Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) PhD studentship programme

Applications are now invited for a fully funded four year PhD studentship with integrated teaching certificate.

The University of Manchester has established funding through GCRF for studentships to build connections with countries that are overseas development assistance (OOA) recipients.

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the government to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries. GCRF forms part of the UK's Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment. ODA-funded activity focuses on outcomes that promote the long-term sustainable growth of countries on the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list. 

GCRF PhD programme

The GCRF PhD studentship programme is a four year programme with integrated teaching certificate and The University of Manchester has up to 12 studentships available. Applicants can apply to one of the below projects which will start in either April or September 2020. 

Funding for the programme will include tuition fees, an annual stipend at the minimum Research Councils UK rate (around £15,000 for 2019/20), a research training grant, training allowance and travel allowance. 

How to apply

The formal application process will open on 13 January 2020 and close 31 January 2020. 

Interviews will take place March 2020.

Applicants are asked to contact the lead supervisor displayed in the project information for an initial discussion about the project. 

Projects available

Biology, Medicine and Health

Limb trauma and reconstruction in East, Central & Southern Africa

Open lower limb fractures (OLLFs) are life-changing injuries defined by a wound associated with an underlying fracture. They constitute a large proportion (50-72%) of major extremity trauma in Sub-Saharan Africa; however, there is a dearth of research on the epidemiology, clinical management and health economics of these injuries. OLLFs are at especially high risk of adverse outcomes for patients (bone and joint infection, amputation) leading to long-term disability, pain and social/economic deprivation. In LMICs, there are inefficiencies in management of these complex injuries (late presentation, poor early management, long hospital stays, multiple operations and frequent readmission with infection) and moreover, significant economic and social consequences for the healthcare system and country. The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery has demonstrated that surgical services are a cost-effective health investment in resource poor settings and that investing in surgical care can reduce death and disability and improve public health and the economy in LMICs. Simply, appropriate and timely surgical interventions can salvage limbs and prevent amputation.

This project will undertake mapping and evaluations of trauma pathways in East, Central and Southern African partner countries (Zambia and Uganda) to define the gaps and priority actions for patients with complex limb trauma. A WHO Emergency Care System Assessment (ECSA)-like process (modified to focus specifically on limb trauma management, reconstruction and rehabilitation) will be used to generate novel datasets. This information will be used alongside patient level data to build economic models measuring healthcare and societal impact of proposed interventions such as education/training and technology to aid appropriate triage.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Adam J Reid

Relevant PhD programme: PhD/MPhil Cell Matrix Research

For more details, email adam.reid@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor) 

Biomarkers in cervical cancer

Standard treatment for locally advanced cervical cancer is radical chemoradiation. Hypoxia within the primary tumour is associated with local failure and metastatic disease. Hypoxia modification may therefore both improve local control and reduce the incidence of lethal metastatic disease. The combination of carbogen and nicotinamide (CON) reduces tumour hypoxia in animal models and improves radiotherapy outcomes in bladder and head and neck cancer patients. A phase II study of CON in cervical cancer has demonstrated feasibility in this setting. However, there are no validated biomarkers to identify cervix cancer patients who benefit from hypoxia-modifying treatment.
We hypothesise that tumour necrosis and/or lymphocyte count can be used to identify those patients who will benefit from CON and equally the group that have no benefit. The long term objective of this project is to validate a simple biomarker to select patients who respond to hypoxia modification in a phase II clinical trial within low and middle income countries.

Supervision will be from world-leading experts in radiotherapy and radiobiology from the UK and Sri Lanka. The appointed student will have the opportunity to develop a mix of core skills and experience supported by researchers within the Radiotherapy Related Research group. It is ideal for developing skills in both clinical and translational research as an ideal springboard towards developing an academic career.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Ananya Choudhury

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Cancer Sciences

For more details, email ananya.choudhury@christie.nhs.uk (Lead supervisor) 

Multidimensional signatures of rheumatic heart disease in Southern Africa

Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is the only cardiovascular disease of global impact that has been shown to be completely preventable. Poor social conditions, overcrowding, and limited access to medical resources are key enablers of RHD, resulting in a major source of morbidity and mortality, especially in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). Up to 40 million people are currently living with RHD worldwide, and most are in countries where advanced medical technologies such as percutaneous or surgical intervention are not accessible. The Global Burden of Disease study has shown that RHD affects nearly five million more people than HIV and causing ten million disability adjusted life years lost globally.

Genetic susceptibility is thought to play a role in the development of RHD, and there is convincing evidence that RHD results from the interaction between host genes, streptococcal pharyngitis, and social conditions of poverty. The aim of this project is to identify multidimensional signatures predictive of RHD through the use of advanced informatics techniques. Through the combination of complex data and the use of AI, machine learning and health informatics diagnostic tools for this disease will be developed. Then we can consider the initiation of work to develop point of care tests for LMICs.

This project will use existing data on potential biomarkers for RHD. Digitised proteomic maps have already been generated from patients with confirmed RHD and matched controls. In-depth clinical and phenotypic information, as well as genetic data are also available for this cohort. These, with the aid of advanced computation techniques, will be used together to identify those signatures of RHD.

The successful candidate will join an interdisciplinary team of biologist, clinicians, geneticists, statisticians and computer scientists and collaborate with experts throughout The University of Manchester and the University of Cape Town.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Anthony Whetton

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Cancer Sciences

For more details, email tony.whetton@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor) 

Self-harm and suicide in women in India

Suicide rates in India are among the highest in the world, and suicide presents far-reaching social, emotional and economic consequences for families, communities and society as a whole. Much of the published literature on self-harm and suicide relates to high income countries (HICs). To effect change we need to better understand suicide and self-harm within the cultural, political and socio-economic context of individual countries.

The rates, aetiology and methods of self-harm and suicide differ between low and middle income countries (LMICs) and HICs. The ratio between women and men who die by suicide in LMICs including India, is much lower than in HICs , where marriage is considered to be a protective factor for women in HICs, it is less so for women in India, and self-immolation and the consumption of pesticides are far more commonly used methods in LMICs including India, than in HICs.

The proposed PhD project will involve taking a mixed methods approach to the investigation of self-harm and suicide in women in India. An analysis of a subset of the South Asia Self Harm Initiative (SASHI) self-harm register data will be performed in order to investigate female self-harm and suicide in India. The SASHI self-harm register aims to collect longitudinal demographic, social and psychological data about people who harm themselves in South Asia. In addition to this, qualitative research concerning the experiences, attitudes and knowledge of key stakeholders (e.g. women who have self-harmed, accredited social health activists (ASHA workers), healthcare practitioners) will be conducted. The aim of the proposed project is to inform the understanding of female self-harm and suicide in the particular cultural, political and socio-economic context of India.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Catherine Robinson

Relevant PhD programme: PhD/MPhil Primary Care and Health Services Research

For more details, email catherine.robinson@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor) 

Skin disease in Sub-Saharan Africa: examining the epidemiology, impact on quality of life and access

This PhD studentship, through research undertaken in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), will investigate healthcare provider and patient dimensions for improving care for people with skin disease. Little substantive research has been undertaken in Africa on the prevalence, nature and treatment of skin disease and impact on quality of life; the structure and organisation of the health system for managing skin disease; and the socio-economic environment in which health workers operate to treat skin disease. Given the lack of research from Africa, an exploratory mixed methods study is planned, comprising an epidemiological study and in-depth interviews and surveys of healthcare staff and people living with skin diseases.

The successful candidate will have the opportunity to develop advanced health services research skills, under the supervision of experienced researchers and working with an international research team. The PhD will lead to scientific articles filling a major global health research gap, led by a candidate who has the drive to become an accomplished researcher; and who may be considering a research career on health in low- and middle income countries in the future.

This project will require fieldwork in SSA in collaboration with, and supported by, the Regional Dermatology Training Centre (RDTC) in Tanzania. This will provide an excellent opportunity to obtain first-hand experience in conducting studies in resource-limited settings. Structured training will be delivered throughout the PhD programme at The University of Manchester, with on-the-job training provided by the RDTC director in the relevant research methods and implementation.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Christopher Griffiths

Relevant PhD programme: PhD/MPhil Dermatological Sciences

For more details, email christopher.griffiths@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor) 

New anti-virulence bioresponsive nanoparticles to treat pulmonary TB

Pulmonary tuberculosis is one of the leading causes of death globally. The disease is particularly affecting significant proportions of population among the poorest countries. While United Nations has set targets to end TB, in almost a decade from now, there are major obstacles in the way to reach such a goal as drug resistant strains are on the rise and cure rate for patients infected with these strains remains low. This poses significant health security threat in countries like India where the TB burden is highest. Ending the tuberculosis epidemic by 2030 is among the health targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, however this can only be realised if more innovative approaches in developing new treatment options are urgently brought into play to tackle the epidemic head on.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) primarily infects alveolar macrophages (AMs) where it is able to live intracellularly for extended periods of time. Mtb creates its own safe environment, inside the infected macrophage, by secreting a number of virulence factors to inhibit the natural antibacterial mechanisms of the AMs. Most drugs have poor permeability to enter macrophages making treatments less effective at killing intracellular infections. Nanoparticles, particularly decorated with targeting ligands has the potential to generate new medicines since such particles can also be taken up into macrophages, just like pathogens. However to treat pulmonary infection the nanoparticles need to be made highly stable and of correct size for lung deposition in order to be delivered in inhalable form. There is tendency for stable nanoparticles to remain intact and not release the drug efficiently intracellularly. This project intends to solve all these limitations by designing and testing novel nanoparticle formulations which can be sensitised with targeting ligand, combined with bio-polymeric system and incorporate pH triggering mechanism to release the drug inside the alveolar macrophages. Furthermore the project will utilise new pioneering drugs against the Mtb secreted virulence factors discovered in our laboratories. These drugs have proven success in inhibiting the MptpB target which is therapeutically unexplored but shows efficacy in curtailing infection in animal models.

This project will utilise skills and knowledge base from Manchester University (School of Health sciences) and Delhi University (K.M college) to enable a new interdisciplinary approach for a breakthrough treatment based on designing novel controlled drug delivery system targeted to the to the vicinity of the mycobacterium at nanaoscale intracellular level.

The successful candidate will join a multidisciplinary research team and will be able to work in both UK and India and will also be supported by the principal investigators exchange of visits between the two countries through an already established collaboration links. Nanoparticle technology development and formulation will take place in the Division of Pharmacy and optometry (Dr Aojula), the efficacy testing will be performed Division of Infection, Immunity & Respiratory Medicine (Prof Tabernero) using well established alveolar macrophage infection model while biopolymeric incorporation of nanoparticles will be studied by shorter visits to K. M. College, University of Delhi (Dr Verma).

Principal investigator at Manchester: Harmesh Aojula

Relevant PhD programme: PhD/MPhil Infectious Diseases

For more details, email harmesh.aojula@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor) 

Preventing short-sightedness in urban populations in India

Myopia (short-sightedness) has become an important public health concern worldwide with its rapid increase in the prevalence in the last few decades and being associated with sight-threatening ocular diseases/complications in later life. It is estimated that about 5 billion people will be affected by myopia worldwide by the year 2050, with 1 billion myopes at risk of having myopia related complications. Its effect on individual and society is enormous, including direct costs such as spectacles, contact lenses, refractive surgery, and indirect costs due to debilitating pathologic myopia.

Although East Asian regions are most affected by myopia with its prevalence as high as 80% in teenagers, a combination of rapid development in digital technology, the indoor-centric life style factors such as intense near work to strive for academic excellence and limited time in outdoor environment due to various reasons may result in an epidemic of high myopia in UK and India similar to what has happened in China or Singapore. With the prevalence of myopia in India gradually increasing (4-9% in early 2000 to 35% in 2015 among urban school children), the situation demands action to understand the interaction of various risk factors in development and progression of myopia before the prevalence of myopia in UK/India surges to the uncontrollable levels seen in East Asia.

The proposed study aims to decode the science behind myopia development and progression by capturing the data in a holistic approach with the following specific objectives. 

  • Educate and create awareness about myopia among children and adult.
  • Create a large data base from diverse population groups to elucidate risk factors.
  • Investigate the interaction of various documented risk factors with myopia development and progression.

The student will have an opportunity to work in Physiological Optics labs in Manchester and the Myopia lab along with the engineering group at the L V Prasad Eye Institute, India. 

Principal investigator at Manchester: Hema Radhakrishnan

Relevant PhD programme: PhD/MPhil Optometry

For more details, email hema.radhakrishnan@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor) 

Impact of ocean thermal energy conversion on bamboo sharks

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) is a promising clean and renewable process that can produce electricity using the temperature difference between deep cold ocean waters and warm tropical surface waters. To facilitate this, OTEC plants pump large quantities of deep cold seawater to the surface to power electricity producing turbines.

This study will investigate the developmental, physiological, epigenetic and ecological implications of OTEC discharge on the vulnerable, warm water, bamboo shark, in the Port Dickson region of Malaysia. The student will spend 50% of their time in Manchester learning in vivo physiology and cutting edge ‘omic techniques, and 50% of their time in Malaysia conducting field and lab based measurements of bamboo shark populations and their response to thermal and hypoxic challenges presented by OTEC technologies. Upon completion, and in addition to PGcert Teacher training, the student will have contributed to a project with direct implications for OTEC plants in Malaysia and around the world, whilst providing novel information on the environmental plasticity of this important benthic shark which may serve as a sentinel for coastal sharks globally. 

Principal investigator at Manchester: Holly Shiels

Relevant PhD programme: PhD/MPhil Cardiovascular Sciences

For more details, email holly.shiels@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor) 

Investigating the infective reservoir of soil transmitted helminths in rural villages in Madagascar

The soil transmitted helminth Trichuris trichiura affects 500 million people in low to middle income countries, resulting in disability and poor child development, trapping people in a cycle of poverty. Trichuris is a gut dwelling parasite transmitted by a faeco-oral route: unembryonated eggs are passed with faeces and embryonate in the environment to become infective. This is thought to take approximately 30 days, although very little is known about the impact of the local environment on this process. Embryonated eggs contain L1 larvae and remain infective in the soil for years. Current anthelmintic treatments show low cure rates for trichuriasis. The development of drug resistance is also a pressing issue and no vaccine exists. Furthermore, environmental contamination with parasite eggs drives high reinfection rates post drug treatment. There is therefore an urgent need globally to interrupt the soil transmitted helminth lifecycle; failure to do so allows endemic infections to persist.

This proposal is in collaboration with the Centre Val Bio (CVB), an established field station in rural Madagascar staffed primarily by Malagasy nationals and with established links with the local Malagasy community. The prevalence of trichuriasis in this area is reported to be more than 70%. Availability of anthelmintic drugs to the mainly rural Malagasy communities relies on patchy infrastructure. Reinfection rates are rapid, often within three months of treatment, likely due to significant environmental contamination with parasite eggs. However, the precise prevalence of helminth eggs in the environment remains unexplored. This project will develop a scalable molecular assay to enumerate multiple helminth species in soil samples, providing important information on the environmental reservoir of STHs. It will also investigate the role of the rainforest environment in persistence of these parasites. Most importantly, the project will continue to build vital links with local village elders and allow the transfer of skills to the field station present in the endemic region.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Kathryn Else and Dr Joanne Pennock

Relevant PhD programme: PhD/MPhil Infectious Diseases

For more details, email kathryn.else@manchester.ac.uk or joanne.pennock@manchester.ac.uk

A smartphone hearing aid intervention for under served communities

Hearing loss affects close to 1.3 billion people and is a growing global health concern as a leading contributor to years lived with disability (Swanepoel et al., WHO Bulletin, 2019). Hearing loss has been called the ‘invisible disability’, but it has enormous economic and personal consequences, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) where more than one billion people with hearing loss live (Wilson et al., Lancet, 2017). People in high income countries may also be poorly served for hearing health care, due to immigration, poverty and under-education.

