application Deadline
1 December 2021
Start Date
3 October 2022

Overview

In order to address the climate emergency and prevent catastrophic climate change, we must reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to net-zero as quickly as possible. As humanity races to decarbonise all our activities, it has become apparent that although we must reduce GHG emissions in every sphere of our lives, some processes essential to our life on this planet are unlikely to ever become completely carbon neutral. Therefore, in additional to a radical reduction in GHG emissions, IPCC (2018) predict that part of the solution to achieving a net-zero carbon world will be to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from the air.

Enhanced Rock Weathering (ERW) has been identified as a potentially promising technique for capturing CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering it in soil (Beerling et al., 2020). Natural rock weathering happens slowly with CO2 being removed from the atmosphere over thousands of years as silicate rocks, rich in either magnesium and/or calcium are chemically broken down to release base cations which can react with CO2 to produce carbonate minerals. In ERW, pulverised silicate rocks are added to soils. The high reactive surface area of the pulverised rock accelerates natural weathering processes and therefore has potential to sequester significant quantities of atmospheric CO2. However, silicate rocks, including olivine-rich ultramafic and mafic rocks (basaltic) rocks, often contain trace metals including chromium (Cr) and nickel (Ni) that are toxic to humans and the environment at elevated levels (Cox et al., 2017). These trace elements are likely to be released during the enhanced weathering process, and therefore excessive use of ERW may locally pose risks to human health and the environment.

This PhD will investigate the risks to human health posed by Cr and Ni in soils enhanced with pulverised basalt. This will be done by analysing for bioaccessible Ni and Cr concentrations using the Unified BARGE Method for bioaccessibility testing and considering whether the released Cr and Ni is available for plant uptake. The rate of carbon sequestration in soils will be assessed using C and O isotope analysis. The student will benefit from access to community gardens developed as part of a collaboration between QUB and Belfast City Council as part of the Horizon 2020 funded UPSURGE project.

Beerling, D.J., Kantzas, E.P., Lomas, M.R. et al. (2020) Potential for large-scale CO2 removal via enhanced rock weathering with croplands. Nature 583, 242–248. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2448-9

Cox, S. F., Rollinson, G., McKinley, J. M. (2017) Mineralogical characterisation to improve understanding of oral bioaccessibility of Cr and Ni in basaltic soils in Northern Ireland. Journal of Geochemical Exploration, Volume 183, Part B, 166-177. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gexplo.2017.02.006

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (2018) Global Warming of 1.5 °C. An IPCC Special Report on the Impacts of Global Warming of 1.5 °C Above Pre-Industrial Levels and Related Global Greenhouse Gas Emission Pathways, World Meteorological Organization.

More project details are available here:
www.quadrat.ac.uk/quadrat-projects/

How to apply:
www.quadrat.ac.uk/how-to-apply/

Funding Information

QUADRAT studentships are open to UK and Overseas candidates. Funding will cover UK tuition fees/stipend/research & training support grant only.

Before applying please check full funding and eligibility information: www.quadrat.ac.uk/funding-and-eligibility/

Project Summary
Supervisor
Dr Siobhan Cox
Mode of Study

Full-time: 3 years

Part-time: 6 years


Funding Body
NERC QUADRAT DTP
Apply now Register your interest

Civil Engineering overview

The research centre will address the topical grand challenges in civil engineering field, building on existing and developing new international collaborations. Financial support to meet these challenges will be acquired through both internal University initiatives (for enhanced infrastructure and facilities) and external funding from government grants, charities and direct industrial support.

Research will address the grand challenges of energy, carbon, clean water, infrastructure; exploring extremes and defining new limits. Key research areas include:

Marine renewable energy
Groundwater and environmental systems
Geotechnics
Intelligent infrastructure and high performance structures
Energy efficient materials

Mode of study / duration

Registration is on a full-time or part-time basis, under the direction of a supervisory team appointed by the University. You will be expected to submit your thesis at the end of three years of full-time registration for PhD, or two years for MPhil (or part-time equivalent).

