Dual-award between The University of Manchester and The University of Melbourne

The University of Manchester has existing, highly productive links with The University of Melbourne and is extending this relationship to our Global Doctoral Research Network (GOLDEN) by establishing another cohort of collaborative postgraduate research projects.

What is a dual-award programme?

This dual-award programme offers candidates the opportunity to apply for a project with a strong supervisory team both in Manchester and in Melbourne. A dual-award is a PhD programme that leads to awards from two partner institutions, which recognise the contribution of the collaborating institution. PhD candidates will be registered at both Manchester and Melbourne and must complete all of the requirements of the PhD programme in both the home and partner university.

PhD candidates will begin their PhD in Manchester and will then spend at least 12 months in Melbourne. The amount of time spent at Manchester and Melbourne will be dependent upon the project and candidates will work with their supervisory team in the first year to set out the structure of the project.

PhD candidates on a dual-award programme can experience research at two quality institutions and applying for a dual-award programme will support you to develop a global perspective and will open the door to new job opportunities. Boost your intercultural skills and experience the opportunities studying in Melbourne and Manchester provide by applying to one of our available projects in the scheme

You can read about the existing projects on Melbourne’s website.

Funding

The University of Manchester has six studentships available and is now offering candidates the opportunity to apply to one of the featured projects below to start in September 2022. 

You will spend at least 12 months at each institution and will receive a dual PhD at the end of the three-and-a-half-year programme.

Funding for the programme will include tuition fees, an annual stipend at the minimum Research Councils UK rate (TBC for 2022/23), a research training grant and student travel to Melbourne.  

How to apply

The available projects are listed below and the expected start date for candidates on Manchester-based projects is September 2022. 

The entry criteria for the University of Melbourne can be found on their how to apply webpage.

Candidates will need to meet the minimum entry requirements of both Universities to be accepted. You'll also need to be registered at both institutions for the duration of the programme. The entry criteria for the University of Melbourne can be found on their ‘How to Apply’ webpage.

Candidates looking to apply for a Manchester-based project are encouraged to contact the named Manchester supervisor for an initial discussion before submitting an official application form.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester and is at the heart of all our activities. We know that diversity strengthens our research community and leads to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality. It also increases our societal and economic impact.

The University of Manchester and our external partners are fully committed to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds, and from all sections of the community regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.

The deadline for Manchester based applications: 14 March 2022.

For further information about applying for one of the Manchester based projects can be found on our how to apply page.

Available projects:

Safeguard or constraint? An ethical analysis of the criteria for the treatment of gender diverse minors

This project will be based at The University of Manchester with a 12-month stay at The University of Melbourne.

Project description:

The clinical management of gender-diverse children and adolescents is highly contentious, high on the policy and political agenda, and subject to increasing legal, clinical, ethical, social and cultural debate. Due to the controversial nature of gender-affirming treatment, particularly for minors, gender-diverse young people wishing to access hormone treatment must meet a number of eligibility criteria. For example, they must present a marked incongruence between experienced gender and sex characteristics, a long-lasting and intense pattern of gender incongruence or dysphoria; any physical or mental health concern must be reasonably well controlled; they must engage socially, and attend regular medical appointments. Adolescents who do not meet these eligibility criteria might not be considered suitable candidates for medical treatment. In Australia, the criteria are less prescriptive overall and more open than in the UK, especially in relation to hormones for puberty suppression. This difference between the UK and Australia is key to this project, as it will provide a diversity of lived experiences and make it possible to provide a nuanced normative analysis of the current routes to access to gender-affirming care and how they are experienced by patients.

This project will investigate the impact of these access criteria on young people. The PhD candidate will interview young adults who accessed or sought access to gender services when they were aged under 18. The purpose of these interviews will be to elicit their lived experiences and their reflections on those experiences some years later. This data will enable us to explore whether the way eligibility criteria are framed and understood may cause unhelpful psychological pressure, and may lead young people to try to conform to what they think is expected, rather than expressing their genuine feelings about their identity, and discussing with clinicians their true wishes around medical treatment.

