Quantifying the risk of exposure to microplastics in meat and farm animals in the UK

This project will explore the risk of exposure to microplastics from farm animals and meats sold in the UK.

Start date



3 years

Application deadline


Funding source

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey

Funding information

Funding will cover University tuition fees at the UK rate for three years and a stipend for three years at RCUK levels (£15,000 per year). The PhD studentship is expected to commence in July 2022.


Despite only being produced for around 70 years, the huge production of plastics and the lack of their disposal has led to pollution in the environment. A large concern is the resulting microplastic (plastic particles <5mm in size) contamination seen in marine animals, water, foodstuffs and even the human body. Such bioaccumulation is of great concern to the consumer, as potential human health risks may be associated with microplastic ingestion. However, to date, little work has been done to investigate the extent of microplastics in farm animals and meat products. This exciting fully funded PhD studentship opportunity aims to explore the burden of microplastic pollution in meat products sold in the UK for consumption.

The focus of this PhD is to progress our understanding of the different pathways by which microplastics reach farm animals and meats, and to quantify and model the risk of exposure to the consumer. To achieve this, the successful candidate will be involved in a multidisciplinary supervisory team that combines a broad range of expertise, including veterinarians, modellers, experts in radiolabelling, analytical and synthesis chemistry and will provide mentoring in research and technology transfer, as well as impact generation.

The study will be ecological in nature, but will provide you with an extensive training in spectroscopy techniques making use of extensive facilities at the University of Surrey, including Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) spectroscopy, plus relevant field visits.

We are keen for the candidate to develop their own ideas within this research area. These ideas can be summarised in the one-page research proposal which forms part of the application.

The project will provide the student with a valuable opportunity to interact and work with international partners, gain field experience, and appreciate the local contexts while working together with colleagues to create real world impact. 

Eligibility criteria

This is an interdisciplinary project cutting across the disciplines of contaminants of emerging concerns (CECs) in environmental interface compartment such as chemistry/biology, food farming and meat production, and public health.

Applicants with a degree in biomedical sciences, chemistry or related subjects are welcomed if they have a strong interest in food safety, animal health or human health sciences. Public health, medical and veterinary graduates are encouraged to apply. A master’s degree or equivalent research experience in a related subject is desirable. Experience in meat production, farming or epidemiological approaches is useful but not essential.

English language requirements 

IELTS Academic overall score of 6.5 or above (or equivalent qualification from other agencies) with 6.0 in each individual category.


How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the on the "Apply" tab. Please clearly state the studentship title and supervisor on your application.

Please apply for this PhD through the Veterinary Medicine and Science programme page (click on the “Apply” tab).

Applicants are requested to provide a personal statement or cover letter speaking to their interest and ability to undertake PhD studies, and to provide at least two reference letters from previous academic supervisors or employers.

Interested applicants are encouraged to contact Dr. Iñaki Deza-Cruz to discuss the project informally prior to making an application.

Studentship FAQs

Read our studentship FAQs to find out more about applying and funding.

Contact details

Iñaki Deza-Cruz
E-mail: i.deza-cruz@surrey.ac.uk
Maya Al Sid Cheikh
37 AZ 03
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 686844
E-mail: m.alsidcheikh@surrey.ac.uk


Dr Inaki Deza-Cruz (DVM, PhD, DipACVPM, MRCVS), Lecturer in Veterinary Public health, Department of Veterinary Epidemiology and Public Health, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Surrey.  Dr Inaki Deza-Cruz | University of Surrey

Maya Al Sid Cheikh (PhD), Lecturer in Analytical Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Surrey. About me | Mayaalsidcheikh


Studentships at Surrey

We have a wide range of studentship opportunities available.