Postdoctoral Research Associate: Assess the potential of geothermal mine water as a sustainable energy resource

Durham University

Durham, UK 🇬🇧

Department of Earth Sciences

Grade 7: – £36,333 – £43,155 per annum

Fixed Term – Full Time

Contract Duration: 15 months

Contracted Hours per Week: 35

Closing Date: 17-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 Department

Durham Earth Sciences is one of the very best UK Earth Science departments with an outstanding reputation for excellence in research and teaching. It is regularly ranked in the top 5 of UK departments and is within the global top 40. 

The department has around 35 academic staff, 15 research staff, 70 PhD students and 250 undergraduate students. Its research covers a spectrum of Earth Science disciplines around three broad themes: Earth Surface Processes and Hazards; Climate, Environment, and Resources; Physics and Chemistry of Earth and Planetary Processes. The themes reflect our aim not only to undertake fundamental and intrinsically excellent research, but also research of societal importance. We collaborate widely, and within Durham we work closely with both the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience (link to https://www.dur.ac.uk/ihrr/) and the Durham Energy Institute (link to https://www.dur.ac.uk/dei/ ). 

The Department of Earth Sciences holds a departmental Silver Athena SWAN award in recognition of its efforts to promote gender equality and address challenges particular to the earth sciences.

More information on the department, its research and its facilities can be found at https://www.dur.ac.uk/earth.sciences/

The Role

We invite applications for a Post-Doctoral Research Associate (PDRA) to join the Department of Earth Sciences, working with Prof Jeroen van Hunen on a project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), “Geothermal Energy from Mines and Solar-Geothermal heat (GEMS)”. The position is fixed term for 15 months, with a start date for this position at 1st June 2023. This post is part of a larger project involving further PDRAs in the Department of Earth Sciences, School of Engineering the department of Anthropology and the Business School at Durham University and involves close collaborations with 12 scientists from Durham University (Earth Sciences, Engineering, Anthropology and the Business School) and the British Geological Survey (BGS), as well as national and international project partners. More information on the project is available here: https://gems.ac.uk

Warm water in the ~23,000 disused, flooded mines in the UK offers a huge, low-carbon geothermal energy resource that could heat, cool, and provide heat storage for a quarter of UK homes and businesses, notably economically disadvantaged regions, such as former mining and many urban communities. To utilise and optimise this enormous energy supply and storage opportunity, research is required on a number of aspects, including optimised abstraction strategies of those heat resources, introduction of innovative heat storage solutions to level out diurnal and seasonal energy demand fluctuations, mapping the financial landscape for mine geothermal energy, and integration of the technical aspects with governance frameworks, social acceptance and economic viability. The aim of the GEMS project is to provide integrated solutions, from initial heat extraction to the end user, for employing mine water geothermal heat energy as sustainable, low-carbon heat source by using simulation tools, innovative heat storage solutions, evaluation of the governance and economic landscape, and community participation.

The successful applicant will be expected to assess the potential of geothermal mine water as a sustainable energy resource. This will be done by using and further developing innovative, state-of-the-art numerical simulations, calibrated with mine records, mine monitoring data, field experiments, and citizen knowledge. The PDRA will work with the Earth Science team at Durham and the British Geological Survey to develop a state-of-the-art numerical thermo-hydraulic groundwater-mine water model. For model calibration, the PDRA will benefit from data from and collaboration with available industrial and public-sector project partners. The modelling tool will be applied to prospective target mines in NE England and elsewhere. The PDRA will join the vibrant Durham Energy Institute and will further benefit from the Department’s mentoring programme for Early Career Researchers. PDRAs are also encouraged to co-supervise MSc and undergraduate research projects.

The successful candidate will be expected to contribute to the general activities of the research group and participate actively in the intellectual life of the department and university. There may be opportunities to teach/demonstrate in labs and field classes depending on the interests of the successful candidate. 

Responsibilities: 

  • To further develop existing software to explore the potential of mine water heating for specific sites and more generally. 
  • To validate those models using analytical and semi-analytical solutions, as well as calibration against available data
  • To prepare and deliver presentations on research outputs/activities to audiences which may include: academic and non-academic audiences.
  • To write and 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 conduct individual and collaborative research projects under the direction of the Principal Investigator
  • To work with the Principal Investigator and other colleagues in the research group, to identify areas for research, develop new research methods and extend the research portfolio.
  • To deal with problems that may affect the achievement of research objectives and deadlines by discussing with the Principal Investigator 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, research resources in collaboration with others and contribute to the planning of research projects.
  • To deliver training in research techniques/approaches to peers, visitors and students as appropriate.
  • To be involved in student supervision.
  • To engage in wider citizenship to support the department and wider discipline.
  • To engage in continuing professional development by participation in the undergraduate or postgraduate teaching programmes or by membership of departmental committees, etc. and by attending relevant training and development courses.   

This post is fixed term for 15 months. The funding is available for this fixed period only. 

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 1 June 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. 
  • 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 Prof. Jeroen van Hunen, jeroen.van-hunen@durham.ac.uk. 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 e.recruitment@durham.ac.uk 

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).  

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: 

  1. a CV;
  2. a covering letter which details your experience, strengths and potential in the requirements set out above; Any other additional documents the department feel would support the shortlisting process.

Next Steps 

The assessment for the post will include an online interview, including a short presentation of previous relevant research. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview and assessment on tbd. 

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 https://www.durham.ac.uk/about-us/governance/information-governance/privacy-notices/privacy-notices/job-applicants/ 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:

Qualifications

  1. A good first degree in Earth Sciences, Geoscience, Applied Mathematics, Engineering or other similarly relevant degree. 
  2. A PhD (or be close to submission) in a relevant area, e.g. Geophysics, Computer Science, Applied Mathematics, Geoengineering, Fluid dynamics, Hydrogeology, or a related subject

Experience

  1. Demonstrable experience in conducting high quality academic research.
  2. Demonstrable ability to write material of a quality commensurate with publication in highly ranked, international peer-reviewed journals.
  3. Demonstrable experience in advanced programming in Matlab, Python, or C++. 
  4. Experience with finite element technique.

Skills

  1. Demonstrable ability to derive complex mathematical models
  2. Demonstrable ability to work cooperatively as part of a team, including participating in research meetings.
  3. Ability to work in a multi-disciplinary research environment.
  4. Excellent interpersonal and communication skills.

Desirable Criteria:

Experience

  1. Experience with statistical techniques and machine learning.
  2. Experience with thermo-hydraulic modelling software.
  3. Experience in applied mathematics for numerical methods.
  4. Knowledge of mine water geothermal energy.
  5. Knowledge of UK geology.

Skills

  1. Strong affinity for collaboration with industrial and public-sector partners
  2. Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research. 

POSITION TYPE

ORGANIZATION TYPE

EXPERIENCE-LEVEL

DEGREE REQUIRED

IHE Delft MSc in Water and Sustainable Development