This will be the first project of empirical bioethics to examine the ethics of current eligibility criteria for gender-affirming treatment based on the patients’ lived experiences. The information collected will be used to formulate an ethical use of eligibility criteria to access gender-affirming care.

This research fills a gap in the literature: no study has yet examined the ethical issues around the implications of eligibility criteria for access to treatment. By using the methods of empirical bioethics, this project will give voice to the experiences of those stakeholders who are most directly touched by current clinical access criteria.

This research is vital for both patients and service providers. Patients should not be burdened with numerous barriers to accessing care, as this is potentially harmful and inequitable. At the same time, service providers must ensure that potentially vulnerable minors are provided with safe, high-quality services and not given medical interventions that are not in their interests long-term. This research will help to navigate this potential tension and examine ethical ways to interpret and understand eligibility criteria in a way that facilitates genuine expression of need without causing undue pressure for young people.

Supervisory team:

Apply: PhD Law

Is informed consent the primary ethical foundation for treatment of gender diverse young people?

This project will be based at the University of Melbourne with a 12-month stay at The University of Manchester.

Project description:

The provision of hormone treatment for children and adolescents (young people) who identify as trans or gender-diverse is highly contentious, and has been the subject of heated public debate in both Australia and the United Kingdom. In both countries, courts have been involved in determining whether individual children or adolescents can have access to hormone treatments to suppress puberty, or to oestrogen or testosterone for gender affirming care. Courts in both countries have focused particularly on whether the young person who wants the hormone treatment has the capacity to give their own consent to that treatment (that is, “Gillick competence”). This has been regarded by the courts as the key determinant of whether it is permissible for clinicians to provide hormone treatment. It’s possible that this focus on the law may have inappropriately narrowed or skewed thinking about the ethics of hormone treatment.

This PhD project will bring the question of hormone treatment for gender-diverse young people back to the broader ethical context of medical treatment in general for children and adolescents. In paediatric healthcare, the capacity of a young person to consent to medical treatment is not the primary consideration. An ethical decision about any form of medical treatment is based on the interests and wellbeing of the patient (psychosocial as well as physical) and informed consent of the parents, through a process of shared decision-making. The child or young person should be involved in this shared decision-making, to the extent that they are able and willing. Agreement from the child or adolescent is ethically desirable, but not the primary consideration, because parents are regarded as having the ethical and legal standing to provide formal consent for treatment that will benefit their child. 

This PhD project will address the question of whether the young person’s capacity to provide valid consent should be the primary ethical consideration in relation to hormone treatment, or whether there are other ethical considerations that are equally, or more, important. To ensure this project is grounded in the realities of clinical and legal practice, it will be based on interviews with clinicians and lawyers who work with gender-diverse children and young people, and their families, in both the UK and Australia. The objective of the project is to develop a practical, robust ethical framework to guide decision-making.

Supervisory team:

Apply to the University of Melbourne.

Multi-criteria automatic algorithm configuration under streaming problem instances

This project will be based at The University of Manchester with a 12-month stay at the University of Melbourne.

Project description:

Many critical problems in logistics, manufacturing, healthcare and other fields are solved by optimisation and machine learning algorithms. Thanks to advances in automatic configuration tools, we are able to automatically tune the parameters of these algorithms for new problems with minimal human effort. Unfortunately, these tools are designed to tune algorithms according to a single criteria and assume that the characteristics of a problem do not change over time. In the real-world, however, the users of such algorithms often face conflicting criteria, such as the time required to solve the problem versus the expected quality of the solution returned by the algorithm. Moreover, it is often the case that similar problems must be solved regularly (e.g. daily) such as in the case of a parcel delivery service, a manufacturing plant processing orders in daily batches or the daily planning of operating theatres in hospitals. In those cases, the characteristics of the daily instances of the problem may evolve over time due to economical, societal and technological changes.

This project aims to extend the capabilities of automatic configuration tools to handle multiple conflicting criteria and adapt to such changes in the problem characteristics. For this purpose, the teams at Manchester and Melbourne will join their expertise in automatic configuration of algorithms and instance space analysis.

