Postdoctoral Research Associate in Flow Resistance of Rough-Bed Rivers (CFD modelling)

Durham University

Durham, UK 🇬🇧

Department of Geography

Grade 7: – £36,333 – £38,474 per annum

Fixed Term – Full Time

Contract Duration: 24 months

Contracted Hours per Week: 35

Closing Date: 11-Apr-2023, 1:59:00 AM

Disclosure and Barring Service Requirement: Not Applicable. 

The University

At Durham University we are proud of our people.  A globally outstanding centre of educational excellence, a collegiate community of extraordinary people, a unique and historic setting – Durham is a university like no other. We believe that inspiring our people to do outstanding things at Durham enables Durham people to do outstanding things professionally and personally.  
Across the University we have a huge variety of roles and career opportunities, which together make us a large and successful community, which is a key hub of activity within our region and nationally.  We would be thrilled if you would consider joining our thriving University. Further information about the University can be found here 

The Role and Department

The Department of Geography at Durham comprises 68 academic staff (approximately equally divided between physical and human geography), a graduate school of around 100 research students, around 40 taught postgraduate students and more than 650 undergraduates. The Department is well supported with technical staff, including a cartography unit, and administrative staff.

The Department was ranked joint first for research quality among UK geography departments in REF2021 and third for research power. With 54% of work assessed as being in the highest category, it produced the largest number of world-leading (4*) publications in the country. The most recent QS rankings for Geography placed Durham 7th overall in the world, its 5th year in the top ten, and 1st for citations in the discipline. The department is recurrently ranked in the top handful of programmes in the UK by various league tables; in 2016, we were ranked 2nd in the Times Good University Guide and 3rd in both the Complete University Guide and the Guardian University Guide.

 The Role

The Department of Geography at Durham University seeks to employ a full-time Post-Doctoral Research Associate in the flow resistance of rough-bed rivers, with a focus on Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) modelling. The PDRA will be a key member of the research team for the NERC-funded project “What controls the flow resistance of rough-bed rivers? Major new advances from high-resolution topography”, led by Professor Rebecca Hodge. The PDRA will be jointly supervised by Rebecca and Professor Richard Hardy. The PDRA will also collaborate with team members including another PDRA on the project Dr Robert Houseago (Durham University), Professor Steven Rice (University of Loughborough), Dr Chris Hackney (University of Newcastle) and Professor Rob Ferguson.

This project aims to quantify and predict the total flow resistance in rough-bed rivers. Such channels, in which flow is not usually much deeper than the largest bed particles, are typical of the headwater streams that make up 77% of all river networks. Using a combination of field data, flume modelling, and CFD modelling, we will determine the physical basis for how roughness elements of different scales combine to affect overall flow resistance, providing a fundamental advance in understanding and new approaches for predicting flow in rough-bed rivers.

This PDRA will have responsibility a) for designing, running and analysing experiments using CFD modelling, and b) for using the results to develop new relationships for flow resistance in rough-bed rivers. The design of the CFD experiments will be informed by current work by the other PDRA, who is using high-resolution topographic data from a range of rough-bed rivers to define a parameter space covering the topographic variability of these channels. The aim of the CFD experiments is to quantify how channel resistance is controlled by different topographic scales. The experiments will start by modelling flow over bed topographies that are characteristic of rough-bed rivers. Subsequent experiments will use versions of these beds that have been filtered to remove or retain different topographic scales, and the impact on the flow will be measured. The second responsibility of this position is to synthesise results from these experiments, as well as results from flume experiments undertaken by the other PDRA, to produce new flow resistance relationships.

Please see the full list of responsibilities and person specification given below.

The successful applicant will join the internationally recognised group of researchers in the Department of Geography, specifically the ‘Catchments and Rivers’ cluster (


  • To plan, undertake and analyse CFD modelling experiments to quantify the influence of different topographies on overall flow resistance.
  • To synthesise the results from the CFD modelling, alongside results from complementary flume experiments, to develop new flow resistance relationships
  • To understand and convey material of a specialist or highly technical nature to the team through presentations and discussions that leads to the presentation of research papers in conferences and publications.
  • To prepare and deliver presentations on research outputs/activities to audiences which may include: research sponsors, academic and non-academic audiences.
  • To publish high quality outputs, including papers for submission to peer reviewed journals and papers for presentation at conferences and workshops under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder.
  • To assist with the development of research objectives and proposals.
  • To deal with problems that may affect the achievement of research objectives and deadlines by discussing with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and offering creative or innovative solutions.
  • To liaise with research colleagues and make internal and external contacts to develop knowledge and understanding to form relationships for future research collaboration.
  • To plan and manage own research activity and act as a member of the project’s research team.
  • To contribute to fostering a collegial and respectful working environment which is inclusive and welcoming and where everyone is treated fairly with dignity and respect.
  • To engage in wider citizenship to support the department and wider discipline.

This post is fixed term for 24 months. Post duration is limited by the funding which had been provided by NERC.

The post-holder is employed to work on research/a research project which will be led by another colleague. Whilst this means that the post-holder will not be carrying out independent research in his/her own right, the expectation is that they will contribute to the advancement of the project, through the development of their own research ideas/adaptation and development of research protocols.

Successful applicants will, ideally, be in post by 1st June 2023, with an absolute latest start date of 1st July 2023.

