STEPS-sponsored student acquires Ph.D. in Chemistry
Robert Cortis shall be graduating with a Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Chemistry from the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, United Kingdom.
The research work undertaken was made possible following the award of a scholarship by Strategic Educational Pathways Scholarship (STEPS) Malta, entitled ‘Empowering People for More Jobs and a Better Quality of Life,' which was co-financed by the European Union Social Fund (ESF) under Operational Programme II – Cohesion Policy 2007-2013.
The study undertaken made use of freshwater canal sediments as a geochemical indicator of the pollutant status of both the waterway itself and, more importantly, the surrounding areas. It was carried out using sediment samples collected from the Forth and Clyde Canal, Scotland, UK. This canal crossed from the west coast to the east coast of the country and passed through urban, sub-urban and rural areas.
The samples were analysed for various potentially toxic elements (PTEs) and compounds. The results obtained exposed the contaminated status of soils in the Glasgow area – a legacy of the city’s heavy industrial past. The study also revealed unexpected substantial contamination in certain areas. This was traced to an unwitting spreading of contamination due to shifting of polluted soils during landscaping projects as part of a regeneration of these areas. The sediment dynamics have also shown that contaminated soil entering the canal via runoff may be transported for several kilometres downstream. As part of a small side-project, it was determined that bottom dwelling gastropods (snails and bivalves) have been subjected to bioaccumulation of PTEs, albeit they appear to have adapted to this since they were found live and in their thousands.