PhD Students

Faraaz Ahmad

Hi, I am from Manchester. Before my PhD I studied chemistry for four years at The University of Manchester and gained my MChem degree in Chemistry. I have always taken great interest in radiochemistry and petrochemistry hence after my undergraduate I decided to apply for a PhD in this area.


I’ve now joined the Geomicro group to study my PhD entitled ‘Radionuclide fate in naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM)’. The PhD will involve detailed characterisation of TE-NORM samples from the oil and gas industry including both non-active and active scales from selected sites, and other key materials such as sludges.

When I am not in the lab I like to hang out with friends, go to the gym, play & watch football and eat pizza.

If I had to choose a favourite mineral it would be diamond because it is the hardest naturally occurring mineral made from simple carbon atoms. Also, its name means unbreakable or invincible.

Dawn Buchanan

Hello, my name is Dawn Melisa, but most people in this department just call me Dawn. I am originally from a very small island in the Caribbean called Anguilla, it is so small that it is often shown as a dot on most maps.


I completed my undergraduate degree in Geology at the University of Manchester between 2014 to 2017. In my final year, I took the Geomicrobiology module taught by Prof. Jon Lloyd, little did I know that doing so would set the course of my future for the next 3.5 years.

My research aims to use micro-organisms such as Geobacter to investigate the bio-reduction of cobalt and nickle from manganese bearing minerals, more rigorously, from ferromanganese nodules from the sea floor. I hope to investigate the electron transfer process that occur at the cell mineral interface.

Outside of university I enjoy cooking, travelling and shopping. I listen to a wide variety of music including everything from Chopin and Tchaikovsky to Afrobeats. I am a classically trained singer and flutist, but haven’t performed in a few years.

I am yet to discover a mineral that I prefer above all others, but by my favourite micro-organism is the Shigella bacterium, the cause of stomach aches.

Sarah Butterworth

Hi, I am from Manchester (well, Oldham)! I studied my BSc in Geochemistry and then completed an MSc by Research focusing on remediation of radioactively contaminated land, both at The University of Manchester.


My PhD research will be looking at the impacts of microbial metabolism on the geo-disposal of radioactive waste.

Outside of my research I enjoy spending time outdoors, reading, learning to code and learning Mandarin Chinese. I find learning a new language really fun and a great way to meet new people. I am also attempting to swim regularly as a way to de-stress.

My favourite mineral has to be bornite. As a rock hoarder, I have more of it in my house than I would like to admit. It was the mineral that got me interested in geology when I was younger!

Natalie Byrd

I was born in South Africa and grew up in a small town in Kwazulu Natal on the Eastern Coast, before moving to Bradford in 2005. I then moved to Manchester in 2013 and completed my BSc in Environmental Science with a Year in Industry, and liked it so much that I decided to stay and do a PhD!


My project will be exploring the biogeochemistry involved in low level waste disposal. This is quite a broad topic area so my initial focus trying to understand the mechanisms by which key electron donors in the waste biodegrade at high pH.

Outside of research I like travelling, swimming, climbing and just generally spending as much time outdoors as I can – especially at the beach and music festivals. I also love cooking and eating – especially when it’s trying something new.

My favourite mineral is the emerald variety of beryl, primarily because of the amazing green colour… and also because in ancient folklore it was believed to be have the ability to be relaxing after long periods of concentration and  also to help you see into the future, which both sound pretty useful for someone doing a PhD.

Adrian Cleary

I am originally from Stirling in central Scotland. I did a B.Sc in Environmental Geoscience at Edinburgh University and then stayed on another year to do an M.Sc in Environmental Protection and Management.

Blog photo AdrianMy PhD research is on the decontamination of radioactively contaminated land through bioreduction and the use of nanoparticles such as bio-magnetite and zero-valent iron

When I am not doing exciting geochemistry things I like hillwalking, baking and making things out of Lego.

My favourite microbe would have to be Lactobacillus casei as it is just super at helping me digest food.

