Bioaugmentation in water/wastewater treatment to enhance the removal of micropollutants

Website unisouthampton University of Southampton

Last Day to Apply: 31 August 2024

About the project
In this project, you will investigate the key microorganisms enabling the breakdown of toxic and recalcitrant organic compounds and develop an effective bioaugmentation approach to manipulate the microbial community to enhance the biological removal of micropollutants.
Emerging micropollutants, encompassing a spectrum from pharmaceutical residues and personal care products to industrial chemicals, have been found in water sources worldwide. Their health effects and environmental impact are evident. As these pollutants persist and accumulate, addressing the multifaceted challenges they present has become imperative to safeguard both human well-being and the integrity of our natural environment.

Currently, no water or wastewater treatment plants are designed to target micropollutants, resulting in the presence of persistent micropollutants in water bodies. For example, the identification of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in breast milk and blood is a matter of considerable concern due to its profound implications for public health. Therefore, removing micropollutants from water is imperative along with the expected more stringent regulations on micropollutants.

Bioaugmentation, employing microorganisms to remove micropollutants, emerges as a promising and environmentally sustainable approach. Microorganisms possess inherent capabilities to degrade a wide array of pollutants, making them effective agents in water/wastewater treatment. In bioaugmentation, specific strains of microorganisms are intentionally introduced into microbial communities to enhance their capacity to break down recalcitrant compounds.

When necessary, it is also expected that physical or chemical treatment could be integrated to further improve the removal efficiency of micropollutants. In the project, you will be trained to set up and operate bioreactors for wastewater treatment, do analysis of both sludge and water by using various analytical instruments, and conduct bioinformatic analysis.

Candidates with high motivation and degrees in environmental engineering, bioengineering, chemical engineering, microbiology, or other relevant backgrounds are preferred.

You will be part of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)-funded project and closely work with a postdoc.

Lead supervisor
Dr Yongqiang Liu
Associate Professor
Research interests
Municipal and industrial wastewater treatment
Anaerobic digestion

Entry requirements
You must have a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent in:

  • environmental engineering
  • bioengineering
  • chemical engineering
  • microbiology
  • or other relevant backgrounds

Fees and funding
We offer a range of funding opportunities for both UK and international students, including bursaries and scholarships.

To learn about funding opportunities visit our Doctoral College scholarships and bursaries information.

Funding is awarded on a rolling basis. Apply early for the best opportunity to be considered.

How to apply
You need to:

  • choose programme type (Research), 2024/25, Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences
  • next page choose “PhD Engineering & Environment (Full time)”

in section 2 of the application form you should insert the name of the supervisor Yongqiang Liu

Applications should include:

  • research proposal
  • your CV (resumé)
  • 2 reference letters
  • degree transcripts/certificates to date

To apply for this job please visit

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