Defining the biological importance of micro- and nano-plastics on liver and gastrointestinal health

Applications are invited for a three-year PhD studentship. The studentship will start on 1 October 2022.


To apply please use the online application form. Simply search for PhD Medical Studies (and select the entry point of October 2022), then clearly state that you are applying for a PhD studentship and name the project at the top of your personal statement.

Online application

Before applying, please ensure you have read the Doctoral College’s general information on applying for a research degree.

For more information on the admissions process, please contact

Project description 

Plastic pollution is ubiquitous and will inevitably lead to human exposure. Plastic litter comes in a variety of sizes, but microplastics (MPs; <5mm) and nanoplastics (NPs; <1000nm) are of particular concern because of their small size and ability to enter organisms and food chains. These particles are known to be ingested by animals; and laboratory experiments clearly evidence the potential for harm. From a human health perspective, these particles are contaminating foods, with associated concerns over human health, especially gastrointestinal exposure through ingestion. To date, MPs have been documented in mineral water, food (e.g., salt, alcohol), and cooking processes, potentially leading to ingestion, but the effects remain largely unknown. Once ingested, the first biological barrier encountered is the gut, and transfer across the gut and into the blood will inevitably end up in the liver. 

This interdisciplinary project aims to quantify the burden of microplastics and nanoplastics in human gut, liver and bile samples, and if present determine their biological impact on health and in liver disease. This project will use a combination of in vitro exposures and methods in human sampling to establish the potential role of MP/NP in liver toxicity and disease outcome. It aims to identify, describe, and quantify MP/NP in human tissues and to determine their impact on liver and immune cells. The student will have the opportunity to develop innovative methods using pyrolysis gas chromatography mass spectrometry to determine the presence of specific MPs and NPs, and their physicochemical characteristics, in tissue samples.


Applicants should have a first or upper second class honours degree in an appropriate subject and preferably a relevant masters qualification. 

The studentship is supported for three years and includes full home tuition fees plus a stipend of £16,062 per annum (2022/23 rate). The studentship will only fully fund those applicants who are eligible for home fees with relevant qualifications. Applicants normally required to cover International fees will have to cover the difference between the home and the international tuition fee rates (approximately £12,697 per annum). 

If you wish to discuss this project further informally, please contact Dr Ashwin Dhanda

The closing date for applications is 12 noon on 1 June 2022. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview on 30 June 2022. We regret that we may not be able to respond to all applications. Applicants who have not received a response within six weeks of the closing date should consider their application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.