PhD opportunities @theFosterLab 2020 start

Through our new DTP at Southampton (INSPIRE) we have 3-fully funded PhD projects available this year. Please click on the links below for more details and how to apply through GSNOCS (our graduate school). The deadline is 03 January 2020. Please contact Gavin through this website (here) or email: gavin.foster@noc.soton.ac.uk

Project 1. Multimodal-imaging of airborne particulate matter (PM) pollution as a means of source apportionment (here for more)

Airborne particulate matter (PM) is a key risk factor for premature death (8.9 million per annum worldwide) and reduced quality of life due to a range of diseases of the respiratory and cardiovascular system (e.g. more detail here).  In  order to do anything about this problem though we need to know what is causing the air pollution.  To do that we need to work out where it is coming from.  In this project the student will use the latest laser ablation technology, including our new time of flight inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (TOF-ICPMS), to carry out elemental analysis of airborne PM to apportion its source.  The TOF-ICPMS is a unique facility in the UK recently funded by NERC and, when coupled with laser ablation, will allow us to identify the source of air pollution in the port city of Southampton.  This work is part of cross university network of scientists from a range of disciplines tackling this important issue.

Figure showing element maps of urban PM made using laser ablation ICPMS from  Gligorovski et al. (2008 ).

Figure showing element maps of urban PM made using laser ablation ICPMS from Gligorovski et al. (2008).

Photo showing the smoke plume from a cruise ship in dock in Southampton. The city has a diverse series of pollution sources that make mitigation a challenge that can be solved by the technical innovation offered by this project.

Photo showing the smoke plume from a cruise ship in dock in Southampton. The city has a diverse series of pollution sources that make mitigation a challenge that can be solved by the technical innovation offered by this project.

Project 2. Forams in the laser sights – getting the most out of laser ablation ICPMS analysis of planktic foraminifera (more info here)

Foraminifera are the preferred archive of past climate change. They secrete their shells from CaCO3 and different species live throughout the water column, allowing for detailed reconstructions of the past ocean. They live for around 4 weeks and when they die their shells accumulate on sea floor where they form a major component of deep ocean sediments. The standard way to analyse foraminifera is to aggregate 10-100 individuals, but this averages over time and obscures individual level variability in life cycle (and environment). Laser ablation approaches allow us to analyse individual chambers of the shells potentially providing environmental reconstruction at a much finer granularity. This project will couple standard laser ablation approaches with our new time of flight inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (TOF-ICPMS). This will allow us to unpick environmental from physiological signals with unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution. This work is closely associated with the NERC-funded multidisciplinary project PISTON (here)

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Project 3. Novel microprobes for the geochemical gradients in diffusive boundary layers around marine calcifiers (here for more info)

Marine organisms, like corals and foraminifera, sense their environment through micron-scale diffusive boundary layers (DBL). Changes in external environment (temperature, pH, water chemistry) influence key physiological processes that determine O2 and pH gradients in the diffusive boundary layer around living organisms. The sensitivity of these processes in turn governs the impact of environmental changes on the organism, potentially offering a source of understudied resilience to climate change, but also influencing how environmental signals are encoded in the skeletons of many marine organisms as proxies of past climate (e.g. boron isotopes).  This project will develop new robust and accurate microelectrodes to study the microenvironment around living foraminifera in unprecedented detail.  This will allow us to gain unique insights into how future climate change will impact calcification in foraminifera and provide new constraints on the cause of proxy “vital effects”. This will is closely associated with the NERC funded SWEET grant (here)

Orbulina Universa being probed with microelectrodes

Orbulina Universa being probed with microelectrodes

The microenvironment around a foraminfera being probed

The microenvironment around a foraminfera being probed