Sir Joseph Swan Centre for Energy Research

Staff Profile

Dr Alan J Murphy

Reader in Maritime Engineering


A Brief History

I still recall the precise event that gave me my unerring passion for the sea and the pursuit of a career in the maritime world – I was aged 17 and, having never been to sea before (beyond the occasional ferry trip to the Isle of Wight!), I went on a two-week residential outward-bound course on the Sail Training Ship, STS Sir Winston Churchill (owned then by the Sail Training Association (STA)). From that moment I was hooked. Since then I have sailed for pleasure including on other tall ships and sailing yachts. This also inexorably led me to begin my working life by undertaking a dual cadetship in the Merchant Navy qualifying in 1995 as both a Deck and Engineer Officer with Shell Shipping. Having spent approximately a decade serving at sea I subsequently undertook my BEng at Newcastle University achieving a First Class degree in Marine Technology with honours in Naval Architecture.

I read for my PhD in the Fluid-Structure Interaction Research Group at the University of Southampton, gaining the Stanley Grey Fellowship (IMarEST) and the Froude Scholarship (RINA). My research, ‘The Design, Production and Testing of a Laminar Flow Based Drag Plate’, included programming and using computational fluid-dynamics codes, practical engineering and captive model testing in a towing tank. This work was funded by the UK MoD, through QinetiQ. 

Owing to my previous professional sea-going background, I developed and taught a number of modules throughout the duration of my PhD studies. I was awarded my PhD in May 2005 and was appointed as a Research Fellow in Ship Science at the University of Southampton from 2004 where I headed the research into freak waves within the Lloyds Register University Technology Centre. I also worked with the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS) during that time, on UK MoD-supported research studying air-independent power sources suitable for Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs). 

I joined Newcastle University in 2007 with a portfolio of research and teaching in the field of Maritime Engineering, drawing on my expertise from both my Merchant Navy Marine Engineering experiences and those relating to naval architecture and experimental hydrodynamics, from my academic studies.  

Roles and Responsibilities

I am now a member of the Senior Management Team in the Faculty of Science Agriculture and Engineering (SAgE) as the Associate Dean, Science and Engineering. In this role I lead on one of the most ambitious strategic projects for transformational change the faculty has undertaken in decades under the title of “Science and Engineering Excellence”. I have developed, updated and communicated an exciting vision for the future direction of the faculty to integrate the core science and engineering disciplines, to deliver multidisciplinary and specialist education programmes and research outputs of international significance. This is underpinning the development of a master plan for capital investment for new and rejuvenated buildings and infrastructure. 

In this role I regularly contribute to Faculty Steering Group and Executive Board and to key policy proposals at University Executive level. I also work with significant external stakeholders to the university, including the UK Research Councils (RCUK) and senior business leaders. 

Since joining Newcastle University in 2007 and prior to my appointment as Associate Dean I have also held a wide variety of other significant leadership roles and responsibilities including: 

  • Head (and founder) of the Sustainable Shipping and Marine Engineering Research Group (SSMERG)

  • Theme Leader for Research Group marineNewcastle

  • Stream director of the suite of UG and PG Marine Engineering degree programmes

  • Director of Excellence in Learning and Teaching

  • Chair of Board of Studies

  • Member of Faculty Learning and Teaching Committee

  • Led the professional accreditation of all of the Marine Technology degree programmes

  • Led the Internal Subject Reviews of the Marine Technology degree programmes

  • Senior tutor for the Marine Technology students

  • Member on Postgraduate Research student progression panels

  • Admissions Selector for the Marine Technology Degree Programmes (UK campus and Singapore Campus)

  • Director of our Marine Engineering Systems Laboratories (Jones Laboratory)

  • School Executive Board Member

  • Chair on the University Student Disciplinary Committee

  • Member of the University Value for Money Working Group

  • Member of the SAgE Faculty Diversity Steering Group

  • Director of Operations at the Singapore campus (carried out as ‘flying-faculty’) 


