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Plastic pollution emission factors measurement and modelling for macro-plastic waste


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Key facts

Type of research degree
Application deadline
Thursday 30 June 2022
Project start date
Saturday 1 October 2022
Country eligibility
UK only
Competition funded
Source of funding
Research council
Dr Costas Velis
Additional supervisors
Dr Nikolaos Nikitas
School of Civil Engineering
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

Plastic pollution is now recognised as one of the major global sustainability challenges of our times. The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) have recently agreed on a landmark resolution for a global treaty to &ldquo;end plastic pollution&rdquo; &ndash; heralded as the &ldquo;most important international multilateral environmental deal since the Paris climate accord&rdquo;. In that respect, developing the fundamental science and engineering associated with the plastics released in to the environment will be critical. Dr Velis research team at the University of Leeds have been working at the forefront of quantifying plastic pollution at various scales, though a combination of models and data acquisition and systems assessment methodologies, which are widely used around the world: <br /> Increasingly, modelling is employed to develop our understanding of such a complex phenomenon, with interaction of martial properties, geography, environment and human societal behaviour. For example, the Plastics to Ocean (P2O) model released in Science, is coupling circular economy with, waste and resource management and leakage into the environment to offer a holistic approach. It has been used as the core evidence for the proposed resolution by the countries that put it forward. The model SPOT offers cutting edge local to global plastic pollution quantification for macro-plastic items and is used by the UN-Habitat and reported in the UN Environment Data Hub (GPML) to provide the first global assessment of how cities around the world are managing their waste (SDG 11.6.1). <br /> However, major quantification questions remain open. This provides an opportunity to leave your mark by contributing towards major scientific and engineering breakthroughs. In particular, your key focus would be on the emission factors - the rate of macro-plastics items leaking into the environment; and how they move, depending on the environment and the forces acting upon them. You will be devising and conducting hands-on bench and large scale experiments, using specialist equipment (cameras, drones) and analysing sensor-based data along with Geographical Information Systems, to quantify such emission factors for the very first time. You will be incorporated in a leading research environment and work in close collaboration with wider major research projects, such as the PISCES project in Indonesia (UKRI GCRF) and across the Global South.<br />

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<p>Our research team at the University of Leeds works at the forefront of quantifying plastic pollution (<a href=""></a>), and we have already developed four models working at different scales and level of detail. Our recent research published in Science, sets out the very first model which combines waste management, circular economy and leakage into the environment. All of our models are applied in real world via projects with UN-Habitat, UNESCAP, The World Bank, SYSTEMIQ and other leading organisations, making the difference in preventing plastics pollution. This PhD opportunity has strong links with our <a href="">UKRI GCRF PISCES major interdisciplinary research project</a> about to start in Indonesia.</p> <p>Our group attracts some of the finest minds, determined to make the difference in combating plastic pollution using mathematical modelling. Joining us, you would have the opportunity to benefit from an outstanding research environment, with connections to the <a href="">Leeds Institute for Data Analytics</a>, and <a href="">The Alan Turing Institute</a> &ndash; UK&rsquo;s National Centre for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence. Your research will be fully incorporated in our international interdisciplinary research efforts, including for example, those in South-East Asia, having just started a major four year project in Indonesia. We anticipate you will publish papers in world-leading journals and provide input for various UN entities and international fora, such as the <a href="">International Solid Waste Association (ISWA)</a>.&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;</p>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p style="margin-bottom:11px">Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the&nbsp;<a href="">University&#39;s website</a>. Please state clearly in the Planned Course of Study section that you are applying for <em><strong>PHD Civil Engineering</strong></em> in the research information section&nbsp;that the research degree you wish to be considered for is&nbsp;<em><strong>Plastic pollution emission factors measurement and modelling for macro-plastic waste</strong></em> as well as <a href="">Dr Costas Velis</a> as your proposed supervisor.</p> <p>If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (below).</p> <p><em>As an international research-intensive university, we welcome students from all walks of life and from across the world. We foster an inclusive environment where all can flourish and prosper, and we are proud of our strong commitment to student education. Across all Faculties we are dedicated to diversifying our community and we welcome the unique contributions that individuals can bring, and particularly encourage applications from, but not limited to Black, Asian, people who belong to a minority ethnic community, people who identify as LGBT+ and people with disabilities. Applicants will always be selected based on merit and ability.</em></p> <p><strong>Applications will be considered on an ongoing basis. &nbsp;Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the supervisors for an informal discussion before making a formal application. &nbsp;We also advise that you apply at the earliest opportunity as the application and selection process may close early, should we receive a sufficient number of applications or that a suitable candidate is appointed.</strong></p> <p><strong>Please note that you must provide the following documents in support of your application by the closing date of 30 June 2022:</strong></p> <p><strong>&bull;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Full Transcripts of all degree study or if in final year of study, full transcripts to date<br /> &bull;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Personal Statement outlining your interest in the project<br /> &bull;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;CV</strong><br /> &nbsp;</p>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

Applicants to research degree programmes will have at least a first class or an upper second class British Bachelors Honours degree (or equivalent) in quantitative discipline such as physics/ mechanical engineering/ and geography (with maths and environmental sampling). In addition, the desired skills for this project are:<br /> &bull; Strong numerical aptitude, and application of it in devising and conducting physics or mechanical engineering hand-on experiments (setting up rigs, instrumentation)<br /> &bull; Data analytics with sensor-based devices<br /> &bull; Experience with coding, such as in R/ Python/ Matlab (or equivalent)<br /> &bull; Expertise with GIS<br />

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

The minimum English language entry requirement for research postgraduate research study is an IELTS of 6.0 overall with at least 5.5 in each component (reading, writing, listening and speaking) or equivalent. The test must be dated within two years of the start date of the course in order to be valid. Some schools and faculties have a higher requirement.

<h2 class="heading">Funding on offer</h2>

<p>A highly competitive EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership Studentship consisting of the award of fees with a maintenance grant of &pound;16,062 per year for 3.5 years.&nbsp; &nbsp;An additional Top-Up of &pound;3,000 per year for 3.5 years is available to previous University of Leeds graduates.&nbsp;</p> <p>This opportunity is open to all applicants. All candidates will be placed into the EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership Studentship Competition and selection is based on academic merit.</p> <p>Please refer to the <a href="">UKCISA</a> website for information regarding Fee Status for Non-UK Nationals starting from September/October 2021.<br /> &nbsp;</p>

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p>For further information about your application, please contact Doctoral College Admissions<br /> e: <a href=""></a>, t: +44 (0)113 343 5057.</p> <p>For further information about this project, please contact Dr Costas Velis<br /> e: <a href=""></a></p>

<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked funding opportunities</h3>
<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked research areas</h3>