School of Engineering


Colin Nicholson

Colin is one of our current STREAM researchers

Exploiting urban water monitoring data

I hold:

  • a BSc in Geophysics and Planetary Physics from Newcastle University (1998)
  • a Postgraduate Certificate in Education in Secondary Science from Durham University (2005)
  • an MSc in Hydrology and Water Management from Newcastle University (2017)

I have worked as:

  • an onshore data processor in various European offices
  • a secondary school science teacher in the North East of England
  • an offshore data processor/quality control advisor on a multitude of vessels all over the world.

After being made redundant in 2016, I decided that a change in direction was needed, but one that still utilised my data processing and modelling skills. The MSc was the first step on that journey; the next step is the STREAM PhD. The STREAM programme is ideal as it allows me to not only work on the research side of a problem but also to see my theories put into practice in an industrial setting.

In the past, urban flood modelling has not had a lot of data to play with and so has largely been under-utilised. My PhD will look at how we can use new sources of data, such as from the Urban Observatory here in Newcastle, and update and improve these models.

I'll be involved in creating a digital twin of the water network in Newcastle, which we will use in conjunction with the flood models to simulate what would happen if an incident like a water main burst occurs. We'll also use the models in risk assessment studies to see how we can best protect our vital infrastructure and to direct repair teams to the correct locations.

Working on the project will help me to develop my modelling skills, coding skills and to move away from the oil exploration industry. As I'm just at the start of my PhD, my long term plans are still in flux. Staying in academia or moving to Research and Development in the water industry would be the obvious choices. But given my past, from office work to working on a ship via the classroom, who knows what the future might hold!.


Colin Nicholson: STREAM researcher at Newcastle University