  • 2009 Newcastle University Teaching Award

  • 2008 Chartered Engineer and Chartered Marine Engineer (CEng, CMarEng)

  • 2005 PhD; Design, Build and Testing of a Laminar Flow Drag Plate (University of Southampton, UK)

  • 2000 BEng Marine Technology, with honours in Naval Architecture, Class I. (University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)

  • 1995 Class 4 Certificate of competency in the merchant navy – Marine Engineer Officer, steamship & motor ship

  • 1995 Class 3 Certificate of competency in the merchant navy – Deck Officer

  • 1995 Part 1 Higher National Diploma Marine Technology (Engineering) – Overall grade: Distinction (SouthTyneside College)

  • 1993 National Diploma Marine Technology (Engineering) – Overall grade: Distinction (South Tyneside College) 

Area of expertise
  • AJM: Infrastructure

Learned Societies and External Committee Membership

I am active in the learned societies and, by invitation, on a number of external national and international committees. These include:

  • Fellow, Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (FIMarEST)

  • Member, Royal Institution of Naval Architects (MRINA)

  • Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology & Royal Institution of Naval Architects North East Coast Joint Branch: Chair & Vice Chair

  • Royal Institution of Naval Architects: Membership Committee

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)

  • International Ship and Offshore Structures Congress (ISSC)

  • UK standing committee member for the international conference for the practical design of ships (PRADS)

  • South Tyneside College, Marine Faculty, Strategic Advisory Board Member

  • Invited member of the Canadian First Research Excellence Framework (CFREF) advisory panel, advising the Canadian government on the strategic allocation of research funding over a number of years

  • Invited member of the Marine and Maritime future road mapping steering group for Innovate_UK (expert advisor for the strategic allocation of UK government research funding to the marine industry)

  • Science Engineering and Technology Ambassador (SETNET)

Google scholar profile

SCOPUS profile




With a professional sea-going marine engineering start to my career, coupled with a subsequent academic education in naval architecture and experimental hydrodynamics, I have a broad base of research expertise ranging from the practical & applied to the scientific & fundamental across the broad theme of maritime engineering. And, I therefore somewhat contradict the ‘traditional’ adage that “oil and water do not mix” (something of a career theme, given I also started out with the dichotomy of dual deck and engine officer training in the Merchant Navy!).

Recently I have developed unique research broadly on the theme of ‘sustainable shipping’, setting myself as a leading international academic with a global profile in this vital grand-challenge. Around this I have developed a corpus of work, supported by numerous ‘gold-standard’ funders, tackling the issue of transitioning global shipping to low-carbon futures, whilst also mitigating and eliminating other forms of poisonous pollution. I have recruited many influential international consortia, in which I hold leadership positions, and include international & regional policy makers, many esteemed universities, government research agencies & industry leaders.

In this context, my input and expertise has led to e.g. policy recommendations at the highest level in the EU; attracted repeated funding to extend my research to other marine sectors including from EPSRC, EU, Innovate_UK; technological interventions, e.g. working with both local SMEs as well as global companies for ship-board emissions monitoring products and environmental classification; regular invitations to participate on international expert committees; and an award winning paper from the highest intellectual organisation in my field, the Royal Institution of Naval Architects.

The momentum I have gained in this field is considerable including my recent success in securing both UK government (Innovate_UK) and EU funding. Essentially, tackling one of the most fundamental grand challenges of our time, namely: given the world’s prosperity is reliant on ~90% of its goods moving on water-borne transport and significant amounts of its food and energy is derived from the oceans – how can this be achieved sustainably in the future?

