Bioavailability and bioaccessibility of trace elements in natural and industrial particles

Grad Student Position Details

Project Title
Bioavailability and bioaccessibility of trace elements in natural and industrial particles

Degree Program

Dr. William Shotyk

Professorial Rank

Renewable Resources

Project Start Date

Project Description:

The SWAMP lab team is seeking two highly motivated PhD students with excellent communication skills to undertake research related to the bioavailability and bioaccessibility of trace elements in aquatic systems and airborne particles from natural and industrial sources. Exceptional MSc students may also be considered. The lability of trace elements will be assessed as a function of size, based on their chemical reactivity in synthetic gastric and lung fluids. This research will occur in the context of the Athabasca Oil Sands Region in Alberta, Canada.

The ideal candidates will have undergraduate training and graduate-level research experience in environmental geochemistry and health, including field experience. A strong background in analytical chemistry associated with size separation, and experience with trace element analysis are assets.

The SWAMP (Soil, Water, Air, Manure, and Plants) lab facility is a world class, metal-free analytical facility in the Department of Renewable Resources at the University of Alberta, which is purpose-built to routinely conduct measurements at trace and ultra-trace concentration levels ( The SWAMP lab also performs the routine size-based separation of dissolved trace elements into distinct colloidal species using asymmetrical flow field-flow fractionation (AF4), with online multi-element characterization using an iCAP-Qc quadrupole ICP-MS. A G-SPLITT fractionation system with optical size detector is available to isolate and characterize the size distribution of particles > 2 𝜇m. Ultracentrifugation is available for coarse separations and purification, and sequential extraction is routinely performed to assess the reactivity of trace elements on particle surfaces. Access to SEM and TEM imaging with EDS/X to characterize elemental composition at the micro/nanoscale is also available. Other key laboratory equipment includes a high-pressure microwave for digesting solid samples, and a sub-boiling acid still. Benefits of undertaking PhD research in the SWAMP include supervision and training by experts in the areas of ultraclean sampling and analysis, geochemistry, micro- and nanoscale size characterization, and AF4-ICP-MS.

To apply for one or more of these positions, please send a statement of interest, CV, transcripts, IELTS scores and the names of two references to Ms. Tracy Gartner (

Bioavailability; Geochemistry; Dust; Minerals; Trace elements; Ecotoxicology; Airborne contaminants

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Stipend Amount/year
$ 25,200.00