Funded PhD position

Treatment Technology for Nutrient Reduction in Agricultural Drainage Networks

Applications are sought for a fully-funded four-year PhD position to work on the project Treatment Technology for Nutrient Reduction in Agricultural Drainage Networks under the supervision of Dr David O'Connell. Seasonal changes in plant growth, biomass and microbial growth will limit the all year around effectiveness of Vegetative buffer strips (VBS) to protect agricultural catchment streams from nutrient laden surface water runoff, hence it is important to consider the integration of passive in-channel end treatment technologies to achieve optimum results. This project will focus on practical end-treatment technologies. These systems have some intrinsic drawbacks which limit their application including long hydraulic retention time (HRT), a large footprint, and substrate clogging. This PhD project will focus on the design and develop of passive in-channel technologies to augment the nutrient mitigation capacity of VBSs. The project will include but not be limited to studies on the capability of different materials to sorb nutrients, design and develop reactor systems, investigate, assess and optimize the microbial function of the system for it to be applied at the pilot scale. The candidate will be expected to produce research suitable for publication in leading peer reviewed journals.

This award provides a unique opportunity for a doctoral student to pursue interdisciplinary research in the thriving intellectual community at Trinity College Dublin. Based in the School of Engineering and enrolled in the Structured PhD Programme, the PhD student work closely with the other researchers involved in NuReCycle.

NuReCycle is interdisciplinary project that explores factors driving diffuse water pollution from agricultural sources in Ireland and seeks to develop integrated nutrient control, recovery and recycling systems. The project is generously funded by a Kinsella Challenge-based E3 Multi-disciplinary Project Award. The start date for this position is 1st March 2022.


Applications should be sent by email to (tbc) by 30th November 2021.

Applications should be submitted within a single PDF document that includes a CV with educational history, transcripts of degree results, a short (1-2 page) letter of motivation and contact details for 2 referees. The motivation letter should clearly state how the applicant's research interests and skills relate to the research project outlined above. Applications will not be considered complete until referees have submitted their references. If the successful candidate does not have English as a first language, they will also be required to submit evidence of English language competence at this stage.

Trinity College Dublin is committed to policies, procedures and practices which do not discriminate on grounds such as gender, civil status, family status, age, disability, race, religious belief, sexual orientation or membership of the travelling community. On that basis we encourage and welcome talented people from all backgrounds to join our staff and student body. Trinity's Diversity Statement can be viewed in full at

We are looking for applicants with the following qualifications:


  • A first-class (or equivalent) or 2:1 hons undergraduate degree in Environmental or Process Engineering or another discipline directly relevant to the topic.
  • Strong skills in water treatment laboratory, bench scale and pilot scale studies.
  • Ability to work and drive to field locations (ability to drive in Ireland, and/or complete license exam by start of PhD position).
  • Excellent communicative competence in English
  • Excellent research and organisational skills
  • Be a self-directed individual with initiative and able to work in a collaborative, structured environment.


  • A Master's degree (completed or in progress) in environmental, chemical or process engineering
  • Demonstrable experience of pursuing water research, familiarity with water analysis, wastewater process design, laboratory and pilot scale systems, materials analysis techniques and a distinct openness towards interdisciplinary collaboration
  • Willingness to contribute to the activities of the School of Engineering.

Further enquiries:

Dr David O'Connell (

posted: 11 October 2021     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.