In contrast to these dismal statistics, more than 80% of people internationally, including LMICs, have access to a smartphone. Our vision has been to harness the power of the smartphone to test and treat hearing loss, especially for underserved populations. Our ongoing, collaborative effort across three continents has contributed to the development of a smartphone app (hear Digits) for sensitive and remote testing of hearing. We have run pilot studies of the app in culturally and linguistically diverse settings, and had the app adopted by WHO, the American Academy of Audiology, and 23andMe. Most recently, development has been completed of inexpensive but good quality hearing aids to be used in conjunction with the smartphone app. This project will be the first to use the hearing aids in a research setting, procedurally independent of the commercial developers (hearX).

Initial work on this project will involve more traditional approaches to calibrate and test the new hearing aid under stringent laboratory conditions. Assuming these tests are satisfactory, we will begin working with underserved populations in England and in South Africa. The premise is that, with access to a smartphone at no additional cost, and cutting the cost of the hearing aids to an affordable level for each population, we will be able to offer a basic, but good quality hearing health package to people who are most in need of it. It is important to emphasize that both the hearing test and the hearing aids are built around cutting edge technology, utilizing the processing power of smart phones to deliver ecologically valid and sensitive measures of hearing and a self-fit hearing aid that we expect to be at least consistent with industry standards and functionally competitive with current devices.

We expect and aim to attract a large and diverse range of candidates for this training opportunity. In addition to the formal requirements of the excellent PG Cert qualification, we can offer mentorship lead by three senior professors who are world leaders and international advocates for the application of hearing science to what is arguably the most human of disabilities.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Kevin Munro

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Communication Disorders

For more details, email kevin.munro@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Illness perceptions and explanatory models of psychosis in caregivers in Indonesia

The primary focus of this PhD project is to develop a measure of illness perceptions for caregivers of people with psychosis or schizophrenia in Indonesia. Specifically, this PhD will explore carer’s beliefs about causal factors, symptom identification, illness course perceptions and their views on the consequences of having an illness for their family member. Caregivers and family are often central to the care of people with psychosis. Psychosis is a severe mental health condition comprising unusual symptoms such as delusional beliefs and hallucinations alongside negative symptoms that affect motivation, drive and goal attainment. These conditions can be lifelong, distressing with marked impairment in functioning and the subsequent family impact can be substantial.

Patient’s beliefs about their illness are linked with health-related behaviours and are a strong predictor of outcomes. Patients who believe there are greater negative consequences from experiencing psychosis have higher levels of depression, poorer quality of life, are less satisfied with their mental health and function less well than those who view it positively. Perceiving treatments as unhelpful also predicts those who are less likely to continue taking their medications. The existing literature predominantly focuses on illness perceptions in people with serious mental health problems and research in carer illness perceptions is limited.

There is extensive evidence that carer behaviours influence the course of illness for people with psychosis or schizophrenia but less evidence of the underlying illness perceptions that potentially influences carer- patient relationships. Understanding illness perceptions and explanatory models of mental illness is key to developing and evaluating interventions that improve caregiver coping strategies and develop therapeutic family interventions that focus on aligning explanatory models to improve interpersonal relationships. This is especially true in Indonesia where poor knowledge and prevailing misconceptions about schizophrenia in the community can lead families to implement non-evidence-based treatments and even harmful treatments which reduces access to appropriate care.

This PhD has two principle aims:

  1. develop a measure of illness perceptions for people experiencing psychosis using deductive and inductive methods;
  2. conduct preliminary measure validation tests among caregivers of people with psychosis.

This PhD project will involve evidence synthesis of the existing literature of measuring illness perceptions, fieldwork conducting interviews with people with psychosis/schizophrenia and their families in Indonesia to inform scale development and testing the psychometric properties of this new measure in a large survey of key stakeholders.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Laoise Renwick

Relevant PhD programme: PhD/MPhil Nursing

For more details, email laoise.renwick@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Evaluating the effect of child and maternal care policies on healthcare use and health in Mozambique

Improving child and maternal care and health has been a priority in low and middle countries for decades. Interventions have encompassed reorganization and financing of healthcare provision to increase service availability and have been evaluated in isolation to understand the impact on care use. However, there is less evidence on how different initiatives may act together, whether they compete or complement each other and on how these ultimately affect child and maternal health.

This PhD will focus on Mozambique, where improving child and maternal care is still a government top priority and where a variety of projects have been supported by international agencies and recently mapped. Linkable secondary data are available and still underexploited.

The aim of the PhD is to develop method applications to evaluate the effectiveness of multiple interventions, implemented to different degrees and times across the country, in increasing health care use and improving child and maternal health.

The specific objectives includes:

  • develop, from an existing mapping, a typology of policies and measure their implementation in the country over time;
  • evaluate policy effects when implemented alone or in conjunction;
  • evaluate the effects on the most disadvantaged groups.

The analysis will be carried out on linked data from household survey, health facility, expenditure and other administrative data including records of projects funded by international partners. The data linkage will be developed throughout the project, and the data and methods developed will be applicable to answer similar research questions.

The candidate will receive relevant training in: data cleaning, management, linkage and analysis; measurement of health and health care, in particular child and maternal health and health care use in low income settings; policy evaluation and econometrics and statistics methods for impact evaluation and causal inference; health inequality and equity measurement and analysis. The candidate will develop a sound understanding of health policy, health systems and child and maternal care, as well as of the administrative data available to address relevant research questions and support evidence based policy.

The supervisory team combines extensive research experience in policy evaluation and analysis of institutions and health care in low and middle income settings, with a track record of successful supervision of doctoral students and collaboration with country-institutions, including the National Institute of Health, the Ministry of Health, the National Institute of Statistics. The candidate will benefit from the vibrant research environment of the institutions where supervisors are based: the Division of Population Health and the Global Development Institute in Manchester and the National Institute of Health in Mozambique.

The PhD will involve close collaboration with the Mozambique National Institute of Health and National Institute of Statistics in Mozambique, including one year of fieldwork to refine data collection. Results will contribute to inform the strategic development of health care policies in the country.

Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) an excellent Masters degree (or equivalent) in Economics, Health Economics, Development Economics, Statistics or a related areas.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Laura Anselmi

Relevant PhD programme: PhD/MPhil Primary Care and Health Services Research

For more details, email laura.anselmi@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Identification and Characterisation of new anti-infectives

The project will be focused on building predictive models using QSAR, pharmacophores, along with virtual screening for the development of novel anti-infectives with special focus on antifungals. Previously, the majority of anti-fungal compounds target cellular integrity of fungi. Our genome wide studies in A. fumigatus and C. albicans have identified a number of essential enzymes (phosphatases and kinases) for the growth of these pathogens, which constitute attractive targets for antifungal therapy. Our aim is to exploit these targets for the development of novel antifungal drugs. The aim is to provide an integrated pipeline for computational-based identification and selection of leads for drug discovery that is available to the wider community and that can accelerate the generation of new anti-infectives. The hits obtained will be used for library design and to derive novel chemical scaffolds, which will be later validated experimentally (on the target and on fungal cultures). This project will help towards enhancing already available drug discovery tools and will help in identify new anti-infectives with better ADME properties and reduced toxicities.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Lydia Tabernero

Relevant PhD programme: PhD/MPhil Infectious Diseases

For more details, email lydia.tabernero@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Developing and testing culturally adapted suicide prevention interventions for postnatal mothers

Developing and testing culturally adapted suicide prevention interventions for postnatal mothers in South Asian countries.

The University of Manchester and global partner, Pakistan Institute of Living and learning (PILL) has been awarded funding by the Global Doctoral Research Network (GOLDEN) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) – (through their PHD Programme Awards in health and wellbeing in global inequalities to support one studentship (from April 2020/September 2020).

The PHD award offers supervision from renowned academics in Global Mental Health, influential in collaborative work to address the evidence gaps and building research capacity and capability in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs). The scheme will prepare students for a career in global mental health related research, working across boundaries and being part of influential and diverse population of talented international researchers.

The PHD studentship project Feasibility Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) of Culturally Adapted Manual Assisted Brief Psychological Intervention for Pakistani Postnatal Mothers (CMAP-P) with Active Suicidal Ideation is an exciting opportunity to gain expertise in several areas. This includes relevant research methodology, cultural adaptation, scope of work partnering with acclaimed institutions to undertake high quality research and seeking to address global challenges. The studentship offers access to networks and buildings on existing projects namely GCRF funded South Asian Self Harm Initiative, Medical Research Council (MRC) Funded Youth Culturally Adapted Manual Assisted Brief Psychological Intervention and MRC funded Multicenter RCT to evaluate the clinical and cost-effectiveness of a culturally adapted therapy (C-MAP) in patients with a history of self-harm.

The project aims to support the development of a student to culturally adapt an existing intervention to a target population, namely mothers with post-natal depression, research methodology in investigating feasibility and acceptability, determine outcome measures for a future definitive RCT of the proposed intervention and explore barriers and facilitators in recruitment and retention of the target population. Lastly to gain qualitative experience by exploring the lived experience of Pakistani postnatal mothers with active SI and experiences of participating in CMAP-P feasibility trial.

Working with a supportive and dynamic research group at the forefront in this field with an outstanding track record of developing early career researchers, established international collaborations to support academic development in LMICs bringing together scholars from United Kingdom and Pakistan is an exciting opportunity.

The studentship will support funding for the programme will include:

  • tuition fees (international student)
  • stipend (UKRI rate)
  • research training grant (project running costs) (£5,000pa)
  • training allowance for PG Cert/pre-sessional (£1,250pa)
  • travel allowance (£375pa)

The proposed project offers a strong global supervisory team working under the umbrella of NIHR Greater Manchester PSTRC (Panagioti) and the Global Mental Health group (Hussain; Ramkisson); with extensive experience in designing, delivering and implementing high quality research to suicide prevention and patient safety in vulnerable and marginalised patient groups. Co-supervisor Professor Chaudhry is a consultant psychiatrist and Chief Executive Officer of PILL particularly interested in developing culturally appropriate services and improving access to culturally adapted cost-effective psychosocial therapies for common mental disorders. She has experience in maternal mental health, self-harm and suicide prevention research in Pakistan and in UK.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Maria Panagioti

Relevant PhD programme: PhD/MPhil Primary Care and Health Services Research

For more details, email maria.panagioti@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Health and safety on the go: understanding and mitigating work-related ill-health of precarious work

In low and middle income countries (LMIC) and increasingly so in high income countries (HIC), job security has given way to the gig economy where work has been sliced and standardized and then put on an online marketplace for daily bidding by workers who are either outsourced to recruitment agency or completely at loose, i.e. self-employed or “independent contractors” . As the world is coming to terms to and existing institutional systems struggle to cope with the changing nature of work, one alarming issue is health and safety protection. In Mexico, the US, China and many other countries, media exposure based on anecdotal evidence and undercover journalists have reported various negative impact of precarious work, including self-exploitation, work-related stress, injuries, suicide attempts and death in relation to large online consumption platforms such as Amazon, CitySprint, Uber Eats, Deliveroo, Eleme and Meituan.

The result is a significant gap of knowledge about this newly emerged form of work arrangement: whether and how the gig economy has impacted workers’ short and long-term health and hence wellbeing, and whether and how to mitigate the potential negative impacts. Hence, it is imperative to conduct multidisciplinary research that utilises the latest technology and involves expertise from occupational health, psychology and computing and engineering to capture and conceptualise the problem.

China is the global leader of e-commerce with $877.00 billion online sales in 2017, which grew by 28% compared with 2016. Industry evidence compiled by the largest online Chinese platforms Alibaba and Meituan suggests at least 6.5 million express couriers (predominantly outsourced workers) were employed in 2016. It is sensible to select China at the beginning stage of this stream of research. In this PhD we will explore gig economy worker stress, against this background of working in China. This will include literature review and surveying groups of stakeholders, and hands on data collection using wearables and other methods to measure worker stress.

The prospective student should be passionate and highly motivated about multidisciplinary health research that tackles global challenges. The candidate must be fluent in Mandarin and English, preferable have obtained degree-level education in both languages, or distinctive results in standard language tests for the non-native language. The candidate should be keen to acquire knowledge in multiple disciplines and obtain a collection of transferrable skills. The project will require two years placement in China and travel between and within both countries.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Martie van Tongeren

Relevant PhD programme: PhD/MPhil Primary Care and Health Services Research

For more details, email martie.j.van-yongeren@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

A feasibility study of behavioural activation in young people with asthma and depression

Lower respiratory infections (LRI) are considered to be one of the top five causes of mortality and disability-adjusted life years lost in adolescence globally. Adolescents with established asthma are at higher risk of experiencing exacerbations or losing control of the disease as a result of LRIs and depression whereas psychological interventions have been found to improve pulmonary function and asthma outcomes. Currently, more than 20 million individuals in Pakistan are suffering from asthma. Brief cost-effective psychological interventions which will improve mental and physical health outcomes in this vulnerable population are both timely and imperative.

The present study aims to:

  1. develop a culturally appropriate Behavioral Activation-LAMIC-manual based on an established BA manual for adolescents, and a training programme for non-specialist clinicians;
  2. deliver the intervention, by non-specialistclinicians, to adolescents with asthma and moderate to severe depression;
  3. evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of the LMIC-BA intervention in reducing symptoms of depression and improving asthma outcomes (asthma control, quality of life, exacerbations) via a feasibility RCT trial, comparing BA to treatment as usual (TAU).

The study will use quantative and qualitative methods:

  • A systematic review of prevalence of depression and anxiety and its associated factors in adolescents with asthma comorbidity
  • Qualitative studies both in UK and in Pakistan
  • A feasibility study of LMIC-BA intervention with (n=36) adolescents.

Qualitative outcomes: The qualitative part of the study will be conducted during the feasibility stage and aims:

  1. to explore barriers and facilitators to retention of the study participants;
  2. to explore intervention acceptability from multiple stakeholders’ perspectives (e.g., young people, carers, clinicians, and case managers);

The student after training will conduct two separate focus groups, one for young people and carers and one for clinicians; at two time-points: before and after the intervention. In addition, during the feasibility stage the manual to be used will be co-produced with feedback from adolescents, carers, and clinicians at the end of each session using a structured interview by an independent researcher, and the relative sensitivity of the outcome measures will be determined. The study will help to determine the feasibility of the culturally adapted ΒΑ intervention when implemented in Pakistan.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Nusrat Husain

Relevant PhD programme: PhD/MPhil Mental Health

For more details, email nusrat.husain@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Strengthening primary and integrated care in China for patients with multimorbidity

There is a global urge to improve health and wellbeing and reduce inequalities via strengthened primary healthcare integrated with the rest of the system. However, this has been true for more than 40 years now, marked by the Alma-Ata Declaration in 1978. It is widely reported that, globally, there has been little practical action to date. Now evidence is needed on how best to practically deliver this aim, especially for patients with non-communicable diseases and multimorbidity who have the greatest need.

China offers the perfect opportunity to examine this global research priority. In China, primary care is supplied to a fifth of the world’s population. As an upper-middle income country, it is at the most susceptible stage of epidemiological transition: 85% of total deaths are now from NCDs and there are high levels of known lifestyle risk factors (e.g. smoking) and an ageing population. But, as one of the World’s leading growth economies, there is money being invested in developing new models of care and there are new large datasets that allow rigorous research into effectiveness. As China covers a large geographical area, each county (of which there are approximately 3000) differs in its arrangements regarding health service delivery (e.g. primary care gatekeeping county pilots). There are also regional differences in the implementation of nationwide policies (e.g. regional variation in services offered under compulsory ‘essential public health services’ from 2010). Despite differences in the design of primary and integrated care services across China, it is currently unclear what the effects of each varying model has on health care use, health outcomes and equity/inequalities.

The overall aim is to influence policy to strengthen primary and integrated care in China, specifically, a mixed methods PhD to:

  • identify and describe new models of primary and integrated care being trialled across China;
  • evaluate impact of new models of care compared to ‘usual care’;
  • identify effects on specific groups, e.g. clusters of multimorbid patients, inequalities across deprivation profiles;
  • disseminate policy implications to relevant stakeholders.

The student will gain mixed methods training and experience in policy evaluation methods and global and local policy knowledge from spending time and supervision across the University of Manchester, Centre for Primary Care and Health Services Research, and Peking University, China Centre for Health Development Studies.

