CENTA PhD Studentships

Qualification: PhD

Departments: School of Chemistry Genetics Geography Geology School of Physics and Astronomy

Application deadline: 12 noon 10th January 2020. Interviews w/c 3rd February 2020

Start date: 28th September 2020


The Central England NERC Training Alliance is a partnership involving the Universities of Birmingham, Leicester, Loughborough, Warwick, Cranfield, and the Open University, together with the British Geological Survey and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. CENTA has been awarded £4.9 million from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) which, with additional support from the partners, will fund around 120 PhD studentships over five years, training the next generation of Environmental and Earth Scientists.

CENTA has now entered is second phase "CENTA2", with increased funding and studentships. 

The University of Leicester has expertise in a number of areas where the CENTA Partnership has particular research strength.  These are:

Climate and Environmental Sustainability: key areas of strength include pollutants in the atmosphere and aquatic environments, and satellite-based observations of the climate system.
Organisms and Ecosystems: key areas of strength include modern and ancient ecosystems, responses to environmental change, vertebrates (living and fossil), exceptional preservation of fossils and their evolutionary implications, microfossils and how they link to climate change studies, and hydrocarbon exploration.
Dynamic Earth: key areas of strength include magma dynamics, tectonic and Earth surface processes, rates and timescales of geological processes, palaeoenvironments and palaeoclimates, all underpinned by cross-cutting excellence in chemical analysis of rocks, fossils and geological processes.

As a CENTA student, you will belong to a consortium well-resourced to provide you with extensive training to give you confidence in all aspects of your research. The partnership draws together relevant expertise from a complementary set of research organisations to train scientists capable of making outstanding contributions to their discipline, and able to apply their knowledge to the challenges facing the UK economy, the quality of life of its citizens, and the state of the global environment.


See tab below for projects now available for September 2020 entry.

Doctoral training partnerships

Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) and Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) are multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional schemes designed to support the training of the next generation of world-class researchers. The University of Leicester is a lead partner in four DTPs/CDTs through which we can offer funded PhD studentships in a wide range of research areas. 

Studentships are available to highly motivated and qualified applicants and provide a generous support package usually including a full fee waiver, annual stipend, and research training support grant. Studentships are in most cases offered early in the year for October start. Enquiries outside of the main application periods are welcomed.



CENTA studentships are for 3.5 years and are funded by NERC. In addition to the full payment of your tuition fees, you will receive the following financial support:

  • Annual stipend, current set at £15,009 for 2019/0
  • Research training support grant (RTSG) of £8,000

Entry requirements

Entry requirements

  • Applicants must have or expect to obtain a first class or upper second class BSc and/or M-level degree (or an equivalent overseas qualification) in a relevant subject.
  • Applicants who hold a lower second class honours degree (or an equivalent overseas qualification) in a relevant subject may be considered for admission provided that they also hold a Masters degree in a relevant subject.
  • University of Leicester English language requirements apply as necessary.

Informal enquiries

Informal enquiries

Please forward your project and application enquiries to CENTA at Leicester centa@le.ac.uk

For general enquiries regarding the CENTA DTP see the CENTA website here

How to apply

How to apply

1. Download and complete the CENTA Studentship Application Form

2. Complete and submit your University PhD application using the Apply button at the bottom of the page for the subject area your project is based in. 

Guidelines for your PhD application:

  • Upload your completed CENTA Studentship Application Form to the ‘Research Proposal’ section
  • Upload your supporting documents (CV, degree transcripts and certificates, reference letters if already obtained).
  • Enter the names and contact details of referees in the space provided only if you have not uploaded reference letters, and we will contact your referees for you. Please be sure to let your referees know to expect a reference request from us. 
  • Include your CENTA project code in the project title tab in research proposal section. The project code can be found on the project listing on the tab below.
  • Personal statement - Prepare a personal statement, no longer than 500 words, outlining your interest in and suitability for the research project. Explain why you would like to work in this area, describe any relevant research experience (including any research projects that you have undertaken -as part of your degree, for example), and list any academic work you have published or which is currently in press awaiting publication.
  • Under the 'Funding Section' of the online application form select 'STUDENTSHIP' and in the drop down menu select 'NERC CENTA'.

