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Postdoctoral Research Associate - Water, The Institute of Infrastructure and Environment (IIE) , UK

About our team

The Institute of Infrastructure and Environment (IIE) is world leading in civil engineering research: water security, railway engineering, cementitious materials and structural analysis. The Water Management Research Group (WRG) at IIE carries out research in civil engineering hydraulics, mathematical modelling of flood/drought risk and water quality in fluvial and coastal systems, water resources planning and management, sustainable urban drainage and stochastic and deterministic hydrology. In particular, the WRG has been in the forefront of the Climate Change Agenda leading the EPSRC UK Flood Risk Management Research Consortium (FRMRC), and recently funded Flood MEMORY, BlueGreen Cities and Accounting for Climate Change in flood hazard projects.  Currently within the WRG, there are over 15 PhD students and research associates (RA) working on various aspects of this broad research portfolio. The RAs employed in the School work in a stimulating research environment, including regular opportunities to present and discuss their work.  In addition, RAs are actively encouraged to undertake professional development by participating on courses organised by the University?s Organisational Development unit and by attending external meetings and seminars related to their professional development needs.  The water group has its own budget to support the latter.

Further information about the broad range of exciting and innovative research ongoing at IIE can be obtained at http://www.hw.ac.uk/schools/energy-geoscience-infrastructure-society/research/institute-infrastructure-environment.htm and the Water Academy website: http://wateracademy.org.uk/

Further details

An exciting opportunity has arisen for an enthusiastic, dynamic and well-qualified researcher to work on the EPSRC funded `Water Resilient Cities: Climate Uncertainty and Urban Vulnerability to hydro-hazards?. The research seeks to quantify uncertainty in future hydro-hazards and design engineering/policy interventions to increase urban resilience which informs future urban water security adaptation for cities and their hinterlands. It is an inter-disciplinary project being led by Heriot-Watt University and involving collaboration between leading UK research, regulatory and industry partners. The two year position being advertised is funded by the EPSRC and the successful appointee will be required to develop a probabilistic modelling approach to determine the influence of climate change on extreme events across the UK and downscale this to probabilistic flood hazard predictions (depth, velocity and floodplain delineation for specified return period events). The advertised role is for a highly motivated PDRA with a strong numerical modelling and coding background to develop and run different statistical and hydrological/hydrodynamic models within a probabilistic framework, in order to ascertain National scale extreme event probabilities in a changing climate.

The appointee will be responsible for the development of the models, statistical coding, simulations and development of the bespoke graphical outputs.  Other tasks that the applicant will be involved with include liaising with our partners, dissemination and outreach for the larger project, participation and organisation of the project meetings and dissemination events. The post will offer excellent training in public engagement, advanced numerical modelling with industry liaison, as well as providing significant networking opportunities within the Flood Risk Research network in the U.K.  An ability to contribute to external collaborative research activities associated with the project (e.g. knowledge exchange events) is therefore essential, as is a commitment to strategic research output and dissemination activities.

You will possess a good first degree/masters in a relevant engineering or physical sciences subject discipline and will have either completed or be writing-up a PhD related to water resources or fluvial numerical modelling alongside exceptional numerical skills (specifically in hydrological and hydrodynamic modelling) including programming skills in R, C++ (or equivalent). You will possess quantitative and qualitative research skills in the field of climate change impact. Experience of appropriate data analysis and modelling software (e.g. ArcGIS, R and MATLAB) is essential to the post, as is evidence of a growing track record of high-quality journal publication output. You will have excellent verbal and written communication skills, time management and IT skills. You will also have fieldwork experience, and communications and outreach experience. 

Key duties and responsibilities

The post holder will:

  • Contribute to the project?s design and methodological development in collaboration with the PI
  • Using UKCP09 (or equivalent) develop innovative regional scale statistical models determining the probabilistic change to extreme events in a future climate across the UK;
  • Investigate the impacts of projected climate change on UK flood risk (pluvial and fluvial) and water resources (this will require hydrological and hydraulic modelling);
  • Develop conceptual resources for the project through literature review and project meetings;
  • Work with PI (and team) to lead the analysis and interpretation of research data and draw conclusions on the outcomes;
  • Undertake two 6 month research secondments to research partners (within the UK)
  • Contribute to and lead research papers for publication
  • Prepare, with guidance from the PI, other project deliverables and presentations in a timely manner;
  • Maintain regular contact with research partners and lead the communications team in order to ensure the project section of the Water Research Group website is up to date;
  • Lead the dissemination activities for the project: fostering the wider dissemination and impact of research findings, including actively engaging in knowledge exchange activities;
  • Actively participate in the activities of the IIE and the Water Research Group;
  • Plan and manage your own research activity within the strategy identified for the project team as a whole;
  • Ensure satisfactory compliance in your work with respect to health and safety, ethical requirements etc.
  • Identify other research project opportunities and directions as they arise, and assist in the writing of grant proposals;
  • Be involved in the assessment of student knowledge as well as the supervision of projects and helping to develop student research skills;
  • Contribute to the supervision of PhD and Masters degree students as required;
  • Where there is the opportunity, contribute to teaching activity, for example by undertaking lectures, tutorials and/or seminars;
  • Develop and update the content of these sessions ensuring an integration of current research into teaching.

Please note that this job description is not exhaustive, and the role holder may be required to undertake other relevant duties commensurate with the grading of the post. Activities may be subject to amendment over time as the role develops and/or priorities and requirements evolve


Education, Qualifications and Experience

  • Minimum qualification: Doctorate

Education, Qualifications and Experience


  • A PhD in a relevant discipline (Hydrology, Water Resources or Flood risk Management (Pluvial/Fluvial))


  • Numerical modelling experience (hydrological modelling; hydrodynamic  modelling (pluvial/fluvial); water resources modelling)
  • Experience of probabilistic/statistical analysis for large databases (code development e.g. using R)
  • Experienced programmer (e.g. C++, Python)
  • Experience using Linux operating system
  • Research experience in the field of climate change impacts and development of adaptation strategies.
  • Experience of working as part of a multidisciplinary team and the ability to work cooperatively with others.
  • A developing track record of publications.
  • A developing track record of presentations at international peer-reviewed conferences.
  • Evidence of innovation in research.
  • Experience of leading Stakeholder engagement activities 

Competencies, Skills& Knowledge (e.g. effective communication skills, initiative, flexibility, leadership etc)

  • Quantitative skills: modelling, handling large datasets
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills, including a demonstrated capacity to undertake research and write it up for both academic (i.e. Journal) and policy audiences
  • Ability to meet deadlines and maintain a professional approach to all aspects of the role.
  • Ability to manage the day to day running of projects.
  • Excellent IT skills.
  • Good team player with good interpersonal skills.

Other: This post is based in Edinburgh but the successful candidate will be required to make undertake two 6 month secondments away from the advertised base during the period of work. Willingness to do this is essential to the post.


Amount of travel

  • Travel involved: Minimum Travel

How to apply

Applications for this vacancy should be made online through the Heriot-Watt University iRecruit system.

Applications can be submitted up to midnight (UK time) on 2 June 2017

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and ethnic minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts at Heriot-Watt.

Consideration will be given to applications on a part-time and/or job-share basis.

Use our total rewards calculator to see the value of benefits provided by Heriot-Watt University.

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