Research Associate, Physiologically Anchored Tools for Realistic NanomateriaL Hazard Assessment

Edinburgh, United Kingdom
05 Jul 2018
End of advertisement period
07 Aug 2018
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Heriot-Watt University has five campuses: three in the UK (Edinburgh, Scottish Borders and Orkney), one in Dubai and one in Malaysia. The University offers a highly distinctive range of degree programmes in the specialist areas of science, engineering, design, business and languages.

With a history dating back to 1821, Heriot-Watt University has established a reputation for world-class teaching and practical, leading-edge research, which has made it one of the top UK universities for business and industry. We connect with industry at every level and develop programmes to match their needs – so employers get work-ready industry-fit graduates.

Heriot-Watt is also Scotland's most international university, boasting the largest international student cohort.

We have an established set of values that help us to nurture innovation and leadership, and show our commitment to continuous improvement and development in all our activities.

For full details on our University please view our Careers at Heriot-Watt http://www.hw.ac.uk/about/careers-at-heriot-watt.htm

About our Team          

The School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society

The School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society is one of the UK's leading institutions for multidisciplinary research and teaching in areas critical to economic development and societal equity. We aim to attain excellence in the teaching of the core disciplines that contribute to a sustainable, resource and energy efficient society and are committed to undertaking high value, high impact research and knowledge transfer in topics of relevance to global challenges.  

The School enjoys facilities consistent with its location in modern, purpose-built accommodation on the Edinburgh campus. The School is well-equipped in respect of laboratories for materials, structures, engineering, building services and hydraulics research and teaching. Our research and teaching facilities in Dubai and Malaysia are contained within purpose-built campuses in Dubai Academic City and Putrjaya, respectively.  

Further information can be obtained at: https://www.hw.ac.uk/schools/energy-geoscience-infrastructure-society.htm  

Nano Safety Research Group

Professor Ted Henry and Professor Teresa Fernandes work in the Institute of Life and Earth Sciences at Heriot-Watt University and are both members of the Nano Safety Research Group at Heriot-Watt University (www.nano.hw.ac.uk).  The Nano Safety Research Group focuses on assessing the toxicity of engineered nanomaterials, particles and environmental pollution, both to human health and to the environment.   

For studies investigating the ecotoxicology of nanomaterials, the NanoSafety Group is interested in understanding the environmental fate, bioavailability, and toxicology of these materials and substances that are associated with them. Ecotoxicology focuses on aquatic organisms from most trophic levels and research addresses effects at all levels of biological organization.  In addition to environmental protection, work within the ecotoxicology section of the Nano Safety Research Group also informs on human health aspects by use of model species (e.g., zebrafish) and investigation of shared toxicological pathways.  Experimentation with nanomaterials integrates with aligned projects that investigate behaviour and effects of other anthropogenic particles such as micro and nano plastics (https://epaquatic.org/).        

Detailed Description            

The successful candidate will be taking a leading role in the newly funded European Project PATROLS.  PATROLS is a 7 Million Euro project with 27 partners. The goal of PATROLS is to develop advanced models, as alternatives to animal testing, that are suitable for the toxicity testing of nanomaterials.    

Nanomaterials (NMs) (materials with at least one dimension between 1 and 100nm) often exhibit novel properties compared to larger forms of the same material. Such properties have led to increased use of NMs into a diverse array of products (e.g. pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, textiles, food, electronics). In fact, NMs are available in a wide variety of physico-chemical properties such as size (and surface area), morphology, charge, and surface coating, all of which can influence their properties, but also their toxicity. Due to the extensive use of NMs, much work has been invested in understanding which characteristics might infer such toxicity. The large number of NMs makes traditional regulatory toxicity testing, via animals, too expensive and ethically inappropriate. For this reason, advanced alternative cell based models are required that can accurately reflect the responses of tissues to NM exposure.  PATROLS will establish and standardise a battery of innovative, next generation physiologically anchored, hazard assessment tools that accurately predict adverse effects caused by long-term (chronic), low dose NM exposure in human and environmental systems to support regulatory risk decision making. PATROLS will advance the current state-of-the-art by aiming to deliver: 1) more realistic and predictive, in vitro three dimensional (3D) lung, gastrointestinal tract (GIT) and liver models for mechanism-based hazard assessment; 2) cross-species models linking human and environmental systems; 3) innovative methods for sub-lethal hazard endpoints in ecologically relevant test systems and organisms, selected according to their position in the food chain; 4) robust in silico methods for exposure and dosimetry modelling, as well as hazard prediction.

We are looking for a highly motivated Research Associate to conduct ecotoxicology research with various model organisms and with the zebrafish model in particular.  A priority for this project is to build connections between ecotoxicology research and human health research with the zebrafish model serving as a centrepiece. We are looking for a candidate who is keen to interact and collaborate internationally as the project involves 27 institutions across Europe, USA and Canada.

This research project is funded by a European Commission Horizon 2020 grant.         

Key duties and responsibilities          

The post holder will be required to undertake the following:

  • Conduct ecotoxicity tests with model organisms (including zebrafish, daphnia, algae) 
  • Play a key role in the development of zebrafish as a cross-species model to integrate environmental and human health nanotoxicology research including the following aspects:
  • Progress research on the dietary toxicology of nanomaterials to investigate effects on gut microbiota, gut physiology, and consequent effects on zebrafish immune system function
  • Investigate whether toxicology results of in vivo nanomaterial exposure are consistent with in vitro models including 3D models of the gastrointestinal tract and 3D liver cell line spheroids
  • Analyse and interpret the results of their own research and generate original ideas based on outcomes 
  • Write research reports and peer-reviewed scientific publications 
  • Present research findings at seminars at Heriot-Watt University, and national and international conferences  
  • Contribute to outreach activities with school children 

Education, qualifications and experience          

Essential Criteria

  • BSc (at least 2:1) and PhD degrees a relevant subject area, e.g. toxicology, eco/environmental toxicology, pharmacology, cell biology, biomedical sciences, biochemistry.
  • Ability to perform literature searches and write literature reviews (including a critical appraisal of the literature)
  • Experience of designing experiments, problem solving, performing data analysis and interpretation and conducting appropriate statistical analyses 
  • Previous laboratory experience of at least three of the following: ecotoxicology with model organisms; zebrafish; working with nanomaterials; molecular biology-based research activities (e.g. biochemical assays, PCR, MiSeq); histopathology; microscopy (e.g. confocal, TEM, SEM).
  • Ability to formulate and progress work on their own initiative and to work independently 
  • Theoretical understanding of the experimental techniques relevant to the project
  • Experience of protocol development and optimisation 
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills including the ability to articulate research findings, both in writing (e.g. reports, publications) and by oral presentation (e.g. seminars, conferences)
  • Evidence of ability to work as part of a team 
  • Experience of working with Microsoft Office
  • Use of specialised software for data analysis (e.g. GraphPad Prism, Minitab, SPSS, R)

Desirable Criteria

  • Experience of working with zebrafish including transgenic lines.

How To Apply          

Applications can be submitted up to midnight (UK time) on 7 August 2018.

Informal enquiries regarding this positions should be directed to Professor Ted Henry - T.Henry@hw.ac.uk

Use our total rewards calculator to see the value of benefits provided by Heriot-Watt University.