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Student Opportunity SU24 - Microplastics in Wastewater Treatment Systems Research Assistant

Student Opportunity SU24 - Microplastics in Wastewater Treatment Systems Research Assistant


Published on March 27, 2024

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Job ID: 67102

Job Title: Microplastics in Wastewater Treatment Systems Research Assistant

Application Deadline: Thursday, April 18, 2024 @ 11:59 p.m. ET

Applications are only accepted through the Career Centre. Go to the Experience York portal through Passport York and search for the posting with the Job ID listed above. Note: applicants must be eligible to participate in the Research @ York (RAY) program, see eligibility criteria.

Hourly wage: $19 per hour

Hours per week: 11 hours per week

Start date: April 29, 2024

End date: August 30, 2024

Job description

Under the supervision of Professor Satinder Kaur Brar, the Microplastics in Wastewater Treatment Systems Research Assistant (for up to 11 hours per week) will support the environmental engineering research project, titled “Unravelling the Transport Impact and Fate of Microplastics in Wastewater Treatment Systems.” The research, underpinned by the urgency posed by the burgeoning issue of microplastic pollution, is primarily focused on the intricate dynamics of microplastics within biological wastewater treatment systems, namely the Activated Sludge Process (ASP) and Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor (MBBR). The essence of this investigation lies in its comprehensive approach toward understanding not only the transport and eventual fate of microplastics within these systems but also their consequential impact on the efficiency of organic matter and nutrient removal, as well as on microbial community dynamics. A pivotal aspect of the study revolves around the biofilm formation on microplastics, seeking to elucidate its role in influencing the transport mechanisms and fate of these contaminants, potentially altering their physical and chemical properties through processes such as weathering, thereby contributing to the formation of nanoplastics. This scholarly endeavour is poised to advance the discourse on microplastic pollution, aligning with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, specifically SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) and SDG 14 (Life Below Water). It aims to provide actionable insights into the management and mitigation of microplastic pollutants within aquatic ecosystems and wastewater treatment contexts. The project not only offers a significant learning opportunity for the engaged student researcher in terms of gaining practical experience and enhancing technical proficiency but also contributes to the broader scientific community's understanding of microplastic pollution's environmental ramifications.

Specific research activities the student(s) will be engaged in:

The student(s) will partake in a multitude of specific research activities, each meticulously designed to cultivate a deep understanding of environmental engineering principles, specifically within the context of microplastic pollution in wastewater treatment systems. These activities are integral to achieving the project's objectives and are enumerated as follows:

  • Experimental Setup and Maintenance: The student(s) will be responsible for the establishment and upkeep of bioreactor systems pertinent to the study. This will entail the calibration and optimization of the Activated Sludge Process (ASP) and Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor (MBBR) setups, ensuring their operational integrity for accurate experimentation.
  • Sample Collection and Analysis: A crucial aspect of the research involves the systematic collection of samples from the bioreactors at designated intervals. Following collection, the student(s) will employ advanced analytical techniques for the quantification and characterization of microplastics, biofilms, and microbial communities within the samples. This includes but is not limited to, microscopic analysis, spectroscopy, and chromatography.
  • Data Recording and Management: Meticulous documentation of experimental data is paramount. The student(s) will be tasked with the organized recording of all experimental parameters and results. Additionally, the management of this data, including the use of statistical tools for analysis, will be essential for interpreting outcomes and drawing meaningful conclusions.
  • Research Collaboration and Reporting: Engaging in collaborative research, the student(s) will participate in lab meetings, contributing insights and discussing findings with peers and faculty members. They are expected to prepare reports and presentations summarizing research progress and results, fostering an environment of academic dialogue and peer review.
  • Laboratory Safety Compliance: Adhering to established safety protocols and guidelines is non-negotiable. The student(s) will undergo training and demonstrate competence in laboratory safety practices, ensuring a secure working environment for themselves and their colleagues.
  • Technological Proficiency and Innovation: The project provides a platform for the student(s) to work with cutting-edge environmental engineering technologies. This includes gaining hands-on experience with lab-scale bioreactors, as well as developing or refining analytical methods for microplastic analysis.

Through these activities, the student(s) will not only contribute significantly to the research project's aims but also acquire a robust set of skills and knowledge applicable to their future academic and professional endeavours in environmental engineering and related fields.


  • Desired Technical Skills:
    • Competency in handling and operating lab-scale bioreactors.
    • Skills in microscopic analysis and characterization techniques.
    • Proficiency in analytical methods and instrumentation.
    • Solid understanding of wastewater treatment processes.
  • Desired Subjects & Courses:
    • Environmental Engineering, Biology or Chemistry.
    • Environmental Systems and Wastewater Engineering.
    • Analytical Techniques in Environmental Science.
    • Microbiology for Environmental Engineers.
    • Pollution Control and Waste Management.
  • Other Desired Qualifications:
    • Active engagement in environmental or engineering extracurricular activities.
    • Previous internship or research experience in related fields.
    • Demonstrated interest in sustainability and environmental issues.

Application materials

  • Cover letter
  • Resume
  • Transcript

If you have any questions, please email Satinder Brar


Global Health & Humanitarianism



Related Work





Satinder Kaur Brar, Faculty Fellow, Lassonde School of Engineering Active

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