The result of this project will be more powerful tools for tuning and deploying the critical algorithms that the modern world relies on, so that they can better adapt to changes in the problems being solved and let users decide the most appropriate trade-off among conflicting criteria.

Supervisory team:

Apply: PhD Business and Management

Explainable algorithm selection and configuration through instance space analysis

This project will be based at the University of Melbourne with a 12-month stay at The University of Manchester.

Project description:

This project will develop new analysis methods to help explain the performance (or lack thereof) of the algorithms that are used daily to plan our deliveries, organise our manufacturing plants, schedule our bus routes, optimise our supply chains, and so on. By exploring the space of possible instances of a problem and analysing the behaviour of the algorithms intelligently for such instances, the techniques developed in this project will be able to explain to decision-makers under which conditions we can expect those algorithms to provide trustworthy solutions and when we may expect that the solutions provided will be infeasible or suboptimal.

Outcomes of the project include new tools for automated algorithm selection and configuration, evaluated on a series of real-world industrial optimisation problems.

Supervisory team:

Apply to the University of Melbourne

Patterns of physical activity pre- and post-total knee replacement, assessed through the linkage of NHS and consumer health and fitness tracker data

This project will be based at The University of Manchester with a 12-month stay at the University of Melbourne.

Project description:

The uptake of consumer technology has been significant in the last ten years. Mobile devices collect digital traces from our everyday lives - for example, tracking patterns of activity. Such data may be successfully reused for health research.

One disease area where mobility is notably impacted by symptoms is arthritis, making this an interesting case to understand how we might make use of retrospectively collected consumer data for health insights.

Total knee replacements (TKRs) are a common surgical procedure for knee osteoarthritis. Prior to surgery, clinicians and patients need to make shared informed decisions about the likely benefits and potential harms of surgery. Benefits commonly cited include improvements in pain and discomfort and improvement in mobility. Improvements in pain are supported by strong evidence; however, changes in mobility and activity levels are less clear.

Understanding the patterns of physical activity pre- and post-op have historically been limited to physical activity questionnaires. Some studies are starting to use more objective measures including accelerometry – although this typically requires provision of devices and prospective data collection. To date, the numbers of such studies are limited, outcome measures vary, and assessment is at fixed intervals such as six or 12 months post-op.

In the population of 80k total knee replacement patients per year in the UK, a subset will have been tracking their physical activity data via consumer devices (Fitbit, Google Fit, Strava etc). This provides a major opportunity to learn about changes in activity from real-world data. It is important to understand, though, whether this subset is representative of the whole population of interest, and how the findings can (or cannot) be extrapolated. We also need to know what aspects of activity are of interest to stakeholders, especially patients, so that the analysis can be usefully translated into meaningful information to guide shared, informed decision making in the future.

Aims:

  • To conduct a systematic literature review to summarise what is known about physical activity pre- and post-TKR
  • To conduct a qualitative study in pre-operative and post-operative TKR patients to explore physical activity behaviours and determine what digital health information should be used to summarise patterns of activity pre- and post-TKR
  • In partnership with Fitbit and Janeiro Digital, to identify patients who have undergone TKR, collect consent, and link their Fitbit data with their NHS data
  • Analyse the linked data to:
    • Understand the representativeness of Fitbit-owning TKR patients
    • Generate descriptive statistics of activity levels pre- and post-TKR
    • Examine patterns of activity in those with good and bad outcomes according to self-reported status (if able to link to data on patient-reported outcomes).

Supervisory team:

Apply: PhD Musculoskeletal

A novel digital health intervention to increase physical activity participation in inactive individuals with knee osteoarthritis

This project will be based at the University of Melbourne with a 12-month stay at The University of Manchester.

Project description:

Knee osteoarthritis is a common and disabling chronic disease. There is no cure for knee osteoarthritis and in many cases the severity of pain and functional limitations progress, resulting in costly and invasive total knee replacement surgery. Physical activity is a core component of knee osteoarthritis management, with potential to improve osteoarthritis pain, symptoms and quality of life. However, very few people with knee osteoarthritis meet physical activity guidelines.