Research Projects

Since my appointment to Newcastle University in 2007, my funded research projects include:

Nature in Engineering for the Monitoring of the Oceans (NEMO) (~£500k) an EPSRC funded project, in collaboration with the University of Southampton and the National Oceanography Centre, investigating the potential for bio-inspired (lessons learned from the natural world) applications for improving underwater vehicles. []

Low Carbon Shipping – A Systems Approach (~£1.7M) in collaboration with four other major universities and ~15 industrial partners, looking at ways to reduce the carbon footprint of global shipping, funded by the EPSRC. [ and]

Shipping in Changing Climates (SCC) (~£3.5M) a follow-on project from Low Carbon Shipping (LCS), including and building on the strong university and industry consortium, also funded by the EPSRC. [ and]

I-CASE Studentship with Lloyds Register (Fully-funded PhD studentship at EPSRC fees and stipend rates). This PhD is investigating indexing schemes for ranking the environmental performance of ships and shipping.

Clean North Sea Shipping (CNSS), €4.1Million project funded by the EU, INTERREG IVB programme. This was in collaboration with 19 international collaborators from a wide range of institutions across Europe including NGOs, regulators, industry and research institutions and ultimately made recommendations to the EU on reducing air pollution from regional shipping. For this project I was elected as the UK representative on the steering committee and hosted the annual Clean North Sea Shipping conference for this project. [ and]

Clean North Sea Shipping - Improved Dissemination and Impact. This project was an invited bid on completion of Clean North Sea Shipping on the basis it was ranked as one of top three for quality in its funding stream. We further disseminated the CNSS findings to fully realise their impact.

Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD) (~£150k). Funded by Innovate_UK, this KTP worked with a local industry partner (SMD) to improve their design algorithms for launch and recovery from ships of remotely operated marine vehicles.

Dynamic Loads on Distributed Buoyancy Modules (~£22k). This is an industry funded project with a European company, Trellegorg, who, having noted our work with SMD, commissioned us to research how they could improve their design for buoyancy collars attached to subsea risers and pipelines during the launch and recovery operations from ships.

Whole Vessel Energy Management (~1.5M). This Innovate_UK funded project, working with a local industry partner, Royston, is creating consultancy expertise and monitoring products to reduce the energy consumption in shipping operations through better understanding the complex energy flows throughout ship systems.

CLean INland SHipping (CLINSH) (~€8Million). This project was an invited application from the European Commission's Directorate-General for the Environment, Air & Industrial Emissions Unit who had attended our final CNSS project conference and would like us to extend our research on reduction of air pollution to the inland shipping fleet across Europe. Similar to CNSS, this project comprises collaborators from a wide range of institutions across Europe including, regional policy makers, NGOs, regulators, industry and research institutions to tackle the issue. The consortium kick-off conference was in October 2016. []

I also have a number of formalised research collaborations with industrial partners. And, for example, I have secured industrial support for a variety of projects, also leading to journal publications. One such publication, co-authored with industry partners, was awarded the Ian Telfer Prize, by the Royal Institution of Naval Architects for the best paper published in the Institution’s transactions on the subject of the environment. - Murphy, A. J., Weston, S. J. and Young, R. J., Reducing Fuel Usage and Exhaust Gas Emissions from Tug Boat Fleets: Sea Trials and Theoretical Modelling, Transactions of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects, Part A: International Journal of Maritime Engineering, 154, A31-A41, 2012.


Undergraduate Teaching

Current Teaching:
Marine Engineering Science I (MAR1006) Module Leader
Marine Engineering Science II (MAR2003) Module Leader

Previous Teaching Duties:
Marine Engineering
Ship Resistance and Propulsion
Marine Design
Ship Science Induction Programme
Royal Academy of Engineering, Headstart, Engineering Summer School

Project supervision:
The project "The effects of abnormal waves in tidal races on yachts and small craft" (Sally Denchfield) - Awarded the Lloyd's Register, best marine technology student, jugded by the IMarEST, at the 2006 Science, Engineering and Technology awards.
Other project topics include:
Gyroscopic stabilisation for ships and fast craft
Rogue and freak wave modelling and their effects on marine structures
Wind assisted propulsion for large commercial ships

Postgraduate Teaching

Previous Teaching Duties:
Marine plant condition monitoring

Project Supervision:
EngD Ride control systems for fast craft and RIB Hydrodynamics
PhD Control systems for AUV intervention operations