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PhD studentships

Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) works with a number of University partners to train tomorrow’s leaders in Environmental Science. These collaborations, known as Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs), offer postgraduate studentships and training across the full range of multidisciplinary environments, helping to enrich the student experience.

Each DTP will create a strong and active community of students that are able - and encouraged - to integrate, work, and learn together. Students will receive in-depth, advanced research training, as well as training in the professional and transferable skills essential in today's economy.  

PML is a multidisciplinary, internationally renowned, strategic marine research centre. We have a number of prestigious and exciting opportunities for outstanding students wishing to conduct PhD projects in our areas of research excellence: Earth Observation Science & Applications, Marine Systems Modelling, Marine Ecology and Biodiversity, Marine Biogeochemistry and Observations and Sea and Society.

These PhD opportunities are often developed with partners from several DTPs. Further details on each partnership can be found here:

  • ARIES (formerly EnvEast) (with the Universities of East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Plymouth and Royal Holloway University of London)
  • NERC GW4+ (with the Universities of Bristol, Bath, Exeter and Cardiff)
  • SWBio (with the Universities of Bristol, Bath, Cardiff and Exeter, alongside Rothamsted Research)
  • SuMMer (with Bangor University) CDTS303

New for this year:
Marine Research Plymouth (MRP) studentship opportunities

Four adverts have been launched as part of the MRP partnership between the University of Plymouth, Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the Marine Biological Association. Applications for these have now closed.

New PhD opportunities will be listed on this page when they become available, to be kept informed of new opportunities you may wish to follow us on Twitter or Facebook.


Smart nutrient sensor networks using miniaturised optical and electrochemical detection

PML co-hosted PhD project

About the Project

Applications are invited for a 3.5 years PhD studentship within the Environmental Intelligence doctoral training programme at the University of Plymouth. The studentship will start on 01 October 2024.

Project Description

Scientific background: Phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) are essential elements for life but excess quantities of fixed nutrients in catchments cause eutrophication, toxicity and affect catchment ecosystem function [1]. Dissolved ammonia (NH3) is a critical chemical parameter required by UK legislation [2], whereas P is often the growth limiting element in catchments, particularly in areas of high N (Nitrate Vulnerable Zones) [3]. Recent legal standards (e.g. Nutrient Neutrality Programme and Environment Act 2021) require nutrient emissions to be determined at catchment scale and concentration limits to be legally enforced. Hence, there is a demand for better spatial and temporal data from water quality monitoring networks [4] and application of emerging technology, including off-the shelf Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and novel miniaturised chemical sensors (nanomaterials, microfluidic spectrophotometric/fluorescence, fiber-optic, microelectrodes) [5-7]. As data flow increases in size and complexity, well designed systems-based approaches are needed to improve cost, efficiency, reduce carbon emissions, minimise computing requirements and support the deployment of sensing systems. Real-time data offers the opportunity for Artificial Intelligence (AI) integration, with the potential for predictive models for phosphate [8] and ammonia [9] from other water parameters, with the final goal of developing catchment digital twins [10].

*References for text above displayed on application page*

DoS: Dr. Simon Ussher - Plymouth University
2nd Supervisor: Dr. Angela Milne - Plymouth University
3rd Supervisor: Dr. Paul Davey - Plymouth University 
4th Supervisor: Malcolm Woodward - Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Project Partner: Rob Passmore, Additive Catchments


Applicants should have a first or upper second class honours degree in engineering, environmental, physical sciences or a relevant Masters qualification.

If your first language is not English, you will need to meet the minimum English requirements for the programme, IELTS Academic score of 6.5 (with no less than 5.5 in each component test area) or equivalent.

The studentship is supported for 3.5 years and includes full Home tuition fees plus a stipend of £19,088 2024/25 rate (TBC). 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 2023/24 rate (2024/25 rate TBC).

NB: The studentship is supported for 3.5 years of the four-year registration period. The subsequent 6 months of registration is a self-funded ‘writing-up’ period.

The closing date for applications on 26 April 2024. 

Find out more and apply

See what some of our past PhD students, now both Visiting Postdoctoral Fellows, did during their time at PML: 




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