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Student Vacation Research Assistant: Analysis of fungal spores and pollen from car cabin filters - Open to current University of Worcester students only*

The study of bio-aerosols is important in many different areas such as healthcare, environmental health, agriculture and atmospheric science (Cox and Wathes, 1995; Duchaine and Meriaux, 2001; Douwes et al. 2003). Air sampling is a key requirement for the study of bio-aerosols and is an integral part of the research undertaken within the Institute of Science and Environment (ISE) at the University of Worcester (UW). Air-sampling and associated data analysis forms the basis several research projects within ISE, such as projects studying fungal spores for the horticultural industry and, additionally, UW is home to the National Pollen Forecast which monitors pollen distribution across the UK.

For much of the research in this area, we use static methods to collect spores and pollen grains. This provides a fair means of getting data however it has limitations because we are collecting from a small local environment when results may be better informed if we collect from a larger area. Sampling over a larger area would provide better quality data and greater sampling accuracy as well as form a strong link between the area of biological sampling and atmospheric modelling. Modern cars are equipped with cabin filters to maintain cleanliness of the air for drivers and passengers. These filters take the form of corrugated membranes which collect airborne particulates, including fungal spores, pollen and pollutants. If these filters can be harnessed as a method of air sampling then this has the potential to allow researchers to test air over a wide area rather than having static collection points. Having this sampling ability would open up many opportunities for further bio-aerosol research and would allow collaboration between the areas of atmospheric science, molecular biology and health both at UW and with other institutions.

The aim of this project is to test the hypothesis that car cabin filters could be used to collect biological material for research purposes and testing pollen/fungal spore concentration over a wide area. 

*Please note that this post is open only to students completing the penultimate or final year of an undergraduate degree (or equivalent) at the University of Worcester or partner institutions;


Students completing, or who have completed, an undergraduate degree at another university (with 1st or 2:1 predicted/achieved) who are about to commence postgraduate studies at the University of Worcester.

Closing date: Friday 02 Jun 2017

Reference number: STUVRA1714 - 2013

Job details

Job details

Band 3, spinal column point 6, £8.44 per hour, plus £1.18 per hour holiday pay
Up to 37 hours per week
4 weeks full time (1.0 FTE) or part time equivalent (e.g. 8 weeks at 0.5 FTE)
Responsible to
Dr Mary Hanson
Interview date
w/c 12/6/2017

Institute of Science and the Environment

Explore the Institute of Science and the Environment

“The Institute’s acclaimed research has a common thread: our belief that science should be centred around its impact on people”
Professor John Newbury, Head of Institute



The University of Worcester is funding 20 Vacation Research Assistantships for the summer of 2017. These Research Assistantships will provide undergraduates and recent graduates with ‘hands on’ experience of working on a research project over the summer vacation, enabling them to gain insight into a research career, as well as enhancing their CV. These are prestigious awards, marking out a student as a future researcher and potential academic. In addition, this scheme provides UW staff leading on a research project with invaluable support in taking the project forward and experience of supporting and developing a young researcher. 

On completion of the project, the supervisor and student must complete a report providing the following information:

• Objectives set

• Objectives met

• Methods employed

• Results

• Conclusions

• Outputs

• Benefits to the student including training undertaken, skills developed, etc.


Main duties

Main duties

1. Collection of samples/DNA preparation (optimisation of DNA extraction technique)

2. Microscopy to confirm presence of biological material

3. Amplification of DNA via PCR and qPCR

4. If PCR is successful – proceed to qPCR and ELISA

5. Collation of results for preparation of a manuscript

*Maintain personal and professional development to meet the changing demands of the job; participate in appropriate training activities and encourage and support staff in their development and training.

*Take steps to ensure and enhance personal health, safety and well being and that of other staff and students.

*Carry out these duties in a manner that promotes equality of opportunity and supports diversity and inclusion, and takes into account the University's commitment to environmentally sustainable ways of working.

Person specification

Person specification

Please provide evidence of how you meet each of the essential criteria.

1. Experience in molecular biology techniques
2. A commitment to safe practice in the laboratory
3. Availability from the June 5th to July 3rd 2017 (actual dates flexible)
4. Reliability and punctuality and good time management skills
5. Experience in using Microsoft Office and Excel
6. Ability to work carefully and accurately, paying attention to detail
7. Good communication skills
8. Good writing skills

1. Completion of BIOS2100 Molecular Genetics or BIOS2201 Molecular and Cellular Biology or BIOS2202 Molecular Genetics and Conservation to at least grade C standard or equivalent
2. An interest in the application of molecular methods in environmental monitoring
3. An interest in extending undergraduate studies to postgraduate studies

Applications from Non EEA Workers:
Prospective applicants are advised to ensure that they are eligible to work in the UK without restriction.
Prospective applicants in points-based system immigration routes should assess their circumstances against the published criteria, which are set out on the GOV.UK website at
Visit for more information on how you can use a qualification from outside the UK to meet the requirements of the immigration rules.

Unspent convictions, cautions and bind-overs
The University is strongly committed to the fair treatment of its staff and potential staff, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, responsibility for dependants, age, physical/mental disability or offending background.
In line with the University's policy on the Recruitment of People with a Criminal Record, shortlisted candidates are required to provide information of any unspent convictions, cautions and bind-overs. Applicants are advised to seek independent advice if there is any doubt about the status of a previous conviction, caution or bind-over. Disclosures will only be considered at the point when an offer of employment is made. The existence of a criminal record will not in itself prevent you from gaining employment.

This is a description of the job as it is presently constituted. This job description is intended to enable a flexible approach to be offered working across the University as required. It is subject to review and amendment in the light of changing needs of the University and to provide appropriate development opportunities. Members of staff are expected to participate fully in discussions about changing requirements and it is the University's aim to reach agreement to reasonable change. If agreement is not possible, it reserves the right to require changes to the job description after consultation with the individual concerned.



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