Adherence to exercise interventions for people with knee osteoarthritis is poor and benefits are rarely sustained. Interventions are typically non-personalised and are not tailored to individuals’ activity preferences and motivations. Motivations (such as mastery, enjoyment, physical condition, psychological condition, appearance, competition) can discriminate between different forms of physical activity that individuals prefer to participate in (such as team sports, individual racing sports, exercise, racquet sports, martial arts). Evaluating an individual’s activity motivations could assist them in finding a form of physical activity that meets their needs to promote sustainable, lifelong physical activity participation.

Behaviour change theory and research on barriers to adherence highlight the need for a theory-based, personalised approach that focuses on maintenance to promote sustainable physical activity in people with knee osteoarthritis. An intervention that combines personalised activity recommendations with theory-based behaviour change techniques and innovative digital-health technology has the potential to improve sustainability of activity participation and improve quality of life, pain and symptoms.

Aims:

  • To conduct a systematic review to understand the relationship between physical activity motivation and preferred forms of physical activity
  • To perform a cross-sectional survey and cluster analysis to evaluate physical activity motivations in relation to preferred types of physical activity, in people with knee osteoarthritis
  • To develop a novel digital health intervention to increase physical activity participation in inactive people with knee osteoarthritis
  • Perform a pilot randomised controlled trial to determine the acceptability of the digital health intervention and the feasibility of a large RCT to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention.

The intervention will involve evaluation of activity motivations, providing personalised physical activity suggestions; producing an action plan for engaging in these activities in the community; using goal-setting and strategies to overcome setbacks; and educational/motivational resources drawing upon behaviour change theory to maximise engagement, uptake and long-term behavioural change. People with knee osteoarthritis and healthcare professionals will be involved in the development and piloting of the intervention.

The primary outcome will be change in physical activity levels assessed with a smart-watch device. Smart-watch data analysis training and mentoring will be provided during a visit to The University of Manchester. The student will also have the opportunity to collaborate on other projects involving mobile health collection of physical activity data during this visit and receive training in digital epidemiology.

Supervisory team:

Apply to the University of Melbourne.

Real-life benefits of hearing-preservation cochlear implantation (HPCI) in children

This project will be based at The University of Manchester with a 12-month stay at the University of Melbourne.

Project description:

The Manchester-based project will focus on investigating the real-life benefits from preserved acoustic hearing in children and young adults with hearing-preservation cochlear implantation. The student will conduct a range of behavioural experiments on spatial release from masking, music perception, perception of prosodic features in speech and presence of cochlear dead regions with children who have residual low-frequency hearing with their cochlear implants. To further understand the benefit from preserved hearing in children with cochlear implants, the student will also interview parents of the children (and older children themselves) with usable residual hearing and cochlear implants. While in Melbourne, the student will conduct interviews with parents of younger children with preserved hearing and cochlear implants. The outcomes of this research will feed into the development of digital support tools for parents and children with cochlear implants.

This studentship is suitable for students with a background in either audiology, psychology, medicine or speech-language therapy and an interest in both quantitative and qualitative research. Experience with statistical analysis would be beneficial. Previous clinical or paediatric experience is preferred.

Supervisory team:

Apply: PhD Audiology

Developing a digital technology to meet the support needs of parents of young cochlear implant recipients

This project will be based at the University of Melbourne with a 12-month stay at The University of Manchester.

Project description:

The University of Melbourne-based project will be directed at the development of digital technology to provide support to parents of young children with a cochlear implant as a supplement to the standard care provided by an implant clinician. The student’s research will involve parents whose child received an implant at a young age (under 12 months), exploring their support needs in semi-structured interviews and developing and administering a survey exploring their attitudes and preferences regarding the delivery of support to meet those needs via digital technology.

While in Manchester, the student will conduct similar interviews with the parents of children who received a cochlear implant at a somewhat older age (over two years). The outcomes of these interviews will be compared with those from the younger cohort to identify if support needs differ substantially between the two groups.

The outcomes of this research will feed into the development of digital technology to provide support for parents of young children with cochlear implants. This studentship is suitable for students with a background in audiology, psychology, or speech-language therapy and an interest in qualitative research. Experience with interviewing and/or thematic analysis of qualitative data would be beneficial. Previous clinical and/or paediatric experience is preferred.