If you are applying for projects in different Schools, please complete separate online PhD applications for each project using the appropriate Apply button at the bottom of the page and follow the above guidelines.

If you apply for more than one project in the same School, please submit one online PhD application with the first CENTA studentship application form uploaded and email the second CENTA studentship application form and a relevant personal statement to centa@le.ac.uk quoting your Leicester ID number.



  • Applications from UK and EU students only are welcome.
  • University English language requirements apply.
  • Mature students who do not hold the standard entry qualifications but who have relevant experience are encouraged to apply.
  • Applicants must be able to commence their studies in late September 2020

CENTA Projects for 2020/1

CENTA Projects for 2020/1


Supervisor: Professor Paul Monks
CENTA2-CHEM1-MON1  What is in the organic-rich shales and does it provide for a low-carbon transition?

Supervisor: Professor Paul Monks
CENTA2-CHEM2-MON2: Nitryl chloride chemistry and its role in the formation of air pollution

Supervisor: Dr Stephen Ball
CENTA2-CHEM3-BAL1: Atmospheric chemistry of oxidised nitrogen compounds and their role in air pollution

Supervisor: Dr Stephen Ball
CENTA2-CHEM4-BAL2: A seasonal study of chlorine’s tropospheric chemistry in Britain

Supervisor: Professor Andrew Abbott
CENTA2-CHEM5-ABBO: Process Design for Efficient Metal Extraction from Concentrates

Genetics and Genome Biology  -project descriptions to follow.

Supervisor: Dr Andrew Millard 
CENTA2-GENE1-MILL: Unravelling the novel bacteriophage diversity in tropical rain forests

Supervisor: Dr Moya Burns
CENTA2-GENE3-BURN: Climate change in the Peruvian Amazon: assessing and modelling the role of invertebrates in wood decay and carbon cycling under changing flood dynamics.

Supervisor: Dr Rob Hammond 
CENTA2-GENE4-HAMM: Conservation genomics of bumble bees

Supervisor: Dr Eamonn Mallon
CENTA2-GENE5-MAL: Imprinting and ploidy in a social insect

Physics and Astronomy

Supervisor: Professor Hartmut Boesch
CENTA2-PHYS1-BOES: Diagnosing the Urban Carbon Cycle with Earth Observation

Supervisor: Dr Eloise Marais
CENTA2-PHYS2-MARA1: Are Rockets the Next Air Pollution Frontier?

Supervisor: Dr Eloise Marais
CENTA2-PHYS3-MARA2: Eyes in the Sky on the Volatile Soup of Air Pollution Down Below

Supervisor: Professor Stephen Milan 
CENTA2-PHYS4-MILA: Investigations of atmospheric gravity waves with SuperDARN

Supervisor: Dr Joshua Vande Hey
CENTA2-PHYS5-VAND1: Smarter analysis of satellite data for air quality regulators

Supervisor: Dr Joshua Vande Hey
CENTA2-PHYS6-VAND2: A multi-observational approach to understanding urban air quality in Kenya

Supervisor: Dr Darren Wright
CENTA2-PHYS7-WRIG: Solar energy input from the Earth’s magnetosphere to its atmosphere

Supervisor: Professor Tim Yeoman
CENTA2-PHYS8-YEOM: Investigating space weather in the Ionosphere and Magnetosphere with induction coil magnetometer data

Supervisor: Dr Suzie Imber
CENTA2-PHYS9-IMBE: Geomagnetically Induced Currents generated by Space Weather Events

Supervisor: Dr Alessandro Battaglia
CENTA2-PHYS10-BATT1: Chasing convective storm evolution with swarms of space-borne Ka-band radars

Supervisor: Professor John Remedios
CENTA2-PHYS11-REME: Using Novel Earth Observation Sensors to Map Aerosol particles and Air Quality over Cities

National Centre for Earth Observation (NECO) 

Supervisor: Professor Heiko Balzter  (Geography)
CENTA2-NCEO5-BALZ:  Analysing forest aboveground carbon dynamics using dense time-series of satellite data and artificial intelligence

Supervisor: Dr Jeremy Harrison (Physics)
CENTA2-NCEO1-HARR1:  Towards improved weather forecasting via IASI satellite observations of carbon dioxide

