PhD Student

MRC Toxicology Unit, Cambridge

University of Cambridge, Trinity Ln, Cambridge, UK


  • Posted on: 19th Feb 2021
  • Funding amount: Funding Available
  • Funding for: EU Students, International Students, UK Students
  • REF: PU25773
  • Closes: 14th March 2021
  • Hours: Full Time

Health Effects of Non-Exhaust Particle Emissions

Until now, research into the health effects of particulate emissions from vehicles has mainly focussed on exhaust (tailpipe) emissions. However, non-exhaust particulate emissions due to brake, tyre, and road wear are produced by electric and combustion-engine vehicles and contribute significantly to airborne particles from road traffic. It is estimated that in urban environments, brake wear particles alone contribute to ~20% of total traffic-related PM10 emissions (Grigoratos & Martini 2015). In the near future, it is expected that non-exhaust emissions will dominate the particles emitted from vehicles.

These non-exhaust emissions exhibit a different size, morphology, and composition compared to exhaust emissions from combustion engines and, thus, may have a negative impact on human health. Many studies have shown that particle size is an important factor for particle deposition in the respiratory tract: e.g. coarse particles deposit in the upper respiratory tract, while ultrafine particles can penetrate deep into the lung. Moreover, chemical composition of non-exhaust emissions can also be an important factor in their adverse effects on human health (Gasser et al. 2009).

In this project, non-exhaust emissions from a heavy goods vehicle will be collected and characterized using best practices to keep the integrity of sampled particles. Additionally, size-selected particles will be collected by cascade impactor and will be characterized for chemical composition and their morphology studied using electron microscopy. These samples will then be used in in vitro models to examine the effects of non-exhaust particles (size-selected and overall) on lung cells using 3-dimensional cellular models of the human respiratory tract and a wide range of techniques to examine genome-wide changes that result from size-selected particle exposure.

This studentship is based in the MRC Toxicology Unit and the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge and is supported by the Doctoral Training programme of the National Institute for Health Research-funded Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Environmental Exposures and Health.

A key focus of the mission and strategy of the HPRU in Environmental Exposures & Health is to train and develop the next generation of academic and policy leaders in the field of environment and health research. Successful PhD candidates will be supported by a leading bespoke training programme to ensure that they are equipped with the appropriate skills and experience to become first class researchers.

The MRC Toxicology Unit is a leading international research Unit providing state of the art research facilities, with excellent opportunities for collaborative interaction within a vibrant community at the University of Cambridge.

There are a variety of training modules and courses which students are encouraged to attend. In addition, students follow the Toxicology Unit’s weekly external and internal seminar programs and are included in the postdoc/student forums which take place each month and offer excellent opportunities for collaboration and career development.

Candidates must expect to obtain qualifications at the level of a first-class or 2.1 Honours Degree in a relevant life science or quantitative science subject, have strong statistical and computational skills and must be enthusiastic to collaborate closely with other members of the team.

In addition to an excellent academic record, we are also looking for outstanding candidates with an interest in environment & health research and the development of cross-disciplinary skills that bridge these disciplines.

Funding is available at the level of Home Fees and a stipend of £17,500 per annum. Information regarding eligibility for Home Fee classification can be found at:

It is strongly encouraged that you contact the supervisor prior to making your formal application:Marion MacFarlane; and/or Anne Willis

Further information can be found at the MRC Toxicology Unit Website:

If you have any queries regarding the application process please contactBronwen Chamberlain at

Please quote reference PU25773 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.

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