Supervisory team:

Apply to the University of Melbourne.

Precision water and nutrient management to support sustainable intensification of smallholder farming systems

This project will be based at The University of Manchester with a 12-month stay at the University of Melbourne.

Project description:

Agriculture underpins rural livelihoods and economies across the Global South. However, crop yields achieved by smallholder farmers often fall far below agronomic potential. Limited or inefficient use of crop inputs – such as irrigation and fertilisers – is a key cause of crop yield gaps in smallholder farming systems. A lack of reliable information about expected yield and income benefits, along with farmers’ aversion to investments in inputs like fertiliser or fuel for irrigation, is one of the main underlying drivers of low or inefficient input use in smallholder farming systems.

Development of data-driven advisory products and services that effectively empower smallholder farmers to make more informed and precise input use decisions has the potential to be a game changer for rural development and climate change adaptation. However, while digitally enabled tools for precision agriculture have scaled rapidly over recent years in high-productivity agricultural systems in regions such as Europe and Australia, their success in smallholder farming systems has been much more limited, with most farmer-facing smart farming tools struggling to sustain outcomes at scale beyond the pilot phase of product development.

This PhD project will address these issues by developing new data-driven methods for precision input management in smallholder environments through integration of process-based crop modelling, advanced data analytics, and farm-level agronomic and socio-economic data stacks. The project will be focused on a case study of irrigation and fertiliser management under climate uncertainty in rice-wheat production systems in South Asia, where low levels of water and fertiliser use are the primary driver of yield gaps for millions of rural farmers. Key objectives of the PhD will be to:

  1. Critically evaluate the status, strengths and weaknesses of existing data driven DSS and advisory tools used to guide water and fertiliser input management in smallholder farming systems in South Asia.
  2. Develop a computationally efficient and reliable approach combining crop modelling (APSIM), machine learning and optimisation techniques for determining optimal allocation of limited water and fertiliser inputs in small-scale production systems in target regions.
  3. Evaluate yield, income and environmental outcomes of optimised water and fertiliser management strategies in comparison with existing farmer heuristics, and assess how these benefits are affected by differences in farm characteristics, production settings, model and input data uncertainty.

The student will be based in the Agriculture, Water and Climate group at The University of Manchester, where they will be supervised by Dr Tim Foster and Dr Ben Parkes, who have extensive experience in crop simulation modelling and agricultural water management in South Asia and globally. The student will spend 12 months visiting the University of Melbourne, where they will work with world-leading experts specialising in fertiliser management (Dr Shu Kee Lam and Dr Alexis Pang) and agricultural data informatics (Prof Pablo Zaro-Tejada). They will also collaborate closely with external partners, at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) in South Asia and Cornell University in the United States, who will provide access to a range of primary datasets and local research expertise to support the project.

Supervisory team:

Apply: PhD Civil Engineering

Advancing agricultural nitrogen estimation with hybrid data-driven machine learning and physical modelling to support sustainable intensification

This project will be based at the University of Melbourne with a 12-month stay at The University of Manchester.

Project description:

Quantifying N loss from agriculture to the environment is crucial for addressing crop productivity, environmental degradation and climate change, as well as the efficiency and profitability of food production. To achieve efficient agricultural N management, agroecosystem simulation models are often used to simulate, predict and evaluate the impacts of management practices on N losses through different pathways. However, the wide application of these models is hindered by tedious, costly and stringent calibration and validation processes.

It is often impractical or ineffective to calibrate and validate process-based models against data for all experimental sites where the data originates. Therefore,  we  need  to  find  a  novel  way  to  model  the  linkage  between N  loss  pathways  and  soil, environmental  and  climatic  conditions  to  address  the  limitations  of  process-based  models. Machine learning provides a promising option, and allows complex relationships between input and output variables to be modelled in a data-driven way, and enables revealing, important relationships never recognised previously. Multispectral/hyperspectral remote sensing data are now available for calibrating, parameterising and validating agroecosystem models.

