Head and shoulders photograph of a woman in front of a plain background.

Erina Brown

University of Birmingham


The fate and transport of microplastics in groundwater


  • Dr Sophie Comer-Warner
  • Professor Stefan Krause
  • Dr Dan Lapworth (BGS)
  • Dr Bentje Brauns (BGS) 

PhD Summary

The field of microplastic research is fast advancing and we know increasingly more about the transport of plastics around the globe via pathways such as airborne transport and through oceans. Very little is known about the fate and transport of microplastics into and through soil and sediment and through into groundwater. In particular, we have much less knowledge surrounding tyre wear particles, which are generated from vehicles on the road, and yet these make up 30% of the ocean’s microplastic pollution. By looking into the transport of tyre wear particles through soil and sediment and into groundwater we will have a better understanding of how these particles are transported from sources through pathways. 

Previous activity

I completed a BEng in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Strathclyde, after which I returned to Strathclyde to complete a MSc in Environmental Studies and Sustainability. This spanned a broad range of environmental issues including wastewater and water quality and management, and waste management, and it was through my MSc dissertation that I entered into microplastic research. This looked at the potential for plastic recycling facilities to release microplastic pollution, which I then developed into a paper published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials Advances. I then worked as a Bioresources Consultant with AtkinsRéalis, which, since starting my PhD, I am now continuing part-time. 

Why did you choose doctoral research?

After getting hooked on microplastic research during my MSc and onwards, I knew I wanted to continue in this field of research. This PhD presented an opportunity to do so, combined with the opportunity to learn more about and to apply my interest to groundwater and soil. 

Why did you choose CENTA?

CENTA present a lot of opportunities for training which is something that attracted me to it.  

The wide-reaching interdisciplinary nature of CENTA allows one to have access to a broad range of training opportunities, as well as the really valuable opportunity to network and build relationships with peers and researchers in the wider environmental research field. 

Future plans

Doing my PhD part-time in parallel with my work as a bioresources consultant offers opportunities for me to use both experiences to benefit my work in each of them and to gain a well-rounded combination of experience both within academia and outside, which I believe is invaluable to pursue a career either in or outside of academia.