Civil Engineering Highlights
Global Opportunities
  • Civil Engineering sits within two trans-disciplinary clusters, bringing together researchers from spatial planning, architecture, geography, paleoecology and civil engineering to tackle some of the world's most pressing urban and environmental challenges.
    https://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/NBE/Research/
Industry Links
  • Civil Engineering is led by a Head of Discipline supported by team leaders with responsibility for maintaining excellence in its research groups. One of these, the Intelligent and Sustainable Infrastructure Group (ISIG - including low carbon structural materials) has several joint projects with international Centres of Excellence. Further information about our research groups can be found on the School website.
    https://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/NBE/Disciplines/civil-and-structural-engineering/
World Class Facilities
  • The School of Natural and Built Environment has a range of state-of-the-art facilities to support our outstanding students and staff conducting leading-edge research and teaching. These include a heavy structures laboratory, rheology laboratory, the Belfast Wave Flume and the Portaferry coastal wave basin.
    https://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/NBE/Research/facilities-infrastructure/
Student Experience
  • Postgraduates form an intrinsic part of our research community and are actively involved in the School's cross-disciplinary Research Groups, enabling the creation of synergies in areas such as sustainability, infrastructure, culture, design and heritage. The School is engaged with major research themes such as urbanism, community, heritage, population and climate change which contributes to the development of policy and practice both locally and globally. Visit our School website and read about the exciting research being undertaken by our current PhD students:
    https://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/NBE/Study/PostgraduateResearch/
Key Facts

Civil Engineering at Queens is in the Top 200 in the World (Academic Ranking of World Universities, 2021).

  • Civil Engineering is ranked 20th in the UK (Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022)

Course content

Research Information

Associated Research
The dynamic nature of this research has been key to the CERC's success in attracting significant funding from UK research councils, government departments and agencies.
The Civil Engineering Research Centre (CERC) is a leading international, interdisciplinary centre that enables scientists and engineers from all areas of civil engineering investigation to work on diverse, yet complementary research.
A special feature of the CERC is the extensive and diverse range of research topics being researched by students and staff in the Centre.

Career Prospects

Introduction
Many of our PhD graduates have moved into academic and research roles in Higher Education while others go on to play leading roles in educational practice, the public sector or within NGO’s. Queen's postgraduates reap exceptional benefits. Unique initiatives, such as Degree Plus and Researcher Plus bolster our commitment to employability. For further information on career opportunities at PhD level please contact the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences Student Recruitment Team on askEPS@qub.ac.uk. Our advisors - in consultation with the School - will be happy to provide further information on your research area, possible career prospects and your research application.

People teaching you

Dr Giuseppina Amato
Senior Lecturer
Natural and Built Environment
g.amato@qub.ac.uk

Dr Mohammed Sonebi
Professor
Natural and Built Environment
m.sonebi@qub.ac.uk

Dr Raymond Flynn
Senior Lecturer
Natural and Built Environment
r.flynn@qub.ac.uk

Dr Rory Doherty
Senior Lecturer
Natural and Built Environment
r.doherty@qub.ac.uk

Dr Sree Nanukuttan
Senior Lecturer
Natural and Built Environment
s.nanukuttan@qub.ac.uk

Professor G Hamill
Professor
Natural and Built Environment
g.a.hamill@qub.ac.uk

Professor Marios Soutsos
Professor
Natural and Built Environment
m.soutsos@qub.ac.uk

Professor Wei Sha
Professor
Natural and Built Environment
w.sha@qub.ac.uk

Learning Outcomes

A research degree offers students an opportunity to foster their capacity for independent research and critical thought. It also allows students to explore an area of interest and so understand and solve theoretical and practical problems within the field.

Undertaking a research degree also enhances a student’s written and oral communication skills, and a PhD is almost always a formal requirement for an academic post.

Course structure

A PhD is awarded for original research in a topic chosen by the student. PhD studies may be undertaken on a full (3 years) or part-time (6 years) basis.

Research students are appointed a primary and secondary supervisor who will guide them through their research, supported by an independent panel reviewing students’ progress.

