SEGH Articles

SEGH2019 Prize Winners Series: Tatiana Cocerva

31 July 2019
Tatiana Cocerva, a PhD researcher at Queens University Belfast, won the best overall ECR presentation prize and shares her experience of SEGH2019 with us!

A few years ago, I heard about the SEGH and the conferences organised each year in different countries. I was following the programs and research topics covered at each event and I looked forward to finding the opportunity of attending at least one of the conferences organised by the SEGH.

This year, the SEGH took place in the United Kingdom at the famous Manchester University and it consisted of a comprehensive program with interesting topics and a diverse audience working in the field of environmental geochemistry and health. I was really excited when I received the news that my abstract has been accepted for an oral presentation. Being a final year PhD student, I decided to present the main results of my research work and to highlight the importance of using bioaccessibility testing in the Human Health Risk Assessment in urban environments.

Figure 1. Tatiana Cocerva presenting at the SEGH conference

Urban population is growing fast, and it implies the necessity of developing new areas to support the city needs. Sometimes, it involves the redevelopment of brownfield sites, and it is highly important that the future land use to not represent a risk to people. This study investigates how bioaccessibility of Potentially Toxic Elements (PTEs) varies spatially across the urban area of Belfast and identifies the contribution of geogenic and anthropogenic sources of contamination.

Figure 2. Tatiana Cocerva analysing the BAF of PTEs in Belfast topsoil samples

Concentrations in soils in some areas of the city exceed published generic assessment criteria and therefore may potentially pose a risk to human health. However, most generic assessment criteria for soils assume that 100% of the contaminants present in the soils are bioavailable to humans, which is often not the case. Oral bioaccessibility testing can be used to measure the soil contaminant fraction that will become dissolved in the digestive tract and therefore will be available for absorption by the body. In total, 103 surface soil samples overlying different bedrock types and land uses were collected from across Belfast and oral bioaccessibility testing was undertaken using the Unified BARGE Method (UBM). Results showed low bioaccessible fraction (BAF) for Cr (0.5 to 5.7%), V (3.3 to 23.4%), and Ni (1 to 45.7%) which are associated with soil parent materials in the underlying Antrim Basalt. In contrast, higher BAF values were registered for Cu (0.4 to 68.1%), Zn (5 to 78.2%), As (6.8 to 82.9%) and Pb (8.8 to 100%) that were associated with anthropogenic sources within Belfast. 

My presentation was well-received by the audience and I got constructive feedback and comments which inspired me to look at the research results from different angles of interest.

Over the course of three days, I attended interesting presentations on topics covering the current environmental challenges and I exchanged ideas with other delegates working on similar research areas as mine.


Figure 3. Dr. Siobhan Cox (Queen's University Belfast (QUB), UK), Tatiana Cocerva (QUB, UK), Dr. Paula Marinho-Reis (Universidade do Minho, Portugal)

Social activities

The conference organisers were fully involved in making social activities enjoyable and memorable for everyone. On the first day, we visited the famous Manchester City stadium where we had the great experience to walk in the footsteps of football players in a fascinating behind the scenes tour.

Figure 4. SEGH delegates at the Manchester City Stadium

In the second day, I joined the Early Career Research (ECR) meeting where we were informed about the role and importance of the ECR group. I found this initiative useful and I provided my contribution in developing and maintaining close collaborations among ECR.

Figure 5. ECR lunch meeting

In the evening, all conference delegates were invited to a formal dinner in the beautiful Midland Hotel where the legend says that Mr. Rolls and Mr. Royce met and established their successful business. Yes, we were really inspired by this story and maybe in a few years, we will be the personalities to sign the most important contracts and collaborations to make our planet a better place to live!

Figure 6. Formal dinner at the luxurious Midland Hotel

The last day of the conference was complemented by an interactive workshop on sustainable nutrition held by the social enterprise MetMUnch where the conference attendees were taught to make Kimchi – a traditional Korean side dish of salted and fermented vegetables. As a curious researcher, I tried for the first time some healthy snacks rich in proteins, such locusts and buffalo worms and I would confess that I was surprised by the good taste despite their aspect.


Closing ceremony

For three days I got so much inspired and learned new information from other delegates and I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to attend this event. 

The enthusiasm got even higher when I heard that my presentation was selected for the award “Best Student Oral Presentation” and received a voucher of USD250 to buy any book from Springer. I was honoured for receiving this award and I would like to express my deepest gratitude towards all my supervisors and co-authors for their unconditional support and help provided in my research work.

As well, I would like to thank the scientific committee for their hard work invested in evaluating all the presentations and posters and selecting the best quality of work.


Figure 8. Tatiana Cocerva receiving the Best Student Oral Presentation Award from Dr. Andrew Hursthouse

Time to celebrate! As I mentioned in the beginning, the conference organisers made sure that all delegates are rewarded with quality time at the end of each conference day, so this time we were invited to take part in a small pub crawl around some of the local unique bars and pubs in Manchester. The SEGH delegates enjoyed some fine English ales in a nice atmosphere and relaxing environment.

Figure 9. SEGH delegates exchanging ideas and impressions after the conference

The SEGH 2019 conference was a real success and I would like to thank all the organisers for their hard work, amazing ideas and dedication invested in this event.

I look forward to attending the next SEGH conference and to working closely with the ECR group.


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