Person specification:

  • Excellent post graduate degree in economics, public health or similar discipline with a substantial quantitative element
  • Basic knowledge of Chinese language

Principal investigator at Manchester: Peter Bower

Relevant PhD programme: PhD/MPhil Primary Care and Health Services Research

For more details, email peter.bower@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Feasibility and acceptability of a culturally adapted relatives education and coping toolkit

Feasibility and acceptability of a culturally adapted relatives education and coping toolkit: A self-help psychoeducation package for relatives of people with early psychosis in Pakistan- Ca-REACT-PK.

Psychosis is a condition that affects the brain processes and causes the patient to lose touch with reality. It is one of the 20 leading causes of disability affecting 29 million people worldwide. Family caregivers of people with severe mental illness experience a high level of stress and burden more than the burden experienced by family members of those with long-term physical illnesses such as cancer. If each psychosis patient has minimum of three or four family members, it means more than 90 million relatives are indirectly suffering from high levels of stress and economics burden.

The disorder is commonly occurring in young adults with small social networks. Despite these challenges, many individuals with psychosis remain in close contact with informal carers from whom they receive valued support. About 70% of Asian patients with schizophrenia live with their families and if caregivers do not have sufficient knowledge of the illness, they might face difficulties in the treatment leading to re-admission or relapse.

Relatives can contribute positively towards the wellbeing of people with psychosis, especially when family members are themselves actively supported by psycho-education. Family traditions may have a great influence on health-seeking behaviors which is determined by best accepted social, cultural and religious beliefs in the society.

The present study aims to:

  • culturally adapt the existing REACT toolkit for Pakistani population;
  • determine the feasibility and acceptability of a culturally adapted supported self-help psychoeducation package for relatives of people with early psychosis in Pakistan;
  • identify barriers and facilitators in recruitment and retention of the target population.

We are aiming that compared with usual care, participants receiving culturally adapted relatives education and coping (CA-REACT) will experience improvement in:

  • relationship quality;
  • experience of care giving; 
  • carer wellbeing; 
  • general health; and
  • reduced economic burden.

The proposed project will have wider scope for global partnership ie it may help improve access to treatment; reduce relapse and burden on family; tackling extreme poverty; and promoting global prosperity. If the intervention found to be effective, it can also be adapted for British south Asians. In addition, Global partner will have an opportunity to work with supervisors and students facilitating opportunities for knowledge exchange between low and high income countries particular to understanding of severe mental illnesses. The studentship will foster existing partnership and further networking and collaboration between UK academic institutions and LMIC global partner to meet the demands for learning and leadership building among global health researchers.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Richard Drake

Relevant PhD programme: PhD/MPhil Mental Health

For more details, email richard.drake@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Genomics of rare developmental disorders in India

Genetic developmental disorders (DDs) that result in neurodevelopmental problems or major congenital organ malformations affect at least 5% of population and result in higher mortality, morbidity and socio-economic disadvantage. This impact is expected to be even more severe in countries such as India that have under-resourced healthcare and social-care systems. Considering the population of India, rare genetic developmental disorders pose a monumental medical and socio-economic burden.

Accurate genetic diagnosis of DDs is challenging, but aids in better management, treatment and prevention. Large-scale studies using new technologies such as whole exome/genome sequencing (WES/WGS) are beginning to uncover the genetic causes of DDs. However, still more than 50% of patients who undergo WES/WGS do not get an accurate result. One of the reasons for limited diagnostic utility of WGS is that the incidence of genetic disorders is determined by local population structure, history and cultural practices. This means that different genetic disorders will have different prevalence in the UK and in India. Hence, it is important to study the landscape of genetic disorders in a variety of populations. However, most large-scale genetic studies of DDs have primarily focussed on Western populations. Hence, there is an urgent need to perform a genetic study of DDs in the Indian population.

As part of this PhD project, the student will spend two years each at Manchester and Manipal to perform a systematic analysis of WES/WGS data to uncover the landscape of genetic DDs in India.

Research plan

  1. Bioinformatic analysis of WGS/WES data of a cohort of 1000 cases from Manipal (data already present).
  2. Bioinformatic analysis of WGS/WES data of a cohort of 1000 cases from Manchester (data already present).
  3. Comparative analysis of Manchester and Manipal cohorts.
  4. Identification of novel genetic disorders that are novel or unique to the Manipal cohort.
  5. Performing laboratory based studies to understand the underlying disease mechanism to identify potential therapies. 

Training plan

Training plan will provide student with a wide range of technical and academic skills including:

  • large-scale bioinformatics analysis;
  • individual patient level variant interpretation and clinical correlation;
  • novel disease gene identification;
  • functional characterization of genetic diseases.

The student will join teams at two centres that have a long history of collaboration. The students will get to experience working in two different healthcare and research environments. 

Principal investigator at Manchester: Siddharth Banka

Relevant PhD programme: PhD/MPhil Genomics

For more details, email siddharth.banka@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Improving the safety climate of primary healthcare services in Uganda

Patient safety is a high health policy priority across the globe. Despite this, there is very limited research on patient safety in Low and Middle Income Countries. Some patients are unintentionally harmed as a result of their interaction with health services in primary care. Common patient safety incidents, which can lead to harm are related to medication (e.g. wrong type or prescription of drugs), treatment or diagnosis (wrong or delayed diagnosis).

A positive and strong safety culture and climate is essential to improve patient safety in primary care. Health care teams with a positive safety culture are more likely to learn openly and effectively from error and harm. Good safety culture is associated with improved patient outcomes and health care worker outcomes including significant reductions in medication errors, increased adoption of safe work practices, decreased staff turnover and higher job satisfaction.

This four year PhD project will understand how to promote a positive safety culture in primary care facilities in Uganda. The successful PhD student will be jointly hosted at the NIHR Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (NIHR Greater Manchester PSTRC) and the Makerere University School of Public Health in Uganda.

A series of research studies with diverse methodologies will be applied within this PhD project. These include a systematic review of the literature, quantitative analyses of existing databases, engagement with stakeholders to develop an intervention to improve safety culture in primary care in Uganda. A detailed training package for methodological courses, personal development courses, running stakeholder and public engagement workshops and dissemination activities will be embedded in this PhD.

This PhD project will be important to highlight issues of safety culture and how this impacts patient health outcomes and workforce outcomes in Uganda. This project has a realistic potential to generate vital learning for other sub African Countries, which have similar decentralised health care systems with Uganda.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Stephen Campbell

Relevant PhD programme: PhD/MPhil Primary Care and Health Services Research

For more details, email stephen.campbell@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Measuring respectful maternal and newborn care

Substantial evidence shows that disrespect and abuse remain prevalent, primarily in low-income countries (LICs). A review of 65 studies, across 34 countries found that mistreatment presented as physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, stigma and discrimination, failure to meet professional standards of care, poor rapport between women and providers and health system dysfunctions and constraints. Disrespectful care negatively impacts on childbirth experiences and actively deters women from attending health facilities, compromising care when services are available. Despite the plethora of studies examining respectful care, there is no consensus on the most appropriate tool to be used to measure this.

The main objective of this work is to use existing and new evidence to inform the development and testing of a new tool to measure respectful care in low income settings. The key questions are:

  1. What is the current best evidence on existing measures of respectful care that can be administered in low income settings?
  2. What is the most appropriate conceptual framework to underpin the development of a respectful care tool?
  3. What is the optimum design and content for a culturally appropriate tool for measuring respectful care?

There will be two key phases to the students work:

Phase 1: Evidence synthesis
A systematic review will be conducted to synthesise the evidence related to measures of respectful maternal and newborn care. The evidence synthesis will use a mixed-methods approach in order to capture all relevant sources of information and to increase the applicability of this review. This broader narrative synthesis will include both quantitative and qualitative data, user views, and other relevant sources.
An integrated synthesis will be conducted; findings from quantitative and qualitative data will be systematically explored to determine the strengths and weaknesses of existing measures and to identify important conceptual issues.

Phase 2: Tool development and assessment

The new tool will be developed in four stages:

  1. The student will supplement the findings from the evidence synthesis, with qualitative interviews with women to develop a conceptual framework to develop the new instrument. This framework will inform the domains to be included and the response categories to be used.
  2. Question content and structuring will be developed with input from a community engagement and involvement group taking into account local language and cultural language nuances.
  3. Standard psychometric methods will be used to assess acceptability, validity and reliability. Item acceptability will be assessed by assessing non-responses, endorsement frequencies and floor and ceiling effects. The tool will be assessed for internal consistency using Crohnbach’s Alpha coefficient and test-retest reliability. The tools validity will be assessed using content and construct validity.
  4. The tool will be reviewed and refined according to the findings of stage 3 and piloted in two maternity units in Tanzania.

The project outcomes will be:

  • a culturally tailored, validated and reliable tool to be used to assess respectful maternal and newborn care;
  • providing students with skills in evidence synthesis and questionnaire development.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Tina Lavender

Relevant PhD programme: PhD/MPhil Midwifery

For more details, email tina.lavender@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Exploring stillbirth associated co-morbidities

Described as a ‘double tragedy’, women are left incontinent (urine &/or faeces), and without a baby, resulting in community stigmatisation, hardship and emotional dysfunction. Stillbirth risk is 99 times greater when women develop OF than if they have a normal birth. Peer support is proposed as a way of supporting these women, based on its use in other fields e.g. HIV. Further study is needed to identify transferable elements of peer support, to explore the contextual relevance of individual components.

We aim to develop a sustainable peer support package to provide women with psycho-social support to be integrated into current health systems. The project will provide the groundwork for an RCT of a multicomponent package to support women with a OF and stillbirth. Key questions include:

  1. What is the most acceptable peer support intervention for women experiencing a fistula following stillbirth.
  2. What health system factors are required to implement an effective peer-support programme for these women?
  3. How can this exploratory work inform a future study of the impact of peer-support on delivery of services for women, and their subsequent outcomes?

This research is made up of three phases. 

Phase 1: Realist review
We will conduct a realist literature review to determine the intervention components with the greatest potential to improve women's social, psychological and physical well-being. This approach enables one to not only determine what works (or does not work) but also for whom it may work and in what context. This phase will also inform the interview schedules for phase 2.

Phase 2: Intervention development
The study will take place in Kisi, Kenya, having a high prevalence of obstetric fistula and stillbirth. Building on earlier work and using a multi-morbidity lens, we will co-develop a peer support intervention. Underpinned by empowerment theory we will gain stakeholder consensus on a peer support intervention, using participatory action research (PAR). This approach encourages community collaboration, enabling activities and outcomes to be grounded in experience and cultural context. Our CEI group will ensure local and cultural appropriateness. Women, partners, community members, health workers/managers and policy makers will be invited to participate in affirmative interviews and focus groups to review current evidence (ours and others) to gain consensus on the peer support package.

Phase 3: Protocol development
All evidence will be synthesized, to inform a protocol for a feasibility study of a peer-support intervention. This will be carried out with key informants and Community Engagement and Involvement Groups, to ensure consensus.

Research outcomes include:

  • acceptable peer support package ready for further evaluation in a feasibility study;
  • improving students skills in multiple research methodologies.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Tracey A Mills

Relevant PhD programme: PhD/MPhil Midwifery

For more details, email tracey.mills@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Wear and biological safety of dental titanium implants

Titanium implant is the most widely accepted and successfully used type of implant. Despite a high success rate, failures associate with toxicity of particles release from implant system via wear have been reported1,2. Excess wear may lead to serval problems including loss of fine metal particles that may be cytotoxic to the oral environment, loss of occlusal contact, destruction of periodontal tissues, loss of masticatory efficiency, fatigue of masticatory muscles and the failure of implant. Therefore, understanding the wear mechanism and characteristic of dental Titanium implant is extremely important.

In India, the current size of patients using Titanium Implant is relatively small as most commercially available products are imported and expensive which are not ’affordable’ for a large proportion of the population. However, the purchasing power in India is rising and so demand on Titanium implant is growing. With health aging, higher proportion of geriatric population in India also contributes to an increase in the demand of Titanium implants – especially implants with friendly wear against other restorative materials /nature tooth, biologically safety and affordability, and products that specifically meet the needs of Indian patients. The global partner Prof. Kaushik Chatterjee of this studentship has developed a series of Titanium implants including 3D printed Ti6Al4V3.

This 4 year fully funded PhD research project aims to conduct an in vitro evaluation to study the wear mechanism and biological safety of a series of lab developed Titanium dental implant and ultimately develop implants with friendly wear against other restorative materials /nature tooth, biologically safety and affordability. The candidate will have the opportunity to learn how dental implants including 3D printed Ti6Al4V3 are designed, optimised and manufacturer; characterise the physical and mechanical properties of dental resin composites, conduct wear simulation using a SD Mechatronik chewing simulators, monitor and quantify wear of different Titanium implants and their antagonists and investigate the biological safety including cytotoxicity and bone formation of the materials. A range of the state-of-the-art techniques including profilometer, confocal microscopy, Focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy, Bruker Hysitron NanoDMA, Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-OES), high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) will be used.

The successful candidate will have access to the world-class characterisation facilities within the Henry Royce Institute at the University of Manchester. Candidate may also have the opportunity to conduct experiments at the UK National Synchrotron Facility, Diamond Light Source. Alongside the research techniques, candidate will be in a dedicated cohort that have access to:

  • academic literacy programme (akin to a pre-sessional summer school) in Year 1,
  • PGCert to include modules on: ‘Introduction to Reflective Teaching and Learning Practice’, ‘Evidence-based Teaching and Learning’, ‘Curriculum Development and Teaching Methodology’ and ‘Assessment and Feedback’;
  • access to President’s Doctoral Scholars (PDS) suite of training activities;
  • specific cohort building activities to share learning/experiences facilitated by cohort tutor;
  • opportunity to work in Prof. Chatterjee’s research lab at the Indian Institution of Science, the best research institution in India.

Upon completion, candidate will receive PhD and PG Cert Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. 1What is the impact of titanium particles and biocorrosion on implant survival and complications? A critical review. Clin Oral Implants Res. 2018;29(Suppl 18):37–53. 2Foreign body reactions, marginal bone loss and allergies in relation to titanium implants. Eur J Oral Implantol. 2018;11(Suppl 1):S37–46.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Xiaohui Chen (Helen)

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Biomaterials Science and Dental Technology

For more details, email xiaohui.chen@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

An asset-based approach to improving safeguarding, health and wellbeing amongst Deaf SASL users

An asset-based approach to improving safeguarding, health and wellbeing amongst Deaf SASL users in South Africa. 

This four year PhD studentship is offered jointly by SORD (Social Research with Deaf people), University of Manchester and the Centre for Deaf Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. It focusses on Deaf SASL users (South African Sign Language) and all data will be collected exclusively in South Africa using ethnographic visual methods including film and photography.

The study objectives are:

  1. To enhance the health, protection and wellbeing of Deaf SASL users in South Africa who face multiple health inequalities arising from both linguistic barriers to accessing health information/health services and discriminations on grounds of disability and deafness.
  2. To introduce and promote strategies of self-management of health/wellbeing and protection from abuse in a context where basic health literacy is very low but internal Deaf community bonds of mutual support and knowledge transfer are very high.
  3. To explore and experiment with a variety of Deaf service-user-authored filmic approaches to achieving objectives 1 and 2, with the aim of creating new materials for broadcast and testing their effectiveness and impact.

Essential requirements of the successful candidate for this specific PhD are:

  • Native Deaf South African Sign Language user
  • Excellent, fluent written English user.
  • Masters degree in Anthropology or similar
  • Previous experience in health-related research
  • Demonstrable experience of data collection and analysis in a signed language

Additional desirable experience

  • Previous film making, film editing and visual anthropology methods skills
  • Lecturing experience in a signed language at a higher education level
  • Respected leader and role model within the Deaf community in South Africa.

This PhD will be supervised by Professor Alys Young, Dr Lorenzo Ferrarini and Dr Emma Ferguson Coleman (university of Manchester) and Professor Claudine Storbeck (University of the Witwatersrand).