This independent research is complemented by programmes of training, provided both by the School of Natural and Built Environment and by Queen’s Graduate School.

Assessment

Assessment processes for the research degree differ from taught degrees. Students will be expected to present drafts of their work at regular intervals to their supervisor who will provide written and oral feedback; a formal assessment process takes place annually.

This Annual Progress Review requires students to present their work in writing and orally to a panel of academics from within the School. Successful completion of this process will allow students to register for the next academic year.

The final assessment of the doctoral degree is both oral and written. Students will submit their thesis to an internal and external examining team who will review the written thesis before inviting the student to orally defend their work at a Viva Voce.

Feedback

Supervisors will offer feedback on draft work at regular intervals throughout the period of registration on the degree.

Entrance requirements

Graduate
The minimum academic requirement for admission to a research degree programme is normally an Upper Second Class Honours degree from a UK or ROI HE provider, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University. Further information can be obtained by contacting the School.

International Students

For information on international qualification equivalents, please check the specific information for your country.

English Language Requirements

Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.5, with not less than 5.5 in any component, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University is required. *Taken within the last 2 years.

International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.

For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see: www.qub.ac.uk/EnglishLanguageReqs.

If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.

Tuition Fees

Northern Ireland (NI) 1 £4,596
Republic of Ireland (ROI) 2 £4,596
England, Scotland or Wales (GB) 1 £4,596
EU Other 3 £22,700
International £22,700

1 EU citizens in the EU Settlement Scheme, with settled or pre-settled status, are expected to be charged the NI or GB tuition fee based on where they are ordinarily resident, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly Student Fees Regulations. Students who are ROI nationals resident in GB are expected to be charged the GB fee, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.

2 It is expected that EU students who are ROI nationals resident in ROI will be eligible for NI tuition fees, in line with the Common Travel Agreement arrangements. The tuition fee set out above is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.

3 EU Other students (excludes Republic of Ireland nationals living in GB, NI or ROI) are charged tuition fees in line with international fees.

All tuition fees quoted are for the academic year 2021-22, and relate to a single year of study unless stated otherwise. Tuition fees will be subject to an annual inflationary increase, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

Civil Engineering costs

There are no specific additional course costs associated with this programme.

Additional course costs

All Students

Depending on the programme of study, there may also be other extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies . Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £100 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges. Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen. There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, and library fines. In undertaking a research project students may incur costs associated with transport and/or materials, and there will also be additional costs for printing and binding the thesis. There may also be individually tailored research project expenses and students should consult directly with the School for further information.

Bench fees

Some research programmes incur an additional annual charge on top of the tuition fees, often referred to as a bench fee. Bench fees are charged when a programme (or a specific project) incurs extra costs such as those involved with specialist laboratory or field work. If you are required to pay bench fees they will be detailed on your offer letter. If you have any questions about Bench Fees these should be raised with your School at the application stage. Please note that, if you are being funded you will need to ensure your sponsor is aware of and has agreed to fund these additional costs before accepting your place.

How do I fund my study?

1.PhD Opportunities

Find PhD opportunities and funded studentships by subject area.

2.Funded Doctoral Training Programmes

We offer numerous opportunities for funded doctoral study in a world-class research environment. Our centres and partnerships, aim to seek out and nurture outstanding postgraduate research students, and provide targeted training and skills development.

3.PhD loans

The Government offers doctoral loans of up to £26,445 for PhDs and equivalent postgraduate research programmes for English- or Welsh-resident UK and EU students.

4.International Scholarships

Information on Postgraduate Research scholarships for international students.

Funding and Scholarships

The Funding & Scholarship Finder helps prospective and current students find funding to help cover costs towards a whole range of study related expenses.

How to Apply

Apply using our online Postgraduate Applications Portal and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to apply.

Find a supervisor

If you're interested in a particular project, we suggest you contact the relevant academic before you apply, to introduce yourself and ask questions.

To find a potential supervisor aligned with your area of interest, or if you are unsure of who to contact, look through the staff profiles linked here.

You might be asked to provide a short outline of your proposal to help us identify potential supervisors.