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Marie Sklodowska Curie PhD Researcher - SOPLAS: Macro and microplastic (MiP) in agricultural soil systems (2 posts)

Lancaster Environment Centre
Salary:   Salary: £39,820 per annum
Closing Date:   Sunday 31 January 2021
Interview Date:   To be confirmed
Reference:  A3258

The Lancaster Environment Centre at Lancaster University, UK, is offering two fully funded PhD researcher positions as part of the Horizon 2020 Innovative Training Network  ‘SOPLAS: Macro and microplastic (MiP) in agricultural soil systems.’  The successful researchers will be part of a multi-national, multi-disciplinary team and will spend periods of time at partner institutions. SOPLAS is one of the largest EU funded projects focusing on the sustainability of plastic use in agriculture. Overall there will be 14 PhD researchers, hosted by 11 research institutions, in the programme. The cohort will attend a series of training events hosted by the consortium members.

Studentship 1. Development and application of fluorescence-based techniques to quantify microplastic pollution in soils. Lead supervisor Professor Crispin Halsall (

The detection and quantification of primary and secondary MiP in soil amendments and in soils will build on recent advances in analytical methodologies for MiP (e.g. FT-IR and Raman spectroscopy, pyrolysis-GC-MS). Based on earlier studies with soil amendments, SOPLAS will be the first to adapt the different methodologies to accurately isolate, identify and quantify MiP in a range of soil matrices and subsequently compare the results obtained using different methodologies.

Studentship 2. Transport of microplastics in overland flow. Lead supervisor Professor John Quinton (

The potential pathways of MiPs from soils to aquatic systems have yet to be addressed in the scientific literature. Therefore, we will be among the first to work in this area. This PhD will focus on the processes governing the movement of plastics to surface waters in overland flow which will first be studied in laboratory flume experiments utilising high resolution particle tracking and tracing methods. These experiments will subsequently be upscaled to the field and small catchment scale using traceable MiP.

Deadlines and applications

Qualifications. Applicants should have an above-average master’s degree in soil science, chemistry, physics, natural sciences, biological sciences, agricultural engineering, physical geography or related fields. Laboratory and fieldwork skills, alongside a desire to work in environmental sciences and with local stakeholders, will be an advantage. Very good knowledge of spoken and written English is required. 

Studentship funding: Full studentships (tuition fees and salary in line with EU_ITN norms for EU students for 3.5 years.  The salary is set at £39,820 per year.

Mobility and early career requirements: The rules of Innovative Training Networks require applicants to be in the first four years (full-time equivalent) of their research careers and have not been awarded a doctoral degree. To foster international exchange of early stage researchers the applicants should not have resided in the United Kingdom for more than 12 months in the last 3 years (except refugees). Interested applicants that do not meet this criteria should visit for details of other PhD researcher  opportunities in the SOPLAS project with our European partners.

Provisional Interview Date: Late February

Start Date: 1st July 2021

Application Procedure

Applications will be shortlisted for interview based on the two documents that you should up load:

  1. A 2-page cv

  2. A personal statement of  no longer than 800 words

Your personal statement should not exceed 800 words and should address the following points:

Which of the two studentships you are interested in.

Why do you want to join this Marie Skłodowska Curie ISOPLAS innovative Training Network PhD programme?

  • Try to convey your enthusiasm and motivation for research. Do you understand the demands of postgraduate research? Do you understand what being a member of the SOPLAS PhD programme entails?

Why Lancaster University? 

What is the relevance of your first degree and Masters to this study?

  • Comment on relevance of courses you have taken at university. Point out any circumstances that may have effected your academic results, that you think should be considered.

  • If you don not have a masters explain what equivalent experience you have.

What academic skills have you got to offer?

  • Knowledge of relevant scientific topics and techniques. Experiences of research projects you have done. Academic prizes you have been awarded.

What personal skills can you offer?

  • Demonstrate that you have considered your strengths and weaknesses for postgraduate research. Can you demonstrate the dedication and resilience required to complete a PhD?

What are your strengths?

  • In what ways might you be  better than other applicants?

What are your career aims?

  • Tell us your short-term aims and long-term career ambition.


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