Postgraduate funded opportunities

How environmental contaminants affect the reproductive systems

To celebrate the University of Hull's research successes, the University of Hull is offering a full-time UK/EU PhD Scholarship or International Fees Bursary for candidates applying the following project.




Project description

Emerging evidence suggests that high occupational or ambient residential exposure to environmental contaminants affects the reproductive systems of men and women, impacting on embryonic development and increasing aggressive cancer risk. Examples of this human toxicity include exposure to phthalates, neonicotinoids, dioxins, epoxy resin, the plastics agent bisphenol A, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons consumed as part of cooked-meat diets and organophosphates/organochlorines used in agricultural pesticides.

The aim of this project is to compare the way in which exposure to these environmental contaminants can modify epithelial cells of the male and female reproductive systems leading to reproductive dysfunction and predisposition to increased aggressive cancer risk.

The student will use novel three-dimensional epithelial cell models developed in Hull and state-of-the-art high-content fluorescent and live-cell microscopy to catalogue the molecular and cellular changes associated with female/male reproductive organs following acute/chronic exposure to known and emerging environmental contaminants. Furthermore, the phenotype of these crucial epithelia will be explored using biochemical, bioanalytical and molecular approaches. The impact of altered epithelial physiology on gametes and early embryos will also be explored.

The data generated in this project will inform our understanding about the role of environmental contaminants in changing the physiology of reproductive organs, including the window between fertilisation and blastocyst formation during development when embryos are ‘totipotent’ and the transition of adult glandular epithelia to an aggressive metastatic state.

Recommended reading

Johansson et al 2017 Nature Reviews in Endocrinology 13:400-14; Silva et al 2016 Reviews in Environmental Health 31:311-27; Simintiras et al 2017 Reproduction 153:23-33; Simintiras & Sturmey 2017 Reproductive Toxicology 71:63-70; Rodriguez-Teja et al 2016 Journal of Visualised Experiments 115:e54230; Rodriguez-Teja et al 2016 Journal of Pathology 235:581-92

Applicants should have at least a 2.1 undergraduate degree in a relevant scientific area, or related discipline, together with relevant research experience. It is anticipated that the successful applicant will have a 1st class undergraduate degree or Masters level qualification.

How to apply

To apply for this Scholarship, please apply through the University of York online application system and choose 2018 October, full-time.


Full-time UK/EU PhD Scholarships will include fees at the ‘home/EU' student rate and maintenance (£14,553 in 2017/18) for three years, depending on satisfactory progress.

Full-time International Fee PhD Studentships will include full fees at the International student rate for three years, dependent on satisfactory progress.

PhD students at the University of Hull follow modules for research and transferable skills development and gain a Masters Level Certificate, or Diploma, in Research Training, in addition to their research degree.