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Current Vacancies
Interested in environmental science with emphasis on chemistry? Not afraid of getting your hands muddy? Check out the latest vacancies:

Would you like to join the Bell group? Get in touch.

PhD/Research Students

Richard York 2018-

Position: 4th year postgraduate


Office Location: Room 14B, Joseph Black Building




I am funded by the E3 DTP, an Edinburgh based doctoral training partnership who fund environmental research.  My research involves finding new methods of isotopically labelling complex mixtures, specifically peat soils for the improved analysis via high resolution NMR and Mass Spectrometry.

I grew up in Norwich, England but obtained a Masters degree from the University of Edinburgh, undertaking my final year project with Dr Nicholle Bell, working on the solid state analysis of peat soils attempting to distinguish between a restored and damaged site.


When not working, my main interest is in music and I am an active member of the Edinburgh University Brass Band, playing the trumpet.


Ezra Kitson 2019-

Position: 4th year postgraduate


Office Location: Room 14B, Joseph Black Building




My research is focused on understanding the interplay of small molecules and microbes in governing the health of peatlands. To achieve this I am combining techniques used in analytical chemistry (e.g. high resolution NMR, mass spectrometry) and microbiology (e.g. metataxonomic sequencing, enzyme assays). One of the interesting challenges of my project is to develop statistical pipelines that can cross compare the datasets these techniques produce.

Originally from Northumberland, I did my undergraduate studies in microbiology at Imperial College London and obtained a masters degree from the University of British Columbia in April 2019 where my thesis project was developing new computational tools to handle viral metagenomic sequencing data.

Outside of research I enjoy writing music, playing in a band and fishing. I’m also excited about field work and getting to visit peatlands across the UK and further afield.

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Dana Druka 2021-

Position: 2nd year postgraduate


Office Location: Room 14B, Joseph Black Building




My research focusses on creating a simple and cost-effective method to assess peatland health on the molecular level. I am using analytical techniques, such as NMR and mass spectrometry, and a proxy to simplify the complexity of peat and identify chemical markers that could provide information on the success of restoration. I am funded by the E4 DTP, a NERC initiative for environmental research.


Originally from Latvia, I grew up in Fife and obtained my undergraduate degree in Chemistry (MChem) from the University of Aberdeen. My final year thesis focussed on natural products from marine invertebrates for antimicrobial uses. After graduation, I worked in the Warwick Electrochemistry and Interfaces Group developing sensors.


Aside from research, I enjoy outdoor activities such as mountaineering and cycling. I am interested in learning more about Scottish ecology and getting out into the field!

Sam Fergusson 2022-

Position: 1st year postgraduate


Office Location: Room 14B, Joseph Black Building




My research aims to develop the approaches used to combine chromatographic separation with high-end analytical techniques such as NMR and Mass Spectrometry to unravel the structure of unknown compounds in complex mixtures. I will explore the application of existing methods and develop new methodologies for the analysis of complex mixtures ranging from peat organic matter to Scotch whisky.


Originally from Leeds, I completed my undergraduate degree in Chemistry (MChem) at the University of Edinburgh. I spent the final year of my undergrad in The Bell Group, investigating the impact of drainage and restoration of peatlands on the activity of enzymes and microbes in peat and its porewater.


Outside of research, I enjoy playing volleyball, cooking/baking, and climbing. I'm excited to join group members on fieldwork and meet fellow academics across the world through the course of my programme.

Eleanor Birch 2022-

Position: 1st year postgraduate


Office Location: Room 14B, Joseph Black Building




My project will approach the molecular basis of peat formation and degradation from a biochemical perspective; using metagenomics to look at the microbiome present and active, high resolution spectrometry to characterize the metabolites produced, and new methods for examining enzymes, with a focus on phenol oxidases identified as central to the ‘enzyme latch’ theory of peat formation.  I am funded by EASTBio, the East of Scotland Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership.

Originally from Grimsby, I completed my undergraduate degree in Medicinal and Biological Chemistry (MChem) at the University of Edinburgh, after starting it with the Open University. I completed my final year masters project with the Campopiano group, looking at the potential biotechnological applications of proteases to the circular economy.

In my free time, I enjoy hillwalking utilising my Mountain Leader qualification, running a Guide unit, and sewing my own clothes.  I am excited to visit the peatlands of Scotland and the rest of the UK through our field work and increase my scientific understanding of them, rather than as I currently know them as a hillwalker.


Past PhD/Research Students


Gianluca Trifiro PhD 2017-2022

Yufan Zhu Master by Research 2017-2018


Undergraduate Project Students

Siyi Zhang BSc 2022/2023

Anna Parry BSc 2021/2022

Sam Fergusson MChem 2021/2022

Silje Solvag BSc 2020/2021

Sam Webber BSc 2020/2021

Stephen Porter MChem 2019/2020

Mark Wright BSc 2019/2020

William Beishuizen MChem 2018/2019

Tobias Rainer BSc 2018/2019

Richard York MChem 2017/2018

Hannah Corran BSc 2017/2018

Sylvia Battcock MChem 2016/2017

Summer Placements

Yazhini Vinoth Kumar PGT Summer Project 2022

Wen Ding PGT Summer Project 2020
Francesca Gregory NERC Research Experience Scheme 2017

Visiting Students

Meg Fitzpatrick University of Chicago 2021

Maeve Gielty University College Dublin 2017

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