How Emerging Environmental Contaminants Affect the Airways

About this project

The focus of this interdisciplinary project is to identify how emerging environmental contaminants impact human health. Exposure to environmental contaminants can impact upon the earliest stages of embryonic development in ways that may predispose the offspring to key health threats and perhaps increase susceptibility to subsequent environmental exposures. Later life exposures, for example to air pollutants, can have negative impacts on human health, ranging from a decreased quality of life caused by the exacerbation of respiratory illnesses such as asthma to early death resulting from an increased risk of cancer

Working as part of a dedicated team, we will explore, the impact of environmental contaminants on early human development, identifying the key molecular and cellular changes induced following exposures. The implications of the key molecular and cellular changes identified in the evolution of adult diseases of the lungs, female reproductive tract and prostate gland will be investigated. Transgenerational exposure in different countries will be modelled to help understand the long-term impact of environmental contaminants on human health. 

How emerging environmental contaminants affect the airways

Environmental pollutants such as diesel exhaust particulates, ozone and cigarette smoke can contribute to the development, exacerbation and progression of respiratory pathologies, including asthma, chronic cough, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), fibrosis and cancer. Emerging environmental contaminants include the ultrafine particles present in 3D printer dust, nanoparticles associated with the growth of nanotechnology and microplastics released by cosmetics and clothing. The aim of this project is to identify how emerging environmental contaminants aberrantly affect the airways. This will ensure that we have a clear and pre-emptive understanding about how respiratory diseases evolve and progress. The student will apply a novel model of the human airways recently developed in Hull and measure changes in airway tone, secreted proteins and gene/protein expression caused by acute/chronic exposure to known and emerging environmental contaminants. The data generated will help to identify the molecular and cellular mechanisms that link emerging environmental contaminants to the development, exacerbation and progression of chronic lung diseases in exposed and susceptible individuals.

Recommended reading: Toskala & Kennedy 2015 International Forum on Allergy and Rhinology 5:S11-6; Gatford et al 2017 J Reprod Immunol 123:88-93.


You are strongly advised to contact a potential supervisor and to discuss your research proposal, well before you submit an application. Please refer to the Health research pages.

If you have any queries, please email Professor Jeanette Rotchell.

Next steps


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

Entry requirements

Applicants must have at least a 2.1 undergraduate degree in a relevant scientific area, together with relevant research experience, and should explain why they feel their experience is relevant when preparing their application. It is anticipated that the successful applicant will have a 1st class undergraduate degree and/or Masters level qualification. 

How to apply

Applications for scholarship consideration at the University of Hull should be made through the Hull York Medical School postgraduate application system.

Please select PhD in Medical Sciences with a start date of “2018 October, full time” and quote the specific project title you wish to apply for. 

Applicants are strongly encouraged to first identify and contact a potential supervisor. 

Apply now

Application deadline: Friday 13 July


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.