UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering


Fully funded PhD studentship in Systems Approaches in the Built Environment

20 December 2022

Applications are now open for a proposed studentship in Systems Approaches in the Built Environment, as part of 60 studentships to be awarded by the UCL EPSRC DTP.

City skyline in twilight

About the project

Project title: Systems Approaches in the Built Environment
Project supervisor: Dr Nici ZimmermannProf Mike Davies and Dr Irene Pluchinotta
Project ID: 2228bd1156 (You will need this ID for your application)

Central and local government departments in the UK call for systems methods to tackle the most pressing sustainability topics across water management, natural capital, housing and construction. However, they lack important expertise, models and tools for implementing systems approaches. As a result, they often face unintended consequences and sustainability is at risk.

This PhD project will closely collaborate with our existing research and partners in local authorities and government bodies to help them and others tackle complex built environment problems more systemically. You will support these authorities via systems-focused tools that will help navigate complexity. This includes system dynamics modelling of the complex interrelated factors that make the built environment (un-)sustainable, e.g. in the area of low-carbon housing and urban systems.  You will also investigate how the authorities’ different focus on the complex built environment system may contribute to unintended consequences.

The project will put additional emphasis on how to the further develop the system dynamics modelling methodology to tackle complex built environment problems that require systems-focused methods. This will provide insights not only into selected sustainability questions but also into how we best address them through systems methodology.

We are looking for a candidate with a keen interest in sustainability and the built environment, particular in topics across urban systems, water management, natural capital, housing and construction, and in working in an interdisciplinary team. The ideal candidate will have good skills in system dynamics modelling, knowledge on how to ground system dynamics models in a diversity of data types and has ideally worked directly with stakeholders before. The candidate is expected to have an excellent academic track record, with Bachelor/Master degrees ideally in a sustainability-related area. We also encourage applications from candidates who may not meet all criteria and are looking forward to hearing from you.

About the Supervisory Team

Supervisors will include Dr Nici Zimmermann as primary supervisor, who is known internationally in the system dynamics field (operational research) and has led transdisciplinary research across the built environment, sustainability and organisation studies, with Prof Mike Davies and Dr Irene Pluchinotta will be subsidiary supervisors. Mike Davies very successfully leads very large projects on urban systems such as the CUSSH project and he will provide the student with valuable access to the Adaptation Committee of the UK Climate Change Committee, which he is a member of. Irene Pluchinotta is strongly involved in the Ventura project and a remarkable early career researcher for whom this will also be a great development opportunity. She specialises in systems thinking, decision-making and urban systems and is Visiting Associate Professor at Paris-Dauphine University and Senior Honorary Researcher at Strathclyde University. She will be eligible as subsidiary supervisor by 06/2023.

The supervisory/committee team combines studentship-relevant leading expertise in the EPSRC themes Operational Research through System Dynamics Modelling and Decision Support, the Built Environment, Infrastructure and Urban Systems and Energy and Decarbonisation. The supervisory team have an extensive track record of collaboration.

Key information

Funder: UCL ESPRC DTP studentship
Value: Fees, Stipend (at least £20,668 per year), Research Training Support Grant
Duration: Up to 4 years (thesis to be submitted within funded period)
Eligible Fee Status: Home, International (EPSRC caps the total number of funded International fee status students across UCL for this award at 30%)
Study Mode: Full or Part time (at least 50% FTE) [Note: Part time is not available to International students]
Primary Selection Criteria: Academic merit
Project ID: 2228bd1156 (You will need this ID for your application)
Application Deadline: 12:00 on 26 January 2023

How to apply

This PhD Studentship topic is one of 19 proposed by The Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources to a competition for approximately 60 studentships that will be awarded across UCL as part of the UCL EPSRC DTP. Prospective students are welcome to apply for up to 5 potential studentships - see the full list of projects from our department and the UCL project database for a comprehensive list across the university. The 60 successful proposals will be chosen following applicant interviews.

Before applying, all applicants must read the full eligibility criteria and application guidance on the UCL EPSRC DTP website. There is a 3-part application process, with a deadline of the 26 January 2023 to complete the third part of the application.