Principal investigator at Manchester: Alys Young

Relevant PhD programme: PhD/MPhil Primary Care and Health Services Research

For more details, email alys.young@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Assessment of the language and educational outcomes of Spanish-Indigenous schools in Peru

Assessment of the language and educational outcomes of Spanish-indigenous Intercultural Bilingual Education (IBE) schools in Peru.

In Peru, the majority language is Spanish, but indigenous languages are the native language of approximately 15% of the population. The implementation of IBE is designed to provide educational opportunities in both Spanish and indigenous languages but little is known about language and educational outcomes of children in these programmes. The goal of the current project is to assess the language and educational attainment skills of IBE children to determine how these programs shape their knowledge of Spanish, the native indigenous language, and their general educational attainment.

Three distinct studies will be performed to answer the following research questions:

  1. How does the amount of Spanish used in Quechua community schools influence children’s language skills and general educational attainment? This will be answered using a previously collected longitudinal dataset of Peruvian children.
  2. Does the language that new academic information is presented in (eg native indigenous language or Spanish) influence how well children learn that information? Experimental data will be collected from IBE schools in Quechua communities about children’s language/reading skills in both languages and about how well children learn new concepts (eg new scientific concepts) when the information is presented in Quechua or Spanish and if that changes with more time spent in the school (ie the amount of time exposed to education in Spanish).
  3. How does the home language environment shape language and educational skills in IBE programmes? Experimental data of language skills will be collected from a Shipibo/Spanish IBE school in Lima, which enrols children with either Shipibo or Spanish as the home language. Similar to question two, language and academic skills (eg learning new scientific concepts) in both Shipibo and Spanish will be tested to determine how the home language influences outcomes in both languages used in the school.

Combined, this project will look at overall outcomes in Peruvian IBE schools (question one) and look specifically at how outcomes differ depending on the amount of indigenous/Spanish exposure in the schools (question two) and how the home language shapes outcomes in children enrolled in the same school (question three). This project will provide empirical evidence about the learning outcomes of children enrolled in IBE schools with implications for future school policy in Peru and in indigenous language communities worldwide.

Research work/supervision and data collection will be split between the Child Study Centre at The University of Manchester and the Grupo de Investigación en Adquisición del Lenguaje (Research Group on Language Acquisition) at the Humanities Department of the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. The data collected from question two will require testing in Peruvian indigenous communities (the student will be based in Lima at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú) and the data collection for question three will take place in Lima, Peru.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Alissa Ferry and Professor Anna Theakston

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Psychology

For more details, email alissa.ferry@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Science and Engineering

Measuring what works: workplace wellbeing and safety outcomes of maintenance and reliability

In recent years, nations around the world have recognised that economics plus well-being is the more fulsome measure of success because measuring well-being provides a sufficiently detailed picture of the living conditions that people experience (OECD, 2017). Impaired well-being, both physical and psychological, costs the UK economy up to £57 billion a year in lost productivity through a combination of absenteeism, ie employees not being at work, and presentism, ie employees at work but working at a sub-optimal level (Miller and Suff, 2016).

The Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills published a comprehensive report that concluded employees’ well-being has a significant impact on workplace performance such as work attitudes and productivity (Bryson et al., 2014). The plant maintenance and asset management is one the key function within most industries (including manufacturing, oil and gas, power, construction, etc.) in Nigeria as they ensure that all assets owned continue to perform at the required levels of production and safety throughout their production life cycles.

With the current drive for lean production in all aspects of plant operations across industries, there is very little tolerance for plant downtimes which imposes a huge amount of pressure on the maintenance team. While workplace well-being has been regarded as a strong indicator of work performance, very limited research has focused on studying the well-being levels of maintenance and reliability professionals (MRPs) in Nigeria who immensely contribute to the overall safety performance. The better MRPs and their teams perform, the better organisations are able to deliver safety outcomes such as lower incident and accident rate. To address this knowledge gap, the project aims to measure the baseline of MRPs’ workplace well-being in Nigeria, investigating how MRPs’ workplace wellbeing relates to safety performance, and identifying factors and interventions which influence MRPs’ wellbeing.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Akilu Yunusa-Kaltungo

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Management of Projects

For more details, email akilu.kaltungo@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Examining the link between cardiovascular fluid dynamics and cardiovascular genetics

In recent years Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), or in silico modelling has had a profound impact on cardiovascular medicine. In particular CFD allows for heamodynamic metrics based on as blood flow velocity, wall shear stress (WSS) and pressure to be extracted, which can be invaluable in planning treatment for congenital heart disease (CHD), particularly to elucidate complex blood flow features which are not easily detectable via standard techniques, eg echocardiography data. This PhD project builds on preliminary work undertaken as part of a recent Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) project on genetics, where CFD had a minor role. In order to help develop an a-priori platform to assess downstream impact of CHD interventions we will incorporate and test anatomical growth models into our software tool-chain to develop capability for computational patient-specific surgical decision making.

The project uses a multidisciplinary approach to better understand the burden and nature of congenital heart disease on the African continent and to develop appropriate solutions in response to the findings. Cardiologists, public health specialists, geneticists and engineers have worked in tandem to examine various aspects of CHD. In this PhD project we seek to extend the collaboration to include scientists from Université de Thies (UdT), Senegal and the work has two main objectives:

  1. To further develop and integrate growth modelling approximations into open source computational fluid dynamics (CFD) pipeline for congenital heart disease to a growing database of Coarctation of the Aorta (CoA) and Tetralogy of Fallot (ToF) cases. Measurements will feed into a statistical learning tool that could be used in clinical settings based on image-derived flow data. We will develop sensitivity analysis to imagine modalities of varying accuracy to reflect the range of available imaging available on the continent.
  1. To identify haemodynamics patterns and CFD-derived metrics for CHD and to test their prevalence against the growing database of genetic characteristics. This will be achieved by using statistical methods on data which has already been collected in the PROTEA database.

We seek an exceptional candidate with a strong first degree in physics, maths, engineering or bioengineering. The candidate should be keen to travel, spending up to two years in Africa, mainly based at University of Cape Town, South Africa, with visits to University of Thiès, Senegal. The candidate must have some prior programming experience and should be able to evidence the ability to work across different disciplines.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Alistair Revell

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Aerospace Engineering

For more details, email alistair.revell@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Bayesian neural networks for astronomically big data

The expected volume of data from the new generation of scientific facilities such as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) has motivated the expanded use of semi-automatic and automatic machine learning algorithms for scientific discovery in astronomy. In this project the student will work on the development of Bayesian neural networks for classification in astronomy. These neural networks are able to derive uncertainties on hyper-parameter estimates and to propagate these uncertainties into predictions, which is not done in traditional neural networks. The student will work with real astronomical catalogues to characterize the effects of different a priori assumptions on weight distributions and their interaction with the choice of cost function, before developing solutions that generalize well for astronomical problems. In particular the student will examine biases in classification that arise and assess the difference in these biases between traditional and Bayesian neural networks before looking at measures to mitigate bias within the framework of the Bayesian neural networks. Selection effects in astronomy data have both
observational and astrophysical contributions depending not only on the characteristics of an individual instrument, but also on astrophysical population evolution and the local noise environment. An important component of this work will be tuning networks in order to transition from archival survey data to new observational data from SKA precursor instruments where different selection effects are present.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Anna Scaife

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Astronomy and Astrophysics

For more details, email anna.scaife@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Artificial Intelligence and machine learning for in-field sensors to aid African smallholder farmers

The research will address the artificial intelligence and machine learning research behind the autonomous interpretation of plant diseases in African agriculture using active handheld fluorescence and multispectral reflectance sensors. The initial exemplar diseases will be viral, notably for Cassava Mosaic, Cassava Brown Streak and Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl viruses, with a possible extension to Sweet Potato chlorotic stunt and feathery mottle viruses. The originality of the research will be based on the machine interpretation of those signals within an African context (Nigeria) and in a manner suitable for deployment to extension works and smallholder farming communities.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Bruce Grieve

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Electrical and Electronic Engineering

For more details, email bruce.grieve@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Smart bioelectronic sensing materials design for networked detection of agricultural pathogens

This research area addresses the design of multilayer biomaterials which mimic the specific and subtle triggers to promote the invasion of those materials by fungal, bacterial or entomological pathogens and pests. These artificial biomaterials then form the basis for both an IoT (internet of things) wireless sensor network, for early detection and management of crop, human and livestock diseases, as well as a tool for biologists to better understand host-pathogen interactions. PhD research may be undertaken in this area on the design and manufacture of the biomaterial’s micro-surface patterning and formulation of volatiles release systems, the pathogen exudase detection chemistries, the process scale-up of the material’s production, the design of the wireless network modules & topology and / or the machine learning interpretation of both the local and distributed data sources.
Multiple PhD research projects may be undertaken on aspects of the above technology.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Bruce Grieve

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Electrical and Electronic Engineering

For more details, email bruce.grieve@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Identifying the impacts of forest fragmentation on dispersal of forest wildlife in Myanmar

Myanmar is fortunate in still retaining some of the most intact and pristine forests in the world but they are highly threated by illegal logging and conversion to agriculture. These forests provide incalculable benefits to the people of Myanmar in the form of valuable ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, prevention of soil erosion, medical plants and are home to diverse, but vulnerable, wildlife. Genetic diversity, together with ecosystem functioning, is now recognised as a key component of biosphere integrity (aka biodiversity) although it often fails to be taken into account in conservation planning. The broad aim is always to maximise the conservation of genetic diversity. This can be achieved in three main ways.

Firstly, identification and protection of regions with high genetic diversity (more species/more diversity within species).

Secondly, historical environmental change often leads to concordant spatial distributions of genetically distinct groups within multiple taxa. Identifying the spatial position of such groups can ensure that such distinct genetic grouping are all represented in protected areas.

Thirdly, populations of a species need to exist as a large genetically cohesive entity to avoid the ticking time bomb of genetic problems such as inbreeding depression and loss of evolutionary potential. The main issue here is to identify how habitat fragmentation limits dispersal and so genetic mixing as this can be used to identify which habitat fragments need to be reconnected and with what type of habitat corridor. While Myanmar retains some intact forest cover in many areas it is becoming increasing fragmented and this is recognised as a major issue for forest conservation in Myanmar (Prescott et al 2017). Therefore, the overall aim of this project is to inform forest conservation policy relating to problem of forest fragmentation. Specifically, this proposal will address the question of how forest fragmentation in Myanmar is affecting the ability of species to disperse and maintain large genetically cohesive populations.

This question will be addressed using a model taxon that is dependent on forests and contains multiple species with differing levels of reliance on intact forests: squirrels – both flying squirrels and tree squirrels. Multiple squirrel species will be non-invasively sampled from forest ecosystems that exhibit a range of fragmentation in Myanmar. Mitochondrial sequence data and microsatellite data will be generated from these samples to characterise the distribution of genetic diversity (within and between species) across fragmented and intact forests. A population genetics and landscape genetics approaches will be integrated with information on forest ecosystem type, distribution and level of intactness from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s healthy forests GIS-based tool, to contribute to policy recommendations for forest protection in Myanmar that incorporate maximising genetic diversity.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Cathy Walton

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Earth Science

For more details, email catherine.walton@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Soil fungi: an overlooked and undervalued component of savanna-forest biodiversity?

Mycorrhizal fungi are ubiquitous soil-borne organisms that regulate numerous critical ecosystem services. For example, they play pivotal roles in ecosystems through their effects on plant production, nutrition, and water use, and on key soil processes such as carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycling. These services underpin many of the UN Sustainable Development goals. It is therefore crucial that we gain a thorough understanding of the diversity and function of mycorrhizal fungi particularly in countries where society both values and depends on the services they provide. Such knowledge is also critical to understand how perturbations from land-use and climate change may impact ecosystems. Yet, for many ecosystems we lack data on mycorrhizal diversity and abundance, even in ecosystems of high conservation, functional and societal importance. One such example is the African savanna-woodland ecotone, which supports a rich diversity of plants and animals with varying life-histories. By contrast to plants and animals, our knowledge of mycorrhizal fungal diversity in these systems is virtually non-existent, despite their functional importance. Moreover, savanna-woodland systems also offer potential to investigate how different mycorrhizal types (ectomycorrhiza and arbuscular mycorrhiza) interact and function to facilitate plant coexistence, and how they respond to perturbations such as drought that threatens the sustainability of savanna-woodlands.

In this project, we will first undertake a spatially-explicit sampling campaign to characterise mycorrhizal fungal diversity, using the Yankari Game Reserve in Nigeria as a focal system. Second, we will also test how plants forming ectomycorrhiza and arbuscular mycorrhiza feedback with soils to affect plant competition and sustainability. Finally, we will establish manipulation experiments to test how mycorrhizal fungal diversity and abundance is regulated by drought, a major perturbation related to global climate change. The project will provide opportunities to use cutting-edge molecular tools for characterisation of fungal diversity and facilitate the development of an international network.

Principal investigator at Manchester: David Johnson

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Earth Science

For more details, email david.johnson-2@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Assessing the risk to power networks in Malaysia through real-time weather predictions

Less-developed countries typically lack numerical weather prediction with enough resolution to assess the risks to infrastructure from real-time weather threats. Such extreme weather events such as typhoons (e.g., strong winds and heavy rain) and flooding can produce strong gradients in weather across small distances, especially in mountainous remote locations. These countries face a double-whammy because the lack of weather observations in these remote locations precludes building an assessment of the risk to infrastructure. Without such observations, the worst-case weather systems for designing and building resilient infrastructure often remains unknown.

To address this issue for Malaysia, this PhD student project will be carried out under the umbrella of the newly established and highly interdisciplinary Centre for Crisis Studies and Mitigation at the University of Manchester and academics at the Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka. The team brings an interdisciplinary perspective to this project, and we encourage the student to embrace this interdisciplinarity.

The project has three objectives: 

  1. Develop a real-time weather-forecasting system to predict hazards that have caused power-network failures (e.g., flooding, typhoon);
  2. Develop a database of hazards that have caused power-network failures;
  3. Assess worst-case scenarios based on past events using the modelling system. 

The weather-forecasting model to be used is the open-source Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF), which has thousands of users around the world. This model will be configured to produce once-daily real-time forecasts of the weather based on free global gridded initial conditions. Such modelling will be used to help predict potentially hazardous weather events to the power network around Malaysia.

To determine the kinds of events that cause disruptions to the network, the student will identify previous events that have caused failures. Model hindcasts of this event will be conducted to determine the temporal and spatial conditions predicted by the model and their validity when compared to observed impacts. Finally, these events will be altered to generate worst-case scenarios for Malaysia to test the results.

We are looking for students who want to be challenged, develop a range of skills including theory, observations and modeling, and enjoy studying the natural world. There is no single perfect degree for this PhD, but you should be willing to acquire a new range of technical skills during your studies. Your background can be in meteorology, atmospheric science, computer science, physics, math, or electrical, civil or mechanical (including aeronautical) engineering, with a keen interest to develop new skills in social science methods.

Principal investigator at Manchester: David Schultz

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Earth Science

For more details, email david.schultz@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Evaluating process driving changes in future climate extremes over Central Africa

Central Africa is a region particularly vulnerable to climate variability, with economies which are strongly dependant on rain-fed agriculture and hydro-power, and a susceptibility to both severe floods and droughts. Understanding what causes the observed variability in rainfall and how it may change in a future climate is therefore a question of major economic and societal importance. Accurately representing precipitation in climate models remains a huge challenge, with all models displaying large biases in rainfall characteristics across the tropics. This uncertainty represents a large barrier in the ability of policymakers to develop effective regional-climate adaptation planning.

While there have been many studies analysing seasonal characteristics of rainfall and extremes in the region, there have been much fewer focusing on exploring in detail the underlying processes driving these characteristics. Firstly, the student will advance our understanding of the processes driving rainfall variability, including extremes, in the region. Rainfall variability in the region is influence by a combination of regional and local-scale processes, including the regional-scale circulation, interactions with the land surface and convective-scale processes. Understanding these processes for the present day is essential in order to have confidence in projections of future rainfall changes. In addition, while climate models may struggle to accurately represent rainfall, if they are able to realistically represent the underlying processes driving rainfall variability, then how these processes change in the climate models in the future could be used to predict future changes in rainfall, instead of using the precipitation from the climate model directly.

