PhD Studentship: Extraction and Detection of Asbestos Fibres in Soil

Job Overview

Hatfield, England
Job Type
Full Time
Date Posted
4 months ago

Additional Details

Job ID
Job Views

Job Description

University of Hertfordshire - Particle Instruments & Diagnostics Research Group (PID)

Qualification Type:PhD
Funding for:UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount:The position is fully funded for 3.5 years and preferably starting in January 2021. This funded PhD studentship is only open to UK/EU candidates.
Hours:Full Time
Placed On:5th November 2020
Closes:5th February 2021


Assoc. Prof. Chris Stopford (PID, University of Hertfordshire, UK)

Dr Richard Greenaway (PID, University of Hertfordshire, UK)

Assoc. Prof. Ian Johnston (Microfluidics & Microengineering Research Group (MMRG), University of Hertfordshire, UK)


Inadvertent inhalation of carcinogenic asbestos fibres disturbed by demolition or maintenance work has become a leading cause of work related deaths throughout the industrialized world.  In 1990, the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) stated that there is “no evidence for a threshold or 'safe' level of asbestos exposure”, a view supported since by the ever-decreasing statutory limits of exposure in industrialized countries. In 2010, the World Health Organization estimated that ~100,000 people die each year from asbestos related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis resulting from occupational exposure

Upto 25% of brownfield construction sites in the UK are contaminated with asbestos. This increases the risk to those working on and living around the sites both during any groundwork and from natural weathering following reconstruction. Current surveying methods require laboratory analysis of soil samples, which are expensive, time consuming, and have results which vary greatly with the location on a site at which the sample is taken.  Additionally, inter-laboratory studies show significant variation for the same sample.

Project summary

This project will develop methodologies and technology to perform on-site surveys for the detection of free asbestos fibres in soil.  You will develop expertise in sample collection, processing, and handling to concentrate free fibres into an aliquot of liquid.  Building on existing expertise in the PID group will then develop a proof of concept laboratory experiment for the discrimination of asbestos fibres.  This will involve the use of optical imaging and/or scattering techniques to measure the rotation of individual fibres in a liquid medium. 

The successful candidate will have the opportunity to work in both the MMRG and PID laboratories, and potentially undertake field work for intercomparison of the developed technique with existing standard testing methods. 

Note: The position is fully funded for 3.5 years and preferably starting in January 2021. This funded PhD studentship is only open to UK/EU candidatesEU candidates should join before 15th Dec 2020 in order to apply for a student visa before they can enter the UK. This does not apply to a student who is a UK citizen. Interviews soon after the 15th November 2020. 

Requirement profile:
• A suitable BSc (2.1 or above) and/or Masters, e.g. physics, mathematics, engineering
• Experience of laboratory work involving optics, sample processing, and/or aerosol
• Knowledge of data/image analysis using e.g. Python, Matlab

Application procedure:

To apply, a completed application form (link), along with copies of higher education certificates, transcripts, a copy of your passport and two letters of reference, should be returned (by email) to Lynette Spelman at the address below, by the closing date (15 November 2020). You should arrange for your referees to write separately via email to Lynette Spelman. The link to full details is given below.



Lynette Spelman

Research Student Admissions
Doctoral College

Tel: 01707 286083

[email protected]

Prof Sugata Kaviraj

Postgraduate Tutor
School of Physics, Engineering, and Computer Science

Tel: 01707 284223

[email protected]

Full details can be found here: 

Informal enquires Assoc. Prof. Chris Stopford ([email protected])


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