Kat Dungan

I’m originally from Orpington, South East London but I’ve spent my last 4 years at Loughborough University doing an MChem. My Masters project was looking how  degraded PVC affected the solubility of nickel under geological repository conditions.

kathMy research will be looking at the key drivers of radioactive waste disposal, then relating these to the waste produced by a selection of potential future nuclear programmes for the UK.

Outside of research I love spending time outdoors (particularly camping and walking in the UK, scuba diving in warmer places) as well as getting involved in Girl Guiding. I also enjoy cooking and baking when I’m at home, although there’s room for improvement.

I can’t say I’ve thought about a favourite mineral – maybe uraninite (pitchblende) because of the role it had in the Curies’ work?

Lynn Foster

I am originally from Leicester and got my degree from the University of Leicester. I studied Biological Sciences, my modules focused on environmental microbiology, virology and genetics.

My PhD title is “Understanding microbial productivity in highly radioactive nuclear IMG_135836683967175-1facilities”. I will be looking at the genomes of microorganisms. Following this I will look at the RNA and proteins that they produce, with the aim of trying to understand some processes that allow them to survive in highly radioactive environments.

My hobbies when not working are going to festivals in the summer, horses and horsey activities like shows and demonstrations.

My favourite microbe – a bit difficult to say, I guess anything that falls into the category of extremophile. I was also really interested in the discovery of Pithovirus – which is the largest known virus that was revived from Stone Age permafrost. I like the stuff that challenges what we know about the limitations of life.

Hollie-Louise Green

I am originally from Plymouth and grew up in Cornwall. Bored of the cows and lack of a night life, I ventured up to Manchester to undertake an undergraduate master’s degree in chemistry at The University of Manchester. Having not yet completed my mission of visiting every pub in Manchester I decided to stay and do a PhD as part of the NGN CDT.

I did my 3rd year project with Prof. Roy Goodacre, quantifying the limits of detection of certain food additives bound to gold and silver nanoparticles, using Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy. My 4th year project was with Dr. Nicholas Lockyer in a comparative study of Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry with Laser Post-Ionisation Sputtered Neutral Mass Spectrometry, for the quantitative analysis of metal alloys.hlg

Now I am a part of the schools of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences and Chemistry with the project entitled “Radionuclide Biogeochemistry in Cementitious Wasteforms”. Where I will be focusing on the ability of microbial processes to mediate biogeochemical processes and radionuclide speciation in cementitious wasteforms, and how the heterogeneity of waste and cement grout affects this.

Outside of research I enjoy going to the gym, golf (pub golf that is) and I love cheesy chips with gravy but then again who doesn’t?!

And my favourite mineral is Labradorite, because it’s so pretty due to its iridescent properties. It also has the word Lab. and Rad. in there, and you’ll catch me in the Rad Lab, so win, win. I also like dogs.


Haydn Haynes

I am originally from Telford in the north of Shropshire. I studied for a Masters degree in Earth Science at the University of Manchester, and spent my final year researching the geochemical cycling of uranium in clays.haydn

My research studies the microbiology of bentonite, a buffer material intended for use in a geological disposal facility. The combination of high temperatures, radiation, and decreased water activity make for a hostile location. Understanding the microbial community is a crucial factor when considering the long-term stability of high-level wastes.

Outside of the office I enjoy watching a variety of sports including football (Shrewsbury Town FC), visiting new places, and walking. I also enjoy a wide variety of music, and play electric guitar.

My favourite mineral is the phyllosilicate montmorillonite, the main component of bentonite. It exhibits the unusual property of swelling in the presence of water.

Mallory Ho


Hello! I’m Mallory from Singapore (on the far right. I know it’s confusing). I did my BEng in Environmental Engineering at the National University of Singapore then worked for Oil Spill Response Limited as a spill response specialist and consultant for 4 years before heading over to Turin, Italy to do a MSc in Petroleum Engineering.

After a turn of events, I decide to dive into the world of research and pursue a PhD. My research is on the long term understanding of Technetium and Neptunium in the soil environment after multiple redox cycles.

