Through the concept of Earth Systems Science, Engineering and Management we bring together traditional civil engineering disciplines in environmental, geotechnical, structural, transport and water resources engineering to address the major scientific, technological and economic challenges associated with global change and urbanisation.
The quality of our work is reflected by the research projects we undertake with government agencies, the European Commission, and internationally renowned companies such as Arup, Babtie, BAE Systems, Nortel, AstraZeneca, Severn Trent Water and Thames Water International. We also achieved exceptional results in the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 2008. Ninety per cent of our research was classed as ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ placing us second in the UK in terms of ‘research power’, which is a combination of the quality of research produced and the number of active researchers.
Our guiding principle is partnership between industry and academia and this is applied to both our research degrees and our taught programmes. For example, as a MSc or PGDip student you will often be introduced to underlying principles by academics, and then practising engineers will discuss design and application with you. All of our MSc programmes are recognised as training relevant to the achievement of Chartered Engineer status and are professionally accredited by the Joint Board of Moderators and other relevant bodies, including the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, the Geological Society, and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. Many programmes have flexible, part- time study options to enable engineers and scientists to study with us as part of their continuing professional development.
We are committed to developing the next generation of researchers, and MPhil and PhD students are provided with a comprehensive programme of research training and professional skills development through the Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering.
All postgraduate students have access to an extensive range of facilities, based in the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences or in the University’s research centres and institutes. Many of the chemical, biological and Earth systems laboratories are on campus with selected physical and field laboratories located off campus. Our computing and software provision is outstanding with a range of industry standard programmes for graphics applications, mathematical modelling and programming.
Our main areas of research expertise are outlined as follows and there is considerable cross-group working between staff. Consequently, we have the scope to supervise multidisciplinary MPhil and PhD projects and offer versatile MSc programmes that draw modules and research projects from different branches of civil engineering and different subject disciplines.
Our work focuses on the mitigation of risks associated with pollution from wastes and developing sustainable solutions that will protect human health and the environment. We have research expertise in: engineered biological systems; treatment of acidic and metalliferous waters, biochemical processes in contaminated water, soils and sediments; and safe water and sanitation in developing countries. We take a multidisciplinary approach and, alongside the engineering and scientific challenges, we also consider the social, economic and institutional contexts. Much of our work has been applied to different contexts around the world. For example, our pioneering research on microbial ecology and minewater pollution was initially developed to help former mine villages in the North East of England but has also been applied to combat environmental problems caused by polluted water seeping from abandoned silver and tin mines in the Bolivian Andes.
The Geotechnics and Structures Group (GEST) brings together staff and students who have a background in engineering geology, geotechnical engineering or structural engineering and whose interests cover material behaviour, construction and design technology. Numerical simulation, material description, and laboratory and field testing form the basis of much of our work and we apply our skills to the research and development cycle – from the acquisition of material test data, to constitutive models and material laws, through to the development of numerical models, and finally to simulation and full-scale validation.
The Transport Operations Research Group (TORG) covers a broad spectrum of transport research that encompasses a number of different disciplines. We focus on key strategic research issues raised by studies such as the Foresight Intelligent Infrastructure Study, the Stern Report and the Eddington Review.
We have staff and students from the social sciences engaged in behavioural studies that identify why people travel, which routes they choose and what influences their choice of transport. Engineers work on projects to improve existing road and rail infrastructure and develop sustainable systems with minimal environmental impact.
Researchers use smart technologies to monitor traffic and travel patterns, and develop transport models and forecasts to shape sustainable transport plans that can accommodate current use and future growth. Student research projects can therefore come from a wide range of relevant topics. Students also take part in a European study tour to see examples of best practice in other countries. Staff and students alike have strong working relationships with professional institutions, industry, local authorities and consultants.
We are at the forefront of research into climate change impact, assessment and adaptation and apply the latest methods in hydroinformatics, modelling and measurement to plan sustainable water environments. Our main research themes are: hydroinformatics; flood risk and coastal management: climate change impacts and adaptations; and land world. Our computational and statistical research is backed by a long-term commitment to field experimentation at a range of scales.
Thus, at research sites in Northumberland and the River Eden catchment in Cumbria, and in collaboration with both local farmers and national agencies, we are working at scales from the farm field to over 1,000km2 to characterise catchment behaviour and to develop approaches to rural and land management that improve the river environment. Staff and students work from the Water Resource Systems Research Laboratory or are based in one of our partner research centres such as the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research or the Centre for Land Use and Water Resources Research. Their projects cover a range of different habitats and land uses in the UK, EU and overseas.
We offer a choice of full-time (12 months) and flexible learning (3–5 years) MSc courses in water-related topics and we are participants in a leading international Erasmus Mundus course (EuroAquae) with four other European partners.