Stephen Lowe

Project Title:Stephen Lowe

Developing a sustainable method for the determination of bioaccessibility of organic contaminants from polluted sites.

Partner Organisation:

British Geological Survey 

First Supervisor:

Dr Chris Collins

Second Supervisor:

Project Description:

The project aims to establish a commercially available method for the assessment of the bioaccessibility potential of Persistant Organic Pollutants (POPs), particularly Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), to provide more accurate assessment of the risk from polluted former industrial sites. This will permit a more brownfield-centric approach to development, reducing remediation costs, encourage the re-use of former industrial sites and establish a more sustainable urban development programme. Bioaccessibility testing for inorganic pollutants has begun to gain acceptance in contaminated land assessment. Despite their abundance in the environment, there is currently no preferred or accepted method for similar assessment of soils affected by organic contaminants.

This project aims to analyse the performance of the FOREhST method developed at the BGS, and the CE-PBET model developed at the University of Reading, assess the performance of the models in analysis of POP affected soils and present alternative methodologies and modifications to provide a suitable bioaccessibility based assessment method for organic contaminants. This will include comparative studies of the models using reference soils, use of the models with soils collected in the field, and validation with in vivo methods. Assessment of model performance will be conducted in association with applicable Local Authorities and consultancies.

Project Poster:

Download Stephen's project poster (PDF - 560KB)

Student Profile:

I graduated in 2010 with a first class honours degree in Geography, and was eager to continue my studies. I have a strong background in the physical sciences, but also a long standing interest in civil engineering, planning and the development of the urban environment. During my undergraduate studies, I gained a solid understanding of the impacts of human development and activities on the built and natural environment. I focused on palaeoclimate and the effects of quaternary climate variation on the natural environment, through the evolution of palaeonunataks in northern Snowdonia. I undertook an extensive field research project in this area, which gave me invaluable experience in research design and implementation, and understanding of how climate variability moulds our modern day (and future) environments.

The project I have undertaken with the TSBE Centre and BGS allows me to build on my geographical and geological academic background, whilst building a strong skill base through working in a geochemistry environment at both the BGS analytical geochemistry laboratories and the University of Reading.

Associated/Relevant Research Groups/Centres: 

Soil Research Centre, University of Reading

Organic geochemistry at the BGS



Expected Completion Date:


Why did you choose Reading?:

The EngD offers a unique approach to doctoral study, in providing a direct link between academia and industry. The EngD offered by the TSBE Centre allows me the opportunity to work within the deeply academic environment of the Soil Research Centre, under the supervision of Professor Collins, and within the applied academic environment of the BGS. Working with Professor Collins' PhD students at Reading, I have been able to gain invaluable experience in using cutting edge techniques such as high resolution NMR and GCMS chemical analysis, and I am able to tap into the deep pool of knowledge in the department. Conversely, the TSBE Centre offers a wide array of fascinating research projects, which really contributes to a feeling of interdisciplinary research and vibrancy, which can be missed during PhD study.


BSc. (Hons) First Class, Geography


Journal papers

Conference papers

Lowe, S. R., Collins, C. D., Cave, M. R., Vane, C. H. 2014. Towards a unified bioaccessibility method for organic soil contaminants. In: proceedings of the 5th Annual TSBE EngD Conference, Henley Business School, Reading, UK."


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