Through incorporating machine-learning-based data analytics into agroecosystem process-based modelling, this project aims to advance the simulation capacity and prediction reliability of process-based models. The project will collate experimental data on different pathways of environmental N losses, with respect to soil, climatic and environmental conditions, geographical locations and management practices; utilise multispectral/hyperspectral imagery for vegetation and soil parameter retrievals, such as to refine current plant trait retrieval and vegetation index- based methods across crop growth stages, seasons and agro-climatic regions; and refine the linkages between N losses, N yields and their key drivers by applying machine learning techniques fed by data and physical approaches. The research findings are highly relevant to agricultural management, agricultural policymaking and environmental quality.

The success of this project will result in significant advances in process-based modelling, decision support systems, and improvement in N management in agroecosystems and environmental quality. The project will provide promising directions for sustainable agriculture and food security that are of national and international significance, and will be beneficial to the economy, society and environment. The outcomes of this project will be highly beneficial to digital and high-precision agriculture, and relevant to the development of environmental costs for N pollution damage to biodiversity, the society and the environment.

Supervisory team:

Apply to the University of Melbourne.

Selection and management of groundwater arsenic remediation approaches for improved water security in northern India

This project will be based at The University of Manchester with a 12-month stay at University of Melbourne.

Project description:

Globally, the contamination of groundwater from naturally-occurring arsenic is a major public health threat that impacts the health and livelihoods of millions of people, particularly in South/Southeast Asia. In India, groundwater arsenic is a major problem, particularly in the shallow, reducing aquifers of the Gangetic Basin, where groundwater reliance is increasingly high. Despite the prevalence of a number of remediation strategies, effective and sustainable implementation of these remains very challenging for a number of technical and non-technical reasons. Further, rapidly developing urban areas (such as Patna, Bihar) create unique challenges, such as high groundwater pumping rates (which may impact the hydrogeochemical controls on arsenic mobilisation), the presence of potential competing water quality risks, such as emerging organic contaminants, and highly variable socio-economic conditions, all of which may vary greatly on the local or regional scale. There is a clear need for improved decision support tools for the selection and management of arsenic remediation strategies, particularly in this context.

Project:

The aim of this PhD project is to contribute to the development and validation of a robust and effective toolkit for the selection and/or management of groundwater arsenic remediation strategies in arsenic-impacted areas of the Gangetic Basin in northern India (such as Patna). Example research questions include:

  1. How can remediation selection be optimized for the geochemical (including groundwater composition, remediation targets) and socioeconomic settings typical to this region?
  2. What are the best selection criteria for determining the optimal strategy/strategies for the removal of groundwater arsenic in this context?
  3. How can selection strategies for arsenic remediation be adapted to other types of contaminants of contrasting geochemical behaviour (such as uranium, boron, emerging contaminants) and which may also be present in groundwater sources used for drinking?

Students are also highly encouraged to suggest their own related research questions. Detailed project design is flexible according to candidate interests and will involve one or more aspect of theoretical, field, laboratory and modelling approaches. Innovative and interdisciplinary approaches are encouraged. Students will be strongly encouraged to develop effective pathways to impact of the research arising from the project.

Training opportunities:

Numerous researcher training and development opportunities are available and encouraged. There will be multiple opportunities for collaboration, presenting research and (co-)authoring scientific publications. The student will develop an excellent skillset – including scientific and analytical/technical skills - as well as key professional competencies like international collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, communication, project management, self-management and teamwork.

Candidate skills:

Successful candidates will have a strong background (Masters / BSc) in environmental/chemical/geological sciences, environmental/chemical engineering or similar. Strong candidates will be highly motivated, independent, hard-working and curious, with a strong interest in research. Demonstrable experience in aspects of data analysis, fieldwork, laboratory work, problem solving, critical thinking and scientific writing is advantageous. Excellent written and verbal communication skills in English are essential. Previous research experience is highly desirable.

Supervisory team:

Apply: Environmental Science PhD

Improved decision-making for fluoride removal from groundwater in peri-urban Indian communities lacking centralised water supply

This project will be based at the University of Melbourne with a 12-month stay at The University of Manchester.

