Plymouth Pioneers Awadhesh Jha

Awadhesh Jha, Professor in Genetic Toxicology and Ecotoxicology, is a leading voice in exposing the effects chemicals have on the environment, particularly from radiation, and in reducing the number of live fish used in toxicity experiments. He leads the Environmental and Applied Biology Research Group that evaluates risks from natural and man-made hazards in the food chain to ensure global food security.

The impacts of chemicals on the natural world

Awadhesh was one of the first academics to adopt multidisciplinary approach and combine his marine ecotoxicological experience with that of chemists to assess the exposures and effects of radiation and other environmental stressors on marine organisms, at a time when very few researchers were looking at the human impacts on marine species, especially at molecular levels. 

He has led research that shows how decreasing levels of oxygen in the water could impact fish or rising sea temperatures could accelerate the impacts of radiation in marine invertebrates, how complex chemical compounds could affect the environment, and how persistent organic pollutants and engineered nanoparticles react with biota once in the environment.

In collaboration with industrial partner, AstraZeneca, he has pioneered new research techniques such as the ‘Virtual Fish’ project, whereby his team successfully cultured and maintained cells from rainbow trout that now means toxicity tests can take place on manufactured cells, rather than live fish.

Thought leadership

Is the nuclear energy gamble worth it?

Nuclear energy production is ready and available now and emits fewer green-house gases than oil or gas. This makes it an attractive option for decreasing the reliance on fossil fuels in the race to carbon net-zero. But it generates radioactive waste, causing a headache for governments in how to store and dispose of it. Read more about nuclear energy production

Investigating nuclear 

Through TRANSAT, a £5 million Horizon 2020 collaborative project funded by the European Commission, Awadhesh is now looking at how the radionuclide waste from nuclear facilities can cause harm to the environment and those living close to them, and examining how to reduce the release and impact of tritium into the environment when ‘fusion’ technology is in operation to secure energy sustainability or when a facility is dismantled. Awadhesh's work has taken him to Chernobyl – the site of the 1986 nuclear explosion – a number of times, and alongside supervised researchers, has undertaken substantial research into assessing the impact on humans and wildlife through the TREE project. His work has also led to the University joining the South West Nuclear Hub.

The person behind the pioneer

“There are more than 350,000 commercial chemicals in circulation and they will undoubtedly end up in the environment.”

Read more about Professor Awadhesh Jha

THE Impact Logo, life below water

World number one for marine impact 2021

We are ranked first out of 379 institutions worldwide against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal number 14: life below water.
The award recognises the quality of our marine research and teaching as well as our efforts to reduce the impact of campus activities on the marine environment. The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings are the only global performance tables that assess universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The chemicals we are investigating are being developed in many forms; from food additives to the ingredients and by-products of industrial produces and those used in nuclear sectors.

But identities of many chemicals remain unknown because of commercial interests and we have no idea about their chemical properties, let alone what impact they will have in the environment. However, what we do know is there is no universal law to govern them. Providing the evidence to inform such laws is one of the biggest challenges we face.

Professor Awadhesh Jha

Plymouth pioneers - Awadhesh Jha mussels

Home of marine

Our marine and maritime excellence in world-leading research informs policy agendas for the sustainable management of ocean resources. Our work has significantly improved how to forecast extreme coastal events and their impact on communities. We were the first to study the ecological effects of ocean acidification, and now lead the UK agenda for offshore renewable energy. On national and international levels, we have influenced key policies, conservation practices, responses to climate change, public perception of marine issues, and are defining the pathways toward tangible solutions.
The culture of close collaboration across the city with researchers, policymakers, and local businesses has resulted in Plymouth’s nomination for the UK’s first National Marine Park – an initiative underpinned by research at the University.
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