Food is a big love of mine though I’m not that great a cook. An ideal day for me is staying home with hot food on the stove, shows on my laptop and pyjamas. On days when I need to leave the comfort of my room because of the voice in my head (Mum), I like to swim and go exploring.

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend!

Rebeca Lopez

I’m from Tecate, a small city located in the northwest part of Mexico.  Before starting this PhD I studied a MSc in Biotechnology, at the Center of Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute, in Mexico City.

waterfall resized!My PhD is titled “Exploring the metal-microbe interface using advanced mass spectroscopy techniques”.  I’m just starting, I’m new in this field and I find everything very interesting!  I think what makes this project particularly interesting is the exploitation of analytical methods that haven’t been widely used before to study metal-reducing bacteria, which will hopefully allow us to learn more about the mechanisms involved in these reactions.

I like to do a lot of things in my free time, sometimes I read, I do yoga, bake vegan desserts, go to concerts, take photos of anything that draws my attention…lately I’ve been taking online French classes.  But honestly, I frequently catch myself spending more time on the internet and social networks than I would like to admit.

If I had to choose a favourite microbe it would probably be Saccharomyces cerevisiae, basically because to it we owe the existence of two biotechnological products that I really love: bread and beer.  Regarding my favourite mineral, I like amethyst, I love its colour.

Babajide Milton Macaulay

I am from Obalende, a town that never sleeps, situated on Lagos Island in Nigeria, West Africa. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Biology (focused on Plant Ecology) from the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) in Nigeria and an MSc degree in Sustainable Environmental Management (focused on Environmental Microbiology) from the University of Greenwich, UK. I was an Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Biology at FUTA before returning to the UK for my PhD studies.

miltonMy PhD research focuses on understanding the role of anaerobes and organic substances in the mobilisation of arsenic in groundwater. Hundreds of millions of people (not restricted to South and South East Asia as often reported) are at risk of arsenic poisoning. There is a lot of debate on the mechanisms that drive arsenic transport in aquifers, which inspired me to join the business of trying to resolve the unanswered questions, as well as the lack of data on arsenic in Nigeria aquifers, despite not knowing anything about rocks and minerals!  It’s been quite challenging so far, but the Geomicrobiology and Geochemistry research groups have got a rock-solid student support system which makes learning new skills/competences much easier.

When I’m not working, I love watching American movies, particularly action and horror. I also enjoy hanging out with friends and surfing the internet for hours. I must admit that I am an ardent fan of Manchester United, so the coincidence to study here in Manchester is more than fulfilling!

My favourite microbe will most definitely be Geobacter, mainly because I see it mentioned in almost every research article on arsenic that I have read. Sometimes I say to myself, ‘If Geobacter was a human, I would love to meet him.’

Shauna McLoughlin

I am originally from Widnes, a small industrial town in Cheshire. Before my PhD I gained a BSc in Environmental Science here at the University of Manchester.

The focus of my project is to understand selenium toxicity in the natural environment, in Photoparticular, an area of Limerick in Ireland where elevated concentrations of selenium are affecting agricultural land. Selenium is an important micronutrient to humans and animals with the narrowest range between deficiency and toxicity than any other element. Seleniferous areas often exist in very close proximity to selenium deficient areas making it an interesting element to study. My project will explore the entire selenium cycle from the source rock, regolith, soil, to the uptake in plants, examining the biotic vs abiotic processes involved.

Outside of research I have huge interest in human nutrition, so I spend a lot of time cooking healthy food! I also enjoy painting, drawing and photography and try to make time to visit art exhibitions. When I’m not in Manchester, I love spending time outdoors, whether it’s hiking or attending music festivals.

Even though it’s one of the most abundant minerals on earth I would have to say quartz is my favourite mineral, mainly because my birthstone Amethyst is a member of the quartz family!

Alana McNulty

Hi, I’m originally from Blackburn, Lancashire and did an MChem here at Manchester before taking a year out to work for Peer Support at the University. Despite loving the job, I missed science, research and not having to pay council tax, so decided to take up a PhD.


