Expressions of Interest are now open for the 2020 round of prestigious Scientia PhD Scholarships.

Each awardee will receive a stipend for 4 years ($41,209 per annum), a tuition fee waiver for 4 years and a travel/support package of up to $10,000 per annum. Furthermore, professional and career development will be provided throughout their candidature.

The Climate Change Research Centre is looking for up to 4 committed PhD scholars globally in the following research topics:


Methods from physics to learn weather and climate sensitivities

A key limitation of weather and climate forecasts is that cloud and turbulent processes are very complex, and remain crudely represented in weather and climate models due to lack of an underlying theory. It is now possible to simulate clouds in great detail on supercomputers, and vast amounts of satellite data are now available. This interdisciplinary project will apply methods from statistical physics, which are only beginning to be used in the environmental sciences, to better exploit such data, advance our basic understanding, and produce more useful models for weather and climate changes.

The ideal candidate with have an undergraduate degree in physics would be a great background for this student, but degrees in other quantitative fields, including physical or computer sciences or engineering, could also be suitable. We encourage students with knowledge of university-level mathematics, statistics or statistical mechanics, and/or dynamical systems who are keen to learn about weather and climate; or, students with knowledge of atmosphere/climate physics who are keen to advance their quantitative skills. The position would involve data analysis, modelling and/or theory, and likely involve computation with large datasets. The most important quality is curiosity and a desire to apply basic methods from physical sciences to solve tough problems in environmental science!

Supervisory Team: Prof Steven Sherwood, Dr Martin Jucker and Prof Tim Duty


Our health during heatwaves – is climate change responsible?

Heatwaves have adverse health impacts on Australians. Recent heatwaves have incurred severe health burdens, which are likely to worsen under a warmer climate. This project will examine the influence of anthropogenic climate change on health impacts of Australians during heatwaves. It will involve investigating high-impact events and determining vulnerable demographics and exacerbated diseases. Analyses of climate (e.g. observations and projections from climate models) and human health (e.g. hospital admissions) data will be undertaken for various regional and temporal scales. Once health impacts of significant heatwaves are isolated, cutting-edge detection and attribution methods will determine the role of anthropogenic climate change.

The ideal candidate will have a keen interest in the global impacts of heatwaves, and detection and attribution methods. They must be enthusiastic about communicating the findings of their research beyond the climate science community to stakeholders and the general public. Innovative methods to successfully communicate their findings to a wide audience are welcomed, inclusive of cross-discipline initiatives. The candidate will work closely with UNSW’s grand challenge on climate change – their scientific findings will support knowledge conveyed by the grand challenge, and they will actively contribute to the public debate around climate change.

The successful candidate will also have a Bachelor’s degree in atmospheric science, maths, physics, or a related field, with a high GPA. They will have either a masters or first class honors degree in a similar field. Graduates with a background in climate or atmospheric science, or similar quantitative sciences are welcome, as well as those from epidemiological sciences. While having experience in both fields is desirable, it is not essential. They must have some programming experience in analytical languages such as MATLAB, R or Python. A background in model development and/or statistics is desirable but not essential. Students with prior research and/or work experience in climate science will be given priority.

Supervisory Team: A.Prof Melissa Hart, Dr Sarah Kirkpatrick and Dr Sophie Lewis


Droughts, flooding rains and human security in a changing climate

Droughts and floods contribute to food insecurity and famine, the spread of waterborne disease, and the loss of property and livelihood. Climate change will likely amplify drought-flood cycles, resulting in longer dry seasons, increasingly intense floods, and an overall unpredictability in rainfall patterns. In regions, like the Sahel, already affected by periodic drought and flooding this will have serious - and immediate - impacts on millions of people. This interdisciplinary project will use state-of-the-art climate observations and models within a human security framework to evaluate the impact of drought-flood cycles on the health, economy and environmental security of affected populations.

The ideal candidate will:

  • Hold a first class Honours or research Masters Degree (or equivalent) in a quantitative subject such as mathematics, physics, atmospheric science, oceanography or computer science and/or an applied subject such as public health, epidemiology
  • High level of computer programming skills in Fortran and/or a high-level graphics language (e.g., Python, MATLAB, IDL, etc.)Ability to handle large amounts of data including from diverse sources and formats
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Ability to collaborate with others and to work effectively in a research team environment
  • Demonstrated ability to meet deadlines and bring projects to a timely completion
  • Desire or ability to configure and run dynamical and impact models
  • Interest in interdisciplinary climate change research and its potential impact on human security

Supervisory Team: A.Prof Lisa Alexander, A.Prof Donna Green and Dr Margot Bador


Warm water intrusions and ice melt at the Antarctic margin

The risk of rapid ocean warming at the Antarctic margin is profound, with marine terminating ice-sheets locking up many meters of potential global sea-level rise. Rapid change has already been detected, yet this region remains poorly understood, with only limited observations due to both a harsh environment and a lack of standard data streams. This study will use high-resolution global and regional ocean/sea-ice models to examine mechanisms for rapid warming of Antarctic continental shelf waters via both large-scale drivers and fine-scale processes, including mesoscale eddies, tide-topography interactions, and bottom boundary flows. Implications for ocean biogeochemistry will also be explored.

The ideal student for this project will be one with an outstanding track record in quantitative sciences, particularly mathematics and physics, or with strong vocational training in fluid dynamics and engineering. Advanced analytical skills would be ideal, and it would be advantageous for the student to have developed excellent programming skills (for example using python, Matlab, C++ and Fortran). The ideal student might even have already run ocean circulation models and analysed 3D ocean data in either advanced modelling systems or observations. But above all else, the ideal student would have a strong grounding in mathematics and/or physics / fluid dynamics. Note that we have recently been contacted by two outstanding candidates interested in working on this PhD project under the Scientia scheme, one from UWA (Hannah Dawson) with straight HDs as well as strong industry experience, and another from Germany with glowing referees reports.
Supervisory Team: Scientia Prof Matthew England, Dr Laurie Menviel and A.Prof Peter Strutton