EPSRC PhD Studentship in: Evaluating the Public Health Risks of Urban Flooding Events

The University of Sheffield

Sheffield, , GB

3.5-years tax-free stipend of £15,000 per year and all tuition fees paid

Latest Start Date: 1st October 2020 (contract duration 3.5 years)

This fully funded interdisciplinary project provides an exciting opportunity to develop new engineering tools and models to help address significant societal challenges caused by urban flooding. 

Urban flood waters have been shown to contain a number of pollutants including microorganisms which pose a public health risk. These contaminants may originate from a range of sources such as urban drainage systems. Direct exposure to flood waters therefore represents a significant risk to public health. The scale of this risk is increasing since extreme weather events and flooding have become heavier and more frequent due to the climate crisis.

Understanding of the physico-chemical and microbiological processes driving the mobilisation, transport and survivability of microorganisms and potential pathogens in shallow flood flows and on urban surfaces (post flood) is currently lacking. This interdisciplinary project will utilise world leading instrumentation and laboratory facilities to study the transport of soluble and particulate materials in urban flood flows as well as microbiological survivability in urban flood conditions.

This project will develop a more detailed understanding of the behaviour of microbes in floodwaters, and seek to use this understanding to develop state of the art modelling tools for risk assessment. This will involve novel large scale laboratory experiments to better understand dispersion and transport of pathogens within urban floodwaters and across the water/ground interface and determine the influence of environmental factors such as temperature and redox potential on microbial concentration and survival on a range of urban surfaces.

The PhD will benefit from access to world class training available from the Sheffield Water Centre and the University of Sheffield, access to world leading experimental and computational facilities as well as close and regular contact with industry and end user partners.  Resources are also available for international collaboration and conference attendance. 

It is expected the novel interaction between microbiology and drainage/wastewater engineering will generate novel science relevant to the management of flood risk both in the UK and overseas. 


The project will be jointly supervised by Dr Isabel Douterelo, Dr James Shucksmith and Dr Henriette Jensen with support from the wider Sheffield Water Centre Team (https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/business/partners-collaborators/water)

We also anticipate potential visits and secondments to project European partners in Portugal, Spain and Scotland.

Eligibility Criteria

Normal EPSRC funding eligibility applies to this award, so students must have a relevant connection with the UK (usually established by residence).

Selection Criteria

It is recognised that candidates are unlikely to have all the skills required to complete the PhD on project commencement. The primary essential section criteria are therefore the ability and willingness to learn new skills and techniques, alongside a strong first degree in a relevant subject area (e.g. environmental sciences, environmental engineering, biological sciences etc.) and a good mathematical ability. Further desirable criteria include experience of completing relevant laboratory tests/analysis, computational programming ability, experience of microbiological analysis, understanding of hydraulic processes and experience in model development/testing.     

How to apply

Interested candidates should email a covering letter and their Curriculum Vitae to Lindsay Hopcroft ([email protected]).

For information and informal enquiries please contact: Dr. Isabel Douterelo ([email protected])




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