My masters project with Dr Alex Pulis looked into metal-free C-H functionalisation by hydride ‘borrowing’ catalysis using B(C6F5)3.

My PhD research is NDA funded and I’ll be looking into radionuclide mobility and alteration behaviour at the cement/ subsurface interface with the context of in-situ disposal of radwaste.

Outside of research, I love a G&T (or 10), sailing, walking and am currently working towards becoming an Officer in the Royal Navy Reserve.

I can’t say I’ve ever thought about my favourite mineral, or decided on one yet, but after a quick Google, chalcanthite is a very pretty colour!

Sul Mulroy

Originally I was from London a long time ago, but have lived all over the UK. Generally I pretend I’m from Manchester these days. Before starting my PhD I took the Geochemistry route through the MEarthSci course at Manchester and graduated in 2013. Then I worked in a hospital in London, went to Australia to find a job in mining (didn’t get one so did a bit of travelling and working across Western Australia), worked in Edinburgh for a year in a pub and was lucky enough to be saved from obscurity by getting this PhD.

DSC_0020My PhD project involves determining the structure of Co- and Ni- bearing Fe- and Mn-minerals from natural environments such as ocean-floor Mn-nodules and terrestrial laterite deposits. I will use Geobacter sulfurreducens to assess the influence of Fe-reducing bacteria on these minerals using both synthetic and natural samples, in order to study how the minerals evolve during bio-processing. What makes this project so exciting is that these organisms might potentially be used to mitigate the environmentally damaging and expensive processes currently used to turn raw materials into usable products. Also I get to do work at the Natural History Museum which, having gone through a prolonged and intense dinosaur infatuation as a child, means one of my life’s greatest dreams has come true.

Outside of the lab I like kickboxing (still rubbish at it), rock-climbing (not too bad at it), gold-panning (never found any gold), camping (total boss), drinking whisky (in moderation as per Government unit guidelines).  As for my favourite mineral, I’m in love with diamond but I’ll probably settle down with vernadite.

Tom Neill

I am from Loughborough, which is a town in the East Midlands, and my first degree was here at the University of Manchester in the School of Chemistry. I did MChem Chemistry with a research project in inorganic synthesis.

For my PhD I will be looking at radionuclide-containing colloids in the conditions relevant to effluent treatment processes at Sellafield. The aim of this is to understand the formation, stability, size and composition of these colloids and which factors are most relevant in stabilising and destabilising them.

Outside of work I like to stay active. I play sport quite regularly, in particular football. I also enjoy cooking (and eating) and reading.

My favourite mineral is not something I have previously given much thought! I would have to say malachite, just for the colour.

Sharon Ruiz Lopez

I am Sharon, and I am from Mexico. Born and raised in a small city called Atlacomulco, then moved to Mexico City where I studied in the Polytechnic National Institute. My BEng in Biochemistry was focused in Bioinformatics, although I liked it, I decided to look for something new, so I changed the topic and did my MSc in Biotechnology and Bioengineering working with groundwater remediation, molecular biology and aquatic toxicology where I learnt so much and I discovered the fantastic, sometimes stressful, research world.

sharonI also worked a few months in a pharmaceutical laboratory doing liquid chromatography and microbiological analysis.

My project is “Understanding the microbial productivity in highly radioactive storage facilities” and what I find interesting is the characterisation of microbial communities which are able to survive in extreme environments such as nuclear facilities, generating new information of the diversity of life in these environments. It is also interesting to consider the wide use of techniques like next generation sequencing in combination with metagenomic analysis and metatranscriptomic studies to determine the physiological adaptations of these microorganisms, making easier their future identification and improving our understanding of their interactions with radionuclides.

When I am not in lab I like hanging out with friends, watching sit-coms, listening to music, dancing, reading, chatting to my family and cooking (I’m not good at it, but I try).

