UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources


Apply for our PhD studentship in Environmental Sustainability of Global Food

3 April 2017

Apply for our fully-funded PhD Studentship in Environmental Sustainability of Global Food

(c) cathy granneman, food security


  • Title: PhD Studentship in Environmental Sustainability of Global Food
  • Supervisors: Dr Carole Dalin, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Sustainable Resources (UCL-ISR) and Professor Paul Ekins, Director of UCL-ISR
  • Funding: Stipend approx. £16,550/yr plus UK/EU fees; £1,000/yr for research-related expenses
  • Start Date: September/October 2017
  • Duration: 4 years

Research Topics

Natural resources are under increasing pressure from socio-economic development, population growth and climate change. Rising food demand has led to an intensification of agriculture, which now uses 70% of freshwater withdrawals and 38% of land, and is responsible for 25% of global greenhouses gases (GHG) emissions. This often leads to damaging environmental consequences, such as water stress, reduced biodiversity, ecosystem pollution and climate change, which significantly hinder the environmental sustainability of current food production. Besides, the rapid growth of international food trade has led to the development of major export-oriented agricultural regions. Projected population and income growth requires further increases in food production, making sustainable agriculture intensification an urgent global challenge.

The research led by Dr Dalin at UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources is creating the first tool to simultaneously evaluate the major environmental impacts of agriculture and food chains. The crucial role of trade in global agricultural systems will also be analysed. This is essential to provide a comprehensive assessment of agricultural sustainability and to avoid trade-offs associated with different intensification strategies.

This Ph.D. studentship is the opportunity to join this exciting, innovative and timely research project. The student will mainly focus on novel measures of sustainability and integration of key environmental impacts of food production (via water, fertilizer and land use, and GHG emissions).

First, the student will investigate different ways of designing environmental sustainability indicators of agricultural products, in particular for fertilizer and land use. The student will then integrate these new indicators with those developed by the team (on water and GHGs), to identify which regions are hotspots of unsustainable production. This will also enable the student to quantify trade-offs between different environmental impacts of food production around the world (e.g. sustainable water use but unsustainable fertilizer use, or vice versa). Finally, the student will either carry out a case study, or explore future global scenarios. The case study will assess strategies to improve food sustainability in one of the regions identified as particularly relevant. Future scenarios will project food sustainability by estimating the four indicators under biophysical (including climate change) and socio-economic changes.

Person specifications

  • Possession of a M.Sc. degree in environmental engineering, statistics, physics or other relevant quantitative science; or an equivalent research experience and B.Sc.
  • Passionate about the challenges of Sustainable Development
  • Experience and interest in conducting research, analysing large environmental datasets using modelling and computational methods
  • Knowledge of relevant statistical software or programming language (such as Matlab, R, Python, ArcGIS)
  • Ability to use own initiative and prioritise workload
  • Good interpersonal and communication skills (oral and written)
  • High level of attention to detail in working methods 

Application Procedure

For eligibility, please check EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) guidelines on student eligibility.

To be eligible, candidates must be either UK residents or EU residents who have been living in the UK for 3 years prior to the course commencing (e.g. for education purposes). EU residents who have not been living in the UK are eligible for fee only awards.

First Stage: Pre-application documents - (1) CV, (2) academic transcripts, and (3) personal statement (one page maximum) outlining motivation, interest and eligibility for the post - should be emailed directly to Mae Oroszlany: e.oroszlany@ucl.ac.uk.

Second Stage : Following the interview, the successful candidate will be invited to make a formal application to the UCL Research Degree programme. Further guidance will be provided.

Any offer made will be subject to references and proof of meeting the UCL English language requirements.

Informal enquiries on the content of the research topic should be emailed to Dr Carole Dalin, c.dalin@ucl.ac.uk

Deadline for application:  29 May 2017

Interviews week starting: TBC