April 11, 2018

Undergraduate research experience placement in environmental geochemistry at the British Geological Survey

Paid summer placement opportunity – Characterising sulphur pools in a river catchment: evidence from hydrochemistry and sulphur isotope measurements

A funded opportunity is available for an undergraduate student to be part of a BGS research project with Dr Barbara Palumbo-Roe and Dr Angela Lamb during the summer of 2018. The work will start from the last week in June and run through to the start of September (8 to 10 weeks of flexible work), and will be supported by a student stipend of £200 per week from the Envision NERC scheme. This is an exciting opportunity to gain valuable insights into research in the field of environmental geochemistry and working in the NERC Isotope Geoscience Facility (NIGL) within the British Geological Survey at Keyworth, Nottingham.

Sulphur of both natural and anthropogenic origins can enter the hydrological cycle and can detrimentally modify the aquatic environment as sulphur plays a pivotal role in the cycling of many other elements, including a range of nutrients and iron.

The aim of this undergraduate study is determining the contribution of natural sulphur (e.g. from rock minerals), using sulphur isotope analysis, to stream waters, where the sulphur contents, in terms of sulphate concentrations, can be higher than the drinking water quality standard. Objectives of the project will be:

  • To obtain core samples of relevant bedrocks through a field sampling campaign and access to the BGS core store facility existing records
  • To extract the water soluble component of the bedrock samples by carrying out aqueous leaching experiments at the British Geological Survey laboratory
  • To use these solutions to measure the sulphate concentrations and analyse the sulphur and oxygen isotope composition of the sulphate at the BGS and NIGL laboratories.
  • To relate these measurements to available data from other catchment compartments using source apportionment mixing models to constrain the sources of sulphur in the river.

The student will have the opportunity to follow the project throughout the project life, from the acquisition of a small number of environmental samples to the chemical analysis, data management, data analysis and reporting. During this internship, the student will be trained in chemical laboratory soil sample preparation, isotope sample preparation and isotope analysis, and be part of a team during fieldwork to collect the samples; additional training (depending on the student’s interest) will be provided in GIS spatial representation of data for reporting. The student will be expected to write a report on their work during the allocated time.

To apply send a short (less than one A4 page) letter of motivation and your CV to Dr Barbara Palumbo-Roe ( by the 9th of June. If you need further details, or to discuss the opportunity, please drop me a line by email.


Dr Barbara Palumbo-Roe

British Geological Survey


Please note the following eligibility criteria. Applicants should:

  • be studying for an undergraduate degree in a quantitative discipline outside of NERC’s scientific remit (e.g. mathematics, statistics, computing, engineering, physics, chemistry)
  • be applying for a placement in a different department to their undergraduate degree,
  • be undertaking their first undergraduate degree studies (or integrated Masters),
  • be expected to obtain a first or upper second class UK honours degree,
  • be eligible for subsequent NERC PhD funding (i.e. UK, EU or right to remain in the UK).