University of Reading

Exploring the impact of microplastic-bacterial complexes on animal health and the gut microbiome

Deadline: Open all year round
Self Funded

Project Description

Plastic pollution is a global issue and rapidly emerging as a crisis for both environmental and human health. Exposure to microplastics (MPs) impacts every level of the food chain with MP ingestion causing alteration of feeding activity, decreased food assimilation, stunted animal growth with negative impacts on fertility and reproduction. Perturbation of the gut microbiota, which strongly influences host health, by MP ingestion is an increasing concern with direct impacts on the health of wildlife, livestock and humans. Currently there is limited information on how MPs interact with different bacterial species and how bacteria-MP complexes influence animal health.

The aim of this project is to fill an important gap in understanding interactions between the environmental microplastic pollutants and microbial communities of the soil and of the gut of animal species and humans. We propose to build a simple model for investigating these interactions using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, which possesses a high level of conservation of tissue and cellular function and behavioural responses with higher eukaryotes including humans.

This project represents a uniquely diverse training opportunity as the successful candidate will experience and learn various complementary research techniques. The candidate will develop a cross-disciplinary approach towards studying the adverse effects of microplastic ingestion on the terrestrial ecosystem, and the gut microbiota of animals, that form interlinked relationships within agricultural food production. They will develop a greater understanding and gain practical skills in research methodologies of the soil bacteria and bacterivore species, develop advanced molecular biology, physiology, molecular ecology and microbiological skills, with an insight into biomedical sciences.

Funding Information

We welcome applications from self-funded students worldwide for this project.

If you are applying to an international funding scheme, we encourage you to get in contact as we may be able to support you in your application.

Eligibility Requirements

Applicants should have a minimum of a UK Upper Second (2:1) undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in Biology or a strongly-related discipline. Applicants will also need to meet the University’s English Language requirements. We offer pre-sessional courses that can help with meeting these requirements.

Application Process

Submit an application for a PhD in Biological Sciences at

Further information here.

Enquiries: Dr. Eva Kevei, email: [email protected]

Please see Dr Kevei’s profile: Dr Eva Kevei – University of Reading

Supplementary Information

Kevei group

The Kevei group is focusing on investigating ageing and ageing related diseases using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans model organism and cellular models. The research group is currently composed of 3-4 PhD students and post-doctoral scientists, plus Masters and undergraduate students and benefits from the collaborative research environment of the University of Reading Agriculture, Food and Health theme and from UK-based and international collaborations.

Barrett Group

The Barrett group, with 4 current PhD students, focuses on environmental microbiology and plant pathology at the University of Reading. Recent research addresses the role of woodland birds in the transmission and control of tree disasters.


1. Kevei É, Pokrzywa W, Hoppe T. (2017) Repair or destruction-an intimate liaison between ubiquitin ligases and molecular chaperones in proteostasis. FEBS Lett. 2017 Sep;591(17):2616-2635. doi: 10.1002/1873-3468.12750.

2. Tawo, R., Pokrzywa, W., Kevei, E., Akyuz, M. E., Balaji, V., Adrian, S., Hohfeld, J. & Hoppe, T. (2017) The Ubiquitin Ligase CHIP Integrates Proteostasis and Aging by Regulation of Insulin Receptor Turnover, Cell. 169, 470-482.

3. Edwards-Gayle, C. J. C., Barrett, G., Roy, S., Castelletto, V., Seitsonen, J., Ruokolainen, J. and Hamley, I. W. (2020) Selective antibacterial activity and lipid membrane interactions of arginine-rich amphiphilic peptides. ACS Applied Bio Materials, 3 (2). pp. 1165-1175.
Please see Dr Kevei’s profile:

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