To achieve this objective, the project will make use of a new generation of climate simulations which can, for the first time, explicitly represent cloud-forming processes across Africa, providing a step-change improvement in the representation of rainfall. This model will provide new insights on how different parts of the climate system interact to drive rainfall variability in the region, the impact of a changing climate on these processes, as well as providing a comparison against more typical climate models to evaluate how well they perform and what aspects of the model need improving.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Geraint Vaughan

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Earth Science

For more details, email geraint.vaughan@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Breeding for improved stress tolerance in crops – the role of plastid terminal oxidase

Humanity is facing a growing food crisis – the “perfect storm” of growing world populations and changing climates mean we urgently need to increase crop productivity, including by increasing environmental stress tolerance. Photosynthesis is in the front line for plant stress responses, being both the driver for growth and uniquely sensitive to environmental conditions.

The aim of this project is to explore ways in which the stress tolerance of crops can be increased, by breeding for traits observed in stress-tolerant wild plants. Specifically, we will focus on the role of a protein called the Plastid Terminal Oxidase (PTOX). PTOX is present in all plants but, in a diverse range of extremophile plants, has been co-opted to play a role as a safety valve for photosynthetic electron transport, mitigating the effects of stress by minimising the production of harmful reactive oxygen species. We will examine the role of PTOX in the stress-tolerant crop Hordeum vulgare (barley), exploiting the availability of landraces from different geographical regions across Europe and the Middle East.

During this project, the student will: examine PTOX activity across different landraces under control and stress conditions; identify genes which are co-expressed with PTOX in those plants; investigate the role of selected genes; determine whether PTOX activity can be transferred from stress tolerant to stress sensitive cereals and whether that activity increases stress tolerance

The project will provide the student with training in plant stress physiology techniques, including for in vivo measurements of photosynthesis and environmental stress; molecular genetic analyses of gene expression; and plant transformation. In addition to training received in Manchester, the student will spend time in Pakistan, undertaking work in transforming cereals.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Giles Johnson

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Earth Science

For more details, email giles.johnson@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Impacts of environmental stress on gorilla diets

Changing climates are having a major impact on natural ecosystems across the world. Increasing incidences of stresses such as drought not only negatively impact the growth of plants, in extreme cases leading to widespread death, they can also have more subtle effects on the nutritional value of plants to animals. Rwanda has been facing several catastrophic events such as floods, droughts, and pests and diseases that strongly affect its natural biodiversity and agriculture. Several climate change models show that Rwanda will be one of the most affected countries in Africa. Rwanda is home to an important population of critically endangered mountain gorillas, a species which is particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change, affecting food plant productivity and nutritional value. This project will involve studying the impact of climate change on gorilla food plants, using controlled environment experiments, and assessing that impact by examining how those plants are affected in the field.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Giles Johnson

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Earth Science

For more details, email giles.johnson@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Assessment of air quality in Indonesia

Assessment of air quality in Indonesia: an investigation of the drivers for particulate matter pollution. 

The fine fraction of particulate matter (PM) plays the dominant role in the impact of air pollution on human health and of aerosol on climate. Ambient PM2·5 was the fifth-ranking global mortality risk factor in 2015, with exposure to it causing 4.2 million deaths and 103.1 million disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs), 7.6% of total global deaths and 4.2% of global DALYs (Cohen et al., 2017). The variability in air pollution exposure in rapidly developing economies such as Indonesia leads to particular challenges.

This project will focus on collecting direct measurement of PM in order to understand the primary and secondary pollution sources important in the quantification of the exposure of the population to dangerously degraded air quality. The major PM exposure in megacities such as Jakarta will be largely driven by traffic sources, whilst in large parts of Indonesia there will be a major contribution from seasonal biomass burning in Sumatera (Sumatra). The student will develop skills in PM measurement technologies and, using a combination of low-cost sensors and offline filter analyses, the student will identify the contributions to PM pollution in contrasting locations in Indonesia and provide measurement constraint for models of pollution exposure to enable evaluation of health impacts.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Gordon McFiggans

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Earth Science

For more details, email g.mcfiggans@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Emission dispersion modelling: an application to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City

Air quality in Vietnam is an increasingly important issue for human health, which is currently poorly understood and sources and distributions of air pollutants are poorly characterised. Tools exist (e.g. dispersion modelling, emerging “small sensor” sensing technologies) which have the potential to provide insight into these issues as well as inform future policy in this area and these need to be both deployed and optimised in this environment. This project will perform measurements in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi to spatially map air quality and investigate the sources of air pollution. It will in turn use an internationally used and recognised atmospheric dispersion model (CERC ADMS) in conjunction with the measurements to answer regional air quality control issues and build capacity within Vietnam for future study of air pollutant dispersal and control within this environment.

Principal investigator at Manchester: James Allan

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Earth Science

For more details, email james.allan@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Will new East African water-energy infrastructure impact Egyptian water security?

Over the next 50 years East Africa and the region supplied by the river Nile is expected to undergo substantial economic and demographic growth. How can development in the upstream countries of Ethiopia and Sudan not come at the expense of Egypt’s water and economic security? We hypothesise the size and location of future Nile reservoirs, their management, and how they are filled initially and refilled after droughts, will have significant impact on Egypt’s water and economic security. The purpose of this PhD project is to develop a generalised approach for simulating and optimising the impacts of different transboundary river development schemes, and to work with Egyptian academics and its water ministry to use these models along with interactive visualisation for multi-country river basin development negotiation . Can a strategic development assessment and negotiation framework be created that allows countries to transparently assess joint development and management interventions, and negotiate their detailed design based on socio-economic and service level impacts in their respective countries (Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia)? Based on initial FutureDAMS work we think such an approach is feasible and UoM is keen to work with Egypt’s leading university and other partners to make this a reality.

The proposed research will build off of the following publications:

  • Geressu, R. T. and J. J. Harou (2015). "Screening reservoir systems by considering the efficient trade-offs—informing infrastructure investment decisions on the Blue Nile." Environmental Research Letters 10(12): 125008.
  • Geressu, R. T. and J. J. Harou (2019). "Reservoir system expansion scheduling under conflicting interests." Environmental Modelling & Software 118: 201-210.
  • Geressu, R. T. and J. J. Harou (under review). “Evaluating development options under multiple sources of uncertainty and conflicting objectives”, submitted 2019 to Water Resources Research.
  • Opperman, J., J. Hartmann, J. Raepple, H. Angarita, P. Beames. E. Chapin, R. Geressu, G. Grill, J.J. Harou, A. Hurford, D. Kammen, R. Kelman, E. Martin, T. Martins, R. Peters, C. Rogéliz, and R. Shirley (2017). “The Power of Rivers: A Business Case”. The Nature Conservancy. Washington, D.C.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Julien Harou

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Civil Engineering

For more details, email julien.harou@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

A novel nanofibrous biodegradable bilayer membrane for wound dressings that deliver bioactive agents

A novel nanofibrous biodegradable bilayer membrane for wound dressings that deliver bioactive agents to support accelerated healing. 

The skin is the largest organ in the human body, it is responsible for protecting it from external environment, exposed to pathogens and water loss. Skin wounds can be classified into two categories: acute (such as surgical and traumatic wounds or burns) and Chronic (such as diabetic foot ulcers, pressure ulcers). According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) “diabetes is one of the four priority non-communicable diseases targeted for action by world leaders”. The prevalence of diabetes has risen faster in low and middle income countries with complications from diabetes placing a significant burden on healthcare systems in these countries. However the biggest impact is seen in low and middle income countries particularly where inappropriate diabetic foot care can lead to more serious health problems. The development of low cost wound dressings that can accelerate the healing process could help reduce the number of serious complications arising from diabetic foot care issues particularly in developing countries.

The proposed project aims to study and characterise electrospun nanofibres generated by electrospinning of solutions containing biodegradable materials which can be used to mimic the extra cellular matrix supporting cell growth and accelerating healing. Additionally these fibres will be doped with with sangre de drago (croton lechleri müll). Sangre de drago is a natural sap with many healing benefits used anciently by indigenous peoples of the Amazon, as an agent of multiple medicinal properties such as healing, homeostatic, antibacterial, antiviral, etc. In addition to the health care benefits of the proposed wound dressings the use of sangre de drago would enable the technification of ancestral knowledge and give added value to Ecuadorian raw materials little used until now.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Katharine Smith

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Mechanical Engineering

For more details, email kate.smith@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

The degradation of waste plastics by tropical microbes: A molecular and metabolomic investigation

Applications are invited for a GCRF-funded PhD studentship in the general area of biological chemistry.

Plastics are a broad range of solid polymeric materials that have found widespread application as industrial components and consumer goods. However, there has been a steady accumulation of discarded plastics throughout the world, and there is now growing awareness that they present a significant hazard to the natural environment and human health. In relation to these concerns, there is increasing emphasis on the recovery (and subsequent reuse) of plastic materials, or their conversion into other materials that can serve as feedstocks for new products. These issues are a particular concern in low and middle income countries (LMICs), which are the major destination of plastic waste that is exported by the UK. As a result, the discovery of methods for the economical, safe and sustainable reprocessing or degradation of waste plastics (to innocuous small molecules) is both a socioeconomic and environmental priority.

This project aims to identify new microbes of Malaysian origin that may be able to break down plastic materials, and investigate the enzymes and metabolic pathways that are involved in this process. Thus, the research will involve the chemical synthesis of small molecule models of the plastics, the culture of a range of microorganisms in the presence of these model molecules, the (bio)chemical analysis of the breakdown products, and the analysis of the metabolism and genetics of these microbes.

This research will suit a chemist, biochemist or molecular biologist with an interest in working on a varied and multidisciplinary project. The successful candidate will join a growing team of researchers from a range of backgrounds from chemistry, biochemistry and microbiology. They will receive a broad scientific training across these areas, as appropriate to their background; as well as training in academic research skills and in postgraduate teaching. The research group is based at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (www.mib.ac.uk) and offers state-of-the-art laboratories, instrumentation and facilities. In addition, the candidate will also perform research at the Institute of Systems Biology in the National University of Malaysia (www.inbiosis.ukm.my), one of the leading institutes for systems biology in the Asia Pacific region.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Lu Shin Wong

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Chemistry

How to apply: Online application form

For more details, email l.s.wong@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Filtration of microplastics from water and wastewater using porous carbonaceous materials

Filtration of microplastics from water and wastewater using porous carbonaceous materials in treatment systems. 

Microplastics are emerging global persistent pollutants which have attracted significant worldwide interest to find solutions to tackle the disastrous situation in hydro-environment due to microplastic particles. Micorplatsics are now
detected in the rivers, bottled water and ocean. The World Health Organisation has recognised the microplastic pollution in water as an urgent global challenge. It is estimated that approximately 80% of the microplastic in ocean
originates from land-based sources which are mainly related to the effluent discharges of wastewater treatment plants and urban runoff. The available technologies suitable for microplastic removals in water and wastewater
treatment plants (e.g. membrane bioreactors) are expensive, energy demanding and difficult to be installed within existing plants.

This project aims to develop a low cost, low maintenance filtration system based on porous materials tailored for the efficient removal of microplastic pollution from water and wastewater. This project will be a collaborative research
between the Geoenvironmental Engineering group based at the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, University of Manchester and the Water and Wastewater Engineering Research Group based at the
Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Institute Technology Bandung (Indonesia). This is a fundamental research to create new avenues for tackling the microplastics in hydro-environment. The successful candidate will be
supported by a diverse supervisory team that includes experts in the fields of geoenvironmental engineering, aqueous geochemistry, water and waste water treatment and material scientists.

The research will involve a series of experimental characterisation to assess the efficiency and mechanism of removals of microplastics from aqueous systems. Indonesia is the world’s second largest contributor of plastic waste
to the ocean with variety of industries generating microplastic pollution such as textile industry. The case study of this project is Citarum River where samples of microplastics are collected and tested for evaluating the removal
efficiency of the system. Techno-economic aspects of technology implementation will be assessed for a geographical region in Bandung where extensive microplastics are generated from industrial activities.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Majid Sedighi

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Civil Engineering

For more details, email majid.sedighi@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Modelling and optimisation of electrochemical energy systems

Energy storage is garnering huge attention globally since the prime focus is on shifting to renewable based energy generation and sources like solar PV and wind are intermittent. Conventional batteries and redox flow batteries play a significant role in energy storage applications. On the other hand, fuel cells can be an ideal choice to replace the existing thermal energy systems including fuel cell based vehicles. This project is aimed to study, understand, analyse and improve the performance of electrochemical energy storage and conversion systems, specifically, fuel cells and redox flow batteries through the use of physics-based two-phase flow model, model-based design and optimisation. The main aim of this project is the development of a comprehensive numerical model considering the fluid flow (two-phase flow taking place inside the various components of the cell), the thermal aspects of the cell and resulting dynamics, resultant current distribution and reaction kinetics involved in the cell operation.

The project is supported by University of Manchester and Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. The computational facilities of the University of Manchester will be utilised for this project. We seek for outstanding, pro-active, enthusiastic applicant with numerical and computational programming skills.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Masoud Babaei

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Chemical Engineering

For more details, email masoud.babaei@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Developing low-carbon and cost-effective composite cement for resilient concrete septic tanks

Developing low-carbon and cost-effective composite cement  for resilient concrete septic tanks and wastewater treatment facilities. 

This PhD project is a joint research collaboration between The University of Manchester and De La Salle University in the Philippines. This project aims to provide a sustainable solution for improving the sanitation systems of rural communities of the Philippines by developing a durable, high performance and cost-effective composite cement system to be used in concrete septic tanks.

The main objectives of this PhD research are:

  • to address the main issues that currently arising from existing concrete septic tanks in the Philippines;
  • to develop and test a low-carbon durable and cost-effective composite concrete to be used in septic tanks and wastewater treatment system; and
  • to evaluate the performance of the cementitious material in terms of strength, durability and waterproofness.

The student will be based at Manchester and will conduct experimental investigations and modelling work, however some research activities including data collection and mapping as well as septic tank prototype construction and testing are planned to be carried out at De La Salle.

This project is an exciting opportunity to expand research skills by carrying out a range of research activates: field-based studies and data collection, laboratory experimental investigations (micro- to macro-scale), large-scale pilot tests and numerical modelling and simulations. The student will also benefit from a range of academic expertise and state-of-the-art research facilities at both universities.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Mojgan Hadi Mosleh

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Civil Engineering

For more details, email mojgan.hadimsoleh@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Consolidated biorefinery approaches for sustainable development

Two major societal challenges exist today i) how can we consumable more sustainably and ii) how can we minimise environmental contamination. As modern society is hugely dependent on finite oil reserves for the supply of fuels and chemicals, moving our dependence away from these unsustainable oil-based feedstocks to renewable ones is therefore a critical factor towards the development of a low carbon bioeconomy. Biomass feedstocks offers great potential as a renewable source of fuels and building block compounds if methods for its effective valorisation can be developed. Synthetic biology and metabolic engineering offer the potential to synergistically enable the development of cell factories with novel biosynthetic routes to valuable chemicals from biomass.

Whilst in Manchester the PhD student based in Manchester Institute of Biotechnology will be supervised by Dr. Neil Dixon, and will be focused on the development of engineered microbes for the degradation and valorisation of biomass. In Brazil, the Ph.D. student based on the University of Sorocaba will be supervised by Prof. Fabio Squina, to conduct activities related to the discovery of biocatalysts and microbial transporters, involved import and export of substrates and products from whole biocatalysts. In addition will build biorefinery process models, to consider all the stages of the biomass chain including net economic an environmental outcomes and impacts. These biotechnological initiatives are in line with bio-refinery interests, considering the potential of adding value to renewable feedstocks from different sources. These research activities have an appeal to promote sustainable food, fuel, and environmental change.

The student will be trained in broad aspects of biotechnology, microbial gene expression regulation, use of synthetic biology tools and principles, biocatalysis, microbial fermentation, techno-economic analysis. This project would suit individuals interested in future careers in biotechnology, biocatalysis, bioprocessing and sustainable development.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Neil Dixon

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Chemistry

How to apply: Online application form

For more details, email neil.dixon@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Seabed substrates and mangroves as bio-habitats for fish and shrimp from sonar

Seabed substrates and mangroves as bio-habitats for fish and shrimp from sonar and other remote-sensing data. 

