2-year Post-doctoral Research Position (Organic contaminants in agro-ecosystems)

update: 2017-09-16     editor: user

Department of Environmental Science & Natural Resources 
South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou
In association with the LEC-SCAU-GIG Joint Institute of the Environment 


2-year Post-doctoral Research Position

Organic contaminants in agro-ecosystems


Supervisors:  Prof Kevin Jones and Prof Hao Zhang (Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster, UK)

Prof Yongtao Li (South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou, China)

Prof Gan Zhang (Guangdong Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences)


Background: China has done a great deal to improve the productivity and security of its food supply.  However, there have also been concerns in recent years about food quality, caused by unwanted residues in key food products. Chemical residues can enter our food chain as a result of deliberate use (e.g. antibiotics in animals/aquaculture; drugs used in livestock etc.), or as pesticides or through wastes applied to agricultural land. There is much public concern and media attention on this topic, and a need to bring strong and objective science to assess the extent and significance of this topic in China. Should we be concerned by the use and occurrence of organic chemicals in Chinese foodstuffs, or do the benefits of improved food production greatly outweigh potential risks?  If there are concerns, where should improved management, training and regulation be targeted? How can we achieve improvements in food quality?


The UK and Chinese team involved here bring together expertise in the measurement, modelling and understanding of contaminants in the environment. We have strong links to regulators, environment and agricultural ministries, industries and academic groups.


In this project, we will take a holistic view of the organic chemicals in Chinese agro-ecosystems and try to assess the extent and scale of the problem. We can collate data on the supply/use/entry of chemicals into food chains, and assess the priorities and risks using Chinese databases, screening and modelling tools. Through wider collaborations, we will have access to field experimental plots and data, to assess the levels, persistence, transfer and significance of contaminants reaching agro-ecosystems and the key foods products.  We have first-rate laboratories (excellent LC-MS; GC-MS facilities), to make our own measurements and experiments. These may target studies on the form and fate of contaminants in terrestrial or aquatic food chains, using techniques that can characterise the labile and bioavailable fraction of chemicals in agro-ecosystems.


We are looking to recruit a PDRA with a commitment and interest in improving our understanding and management of food/environmental quality. We want someone who will take ownership of a project and develop their expertise and leadership. The topic is deliberately written quite openly, as it can be developed in different directions.


Join an exciting research environment. You will join the large and vibrant group at South China Agricultural University (SCAU) and the Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (GIG), while also being affiliated with the Biogeochemistry Research Group at the Lancaster Environment Centre. Research infrastructure and resources will be available for this project at the newly appointed ‘Joint Institute for the Environment’ (JIE) located in SCAU in Guangzhou, China – at which you will be primarily based – and within the Lancaster Environment Centre, UK. We envisage time split between the Chinese and UK organisations, though successful candidates will have to spend a minimum of 12 months in China before 1st April 2019.


Be part of the EU SEW-REAP research community. This post is one of three within the framework of the European Union’s SEW-REAP (Addressing food Security, Environmental stress and Water by promoting multidisciplinary Research EAnd China Partnerships in science and business) project which aims to provide solutions to the Agri-Food-Water-Environment Nexus within China, which will base 3 postdoctoral positions at SCAU. Additionally, SEW-REAP has already based 9 PhD-level researchers within China (most of which are based at the JIE).

Who should apply: You should have a PhD in Environmental Chemistry/Sciences, with an interest in chemicals management and environmental health. Ideally you will have expertise with trace organics analysis – by LC-MS/GC-MS for trace analysis – and/or expertise in chemical fate modelling. You must have proven capacity for creative, high-quality research, evidenced by your publication record. Ability to lead and co-ordinate independent research and a work autonomously.

You should have experiences in either: (a) advanced geochemical laboratory analysis; (b) the transport and biotransformation of emergent organic contaminants (e.g., steroid hormones) in agro-ecosystems (lab work); (c) the development of passive sampling based methods (ideally DGT) for quantifying emergent organic contaminants in the environment; or (d) modelling the field-scale transport of contaminants.

Due to the nature of funding (postdoctoral salary in China which is supplemented by a contribution from the EU SEW-REAP project), only UK / European citizens are eligible to apply.

A willingness to embrace new research challenges while living in China for at least 1 of the 2 years is essential.

Funding: The PDRA will be an employee of the South China Agricultural University (SCAU). A 2-year post-doctoral research assistant (PDRA) salary (equivalent to €17,805 per annum at today’s rates) will be paid by SCAU and supplemented with RMB 1500 (€190) per month for accommodation costs in China. Income from SCAU will be taxed and paid in China. 12 months living and travel expenses are also available from the SEW-REAP programme, at a rate of €1680 free of tax per calendar month spent in China. Together, the combined funding for this post is approximately €27,885 p.a. averaged across the two years.

Deadline for applications:  [31st October 2017]

Provisional Interview Date (by Skype if necessary): [6th November 2017]

Start Date: 1 January 2018


For further information or informal discussion about the position, please contact Prof Kevin Jones (k.c.jones@lancaster.ac.uk)

Application process: Due to the limited time between the closing date and the interview date, it is essential that you ensure references are submitted by the closing date or as soon as possible.

Telephone:020-85281887 38297891



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