Project description:

Fluoride is one of the most widespread endemic health problems associated with natural geochemistry (Arora et al, 2004). People of nearly 29 countries are affected with ‘fluorosis’ due to intake of fluoride-rich water, including in India, where over 120 million people are impacted by elevated fluoride. It has been considered a double-edged sword, as evidence suggests that low fluoride concentrations (~ 0.5 - 1 mg/L) may reduce the risk of dental caries, but that detrimental human health impacts such as dental and skeletal fluorosis occur with increasing risk at higher fluoride concentrations (> 1.5 mg/L) (WHO 2019).

Most of the rural and peri-urban communities in fluoride endemic regions in India lack access to centralised water supply and rely on untreated groundwater to meet most domestic and agricultural water demand, so can be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of fluoride. Various pump and treat techniques at household and community scale have been employed for fluoride removal by a range of remediation processes including sorption, ion exchange and membrane filtration, although each process has significant challenges in terms of regular monitoring and renewal of filter media, cost, waste disposal or energy use. Therefore, successful implementation of user-friendly and cost-effective strategies for fluoride remediation remains very challenging due to cost, operational challenges and social issues.

The aim of this PhD project is to develop a suite of cost effective and user-friendly fluoride removal systems/filters adaptable for household or community use along with a robust and effective toolkit for the selection and management of groundwater fluoride remediation strategies in fluoride impacted areas of West Bengal. The toolkit will consider technical, economic, community participation and governance issues associated with implementation. The specific research questions will include:

  1. What are the challenges associated with the available fluoride removal processes and how these challenges can be addressed by process modification? (Lab testing associated with field sample collection)
  2. How can fluoride removal be optimised under varied groundwater composition and remediation targets to enable its applicability to other sites with similar issues? (Lab-scale studies)
  3. Identify the most important selection criteria for determining the optimal strategy for the removal of fluoride and associated contaminants in this context, including cost, health outcomes, ease of operation.

Opportunities:

Numerous researcher training and development opportunities are available and encouraged. There will be multiple opportunities for collaboration, presenting research during monthly seminars and annual Post Graduate conference and (co-)authoring scientific publications. The student will develop an excellent skillset of scientific and analytical/technical skills, international collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, communication, project management, self-management and teamwork.

Candidate skills:

Successful candidates will have a strong background with (Masters or Honours I) in environmental/chemical/geological sciences, environmental/chemical engineering or similar. Strong candidates will be highly motivated, independent, hard-working and curious, with a strong interest in research. Demonstrable experience in data analysis, fieldwork, laboratory work, problem solving, critical thinking and scientific writing is advantageous. Excellent communication skills in English are essential. Previous research experience is highly desirable.

Supervisory team:

Apply to the University of Melbourne.

Do differences in the primary tumour microenvironment and immune response in peripheral blood predict melanoma relapse?

This project will be based at the University of Manchester with a 12-month stay at University of Melbourne.

Project description

Management of resected early stage melanoma remains a challenge. For these patients, individual recurrence risk is low, with >75% of patients alive at ten years. However, these patients account for ~50% of people who subsequently develop metastases and die. It is critical to understand better why some melanomas go on to metastasise while others are cured by surgery alone. In addition, biomarkers are needed that can provide an early prediction of which patients will be cured versus those who need additional monitoring or treatment.

This project brings together research teams in Manchester and Melbourne to perform an in-depth analysis of the tumour associated adaptive immune system and its association with disease relapse to identify biomarkers for early detection and prediction of recurrence. Ultra-high multiplex imaging of the tumour immune and stromal environment will be performed together with T-cell receptor sequencing to interrogate how differences in the tumour microenvironment at surgery affect likelihood of melanoma relapse. Identified tumour associated T-cell clones will be tracked in longitudinally collected peripheral blood samples to determine how these change in response to disease progression and whether they provide an early indication of relapse.

The student will work closely with scientists from other disciplines, including pathology, statistics and bioinformatics, and with clinical teams. They will have the opportunity to work on samples collected from large clinical cohorts of patients and as part of a Phase III international trial. They will be an integral part of an inclusive, international and multi-disciplinary team working together to translate research findings to the clinic.

Supervision team:

Apply at the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health – email Admissions.