Sophia Dowell

Sophia Dowell


I am an enthusiastic chemist with a keen interest in both analytical and environmental chemistry. I love endurance horse-riding and I am currently undertaking an ocean diver training course with BSAC. I am also a Leicester City Football club member and enjoy following the team home and away.

Earlier this year I graduated from the University of Surrey with a BSc in Chemistry with First Class honours. My final year research project was titled “Understanding the Trace Element Nutrient Requirements of European Badgers and the Impact on Health”. This project involved the use of advanced analytical instrumentation, to determine the trace element status of badger’s, by analysing blood serum and hair.

Additionally, as part of my undergraduate degree I completed an industrial placement year, as an analytical geochemist for the British Geological Survey (BGS). This placement is what sparked my interest in environmental geochemistry, as I undertook a research project looking at exposure pathways of chromium in crops grown in Zambia. I hope to pursue a long-term career in the field of industrial geochemistry research and environmental health.

Sophia Dowell

Agri-environments and Water

British Geological Survey

PhD title: Micronutrient and pollution transfer in East African lake catchments: impacts on the food-water-energy security nexus

This project aims to understand the loss of micronutrients from weathering of soils, with a focus on the erodibility status of soil across the Winam Gulf area of Lake Victoria. Subsistence farmers in Africa are often dependent on food grown within a limited area and the Winam Gulf is a very important source of food both from land and water. Due to this, geochemical factors that influence the soil-to-crop transfer of essential micronutrients, as well as potentially harmful elements can be associated with the health of the area. Resources to manage the soils sustainably can be limited, resulting in weathering and erosion of soil into waterways and lake catchments.

By using environmental forensic tracer tools and GIS-based risk modelling frameworks, the hope is to quantify the nutrient/micronutrient and erodibility status of soil across the Winam Gulf catchment and to link sediment in transit within the system to specific spatial and land use defined source areas and processes. As a part of this project I will undertake sampling in Kenya over two field seasons to better understand the chemistry and physical parameters influencing leaching of MNs/PHEs.

Awards and Prizes

  1. SCI Thames and Kennet Group prize for outstanding poster presentation 2018
  2. The Royal Society of Chemistry Downland Section Prize for best final year Chemistry project 2019

Other Information

During my time at the university of Surrey I was a part of public engagement activities. These were mainly university open days to help promote the chemistry department in principle but also to show how interesting STEM subjects are. I also volunteered at the University for the Salter’s festival of chemistry where local schools would compete in fun science-based activities, to engage young children in Science.