Management of precious fish and shrimp resources requires knowledge of their environment. In this project, you will take advantage of new high-resolution sonar data collected offshore Sudan in 2018 to develop biological habitat maps based on seabed geology. Those data were collected on the Dutch research vessel Pelagia with German and Sudanese scientists. They show areas of smooth seabed and locally rugged seabed, which mark out areas that contain sediments and bare rock, respectively. Some of the sedimentary areas were also sampled by coring.

You will later extend that work to develop a method capable of classifying the seabed from its shape, using new data collected in the Atlantic. Biologists at the British Antarctic Survey have collected multibeam sonar data around Ascension and other islands. You will have the opportunity to process those data and use a combination of public-domain software (GMT, QGIS) to develop seabed substrate maps to be interpreted in collaboration with the biologists.
Mangroves host locally important fish and shrimp. You will use remote-sensing data to characterise their distribution along the coast of Sudan and evaluate any changes that have occurred in recent times. During a visit to Sudan (Red Sea University) to work with your Sudanese supervisor, you will have the chance to evaluate your remote-sensing data with local information, as well as discuss the offshore results with other scientists.

This project requires some computing experience, ideally programming. You will be given training in the use of computing appropriate for this project and acquire knowledge of the ecology and geology of Sudan's coasts. Ultimately, you should develop the background from carrying out this project to become a leader in managing marine fisheries within Sudan.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Neil Mitchell

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Earth Science

For more details, email neil.mitchell@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

4D printing of a leaf biosensor for detection of wheat leaf rust

This interdisciplinary research area addresses the design of a multilayer and multi-material bioinspired leaf biosensor able to detect leaf rust pathogen using additive manufacturing and advanced materials. The biosensor will be deployed in wheat fields to detect the leaf rust pathogen and alarm farmers when infection starts so counter measures can be taken.

The PhD research will focus on the design, material selection and manufacture of the biosensor with surface patterning, pathogen detection chemistries, and the process of scaling up for biosensor production.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Paulo Jorge da Silva Bartolo

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Mechanical Engineering

For more details, email paulojorge.dasilvabartolo@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Investigation of the acoustic wave transmission in cardiovascular-thoracic system

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) represent 31% of all 17.9 million human deaths in the world based on 2016 figures, among which, more than 75% CVD deaths happen in developing countries. It is known that most CVDs are preventable and curable with early diagnosis and proper monitoring. NHS National CVD Prevention programme considers “improving and increasing early detection and treatment of CVD” as its top commitment, which becomes particularly important for developing countries where there are limited resources of cardiovascular experts and advanced facilities. This project addresses this global challenge through an interdisciplinary and international collaboration. The objective of this Ph.D programme is to develop a realistic and generic cardiovascular-thoracic finite-element (FE) computation model and methodology to understand the correlations between cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) and the patterns of phonocardiogram (PCG) signals, based on which automated classification method and algorithms can be developed to diagnose specific CVDs using PCG signals.

This project bring together expertise of image-based modelling, mechanical transient signal analysis and processing, and cardiovascular science and clinic, and use hybrid method to reconstruct generic and anatomical cardiovascular-thoracic system (CTS) for the understanding of the acoustic stress/pressure wave propagations and transmissions in CTS. The image-based modelling will take the advantages of the advanced facilities at The University of Manchester, including Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), X-ray computed tomography (x-CT), high speed imaging and digital image correlation (DIC) and associated software for imaging process, statistical analysis, signal processing and automated finite-element mesh generation.

This project will be fully funded by Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) through the Global Doctoral Research Network (GOLDEN) at The University of Manchester and the outcome of this research will benefit patients from Low Income and Lower Middle Income countries on the DAC list of ODA recipients.

Preferred candidate should have good background of solid/fluid mechanics and interests in computational mechanics and biomechanics. The PhD candidate will be co-supervised by experts from School of Engineering and School of Medical Science at The University of Manchester, and will collaborate with cardiovascular expert from University of Cape Town to apply the developed models and methods to classify specific CVDs identified in developing countries.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Qingming Li

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Mechanical Engineering

For more details, email qingming.li@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Challenges of early detection of rice diseases in emerging economies

Rice is the major energy source for people living in the Global South and, as such, is a prime target for improvements in yield, nutritional quality and protection from pest and disease. Considerable efforts have been made to develop remote sensing indices that can predict stress, however many of these approaches do not offer robust discrimination of the different types of crop stress (i.e. drought, heavy metal contamination, pathogens, etc.). This PhD will address the challenges of early detection of rice diseases in emerging economies, using appropriate, widely applicable technologies and techniques.

Working with the internationally-renowned CIAT (International Centre for Tropical Agriculture) in Vietnam and the University of Manchester ImAgri research group, the successful candidate will work on (1) identification of diseases of interest to the region (candidates include Brown Spot and Septoria Wilt.); (2) Design and implementation of controlled field or lab experiments for measuring stress responses of plants exposed to these pathogens and other stresses; (3) Design of field experiments for discriminating different diseases in satellite images using statistical machine learning; and (4) implementation of large scale classification of disease using wide-coverage satellite data.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Rene Breton

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Astronomy and Astrophysics

For more details, email rene.breton@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Patient-specific metallic implants for personalised medicine

In the last few decades, human diseases as well as human healthcare have stimulated significant research activities in the field of biomaterials science and engineering. Biomaterials science is a relatively young field, but has gained a significant impact on human society. The biomedical materials industry is estimated to be worth $130 billion worldwide by 2020, with an emphasis on growth and development in the Asia-Pacific region, especially in India and China. The Indian medical device market is expected to reach USD 8.2 billion in 2020, equivalent to 58,042 crores INR. The Indian orthopedic and prosthetic device market is valued at $450 million and is growing at over 30% per year. In the national market, almost 80-85% of demand is met through imports. In the biomedical sector, 3D printing is estimated to reach $1.2 billion by 2020 at a high compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 29%. Medical applications for 3D printing include surgical models, bioprinted tissues and medical implants, which account for 65% by value. Against the above backdrop, it is anticipated that this project will bring together complimentary expertise of the UoM supervisor and Global partner primary supervisor at IISc, Bangalore to train young researcher in the emerging area of 3D metal printing of implantable biomaterials to address unmet clinical needs in the Indian context. The international training will also allow the student to learn in the globally competitive research ecosystem. The student also will learn the science aspect, as how biomaterials interact with living cells and tissues. But it also goes far beyond that, where cutting-edge designs, biocompatibility and products make it an engineering tool of the future.

This GCRF project will optimise the design of hip joints based for an Indian population to improve hip prosthetic success rates in India. This project will also look to significantly reduce the cost of manufacture of these new joint replacements to a level that the Indian healthcare market can sustain. CT scans of patients with an Indian demograph will be analysed in COMSOL to biomechanically optimise hip prosthetic designs. Designs will then be printed using additive manufacturing techniques and analysed (biomechanics, in vitro and in vivo testing). The student will gain metal alloy knowledge and skills sets in additive manufacture, COMSOL, biomechanics, biocompatibility testing and product scale up. Suitable background of students include materials science, metallurgy, biomedical engineering or other relevant fields. It is expected that the student will spend years 1 and 4 in Manchester, UK and years 2 and 3 based in IISc, Bangalore, India for this project.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Sarah Cartmell

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Materials

For more details, email sarah.cartmell@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

AI for global bioexposomes: linking biodiversity to disease

The AI methods will support much-needed holistic approaches for discovering knowledge and hidden associations from big, heterogeneous textual data, while overcoming knowledge silos. The project will offer solutions to tackling interconnected global challenges. A special focus will be on the complex multifactorial associations between biodiversity loss, environment risk factors and health using the exposome approach. The creation of an ecosystem for evidence-based biodiversity exposome linking different textual sources to transform the basis of health decision making will require the development of novel neural text mining methods. These will automate the effective identification of interactions (associations, relations) between biodiversity and environmental exposome impacting Costa Rican health. 

Novel methods will focus on fine-grained information extraction to examine the connection between biodiversity, environmental exposures and adverse health outcomes. Our hypothesis is that without these techniques it is impossible to extract hidden information and make hypotheses about the impact of biodiversity exposome to health.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Sophia Ananiadou

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Computer Science

For more details, email sophia.ananiadou@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Graphene-based quantum terahertz-over-fibre spectroscopy for portable and accurate point-of-care

Graphene-based quantum terahertz-over-fibre spectroscopy for portable and accurate point-of-care medical assays (2D-Quantum-SoC).

2D-Quantum-SoC enables a nanoscale-integrated, high power, high sensitivity, and very high-resolution spectroscopy platform, capable of being tuned in real time across the THz band, for practical, low-cost, and large-scale (widespread and high volume) medical deployment in India. It combines a number of cutting-edge research areas to provide a transformative technology underpinning a fully-integrated tunable graphene laser- and opto-plasmonic-based THz spectroscopy subsystem. The 2D-Quantum-SoC project will benefit India (Kolkata and West Bengal) where 15,000 children are diagnosed annually with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) with 40% mortality rates in India as compared to only 10% in developed countries. THz offers very sensitive tissue composition metrology and spectroscopy, is non-invasive & harmless to living organisms, and opens significant opportunities for multiple medical diagnostics and imaging applications (e.g. molecular phenotyping pertinent to ALL, measurement of epigenetic modification of DNA regulating gene expression), as well as for pharmaceutical drug development and dosage calibrations (e.g. pharmaceutical monitoring of metabolized prodrug in blood levels.)

Significant new understandings of the various 2D-Quantum-SoC materials properties and integration techniques involved will also be gained. Cross-cutting areas of investigation include: (i) Tunable THz aperiodic micro-resonator structures; (ii) Surface plasmon polaritons at the graphene/insulator interface enabling electronically-tunable cavity modes; (iii) Use of nanostructured graphene in hybrid graphene- quantum cascade laser (QCL) structures, combined with graphene plasmons, as the gain medium, driven by combined electrical driving and optical pumping from the THz QCL.

2D-Quantum-SoC’s additional defining feature is its integrated fiberised capability to enable experimental evaluation and characterization at optical (infrared) wavelengths of i/p & o/p THz-signal delivery over the cryogenic opto-THz-RF system. The integrated opto-plasmonic microchip creating a phase-coherent RF-THz-optical link will find important application in multiple THz contexts, including pharmaceutical quality control, clinical spectroscopy, and medical imaging, as well as more conventional security and ICT applications. Comparative evaluation of spectroscopic measurand data using a 2D-Quantum-SoC analytical instrument as compared to established and state-of-the-art optical imaging / spectroscopy techniques already employed to characterise graphene and other 2D materials is also possible.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Subhasish Chakraborty

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Electrical and Electronic Engineering

For more details, email s.chakraborty@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Wildlife, livestock and parasites: the extent and impact of cross-infection in conservation

Wildlife, livestock and parasites: the extent and impact of cross-infection in conservation landscapes. 

Human populations have grown exponentially across sub-Saharan Africa over the past century. To provide sufficient and secure food resources for this growing population, there has been large-scale conversion of land for agriculture and pastoral use. Some landscapes are occupied solely by either wildlife or domestic animals, whereas others are increasing managed in mixed-communities. Although this can provide a sustainable future for both wildlife and livestock, it also leads to increased interactions between wildlife populations and domestic animals. These interactions have the potential to impact on disease and parasite transmission dynamics. However, we currently do not have a clear understanding of how widespread or severe these impacts are. This project will involve working with reserve managers, local populations and researchers in the Laikipia Plateau in Kenya to understand the dynamics, and impact, of gastrointestinal parasite transmission between livestock and wildlife. The student will be based at the University of Manchester but will be co-supervised by staff at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi and will conduct field work based at Mpala Research Centre in Laikipia. The main objectives of the project will be to: 1) characterise gastrointestinal parasite infection patterns in livestock (cattle, sheep and camels) and wildlife populations using genetic meta-barcoding, 2) evaluate the impact of habitat use, and management strategies (i.e. mixed grazing versus wildlife only or livestock only) on parasites, 3) evaluate the health impacts of parasites on both livestock and wildlife, and 4) use population genetics to understand the and transmission dynamics between wildlife and parasites.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Susanne Shultz

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Earth Science

For more details, email susanne.shultz@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Overcoming irrigation-based poverty traps in agriculture

Overcoming irrigation-based poverty traps in agriculture: an interdisciplinary approach to sustainable groundwater development in the Eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains. 

Groundwater irrigation plays a critical role in supporting food security, rural livelihoods and economic development for millions of households in South Asia. However, large inequalities also exist in access to groundwater irrigation across the region. In the Eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains (Nepal and Eastern India – collectively the EIGP), farmers are less able to access and make sustainable use of available groundwater resources, resulting in lower crop yields and greater vulnerability to climate change than elsewhere in South Asia. Expansion of groundwater-fed irrigation in the Eastern Gangetic Plains therefore is a key development priority for governments and international donors across South Asia.

To support these efforts, this PhD project will seek to develop improved understanding about the process and constraints that shape farmers’ access to groundwater in the EIGP, and identify solutions to sustainably intensify groundwater use to improve food security and reduce rural poverty in the region.

Using novel satellite remote sensing methods and field data collection (household surveys, interviews), your research will evaluate the current distribution and intensity of groundwater irrigation across the EIGP, and identify the key technical, biophysical and socio-economic factors currently constraining groundwater irrigation development in the region. Building on these insights, your research subsequently will develop and apply an interdisciplinary analytical framework, including use of integrated agricultural assessments tools, to evaluate the feasibility and suitability of different technological solutions (eg more efficient pumpsets and solar irrigation systems) to increase the cost-effectiveness of groundwater irrigation and improve farmer livelihoods. In doing so, you research will contribute to practical development impact among millions of smallholder farmers and policy advice towards solutions to water and food security challenges in the EIGP.

Dr. Tim Foster and Dr Johan Oldekop at The University of Manchester, in collaboration with Dr. Timothy Krupnik at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), will supervise the project.

You will join a large and dynamic international group of research students and staff at Manchester (www.fosterlab.weebly.com) and CIMMYT (cimmyt.org/people/timothy-j-krupnik/, http://www.timothyjkrupnik.net/) working to improve the productivity and sustainability of farming systems across South Asia. Under the guidance of the supervisory team, you will benefit from high-quality cross-disciplinary training in remote sensing, agronomy, fieldwork methods, and socio-economic analysis, along with professional research and teaching skills development through the GOLDEN PhD programme.

You will have access to a wide range of datasets and models required to support your research, along with generous funding to conduct fieldwork and extend research visits in South Asia as part of the project. 

Finally, through the supervisory team you will be actively supported to collaborate and engage with major international agricultural research centers in the South Asian region, along with regional and international agencies and institutions engaged in agricultural and irrigation development.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Timothy Foster

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Civil Engineering

For more details, email timothy.foster@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Ageing and condition monitoring techniques of ageing composite insulators

Polymeric and composite insulation is widely used across the world, for both ease of installation and their durability. Whilst the material is known for its robustness, the ageing mechanisms and long term performance of the material under high voltages (especially in different environmental conditions) is not known. The present project will try and understand the different ageing and damage mechanisms of polymeric insulation in different environmental conditions (Mainly India and UK environments). These two different environments cause different ageing mechanisms, and the project aims to characterise these and find possible solutions for condition monitoring HV insulators.

The project is an exciting opportunity for students interested in High Voltage Engineering and who are comfortable with 3D simulations and High Voltage Testing. The project will be based at the University of Manchester High Voltage Labs, which is the largest of any academic institution within UK.
The project is also a collaboration between University of Manchester and Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. The student will be mainly based at the University of Manchester, and the project is a combination of literature review, simulations and high voltage testing. The student will also be expected to spend time at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, engaging with partner academics, answering specific research questions, as part of the project.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Vidyadhar Peesapati

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Electrical and Electronic Engineering

For more details, email v.peesapati@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Purification of waste water: sustainability, prosperity and clean environment

The waste water is the main source of polluting the environment. It pollutes the surface and subsurface water, soil and air. Textile waste water used for dyeing, printing, sizing, bleaching and washing also mixes with the water in rivers and there by increases pollution. The waste water used for irrigation contains heavy metals which are later transferred into the fruits and vegetables and they have adverse impacts on human health. Its proper management and remedial measures have become the most serious challenges all over the world, including Pakistan. Pakistan, once a water-surplus country, is now a water deficit country.

