CENTA PhD Studentships

Qualification: PhD

Departments: School of Chemistry Genetics Geography Geology Respiratory Sciences Neuroscience Psychology and Behaviour School of Physics and Astronomy

Application deadline: 21 January 2019

Start date: Late September 2019


The application deadline has passed for CENTA PhD Studentships in 2019; however, these are annually recurring studentships and this page will give an indication of the subsequent year's information.

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.

ENTA 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.

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, set at £14,777 for 2018/19
  • 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.

Informal enquiries

Informal enquiries

CENTA at Leicester

How to apply

How to apply

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.

If you are interested in more than one project, you can upload more than one personal statement. Please also upload a CV with your application.

CENTA application form

Complete a CENTA Project Application form. Please also include your 500 word personal statement at the end of this form. Upload this instead of a research proposal in the 'Research Proposal' section of the application form.

Project selection form

Complete a project selection form.If you are interested in more than one project, you can indicate this on the project selection form, and you can upload two different personal statements.

University application form

Please use the Apply button at the bottom of the page. At this stage, you will:

  • Upload your supporting documents (CV, degree transcripts and certificates, reference letters if already obtained).
  • Include the names and contact details of referees 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. Uploaded your completed CENTA application form to the ‘Research Proposal’ section or to the ‘Personal Statement’ section.
  • Include your CENTA project code in the section ‘Project title/studentship title’
  • Under the 'Funding Section' of the online application form select 'STUDENTSHIP' and in the drop down menu select 'NERC CENTA'.

If you apply for more than one project in the same department, please submit one online application form and email the second CENTA application to centa@le.ac.uk quoting your Leicester ID number. If you are applying for projects in different departments, please complete separate university application forms for each project.



  • Applications from UK and EU students are welcome, but students from outside of the EU are not eligible.
  • 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 2019.

Examples of previous CENTA studentships

Examples of previous CENTA studentships

Department of Chemistry projects

  • Nucleation of Atmospheric Aerosols
  • Process Design for Efficient Metal Extraction from Concentrates 
  • What can hydrocarbon fingerprints tell us about fracking in organic-rich shales?
  • Micro- and nanoplastics: the fate and the impact on marine life
  • Assessment of ClNO2 as a missing oxidant in the UK atmosphere

Department of Genetics projects

  • Evolutionary consequences of sexual mode switches on gene expression 
  • Investigating adaptation of autotetraploid Erythranthe guttata to internal and external environmental challenges
  • Imprinting and ploidy in a social insect
  • Combating Illegal Trade in Animal Products by Rapid On-Site DNA Sequencing

Department of Geography, Geology, and the Environment projects

  • Late Quaternary palaeohydrological and palaeoecological reconstruction in southern Africa using leaf wax lipidsAccessory minerals as fertility indicators in porphyry copper deposit formation
  • Miocene Evolution of the Asian monsoon
  • Iron-Oxide-Copper-Gold mineralisation in the Zambezi and Lufilian belts of Zambia: part of a major polymetallic magmatic-metallogenic province
  • Understanding and mitigating the environmental impacts of metal ore processing wastes produced using “green” solvents
  • Land use change monitoring from satellites using artificial intelligence
  • Tracing Pacific-Indian Ocean heat and salt exchange by the Indonesian Throughflow and its impact on global climate variability
  • Climate change impacts on subsistence agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa – an exploration using data assimilation with the JULES land surface model
  • Downstream dispersal and transfer of macroplastics in river systems: a travel distance approach
  • 3D quantitative analysis of textures in palaeobiology: environments, taphonomy and exceptional preservation
  • Tracing the geological signature of a human-induced transformation of the biosphere in Indonesia
  • Understanding nitrous oxide “hot-spot” dynamics in upland soils
  • Impact-cratering in Scotland: field investigation of the emplacement, sedimentology and environmental effects of a major impact-event
  • Eruption source vents and subsidence patterns in exhumed caldera volcanoes, English Lake District
  • Plastic a new anthropogenic component of the geological cycle: its chemical and physical behaviour and transformation
  • Modelling environmental controls on different dune forms in central Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)
  • Investigating controls on vegetation distribution in desert dune fields to better understand dune stability and migration
  • Carbon Down the Drain: Controls on DOC production and transport in oil palm plantations and forests on tropical peatland
  • The effects of minor intrusions on host rock properties: Testing alternative models for heat transfer from magma to host

Department of Physics projects

  • Chasing weather with a state-of-the-art constellation of low cost microwave sensor satellites
  • Emissions of Greenhouse Gases from Extensive Agriculture in the Indio-Gangetic Plain
  • The elusive BVOC: mapping atmospheric isoprene from space
  • Investigations of atmospheric gravity waves with SuperDARN
  • Space-based solutions to air pollution in the UK
  • High Resolution Thermal Imaging Data at the forefront of Earth Observation Research and Services
  • Improving understanding of real world vehicle tailpipe air pollution through driving scenario emissions modelling
  • Solar energy input from the Earth’s magnetosphere to its atmosphere
  • Investigating the Ionosphere and Magnetosphere with induction coil magnetometer data

National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEA) CENTA projects

  • Identification of types of tropical forest disturbance using satellite data and artificial intelligence
  • Chasing convective storm evolution with swarms of space-borne Ka-band radars
  • Satellite Observations of CO2 in support of the Paris Agreement for Emission Reduction
  • Towards improved weather forecasting: the retrieval of temperature and cloud properties from IASI using new carbon dioxide spectroscopic line parameters
  • Developing a long-term merged all-sky surface temperature record for evaluation and application in climate models