UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources


How to apply

This page outlines how to apply to become a MPhil/PhD student at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources.

It is necessary to identify a supervisory team and to propose a research project in your application.

Identifying a supervisor

Only academics with sufficient research experience who can support you throughout your studies are able to supervise students. We have listed potential supervisors, and their interests, in the table below. You should follow the links in the table to read about the backgrounds of any supervisors that interest you, to see if they might be suitable.

Each PhD student has at least two supervisors, often with different skills. You should initially approach the person who is likely to be your principal supervisor. They will approach a subsidiary supervisor following discussions with you.
You must hold an interview with your principal supervisor prior to applying to study with us. This is to ensure that you are an appropriate candidate and have a suitable research project, and that you will be able to build a close working relationship with your supervisor. It will also enable you to ask any questions you have about the programme.

Identifying a project

You can either propose your own research project or choose one of the research projects that we have suggested in the table below.

If you wish to propose your own project, you should prepare a 2-page outline research proposal to share with potential supervisors covering:

  • the background;
  • key literature;
  • research question(s); and,
  • proposed research methods.

For your formal application to study at UCL, you will need to submit a full research proposal. This would normally be at least 6 pages in length, covering these four areas in more detail and also the supervisory team, potential publications and a timeline for the PhD research.

How to apply

The first step is to approach a potential supervisor by completing this expression of interest form. Only those supervisors who are taking on new students at present are listed. Please do not contact more than one potential supervisor at any time.

When you submit the expression of interest form, you will be sent an e-mail with information about next steps, which include submitting your CV and (if necessary) your outline research proposal. If you do not receive this e-mail within 24 hours of submitting the form, and it is not in your junk e-mail box, then please contact Professor Paul Dodds for assistance.

You can expect potential supervisors to respond to you within two working weeks, unless they are away from the office.

You should not make a formal application to study at UCL until you have agreed a supervisory team. Your proposed supervisors will normally give you feedback about how you can improve your full proposal prior to the formal application stage. You can apply formally using the link on the Prospectus page.

Start date 

New students are encouraged to start in September, at the start of the academic year, but in practice are able to apply and start at any time of the year.

The formal application process can take up to 10 weeks from providing all requested information to being made a formal offer to study at UCL.

List of ISR supervisors and their interests

SupervisorNew students?Interests
Dr Paolo AgnolucciYesI am an applied econometrician covering panel and time series methodologies both at micro and macro level with a focus on Quasi-Experimental Analysis of policy impacts, impact of climate change, energy demand, crop yield modelling and food trade. Please check my publications! 
Dr Nadia AmeliYesFinancing the low-carbon transition; Energy system trasnitions
Dr Isabela ButnarYesEnvironmental sustainability (Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), hybrid energy modelling - LCA); Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR); Land based climate mitigation (bioenergy energy systems, afforestation) 
Dr Alvaro Calzadilla RiveraNoComputable General Equilibrium modelling of economic, energy, environmental and resource policies; Climate change impacts on economic systems; The economic impact of low-carbon transition scenarios; Global food production and food security; Circular economy
Dr Carole DalinYesEnvironmental impact , environmental sustainability of food production; Water for food - hydrological modelling; Environmental impacts embedded in food trade; Sustainable and healthy food systems; Crop modelling and climate change
Dr Olivier DessensNo 
Prof Paul DoddsYes

I am only considering students interested in the "The future of oil refineries in low-carbon economies" project described below. My general interests are energy System modelling and hydrogen energy systems.

Oil refineries manufacture a wide range of products for energy and non-energy uses from fossil fuels. Demands for some refinery outputs, such as diesel, are expected to greatly reduce after 2030, while others are likely to be much less affected. Refineries could change the way their units operate, or invest in new equipment, to change the proportions of each petroleum product that is produced. They could also invest to enable greater use of fuels such as biomass and low-carbon hydrogen to reduce the lifecycle emissions of their products. This aim of this PhD is to investigate how demands for products from oil refineries might change in the future as the global economy decarbonises, and what the implications are for the number and design of refineries. We are looking for a high-achieving student to apply for a UK EPSRC CASE studentship for this PhD. The UK Petroleum Industry Association (UKPIA) will be the CASE sponsor and will provide access to information on and contacts in UK refineries. The future roles of oil refineries in the transition to net zero are being developed by UKPIA and the work of this PhD will significantly inform this development.

Academic background: Chemical or process engineering.

Dr Teresa Domenech AparisiNo 
Prof Paul EkinsNo 
Prof Michael GrubbYes

My own areas of primary research interest and expertise concern:

  • Electricity regulation for high-renewables systems
  • Dynamic economics of energy transitions, including factors determining pace of change and related financial structures, nationally and internationally
  • Policy strategies for decarbonising energy intensive industries, particularly trade-exposed sectors.

