PhD Studentship in Comparative Chemical Mapping of Plant-Soil Interaction University of Southampton, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment

PhD Studentship: Comparative chemical mapping of plant-soil interaction


Bioengineering Group


Location: Highfield Campus

Closing Date: Friday 19 January 2018

Reference: 530715BX

Project Reference: EngSci-BIO-132

Project Themes: Bioengineering and Human Factors, Energy and Climate Change, Geomechanics & Environmental, Geotechnics, Water and Environment.

All the food humans eat comes directly or indirectly from plants. It is thus of great importance to understand the fundamentals of how plants grow and interact with the environment. Human life and health hinge on the physical, chemical and biological processes taking place where plant roots make contact with soil. We are seeking a PhD student to investigate the dynamics of essential nutrient uptake by plants through the development and application of novel chemical sensing and mapping technologies. In particular, we are looking to compare in vivo and ex vivo plant/soil systems using X-ray fluorescence surface mapping (XRF), energy dispersive X-ray mapping (SEM-EDX), and soil solution analysis (using microdialysis probes and mass spectroscopy). The project will develop application of the technologies, calibrate the methods, and then integrate the resulting data into a mathematical modelling framework that will be developed alongside this work.


Southampton has world-class facilities for this work. At the National Oceanography Centre Southampton (NOCS) we have facilities for the bulk micro-beam and in situ measurement of elemental concentrations and isotopic (stable, metal, radiogenic) compositions of environment samples (including soils, rocks, fluids, gases, tissue, organic materials, and atmospheric particles). These analytical instruments are coupled with excellent sample preparation facilities. Scanning electron microscopes with energy dispersive and wavelength dispersive X-ray detection (e.g., Leo 1450VP SEM with PGT EDS detector)provide major and high concentration elemental mapping coupled with textural analysis. An EDAX Eagle III micro-X-ray fluorescence spectrometer provides high resolution (~40 µm and below) mapping of major and trace element concentrations for samples up to 15 cm across. Soil solution chemical analysis facilities includeThemoFisher Xseries2 Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometers (ICP-MS) and ThermoFisher Element II ICP-MS for higher sensitivity analysis, and ThermoElemental XSeriesAtomic Emission ICP.


If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Tiina Roose of Bioengineering Sciences Research Group, Email: or Sam Keyes, Email:


To apply please use the following link and select Faculty of Engineering and the Environment.

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