Environmental monitoring

Environmental pollution

This research theme is one of our Translational Research topics.​ Offered by The School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences, you will join a thriving postgraduate research programme, with more than 30 doctoral students currently undertaking innovative research within the School.

MRes | MPhil | PhD
Start Date
February and October
From plastic bottles to electrodes: fabrication of electrochemical biosensors for determination of phenolic compounds

Contacts: Dr Carlos Fernandez , Professor Paul KongDr Bruce Petrie 

The polyphenolic compounds of interest, bisphenol A (BPA) and its analogue bisphenol S (BPS) are mainly used in the plastic industry to manufacture baby bottles and beverage containers. They are generally used in the manufacture of polycarbonates, epoxy resins and unsaturated polystyrene resins. There is a growing concern in the public and scientific community about these organic compounds due to their endocrine disrupting activity and negative toxic impact on the wildlife. This has encouraged scientists to embark on research to find a sensitive and selective technique that will determine this organic compound’s presence even in trace amounts. The main focus of this study was to develop a sensitive and selective electrochemical (EC) and photo electrochemical (PEC) sensor to detect the phenolic compounds, BPA and BPS respectively.

Sustainable filter materials for microplastics and nanoplastics in wastewater

Contacts: Dr Carlos Fernandez , Dr Bruce PetrieProfessor Linda A Lawton

Microplastics (MPs) and nanoplastics (NPs) are a global health concern with wastewater discharges being an important environmental source. Therefore, new treatment methods need developed for their removal from wastewater. These must be low energy and utilise sustainable materials to avoid causing an alternative environmental burden. Sustainable materials such as biochar can effectively remove MPs from water. However, work is needed to make them suitable for wastewater applications. This project will (i) develop novel methods to easily measure MPs/NPs in wastewater, (ii) develop and evaluate sustainable filter materials for plastics retention, and (iii) design and validate pilot-scale treatment systems for MPs/NPs.

Environmental fate of chiral emerging pollutants

Contact: Dr Bruce Petrie 

Emerging pollutants such as pharmaceuticals, illicit drugs, pesticides and personal care products pose a threat to water quality globally. Many pollutants are chiral and exist as two or more enantiomers, differing in their fate and toxicity. Most environmental research to date does not distinguish between different enantiomers leading to uncertainties in the risk posed. The purpose of the research is to (i) establish new methods to measure chiral pollutants using hyphenated techniques (chiral liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry), (ii) assess the fate of these pollutants in laboratory microcosm studies, and (iii) perform field monitoring studies and undertake environmental risk assessment.

Advanced water treatment for removal of micropollutants and microbes

Contacts: Professor Linda A Lawton l.lawton@rgu.ac.uk; Professor Christine Edwards c.edwards@rgu.ac.uk

This research could include treatment of freshwater in situ or in treatment plants using advanced oxidative techniques. We have a specific interest in photocatalytic treatment particularly exploiting either low energy LEDs or natural solar illumination. Removal of microbes could investigate elimination of pathogens in drinking water or in aquaculture. We also have a significant interest in the removal of hazardous cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) and the toxins they produce.


Detection of toxins in water and food

Contacts: Professor Linda A Lawton,  Professor Christine Edwards

Cyanotoxins are of increasing concern worldwide, particularly due to eutrophication and climate change. While a number of the toxins are regulated through WHO published guideline there is still a requirement for simple low cost monitoring. These can be developed through the use of antibodies with the aim to develop multi-toxin methods in low cost formats which could promote ‘Citizen Science’. Analysis of toxins in water have received a lot of attention, however, poor recovery is often found when trying to detect toxins in food, e.g. fish, shellfish, rice etc. Different extractions, digestion and analysis need to be explored in depth to provide a widely adopted standard method.

The impact of microplastics in the environment and human food-chain

Contacts: Professor Linda A Lawton,  Professor Christine Edwards

There is increasing interest in the occurrence and effect of microplastics on human health and the natural world. Our particular interest lies in understanding the adsorption of natural toxins and micropollutants on to microplastics. This work will use advanced analysis to characterise microplastics, quantify micropollutants and elucidate methods to monitor microplastics in water and sediments. The work could include evaluation of the persistence (biodegradation) of micropollutant and toxins when adsorbed to microplastics compared to when freely dissolved in water.

Facilities for Researchers

If you decide to undertake research in one of these opportunities you will have access to state-of-the-art research facilities and receive support from experienced and dedicated staff.

All research students have dedicated space in our Research Hub, which is a self-contained space for you to work and socialise. Training in transferable skills is provided by a university-wide PG Cert in Researcher Development, which all students must complete, as well as a range of on-going research skills workshops. In addition, the School has several research events to aid your development, including external speakers at research seminars; student research seminars; and the annual School Research Day, where staff and students present their work.

All of our research students are provided with financial support for consumables and are funded to attend conferences. In addition, instances to enhance your curriculum vitae and transferable skills are provided via teaching and class demonstrating opportunities on our taught courses, as well as participating in public engagement activities within local schools and Aberdeen Science Centre.




Normal entry requirements are a first or upper second class honours degree from a University of the United Kingdom, or from an overseas University, or degree equivalent qualification, subject to the approval of Robert Gordon University.

Applicants holding qualifications other than those detailed shall be considered on their merits and in relation to the nature and scope of the proposed research programme. Applicants will normally register for an MSc/PhD or MRes/PhD with transfer to PhD dependent on satisfactory progress.

English Language

Any applicant whose first language or language of previous University-level instruction is not English must normally demonstrate competence in English. This should be a score of IELTS 6.5 or equivalent.

We accept a variety of in-country and secure English language tests, find out more:

English Language requirements

Our Pre-Sessional English Programme (PSP) is available for students who have not yet reached the required English level and those who would like to improve their language competency.

Pre-Sessional English Programme at RGU

Please note, some courses may require a higher standard of English than stated in this page. Contact admissions@rgu.ac.uk for further information.


For Academic Year 2022/2023


  • Full time - £4,596 per academic year
  • Part time MPhil/PhD - £2,760 per academic year
  • Part time MRes/MSc by research - £2,298 per academic year


  • Full time - £17,000 per academic year
  • Part time MPhil/PhD - £10,200 per academic year
  • Part time MRes/MSc by research - £8,500 per academic year

Additional Costs

The following course-related costs are not included in the course fees:


Alumni Discount

Robert Gordon University is delighted to offer a 20% loyalty discount on course fees for all alumni who have graduated from RGU.


Student Funding

Postgraduate students will normally make their own arrangements for payment of fees. However, there are a limited number of SAAS funded places on certain postgraduate courses.
There are also sources of funding that are applicable to categories of student.


Scholarships and Financial Awards

You may also qualify for a scholarship or financial award:



For new intakes course fees are reviewed and published annually for each mode of delivery. Tuition fees are fixed for the duration of a course at the rate confirmed in the offer letter.  For further information see:

Student Finance


All applications should be made via the University's online application for research students:

Application Deadlines
  • 31 May – October entry
  • 30 September – February entry
Completed application forms should be accompanied by:
  • Two academic references
  • A transcript or mark sheet for all graduate qualifications
  • A draft research proposal, or at least a short summary to indicate the potential area of research (Refer to Section 8 of the Application Form)

For applicants whose first language or language of university education is not English, applications must include:

  • Certificate of English language competency score of IELTS 6.5 in each of the four test components (Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking).
  • Students who can demonstrate successful completion of tertiary (university or college) studies in a country whose national language is English, may be exempted from this requirement.


If you wish to know more about the opportunities to study for your research degree within the School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences, contact the PaLs Research Degrees Coordinator:


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