Riverine robots for sampling microplastics in inland waterways
Practical, creative applicants sought. Must be willing to get wet.
This PhD studentship will involve developing and testing a new aquatic robot, which will be used to travel through rivers and lakes, collecting microplastic samples. The project will require novel mechanical design and control to allow the robot to navigate outdoor waterways and will involve extensive field testing in the rivers and lakes in the local area and beyond.
Start date1 September 2021
£15,285 per year in 2020-21 plus a Research Training and Support budget to cover costs such as conferences, workshops and equipment.
Funding sourceNERC. This project is supported by Syngenta who offer training support and a 3-month internship.
The UK’s 200,000 miles of waterways (and 1,000,000 miles of culverts), face increasing pressures on monitoring costs, even as understanding the mounting problem of microplastic waste requires considerable additional data. The most recent Environment Agency report finds 86% of UK rivers below ecological standards.
This project will develop a new robot to explore rivers and sample the water for microplastics, improve technology for robotic monitoring of rivers and ultimately, access to water data. Novel mechanical design and control will be required to navigate obstacles and reliably take water samples.
The successful student will experience a variety of prototyping techniques and become comfortable in the rapid build-test cycle found in modern robotics. The project will take place in a welcoming environment of more than 30 researchers working in experimental fluid mechanics, robotics and environmental science, based in Surrey’s Centre for Aerodynamics and Environmental Flow.
The project’s lead supervisor is Rob Siddall, a roboticist with the Centre for Aerodynamics and Environmental flow who specialises in multimodal robotics. Co-supervision will be provided by Tom Bond, who offers expertise in microplastics and pollutants, and David Birch, who is has extensive experience with sensors and fluid dynamics.
The student will experience a variety of prototyping techniques and become comfortable in the rapid build-test cycle found in modern robotics. The project will take place in a welcoming environment of more than 30 researchers and academics working in experimental fluid mechanics, robotics and environmental science.
This project would be best suited to a student having a background in mechanical, electrical or aerospace engineering, with an interest in robotics and environmental science.
Experience with embedded computing in Python or C++ would be advantageous, as would any practical experience with mobile robotics or mechanical design. Background in control would also be a significant asset.
An undergraduate degree in engineering or a physical science would be best suited to this project. However, any applicant who can demonstrate the competencies needed (e.g. working with mechanical hardware) could be considered. To be competitive, at least a 2:1 Bachelor’s degree would be required.
This studentship is available for UK, EU and overseas students.
IELTS requirements: 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category (not for native speakers).
How to apply
All applications to SCENARIO are made via the University of Reading, whether the projects you are interested in are based at Reading, Surrey, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, British Geological Survey or Institute of Zoology.
Choose the PhD projects that interest you most (maximum of 4) and rank your choices in order of interest. Your application is only sent to supervisors for projects where you express an interest, so listing more increases your chances of success. If in doubt, choose 4. There will be limited possibilities to express interest for other projects later in the Admissions process.
Each project description indicates the name and institution of the lead supervisor and has a reference number. You are welcome and encouraged to email the lead supervisors of projects to ask them any questions you may have or to discuss the project.
Main interview day: 10 February 2021
It is likely that our interview day will be an online event, but that decision will be made nearer the time based on governmental Coronavirus guidelines.
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