In addition, I am increasingly interested in the multi-level and geopolitical dimensions of the above, including the roles of major emerging economies. I generally do not supervise PhDs with a prime focus on modelling (many others at our Institutes do modelling). 

I tend to view these challenges in terms of the ‘Three Domains’ (www.) of innovation and transition processes, see Planetary Economics: Energy, Climate Change and the Three Domains of Sustainable Development - winner of 2021 Marcel Boiteux International prize for “outstanding book contributing to energy economics and its literature” by International Association for Energy Economics, Now available for free download here.

Dr Xavier LemaireNo 
Dr Lorenzo LottiNo 
Dr Will McDowallYesEco-innovation; low-carbon innovation policy; hydrogen energy; energy scenarios; energy policymaking; circular economy
Dr Julia TomeiYesEnergy access; resource use; low and middle income countries; qualitative research; governance; policy and politics; land use change; justice and equity.
Prof Jim WatsonYesEnergy policies - including for emissions reduction, energy security and innovation; transitions to net-zero

Ideas for project topics 

Hydrogen Energy Systems
Supervisor: Paul Dodds
There are numerous research questions about hydrogen energy systems that could be the subject of a PhD. Where and at what scale will hydrogen demand likely develop over the coming decades? As a key challenge for the development of hydrogen systems is the lack of existing hydrogen infrastructure, how can we develop hydrogen infrastructure in a way that minimises the cost of hydrogen and the risks of both unmet demand and expected demand not materialising? To what extent might ammonia have a role as an energy carrier in the future? How can hydrogen contribute to UK energy security, affordability, and UK economic competitiveness and growth?
Academic background: Operations research, economics, process engineering
The future of oil refineries in low-carbon economies
Supervisor: Prof Paul Dodds

The aim of this PhD will be to understand how demands for products from oil refineries might change in the future as the global economy decarbonises, and what the implications are for the number and design of refineries. Oil refineries manufacture a wide range of products for energy and non-energy uses. Demands for some outputs, such as diesel, are expected to greatly reduce in the future, while others will be much less affected.

This PhD will use UCL’s TIAM-UCL model to explore future changes in demands. The extent to which existing refineries can be redesigned or new refineries created to meet these changing demands will then be examined.
Academic background: Chemical or process engineering
Non-cost barriers to decarbonised heating
Supervisor: Prof Paul Dodds

Heat decarbonisation studies for residential and non-residential buildings tend to focus on cost and carbon savings. Yet a range of other factors are important, for example the size, reliability, noise and responsiveness of the heating system. The first aim of this PhD will be to understand the relative importance of non-cost barriers in the UK for natural gas and hydrogen boilers, electrical storage and heat pump systems, and heat networks. This information will then be used to develop decarbonisation strategies that account for non-cost factors and their implications (e.g. for the political feasibility of decommissioning existing gas networks).

Academic background: Social sciences, economics

Modelling the need for energy storage in low-carbon electricity systems
Supervisor: Prof Paul Dodds
Energy system models tend to underestimate the need for storage in low-carbon electricity system due to (i) inadequate temporal resolution; (ii) assuming of perfect foresight for storage charging and discharging; (iii) ignoring potential value from ancillary markets; and, (iv) ignoring local network capacity limitations. This PhD will examine how each of these areas might be addressed. Several models will be available to examine hypotheses, including low- and high-resolution versions of the UK TIMES model and the hourly-resolution highRES planning and dispatch model

Academic background: Operations, research, economics, process engineering

Rethinking the structure of energy system models
Supervisor: Prof Paul Dodds

TThe structure of energy system models (e.g. TIMES models from IEA ETSAP) typically reflects the structure of national energy statistics, which focus on the supply side. Yet other structures would be possible, for example to reflect lifestyles by reimagining energy service demands. This PhD will examine the feasibility, challenges and potential benefits of adopting novel model structures for understanding decarbonisation pathways.

Academic background: Operations, research, economics, process engineering

Designing local energy system models
Supervisor: Prof Paul Dodds
Energy systems models are most often designed on a national scale, but there is increasingly a move to regional models. There are many approaches to defining regions (e.g. geography; energy infrastructure considerations; political system; population density; transport system). The choice should reflect the questions a model is required to answer. While national governments have used energy system models for a long time, there is increasing interest from local governments, who have different competencies and different questions. In this PhD, interviews will be held with local and national government stakeholders in the UK to understand their needs. The PhD will then explore how a regional version of the UK TIMES model could be redeveloped to meet those needs.
Academic background: Operations, research, economics, geography

Next: Programme overview