About microbes, my favourite ones are protozoa, specifically Euglypha, a shelled amoeba which is common in soil, treatment plants, and stream bottoms where decaying organic matter is present. I like it because it is able to adapt to a wide range of conditions.

Adam Sims

I am from Burgess Hill, near Brighton, in West Sussex. I studied for four years at the University of Manchester on a MCHEM degree with a study in North America, in which I spent a year in Illinois at the University of Urbana-Champaign studying chemistry as well. I finished with a first class honours degree in chemistry from The University of Manchester.

AdamSims (1)My topic of research is development of an in depth study of the engineered clay barrier for deep geological disposal facilities for nuclear wastes. A number of clays are looked at in my project comparing high and low iron clays that are montmorillonites or nontronites. Challenges from heat, radiation, corrosion products, and groundwater impact clays differently and effects will be studied initially separately leading to coupled studies. The project is relevant now and within an expanding field keeping things interesting.

I am an active member of the University basketball and swimming teams which help de-stress from work and also take part in a number of runs throughout the year.

If I had to choose a favourite mineral it would be Cristobalite as you can always count on it to be there, in the right place, in highly heated clays giving some form of pattern to clay XRDs.

Agustín Solano Arguedas

Hi, proudly I am Tico, which it means that I am from Costa Rica. I have lived all my life in a town called Paraíso (Paradise in English), and yes, it lives up to its name!  Prior to coming to Manchester I obtained degrees in chemistry and biology from the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR).  For my MSc thesis I looked at the synthesis and modification of a nano-biomaterial called hydroxyapatite. I studied its potential application in cancer therapies as a drug vector and as a fluorescent marker. After my studies, I spent time working as a researcher in the Forestry Resources Unit of the UCR (ReForesta). There, I was part of a team studying and restoring the Stone Spheres of Pre-Columbian Sites of Diquís Delta in Costa Rica (UNESCO World Heritage, 2014).

KODAK Camera

In my PhD I will be studying the geomicrobiology of cobalt in Costa Rican tropical ecosystems. I want to investigate cobalt levels in the soils and minerals before moving onto studying the interactions between fungi /bacteria and Co.  My idea is to work in Santa Elena (dry forest) and in Páramos (perhaps the most unexplored ecosystem in my country); both are beautiful complex and interesting sites.

In my free time I like to watch TV, chat with my family, read books, go to the movies and of course watch football (especially my team in CR: “La Liga” and my national team “La sele” as we called). I also like swimming, running, dance salsa and merengue and visit new places, especially archaeological sites or natural parks. I really enjoy hearing and feeling nature.

I would say that hydroxyapatite is my preferred mineral; it is very interesting as it is the main inorganic component in the bones of mammals, and it is super versatile and can be used in clinical/biological applications, as a catalyst, and in other chemical applications.

To finish, as we say in CR, Pura Vida!

Alex Tait

Hi, I grew up in a little town called Bromyard in Herefordshire, but I’ve lived in Manchester for over 10 years now. I moved here to study Biology and achieved a BSc from the Faculty of Life Sciences in 2008. Over the next few years, I developed a keen interest in environmental science, and returned to study in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, graduating with an MSc in Pollution and Environmental Control in

After working in environmental consultancy for four years, I’ve decided to take on the challenge of a PhD. My research is looking at novel approaches for the remediation of Mercury from contaminated land and water. I hope to find solutions that can harness the ‘power’ of microbial communities to influence geochemical processes controlling the fate of Mercury in polluted environments.

Outside of university, I try to stay active through cycling, hillwalking and regular trips to the gym. I love the great outdoors and enjoy exploring new places. I’ve done a couple of trips to S.E. Asia – providing an opportunity to immerse myself in some exotic landscapes. I’ve also got a keen interest in music and film.

My favourite microbe has got to be the bioluminescent Photobacterium phosphoreum – lux genes enable it to emit a blue-green light, it forms symbiotic relationships that can light up the deep sea!