The removal of nano-pollutants is one of major problems in developing countries due to lack of technology. According to current situation, global economic structure is changing and manufacturing industries especially Textile and pharmaceutical are moving to developing countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. But due to lack of facilities and technology, they cannot treat pollutants releasing from industries which are causing serious environmental issues like polluting water ecosystems, causing diseases and declination of natural water resources.

This research is about designing different membrane technologies coupled with electrochemical processes for wastewater treatment, where membrane materials used in such systems are categorized based on their electrical conductivities like graphene. Various electrochemical processes, including electro-chemical anodic oxidation, electro-catalysis, photo electro-catalysis, and electro-Fenton integrated with membrane technologies are effective for wastewater treatment, the coupling systems using the membrane as an electrode will be examined.

Some of the main research question focused in this research will be:

  • How we can develop 2d material based hybrid polymer membrane with better antifouling properties and surface morphology suitable for waste water treatment.
  • How to synthesizes different electrocatalyst suitable for photocatalytic characteristics in degradation of pollutants.
  • How to develop an efficient electrochemical method that can easily coupled with membrane technology for removal of effluents from polluted water?

Principal investigator at Manchester: Xuqing Liu

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Materials

For more details, email xuqing.liu@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

A stakeholder-driven analytical resilience framework for power networks

Are power networks resilient enough? Where do the problems lie? What are the mechanisms that lead to failure? How do critical elements of power infrastructure interact with extreme climate-driven events? Why does society built their power networks like they do? This PhD project will attempt to answer these major questions in collaboration with the expertise available at the newly formed Manchester Centre for Crisis Studies and Mitigation and overseas partners at the Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka, Malaysia.

The current resilience frameworks for power networks only consider the implications of component failures as and when they fail. They do not make any attempt to predict the circumstances under which these components may fail, nor do they allow for the possibility varying degrees of damage. As a consequence, there is very little that planners can do to predict where and when such components will eventually fail and their consequences on the resilient and secure operation of a power network.

This project has the following objectives:

  • Develop predictive models for power system component failures as a result of a range of environmental hazards identified as being most prescient in the focussed country (Malaysia) e.g. flooding, seismic actions etc.;
  • Development of a power networks resilience assessment and adaptation framework in Malaysia that is shaped by properly engaging with all relevant stakeholders and considers the implications of failures on all social groups;
  • Determine the quantitative interactions between environmental variables and the critical electrical power infrastructure which will be combined with qualitative studies, leading to a holistic understanding of the resulting risks that can be used to inform decision making.

We are looking for students who want to be challenged, develop a range of skills including theory, observations and modeling, and enjoy studying the natural world. There is no single perfect degree for this PhD, but you should be willing to acquire a new range of technical skills during your studies. Your background can be in either electrical, civil or mechanical (including aeronautical) engineering, with a keen interest to develop new skills in social science methods.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Lee Cunningham

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Civil Engineering

For more details, email lee.scott.cunningham@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Humanities

Digital global public goods in health in low and middle income countries

The empirical basis for the proposed project is within the public health sector in India, specifically by examining approaches to build appropriate design strategies for Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) surveillance in India. The project will be based on the District Health Information Systems (DHIS2) platform, a globally acknowledged Digital Global Public Good in use in many low and middle income countries, but not yet applied to AMR. In that way, the project represents state of art in reference to information communication technology and a global health priority – AMR. The research will involve a multi-disciplinary approach drawing upon disciplines of information systems, global public health, innovation studies and Information and Communication Technology for Development. Building of design strategies and socially inclusive innovation approaches will have wider relevance to both Information Systems and global health.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Jaco Renken

Relevant PhD programme: Global Development Institute PhD programme (Development Policy and Management PhD)

For more details, email brian.nicholson@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Gender and social security: a lifecourse approach to understanding the ageing of marginalised men

Gender and social security: a lifecourse approach to understanding the ageing of marginalised men in Lesotho. 

The focus in the MDGs and SDGs on gender equality and female empowerment has seen great improvements in social security, welfare and health provision for women and children, which we can expect to foster resilience in later life. In this context, studies of masculinity, and indeed of marginalised men, are dominated by research into sexual violence, criminality and domestic abuse. While these agendas are essential for sustainable development, social justice, and promoting women’s rights, social risks are emerging for marginalised groups of men who are largely ignored in research and policy. In the context of rapidly ageing populations in the Global South, this potentially has long-term consequences for wellbeing. The objective of this research is to make these processes of marginalisation visible, by understanding the implications for later life of gendered social and policy changes for groups of men who may be ‘left behind’ in the development agenda.

This project therefore aims to elucidate:

  • how marginalised groups of men, such as labour migrants and rural herdsmen, are conceptualised in social security and welfare policy in Lesotho;
  • how these men interact with social security and welfare systems at different points in their lifecourse; and
  • the associated risks for their wellbeing in later life. Understanding the pathways that vulnerable groups of men take to old age is a key dimension to understanding and promoting social equality in countries with newly ageing populations.

The overall aim is that in rightly seeking to redress centuries of gendered injustices through social security and welfare policies, we avoid creating new types of gendered problems for old age.

We propose to investigate these issues using a mixed methods design including analysis of the Lesotho census, policy analysis, interviews with policymakers, and ethnographic methods across two sites, one rural, one urban, with older men who have worked as herdsmen and have worked in South African mines, and their households.

Specifically, this research argues that older men are often invisible in gerontological studies. This stems from a premise that due to prevailing patriarchal systems across the world, systems and policies need to support women while men have sufficient resources and are sufficiently resilient. This programme of work seeks to understand the implications of such assumptions for marginalised men for whom this may not be true, to understand what this means for their old age. The work potentially has far reaching implications beyond Lesotho for building our understanding of ageing in the Global South.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Debora Price

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Sociology

For more details, email debora.price@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Co-evolution and sustainability of urban infrasystems in Wa, Ghana

Sustainable infrastructural systems (infrasystems) are a pre-condition for human health and wellbeing. Therefore, infrastructure is at the heart of the UN Sustainable Development agenda. However, the majority of urban dwellers in cities of the Global South do not have access to appropriate infrastructure. This divergence is an expression of more complex structural inequalities.

At the same time, well-intentioned infrastructural development agendas and projects may lead to unintended negative outcomes for people and the environment, contributing, for instance, to the marginalisation of poor communities or larger-scale environmental pollution. It is crucial to understand the systemic relationships between different systems in order to prevent that millions of people in urbanising countries, such as Ghana, become locked into unsustainable patterns of growth.

This project asks how the sustainability outcomes of policy and planning interventions in urban sanitation infrasystems in Wa Municipality, Ghana, can be improved through a better understanding of the co-evolution of different infrasystems, such as transport or waste.

The project will use a systems perspective to understand the co-evolution of linked infrasystems (such as sanitation, transportation, waste) and to draw lessons for future policy and planning interventions. It will draw on knowledge in urban geography, sustainability science, political economy and development studies (among others).

The research will take a grounded theory and mixed methods approach to allow the project to evolve recognising and emphasising the most significant aspects of co-evolution in infrasystems. The focus will be on infrastructure systems across adjoining off- and on-grid urban areas in order to achieve a broad understanding of socio-eco-technical entanglement and co-evolution of infrastructural and other systems in transition. The sustainability outcomes of specific interventions, such as infrastructural investments through China’s Belt and Road Initiative, will be examined in particular detail in order to understand their transcalar impacts.

The close collaboration with non-academic local stakeholders will ensure findings are relevant to policy and practice and lead to maximum impact for affected communities on the ground.

The project will benefit from synergies with related projects on infrasystems (see www.susinfra.com).

Principal investigator at Manchester: Deljana Iossifova

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Architecture

For more details, email deljana.iossifova@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Applying urban data to support sustainable cities

Eighty-five per cent of humanity – some nine billion people - will live in cities by the end of this century. Securing the sustainability of our planet is increasingly an urban challenge. Digital technologies and data make new forms of governance, politics and planning possible, bringing data and monitoring logics to the fore and connecting people, governments and resources in new and potentially more efficient ways. This project will generate new understandings and capabilities to use environmental data to address key urban challenges in Kampala and Manchester. The population of Kampala, capital of Uganda, is predicted to grow more than tenfold by 2100, while Manchester is committed to deep decarbonisation in order to reach a zero carbon target by 2038. While very different in context, both cities are characterised by poor air quality and associated transport and health challenges. Similarly, both cities are committed to tackling these issues in a smart and joined up way, using data and sensing technologies wherever possible.

This project builds upon the work of the recently funded Manchester Urban Observatory, which enables the gathering of robust data to better understand cities and their relationship with decision-making across a range of scales and sectors, and the Urban Action Lab in Makerere, which has developed a knowledge-based approach for engaging with issues of sustainable urban development challenges. In taking a comparative approach the project will produce globally relevant assessments of the current state of urban environmental data and its uptake, understand commonalities in terms of data driven urban solutions to environmental and health challenges, and to promote knowledge exchange and the sharing of solutions, expertise and equipment between the UK and East Africa.

The main contribution of the project will be to understand how new sensing possibilities can generate data to inform better decision-making in cities to improve air quality. This will be done through mapping currently available datasets in Manchester and Kampala, understanding the role of IoT sensors in generating new forms of data, and developing highly focused use cases to generate and apply new forms of data with decision-makers. This will produce highly innovative findings concerning the current state of play concerning both actual and potential use of urban environmental data to address similar urban challenges in very different settings.

Principal investigator at Manchester: James Evans

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Human Geography

For more details, email jp.evans@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Social and ecological impacts of forest landscape restoration: lessons from India

Forest landscape restoration (FLR) is recognized as a principal mechanism to mitigate climate change [1] and has been incorporated into multiple global sustainability agendas. This four-year interdisciplinary PhD project will combine elements from political science, economics and geographical information systems to provide new empirical insights about FLR’s potential to address multiple sustainable development outcomes. The project will focus on FLR in India, a country with globally significant forest cover and biodiversity, and large restoration potential and commitments.

Theoretical and empirical research has demonstrated that community access and management rights to forests and forest resources lead to better forest (e.g., lower deforestation rates) and livelihood outcomes (e.g., reduced poverty). The central hypothesis underpinning this PhD project is that the recognition of forest rights and participation of local communities in FLR initiatives will be linked to better forest and livelihood outcomes. The PhD project will focus on evaluating FLR outcomes under three broad themes: forest rights, livelihoods, and biodiversity.

It will do so by answering the following two research questions:

  1. What are the livelihood and biodiversity outcomes of FLR efforts?
  2. How does the recognition of community forest rights, and community participation influence the social and ecological outcome of FLR?

The student will combine high-spatial resolution publicly available data and use state-of-the-art statistical tools to address the answer these two research questions. Specifically, the project will analyse secondary data with high spatial and temporal resolution combining suites of social and environmental indicators with information on policy implementation and primary data on local community perceptions of FLR implementation.

The project will be supervised by Johan Oldekop at the Global Development Institute at the University of Manchester; Tim Foster at the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Manchester, and Ashwini Chhatre at the Indian School of Business.

The ideal candidate will have research interests in development and sustainability, very strong quantitative skills, as well as experience of using and manipulating large datasets including spatial data. Survey design, and Hindi are additional desirable skills.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Johan Oldekop

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Physical Geography

For more details, email johan.oldekop@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Sustainable value creation: bioeconomy innovation and opportunities for inclusiveness

Sustainable value creation: bioeconomy innovation and opportunities for inclusiveness and sustainability. 

This doctoral research project will be probe and progress new models for sustainable value creation that are embedded in bioeconomy innovation and that address opportunities and challenges for inclusiveness and innovation. The empirical focus will build on research in Brazil, with consideration of conceptual, management, and policy insights and implications for other development assistance economies and development programmes. The project will advance knowledge related to development at local and global levels, business models, governance, sustainability, innovation and technology, and inclusiveness, and responsible innovation. The project’s empirical work will focus in Brazil, identifying and investigating particular cases of new sustainable value creation models, broadly related to knowledge-based bioeconomy development for the production and use of renewable resources in ways that are sustainable and inclusive. Potential cases include the sustainable and inclusive local use of resources such as sugar cane for bio-energy and bio-plastics and renewable harvesting from the Amazon for global consumer goods. The evolution and challenges of such strategies will be explored through examination of the roles of companies (large and small), stakeholder groups, civil society, government, and innovation and regulatory systems. Potentials for path dependency (creating blockages to change and recreating inequities), responsible innovation (creating pathways for more inclusive and sustainable development), and systems transformation (for example, through disruptive biological engineering) will be explored. The research will lead to insights and implications about strategies for sustainable value creation of relevance not only for Brazil but also for other ODA and developed economies. The project will be undertaken through a research collaboration between the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research (MIOIR: Prof. P. Shapira), the Global Development Institute (GDI: Prof. K Nadvi), and the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB: Dr. Kirk Malone) at the University of Manchester in association with the Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) and São Paulo School of Management (EAESP), Brazil (Prof. J. A. Puppim de Oliveira). In Manchester, the doctoral student will be housed in the Faculty of Humanities, in the interdisciplinary PhD programme in Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP) at MIOIR. The student will part of the University of Manchester Global Doctoral Research Network programme and will also engage with seminars, associated research training, and other doctoral cohorts at MIOIR and GDI, facilitating conceptual development, proposal refinement, networking, advanced skills development, and writing. The relationship with MIB will facilitate additional mentorship on bio- technological and commercialisation aspects. Two intensive periods of field study are anticipated in Brazil, using qualitative research methods, facilitated by FGV/EAESP. Support will be provided for field work, conference attendance, and publishing. 

Principal investigator at Manchester: Philip Shapira

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Science, Technology and Innovation Policy 

For more details, email pshapira@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Reducing gig economy inequalities in the Global South: a South African action research project

The gig economy is fast becoming a key sector for employment in the developing countries of the global South. An estimated 40 million people are now employed via digital platforms in jobs such as taxi driving, delivery and domestic services, and online work from data entry to web design. Alongside this growth, though, are concerns that platform-based gig work is fuelling a rise in global inequality: creating insecure, precarious employment that contrasts starkly with the gains captured by platform owners and investors.

This PhD project will engage in action research that seeks to address this inequality in the specific context of South Africa; one of the most unequal nations on earth. You will join the Fairwork programme, which works across multiple countries of the global South to improve the working conditions of people employed in the digital platform economy.

Working with a joint team from the Universities of Manchester and Cape Town, you will investigate how digital platforms in the global South can be influenced to adhere to decent work standards for their workers. You will analyse the stakeholders and leverage points that exist in the platform eco-system: who and what they are, and how best to use them to improve worker pay and conditions. You will then undertake action research with the identified stakeholders – developing corporate commitments, advocating for new regulations, supporting consumer and worker associations, etc. – and draw out conceptual and practical lessons from this action research. These lessons will be disseminated across the Fairwork programme in order to maximise the value and impact of your research.

Overall, you will form part of an exciting and fast-growing action research programme, helping not only to better understand one of the key elements of the future of work, but also intervening to have a direct impact on a growing source of global inequality.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Richard Heeks

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Development Policy and Management

For more details, email richard.heeks@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Connecting environmental education to conflict resolution in Colombia, through a new citizen science

Connecting environmental education to conflict resolution in Colombia, through a new citizen science training programme for FARC ex-combatants.

The main aim of this interdisciplinary PhD project which spans subject areas of Anthropology, Geography, Ecology, Natural Biology and Latin American studies and is focused on Colombia is to design an environmental education programme for FARC ex-combatants to train as citizen scientists. Two purposes underpin this aim: first to address the threats to biodiversity and endemic species raised by the recent IPBES Global Assessment, by training FARC ex-combatants to work with scientists and others to help produce useful and much-needed evaluations of biodiversity and natural resources. Second, to find ways in which FARC ex-combatants can use their new skills and existing forest expertise to gain employment in cultural/eco tourism enterprises.