Supervisor: Dr Jeremy Harrison (Physics)
CENTA2-NCEO2-HARR2:  The Retrieval of Atmospheric Isoprene from Satellite INstruments (RAISIN)

Supervisor: Professor Hartmut Boesch (Physics)
CENTA2-NCEO4-BOES: Improving Key Carbon Cycle Processes in Climate Models Using Satellite Observations

Supervisor: Dr Darren Ghent  (Physics)
CENTA2-NCEO3-GHEN:  Improving temperature observations from Space to close the energy budget of the Earth in support of UNFCCC objectives and the Paris Agreement


Supervisor: Dr Andrew Carr
CENTA2-SGGE1-CARR: Unpicking the drivers of spatial-temporal (palaeo)hydroclimatic variation in southern Africa

Supervisor: Dr Arnoud Boom
CENTA2-SGGE2-BOOM: Understanding controls on peat formation in the Congo basin

Supervisor: Dr Fernando Espírito-Santo
CENTA2-SGGE3-ESPI: Droughts, Fires and Climate Induced-Shifts of the Amazon Tropical Forests

Supervisor: Dr Juan Carlos Berrio
CENTA2-SGGE4-BERR: Carbon fluxes along environmental and altitudinal gradients in the Colombian Andes

Supervisor: Dr Mick Whelan
CENTA2-SGGE5-WHEL: Towards sustainable surface water ecosystems in India: Predicting the fate, transport and effects of urban wastewater pollutants in rivers

Supervisor: Dr Sue McLaren
CENTA2-SGGE6-MCLA: Investigating controls on vegetation distribution in desert dune fields to better understand dune stability and migration

Supervisor: Dr Joerg Kaduk
CENTA2-SGGE21-KADU: Climate change impacts on subsistence agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa – an exploration using data assimilation with the JULES land surface model

Supervisor: Professor Kevin Tansey
CENTA2-SGGE20-TANS: Integration of soil moisture data with Vegetation Condition Temperature Indices to improve drought mapping and crop yield estimation in China using Copernicus Sentinel data


Supervisor: Dr Dan Smith
CENTA2-SGGE7-SMIT: Integrating trace element and automated mineralogical analysis

Supervisor: Dr David Unwin
CENTA2-SGEE8-UNWI: ‘Pteraichnites’ and their implications for pterosaur terrestrial palaeoecology and evolution

Supervisor: Professor Gawen Jenkin 
CENTA2-SGGE9-JENK: Understanding and mitigating the environmental impacts of metal ore processing wastes produced using “green” solvents

Supervisor: Professor Jan Zalasiewicz
CENTA2-SGGE10-ZALA: Low temperature, rare earth element (REE) minerals in the Welsh Basin: applying micro-analytical techniques to the study of monazite formation

Supervisor: Professor Jens Zinke 
CENTA2-SGGE11-ZINK1: The Anthropocene geochemical footprint in the Great Barrier Reef

Supervisor: Professor Jens Zinke
CENTA2-SGGE12-ZINK2: Drivers of seasonality contrasts in sea surface temperature and freshwater flux within the Intertropical and South Indian Ocean Convergence Zone – Holocene and present

Supervisor: Professor Mark Purnell
CENTA2-SGGE13-PURN1: 3D quantitative analysis of textures in palaeobiology: environments, taphonomy and exceptional preservation

Supervisor: Professor Mark Purnell 
CENTA2-SGGE14-PURN2:  Organism responses to environmental change – testing hypotheses of dietary niche shifts in cichlid fishes over historical and longer timescales

Supervisor: Professor Michael Branney
CENTA2-SGGE15-BRAN: Eruption source vents and subsidence patterns in exhumed caldera volcanoes, English Lake District

Supervisor: Professor Sarah Gabbott
CENTA2-SGGE16-GABB: Plastic in rivers: transport, behaviour and fate

Supervisor: Dr Tiffany Barry
CENTA2-SGGE17-BARR: Constraining mantle and crustal contributions to the Cretaceous Antarctic Peninsula Arc

Supervisor: Dr Tom Harvey
CENTA2-SGGE18-HARV1: The early Palaeozoic evolution of Vietnam

Supervisor: Dr Tom Harvey
CENTA2-SGGE19-HARV2: A hidden record of early animal evolution? Exploring the Cambrian diversity of acritarchs and small carbonaceous fossils