Working at Durham 

A competitive salary is only one part of the many fantastic benefits you will receive if you join the University: you will also receive access to the following fantastic benefits: 

•    30 Days annual leave per year in addition to 8 public holidays and 4 customary days per year – a total of 42 days per year.  
•    The University closes between Christmas and New Year – please include or delete if not applicable. 
•    We offer a generous pension scheme, As a new member of staff you will be automatically enrolled  into the University Superannuation Scheme (USS).
•    No matter how you travel to work, we have you covered.  We have parking across campus, a cycle to work scheme which helps you to buy a bike and discount with local bus and train companies.
•    There is a genuine commitment to developing our colleagues professionally and personally.  There is a comprehensive range of development courses, apprenticeships and access to qualifications and routes to develop your career in the University.  All staff have dedicated annual time to concentrate on their personal development opportunities. 
•    Lots of support for health and wellbeing including discounted membership for our state of the art sport and gym facilities and access to a 24-7 Employee Assistance Programme.
•    On site nursery is available and children’s clubs in the summer holidays.
•    Family friendly policies, including maternity and adoption leave, which are among the most generous in the higher education sector (and likely above and beyond many employers).
•    The opportunity to take part in staff volunteering activities to make a difference in the local community
•    Discounts are available via our benefits portal including; money off at supermarkets, high street retailers, IT products such as Apple, the cinema and days out at various attractions. 
•    A salary sacrifice scheme is also available to help you take advantage of tax savings on benefits. 
•    If you are moving to Durham, we can help with removal costs and we have a dedicated team who can help you with the practicalities such as house hunting and schools.  If you need a visa, we cover most visa costs and offer an interest free loan scheme to pay for dependant visas.

Durham University is committed to equality diversity, inclusion and values

Our collective aim is to create an open and inclusive environment where everyone can reach their full potential and we believe our staff should reflect the diversity of the global community in which we work.  As a University equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) are a key part of the University’s Strategy and a central part of everything we do.  We also live by our values and our Staff Code of Conduct.  At Durham we actively work towards providing an environment where our staff and students can study, work and live in a community which is supportive and inclusive. It’s important to us that all of our colleagues are aligned to both our values and commitment to EDI.

We welcome and encourage applications from members of groups who are under-represented in our work force including people with disabilities, women and black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.  If you have taken time out of your career, and you feel it relevant, let us know about it in your application.  If you are a candidate with a disability, we are committed to ensuring fair treatment throughout the recruitment process. We will make adjustments to support the interview process wherever it is reasonable to do so and, where successful, reasonable adjustments will be made to support people within their role.

Contact Information 

Department contact for academic-related enquiries 

For informal enquiries please contact Professor Rebecca Hodge (  All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence. 

Contact information for technical difficulties when submitting your application 

If you encounter technical difficulties when using the online application form, we prefer you send enquiries by email.  Please send your name along with a brief description of the problem you’re experiencing to 

Alternatively, you may call 0191 334 6801 from the UK, or +44 191 334 6801 from outside the UK. This number operates during the hours of 09.00 and 17.00 Monday to Friday, UK time.  We will normally respond within one working day (Monday to Friday, excluding UK public holidays).  

University contact for general queries about the recruitment process 

How to Apply  

To progress to the assessment stage, candidates must evidence each of the essential criteria required for the role in the person specification below. It will be at the discretion of the recruiting panel as to whether they will also consider any desirable criteria, but we would urge candidates to provide evidence for all criteria.  

While some criteria will be considered at the shortlisting stage, other criteria may be considered later in the assessment process, such as questions at interview.  

Submitting your application 

We prefer to receive applications online.   We will update you about your application at various points throughout the selection process, via automated emails from our e-recruitment system. Please check your spam/junk folder periodically to make sure you have not missed any of our updates.

What to Submit 

All applicants are asked to submit: 

  • a CV
  • A cover letter which details your experience, skills, and achievements in meeting (or the potential to meet) the criteria set out below.
  • Contact details of 2 academic/research referees. Referees will be contacted following the short-listing process

Next Steps 

Short-listed candidates will be invited to the University, either virtually or in-person and will have the opportunity to meet key members of the Department.  The assessment for the post will normally include an interview and we anticipate that the assessments and interviews will take place over two days in or around a date to be confirmed.

In the event that you are unable to attend in person on the date offered, it may not be possible to offer you an interview on an alternative date. 

Please note that in submitting your application Durham University will be processing your data. We would ask you to consider the relevant University Privacy Statement which provides information on the collation, storing and use of data.   

When appointing to this role the University must ensure that it meets any applicable immigration requirements, including salary thresholds which are applicable to some visas.

Person Specification

Essential Criteria:


  1. A good first degree in physical geography, geoscience, engineering, or a numerical discipline.
  2. A PhD (or be close to submission) including numerical modelling, channel hydraulics, or in a numerical subject,


  1. Knowledge of numerical modelling
  2. Experience in designing and successfully undertaking experiments using numerical modelling.
  3. Experience in processing, analysing and interpreting large datasets, e.g. numerical model results.
  4. Experience in conducting high quality academic research.
  5. Demonstrable ability to write material of a quality commensurate with publication in highly-ranked journals.
  6. Demonstrable ability to present research papers at [national/international] conferences and communicate complex information to specialists and within the wider academic community.


  1. Demonstrable ability in quantitative analysis of large datasets, using Matlab, Python, R or similar
  2. Demonstrable ability in programming
  3. Demonstrable ability in running numerical models
  4. Demonstrable ability to work cooperatively as part of a team, including participating in research meetings.
  5. Ability to work independently on own initiative and to strict deadlines.
  6. Excellent interpersonal and communication skills.

Desirable Criteria:


  1. Strong publication record in peer-reviewed journals, commensurate with stage of career.
  2. A track record of presenting research at conferences, symposia, or meetings, commensurate with stage of career.
  3. Knowledge of fluvial geomorphology and/or flow hydraulics


  1. Experience of CFD modelling, including model set-up and experimental design
  2. Experience of processing and analysing CFD model outputs
  3. Experience of synthesising complex datasets
  4. Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research. 





IHE Delft MSc in Water and Sustainable Development