The particular biological science practices to be explored are those deployed in the fields of herpetology (frogs) and chiropterology (bats) through bioacoustic and soundscape recording and data capture and those involved in mammology through practices of trapping and preparing specimens for study. These practices are to be approached as sensory methods, involving modalities of sound and touch, which will initiate an experiential learning process between biological scientists and FARC ex-combatants. In this way, the aim is to establish how plural knowledges —the environmental knowledge of insurgents and of biological scientists— can be integrated into a model of citizen science.

The model will be developed by: documenting particular biological science practices in the field, investigating the work of FARC ex-combatant’s eco-projects, and learning from the example of the Manchester University affiliated NGO In Place of War’s 'Creative and Social Entrepreneurial programme’ in Medellin that supports a network of Hip Hop musicians.

The project builds directly on the space of reconciliation and joint epistemic recognition that was established between FARC ex-combatants and biological scientists during a successful natural science expedition carried out in Anorí in 2018 by Universidad EAFIT in partnership with UNDP and supported by the global partner primary supervisor for this project, anthropologist Dr Valencia-Tobon. It also builds on a current University of Manchester-DAC partnership (Global Challenges Research Partner Development award).

Alongside a PG cert in education the PhD programme will provide intensive training in visual and audio production methods at the University of Manchester’s Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology and a variety of placements: at the Manchester Museum, with community groups involved in the climate change plan in Manchester and while in Medellin with biological scientists from EAFIT University and Instituto Tecnologico Metropolitano. It will also offer targeted advice from the In Place of War network in Medellin. During the field work in Medellin, the PhD will require the student to work closely with Dr Valencia-Tobon in carrying out fieldwork and devising sensory methods to work with FARC ex-combatants. The PhD aims to make a substantive contribution to the challenge of conserving natural resources and biodiversity as well as to the integration of former combatants in Colombia.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Rupert Cox

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Social Anthropology

For more details, email rupert.cox@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Health and Education Effectiveness in Decentralised Systems (HEEDS)

Despite the increase in public funding towards health and education, a large proportion of citizens in sub-Saharan Africa experience low quality service delivery. This is reflected in poor socioeconomic outcomes in the areas of child and maternal health as well as learning outcomes for school going children. Available evidence reveals stark differences in health and education indicators between countries and across sub-national areas. The international community recently called for policy interventions that focus on addressing inequalities at all levels as the basis for achieving Sustainable Development Goals particularly SDGs 3, 4 and 10. Whilst there is widespread reliance on decentralised governments for the delivery of public services in developing countries, little is known about their role in both causing and ameliorating socioeconomic inequalities. The Health and Education Effectiveness in Decentralised Systems (HEEDS) seeks to fill this gap. In so doing HEEDS will address GCRF core themes on “Health and Wellbeing” and the University of Manchester’s “Global Inequalities” research beacon.

The project builds on the research undertaken by the University of Manchester’s Effective States and Inclusive Development (ESID) and Pockets of Effectiveness (PoE) research projects. ESID particularly investigated the national politics of health, education and social provisioning while the PoE project the politics of building state capacity through high performing public sector organisations. HEEDS will extend ESID’s and PoE’s work by focusing on decentralised governments, and investigate the determinants of local government capacity as a basis for understanding and addressing sub-national inequities in service delivery. The project will target three eastern Africa countries of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The trio are Development Assistance Committee (DAC) listed countries, and are good representatives of contexts where service delivery is heavily decentralised and where significant levels of sub-national variation in performance exist. However these countries also have unique political systems that make them interesting for comparison. Drawing on ESID’s research, Kenya’s political system is described as competitive-clientelist, Tanzania’s dominant party, and Uganda’s weak-dominant party. The project will establish the implications of such power configurations for service delivery at national and subnational levels.

HEEDS research methodology will take the form of systematic comparisons across high- and low-performing districts within and across countries, and use ‘process tracing’ to establish patterns of causality. Data analysis will be done using fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis (fs QCA) – a method that allows for identification of necessary and sufficient conditions for causality. By tracing the trajectories to “effectiveness” HEEDS will obtain insights into how some local governments overcome governance and service delivery bottlenecks. Such evidence could inform reforms for improving service delivery in decentralised systems within eastern Africa and beyond. We seek PhD proposals that aim to investigate the politics of subnational inequalities in health and education services in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Samuel Hickey

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Development Policy and Management

For more details, email sam.hickey@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Hybrid land-use regression modelling of ozone exposures in Indonesia

Ground-level ozone is an important secondary pollutant which is formed by several steps of chemical reactions in the presence of UV light (Seinfeld and Pandis, 1998). Due to its irritant properties, ozone has irreversible impact to human respiratory systems. Ozone causes emphysema, dysfunction of lung, asthma and lung disease. (EPA, 2015; WHO, 2017). Favourable meteorological conditions, such as warm temperatures and high solar radiation - which are the main characteristics of the Indonesian climate - also play an important role in the chemical production of ozone (Wang et al., 2017). In Indonesian cities, ozone is a critical parameter that often exceeds the national standard. Some measurements, e.g. in Jakarta, peak concentration of diurnal variation could reach 130 ug/m3 (Wasiah and Driejana, 2017). An early study in Bandung, when emissions were considered much lower, a maximum average concentration of 287 ppb was found (Driejana, 2003). WHO (2017) released a new standard of 8-hours ozone concentration of 100 ug/m3 as the latest guideline. However, the new guideline also noted that prolonged exposure to ozone even in lower concentration could result in chronic health effects. Hybrid Land Use Regression (LUR) will be implemented to predict temporal and spatial variations in air pollutant concentrations and to provide an exposure model for use for epidemiological studies. Exposure assessment to ozone using Land Use Regression in Indonesia is very limited and challenging. Based on research carried out in Jakarta through the UDARA project, there is opportunity to investigate new data sources and concentration data through which better estimates may be derived and the social and spatial gradients in potential health burdens better understood.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Sarah Lindley

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Physical Geography

For more details, email sarah.lindley@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Transforming territories on Brazil’s development frontier

Transforming territories on Brazil’s development frontier: political settlements, inequalities and unsustainable urban development in the Amazon Region. 

The Brazilian Amazon rainforest faces an existential threat from unprecedented deforestation, which leading academic research attributes to governmental policies. Indeed, under the leadership of Jair Bolsonaro the Brazilian Government has prioritized economic growth over environmental conservation, and it has encouraged the conversion of canopy rainforest in the Amazon rainforest into territory that can be incorporated into global networks of production and trade. This is driven in part by a downturn in Brazil’s manufacturing sector which has struggled to compete against East Asian exporters, coupled with an increase in commodity prices in the 2000s. As a result, capital has been reallocated from manufacturing in Brazil’s industrial heartlands, to activities geared towards the production and export of raw materials and agricultural products in the Amazon region.

A network of human settlements has emerged in the Amazon as the development frontier has expanded – the number of people living in urban areas in the Amazon doubled from 1991-2010 and it is growing rapidly. The relationship between industrialization and urbanization which fuelled the growth of Brazil’s urban corridor from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro in the 20th century has been severed, and residents of emergent and growing Amazonian cities work in primary and tertiary sectors that drive deforestation such as agriculture, mining, food processing, transportation and logistics. Most research on the deforestation of the Amazon region has focused on land-cover change and conflict over land-use (e.g. between loggers and indigenous groups). This research confirms that the Amazon is being urbanized, but scholars have tended to focus on the form of human settlements rather than their content. Thus, relatively little is known about the urban worlds on Brazil’s development frontier, and this research focuses on their modes of governance and socio-spatial inequalities.

This research project compares the political settlements that animate formal and informal aspects of urban governance regimes – and concomitant inequalities – in Parauapebas and Rondonópolis. The former is a city with a population of approximately 200,000 that boasts the title of the greatest exporting municipality in Brazil. It is in the state of Pará, where the Vale Company has invested in ore extraction as well as in energy, logistics, steel and metallurgy. The latter is at the centre of Brazil’s growing agribusiness complex, situated at the intersection of two major highways – BR-163 and BR- 364 – which connect Mato Grosso’s agricultural frontier with the main international ports in south and southeast Brazil.

By comparing two cities on the Amazonian development frontier that are connected to global value chains in very different ways, this research will speak to scholarship on the relationship between globalization and urbanization. There is an assumption that cities associated with extractive industries exhibit more top-down governance systems and higher inequality than those whose growth is related to industry and services (e.g. food processing and logistics). The findings would be relevant to future Brazilian governments that seek to balance competing pressures of demands for growth as well as conservation, and it will also contribute to our understanding of cities on development frontiers worldwide.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Seth Schindler

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Development Policy and Management

For more details, email seth.schindler@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

From socialist industrialisation to a global city

From socialist industrialisation to a ‘global city’: deindustrialisation and inequality in Bangalore, India. 

There is an assumption that the Global South has industrialized at the expense of the OECD, as industry was offshored from post-war industrial heartlands from 1980-2010. While places like northern England and America’s Rust Belt experienced significant deindustrialization, this narrative obscures the fact that many developing countries also witnessed industrial decline as their markets were liberalized and exposed to exports from East Asia. According to economist Dani Rodrik, deindustrialization is far worse in many developing countries than it ever was in the OECD.

This project focuses on deindustrialization in Bangalore, which has become a hub of information technology related services and is known as “India’s Silicon Valley.” This obscures the city’s rapid industrial decline. After India’s independence, Bangalore was selected as a major site of public investment in industry. Its peri-urban areas boasted working-class communities where families enjoyed access to secure, relatively well-paying jobs in nearby factories and this gave rise to a ‘labour aristocracy.’

This project seeks to determine how authorities problematized – if at all – deindustrialization and managed the transition from socialist industry to global IT hub. While many cities sought to undertake similar transitions, none were as successful as Bangalore. Our hypothesis is that Bangalore’s transformation wasso dramatic because it was not market driven, but rather it was the result of state intervention and coordination at multiple scales. We not only seek to better understand the mechanisms put in place to foster this transformation, but we also ask how, in India’s competitive liberal democracy, was consent secured from Bangalore’s erstwhile working classes? We will focus on how this class has adapted to the city’s transformation, and how urban transformation has resulted in social, spatial and economic inequality. We will pay particular attention to inter-generational inequality.

The research will rely on an analysis of policy documents and master plans which have consistently reduced land available for industrial use while opening land for real estate. These plans will be ‘ground truthed’ because in many instances the plan does not represent actual land uses, and it is common knowledge that some former working-class communities have become affluent and are ground zero for Bangalore’s transition while others have been ‘left behind.’ This demonstrates that the city’s transition is incomplete and we will provide perspectives from policy makers, former labourers and residents from various ‘types’ of Bangalore neighbourhoods.

Societies in the North Atlantic have been rocked by right-wing populism as the ‘places left behind’ take revenge and reject globalization. The UK voted to leave the European Union while Donald Trump was successful in his Presidential campaign in part because he promised an ‘America First’ policy. Much of the support for this shift comes from retrenched working classes. If countries beyond the OECD have experienced even more extreme deindustrialization, then it stands to reason that those societies may experience similar upheaval. By focusing on the dynamics of transition, deindustrialization and the inequality it has engendered in Bangalore, this project will inform our understanding of political trends that have only just begun and are likely to animate the 21st century.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Seth Schindler

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Development Policy and Management

For more details, email seth.schindler@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Tackling inequality through access to remedy: applying the business and human rights governance

Tackling inequality through access to remedy: applying the business and human rights governance approach to international labour standards in Brazil. 

Human rights infringements by multinational enterprises (MNEs) are a significant but overlooked driver of global inequality. The 2011 United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) establish the nucleus for a polycentric international business and human rights governance system which addresses human rights infringements caused by business activities, thus tackling global inequality and supporting the achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDG).

The proposed project will draw on the business and human rights governance approach and analyse how different configurations and combinations of state- and non-state-based grievance mechanisms linked to international labour standards affect access to remedy.

More specifically, the project will compare and contrast different types and combinations of grievance mechanisms related to the establishment, implementation and monitoring of labour standards in Brazil. In order to control for industry-specific in terms of governance dynamics, the study will focus on s selected number of sectors, including resource extraction, agriculture, food production, logistics, the automotive industry and aviation.

In terms of non-state-based grievance mechanisms, the study will cover company-level grievance mechanisms, international framework agreements, development finance institutions and multi-stakeholder initiatives. State-based grievance mechanisms will include the labour inspectorate and labour court systems.

The empirical analysis of the project will be divided into three phases:

  1. Mapping grievance mechanisms related to labour standards in Brazil: this phase will explore and describe the system of labour standards-related grievance mechanisms in Brazil, drawing on desk-based research of publicly available sources and expert interviews with representatives of workers, business organisations and government.
  2. Qualitative exploration of business and human rights governance: this second phase will include qualitative semi-structured interviews with human rights duty-bearers, rights holders, NGOs and experts involved in the design and operational aspects of grievance mechanisms.
  3. Quantitative multivariate analysis of the drivers of grievance mechanism performance.

The results of the research project will lead to a better understanding of the actors and processes involved in business and human rights governance. They will inform public policymaking on the design of grievance mechanisms as an integral element of the business and human rights governance system. The project therefore promises to make a significant contribution to tackling global inequality.

The proposed project is linked to several past and ongoing research projects on the implementation of the UNGP and ‘access to remedy’ conducted at Alliance Manchester Business School in cooperation with the United Nations Office of the Hight Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva, Switzerland.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Stefan Zagelmeyer

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Business and Management

For more details, email stefan.zagelmeyer@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Transport poverty in the digital age - conceptualising and measuring equity impacts

Transport poverty in the digital age - conceptualising and measuring equity impacts of new mobility technologies in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

The on-going digital revolution is transforming many facets of society with profound distributive consequences. Globally, digital technologies and advances in artificial intelligence are now enabling platform businesses in different sectors, including transportation and mobility in cities. In rapidly urbanising Sub-Saharan African countries, where some of the world’s poorest and vulnerable groups live, many urban dwellers are already trapped in transport poverty and transport-related exclusion. This transport poverty manifests as unequal access to employment and social services (e.g. health and education). This lack of access to transport is fundamentally underpinned by existing inequalities of access to safe, affordable and efficient transport and mobility services. At the same time, due to historical policy and market failures, multi-national Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), such as Uber, Lyft and Taxify/Bolt are filling in the major gaps in urban transport governance and service provision. Given that digital platform mobility is new and evolving, research on the associated socio-spatial impacts globally is still in its infancy. Moreover, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) prioritise poverty alleviation and the creation of sustainable and inclusive cities and communities. Addressing prevailing inequalities in mobility and transport accessibility will be crucial to achieving these goals in the Global South. However, our understanding of the extent of transport and mobility inequalities, as well as how the diffusion of new digital technology-mediated mobility services are shaping differential mobility and accessibility outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa is limited. One of the main reasons for the existing knowledge gap is the dearth of research on the intersection of inequality and transport and mobility access in the Sub-Saharan African context. In view of the foregoing, the overarching objective of this PhD research project is to examine the differential social and equity impacts of new digital platform mobility services, using Ghana in Sub-Saharan Africa as case study.

The project will address the following research questions:

  • How do we conceptualise and measure the differential socio-spatial equity impacts of new digital mobility technologies?
  • How widespread are digital platform mobility services provided by Transportation Network Companies in Sub-Saharan Africa?
  • In the context of rapid urban expansion, how is digital platform mobility shaping accessibility outcomes, especially for poor, disadvantaged and marginalised groups?
  • In what ways can digital technologies help overcome inequalities in mobility and access?

To this end, the PhD student will undertake fundamental theoretical and conceptual work on the nexus between digital technology-enabled mobility services and socio-spatial equity in mobility and accessibility. The student will also develop and implement a novel methodology, using quantitative and qualitative approaches to examine city-scale differential socio-spatial equity impacts of digital mobility services.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Ransford Antwi Acheampong

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Planning and Environmental Management

For more details, email ransfordantwi.acheampong@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)