Dr Felicity Elder


I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Geography at the University of Leeds, UK. My research focuses on understanding the environmental fate of emerging contaminants particularly antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes within organic fertilisers. 

I am currently working on a University of Leeds Horizon Institute project to understand the fate of antibiotics within swine slurry, including the use of technologies used to increase the nutrient value of slurry and whether these can remove antibiotics. Linking the fate of antibiotics within slurry with antibiotic resistance selection with the aim to produce research that can guide safe levels of antibiotics within slurry.  

Alongside this work I am co-leading a UKRI Research England funded project (SPADE) looking to understand chemical contamination within UK soil treated with organic fertiliser by emerging contaminants including antibiotics. This project has an emphasis on farmer engagement and citizen science with the overall goal to increase the awareness of pharmaceuticals as emerging contaminants within the terrestrial eco-system through the production of animations and educational materials.  Alongside this working to understand the drivers behind farmers choices in fertilizers. With this also feeding back into my work to understand the role of antibiotics in slurry in the selection for antibiotic resistance.  

Previous Experience

I have a truly multidisciplinary background having completed a BSc in Medical Microbiology, a MSc in Biomedical Science, a PhD in Chemistry and through working within both regulated clinical and environmental science settings. Enabling me to see across sectors to understand the life cycle of antibiotics – from ingestion to environmental fate and back again.

While working within the Regional Antimicrobial Reference Laboratory for a number of years my interest in the fate of antibiotics began to develop leading me to pursue a PhD in the area. Under the supervision of Barbara Kasprzyk-Horden at the University of Bath, my research focused on the antibiotics within the urban water cycle and role in antibiotic resistance with a focus around the role of stereochemistry. This research consisted of two dimensions, resulting in four first author publications. The first large catchment focused analysis to capture the presence of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes within the urban water cycle and the second laboratory-based experiments to understand the role of stereochemistry in the transformation of antibiotics by bacteria isolated from wastewater. While also being involved in the early stages of the CIP3 program while completing my studies. This role also included supervision of summer and masters students. Between completing PhD work and commencing at the University of Leeds, I worked as a Study Supervisor within the Chemistry Team at the Food and Environment Research Agency, taking responsibility for supervising and training 3 other members of staff working on a long-term field trial alongside completing GLP studies.

Prior to commencing my PhD I worked within the Regional Antimicrobial Reference Laboratory in Bristol for four years where I worked on various projects. These projects included the development of new analytical methods to analyse antibiotics and antifungals in human serum, setting up bioanalytical laboratory for clinical trials, large scale antibiotic resistance studies and running pharmacokinetic/dynamic models. It was during this time that my interest in the role antibiotics within the environment play in the selection for antibiotic resistance developed.

  • 2020 - 2021 Study Supervisor, Chemistry Team, Food and Environment Research Agency
  • 2014-2016 Associate Assay Scientist, Regional Antimicrobial Reference Laboratory, Southmead Hospital.
  • 2012-2014 Medical Technical Officer, Regional Antimicrobial Reference Laboratory, Southmead Hospital

Education: 2006-2009

Research interests

I am passionate about protecting antibiotics for future generations. Understanding the role antibiotics and other chemical contaminants within the environment have in the selection and spread of antibiotic resistance plays an important role in this. Interdisciplinary work is key to answering these questions and my background reflects this. My research is focused on understanding this challenge from an environmental risk assessment perspective. I am passionate about ensuring engagement with stakeholders to design environmental risk assessments that protect against antibiotic resistance.

Through my studies, work and research I have gained experience in analytical chemistry, experimental microbiology, and molecular biology.  While also having experience in these from both a clinical and environmental perspective working to good laboratory and good clinical practice. Having both experience in within a clinical and environmental monitoring setting for antibiotics and antibiotic resistance alongside chemistry and microbiology skills enables me to take a holistic approach to my research.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://environment.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD in Chemistry, University of Bath (2016-2021)
  • MSc Biomedical Science, University of West of England. (2009-2010)
  • BSc Medical Microbiology University of Bristol (2006-2009)