PhD Studentship: Quantitative climate change risk analysis for water/wastewater infrastructure, considering critical infrastructure cascading effects

University College Cork

Cork, Ireland 🇮🇪

Job Posted: 08 Jul 2022
Closing Date for Applications: 19 Aug 2022
School: School of Engineering and Architecture, Discipline of Civil Engineering
Contract Type: Fixed Term Whole-Time
Job Type: Research
Salary: see advert for stipend details


Host institution: University College Cork

School/Discipline: School of Engineering and Architecture, Discipline of Civil Engineering

Postition: PhD Studentship (4 years, fully funded)

Project title: NexSys

Name of local Principal Investigator: Dr Paraic Ryan

Funding body: Science Foundation Ireland

Project Description

PhD Title: Quantitative climate change risk analysis for water/wastewater infrastructure, considering critical infrastructure cascading effects

PhD Supervisors: First supervisor is Dr Paraic Ryan (UCC) and Second supervisor is Dr Eoghan Clifford (NUI Galway)

The transition to a net zero carbon energy system is one of the major challenges facing the world. Next Generation Energy Systems (NexSys) is a unique large scale project funded by the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Strategic Partnership Programme with Irish industry, seeking to address fundamental questions in this space across the following five strands: Energy Systems, Water, Transport, Offshore Wind and Cities and Communities.. A key consideration in this research will be the impact of climate change on these areas.

This PhD will form a key part of the overall NexSys project under the water strand. The PhD will use innovative risk-based methods to examine the potential impacts of climate change on water/wastewater infrastructure, as well as examining cascading climate change effects from, and to, other critical infrastructure sectors. Ireland’s water/wastewater treatment systems form a vital component of the countries critical infrastructure network. As evidenced by recent well publicised events in Ireland (Irish Independent, 2017), these water/wastewater systems can be vulnerable to extreme events. The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which states that the warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and predicts that future changes in climate may lead to increased risk to critical infrastructure. Given the considerable costs and long service life associated with wastewater infrastructure, it is vital that we develop an understanding of the potential future risks our wastewater system may face, with a view to developing effective adaptation strategies. This project seeks to address this need through the use of quantitative risk methods.

Risk tools will be used to establish the need for climate adaptation based on projected changes in future risks, and the effectiveness of adaptation strategies in reducing climate impacts to acceptable levels. Importantly, the risk approach facilitates incorporation of the high-level of uncertainty and variability associated with climate change, infrastructure performance, and socio-economic parameters. Approaches to risk assessment vary from qualitative to semi-quantitative to quantitative, with each stepped progression providing a greater level of information on which to base adaptation decisions. This PhD research will use quantitative risk analysis, considering cross-sectoral aspects as a risk based decision support tool. In accordance with IPCC frameworks, this will involve consideration of hazard, vulnerability and exposure parameters.

Role of Researcher:

The PhD researcher will join a highly dynamic, international research team performing leading research in climate adaptation engineering, probabilistic assessment and environmental engineering. The researcher will primarily be based in University College Cork (UCC) but will also work closely with academics from NUI Galway and the University of Newcastle, Australia. The PhD researcher will also collaborate and interact with the community of PhD researchers across the €16 million NexSys project, who will be based in University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin City University, NUI Galway and University College Cork.    

The following are the primary desirable candidate criteria:

  1. Minimum 2H1 (second class honours, grade 1) honours degree, or equivalent in undergraduate or masters degree in Engineering or similar discipline
  2. Strong engineering and analytical skills
  3. Excellent undergraduate grades
  4. Some computer modelling skills would be advantageous (i.e. MATLAB)
  5. Fluency in both written and spoken English is essential
  6. Excellent English academic writing skills
  7. Excellent communication, organisation and interpersonal skills
  8. Aptitude for taking initiative and working independently
  9. Demonstrable capability of working within a project team and ability to innovate

The primary duties for the post will include numerical modelling, risk analysis, collaboration with industry partners and project co-ordination. Publishing of papers in high-ranking academic journals will be a high priority.

Funding Details

The PhD is fully funding for up to four years. This includes:

  • €18,000 tax free stipend for student per year for up to four years
  • Full EU tuition fees covered
  • €5,000 over 4 years for travel and conferences
  • €1,500 for laptop/PC

Informal enquiries can be made in confidence to Paraic Ryan, Senior Lecturer, Discipline of Civil Engineering, Tel: + 353 (0) 21 4903862; Email: [email protected]  

To Apply:

  1. Applicants should send a cover letter briefly detailing (max 3 pages) why they believe they would be suitable for this particular position, making reference to each of the candidate criteria listed above. A Curriculum Vitae should also be submitted including your education history, courses, awards and skills, inclusive of grades and at three references. Also, if appropriate, please include details of any publications and conference presentations or details of any previous research or industry projects that they carried out in engineering or a related field (if applicable).
  2. Applications must be made in Word or PDF format only to: [email protected] 
  3. Please include your first name and second name in all file names.
  4. Please put ‘Ref. UCC/NexSys-PhD1’ in the e-mail subject line.

 Candidates should apply, in confidence, before 5pm (Irish Local Time) on Friday, 19 August 2022.