Luke Townsend

lukeHi, I’m Luke and I’m from Chorley in Lancashire. I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Manchester, studying Chemistry with Industrial Experience. My interest in radiochemistry came from my year in industry, in which I worked for Amec Foster Wheeler analysing nuclear decommissioning samples for radionuclides such as iodine-129 and nickel-63.

After taking a slight detour from radiochemistry for my master’s year (playing with upconverting nanophosphors), I’ve now joined the Geomicro group to study my PhD entitled ‘long-term fate of radionuclides during sulfidation’. The project is especially interesting to me as a chemist due to the interdisciplinary aspects of mineralogy and microbiology, which are somewhat foreign to me! My work will have implications towards broadening the understanding uranium and technetium mobility in geological disposal facilities and the environment.

In my free time, I enjoy playing and watching football, supporting the greatest team in the world; Blackburn Rovers. I’m also a keen runner and guitarist (not both at the same time) and love music in pretty much any shape or form.

My favourite mineral is schoepite, chosen for only two reasons; primarily, it’s really bright yellow, and it contains uranium (and so is at least a little relevant to my work).

Gianni Vettese

I’m from the wonderful (and definitely great) town of Great Yarmouth, but after 4 years of study in the fine city of Manchester (and at least another 3 to go) I feel I have truly made my home up North.

I did my chemistry undergrad in Manchester working in the Mills group, and for my masters project I studied the chemistry and reactivity of low coordinate samarium (II)gianni. My PhD research will involve studying enzymatic microbial metal reduction reactions. The work is great for me as it saddles more than one discipline but still revolves around chemistry. In short, I will happily spend the next three years of my life shaking soils.

Out of the office I am a family guy, mahoosive foody, watch obsessionist, terrible guitar player, and blindly believe the humble faith that ‘anything Italian is the best’. I love finding new and cool bars and restaurants about town.

My favourite mineral is apatite – I’ve always got one…


Ellen Winstanley

I am from North Manchester. I did my MChem in Chemistry with Industrial Experience here at the University of Manchester. I spent my third year working as a chemist in an R&D department of Lubrizol Ltd, and then finished my Masters in fourth year by working on an organic chemistry project.

The title of my project is: Radionuclide uptake during iron floc formation: application toEllen Winstanley the Enhanced Actinide Removal Plant (EARP) Process.

I’m looking into the mechanism for how the precipitation of iron (oxyhydr)oxide flocs can remove various radionuclides from aqueous solution. Knowing how the radionuclides are sorbed to the iron is important because it allows you to see how different conditions could affect the sorption mechanism and hinder (or help) the uptake of radionuclides. This project is specifically aimed at the EARP procedure which processes some liquid waste streams at Sellafield.

Outside of research I love rock climbing (though I’m not very good) and eating cake.

Before I started this project I never imagined I would have a favourite mineral … ask me again in a year!

Jing Zhang

JingHi, I am from China. I gained my bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering from Shandong University of Technology and then worked in Environmental Protection Agency as a chemist. I finished my Master’s project in Pollution and Environmental Control here at the University of Manchester.

My PhD research title is ‘Iron oxide mineral cycling in the environment: Understanding links between abiotic, biological and electron transfer processes at the nanoscale’. I am studying interaction of Mo and V with hematite and magnetite. High concentrations of V and Mo can become toxic to plants and animals, including humans. Iron minerals such as hematite and magnetite have a critical effect on the mobility of contaminant metals in the subsurface.

Away from the lab I love travelling, watching movies and attending concerts.

If I had to choose a favourite mineral it would be Kyanite, just for its colour.

Kejing Zhang

Hi, I am from China. I completed a BSc in Environmental Engineering in Hubei University of Technology. Following this I spent a year at the University of Manchester and achieved an MSc in Pollution and Environmental Control.

My PhD research is on the Microbial Ecology and Biogeochemistry of Nuclear Facilities.

Outside of research I enjoy traveling and tasting local food from different countries. I also enjoy watching movies.

My favourite mineral? I do not know much about that. If I have to choose one, I would say silver because of its colour. My favourite microbes are algae.