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Pathogen Transport in River Systems

Eligibility: UK/International (including EU) graduates with the required entry requirements

Duration: Full-Time – between three and three and a half years fixed term

Application deadline: 30 April 2024

Interview date: Will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: September 2024

For further details contact: Dr Matteo Rubinato

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The Trailblazer PhD studentships have been devised and developed by leading early-career researchers at Coventry University.


Coventry University is inviting applications from highly motivated, suitably qualified graduates for a fully funded PhD studentship in numerical modelling of transport and dispersal of waterborne disease pathogens during flood events in order to explore potential and limitations of a new approach and apply it to analyse the impacts of climate change on pathogen transmission pathways.

Project details

This project’s overarching aim is to expand current knowledge of human health risks from waterborne disease pathogen dispersal during flood events. Infectious diseases from waterborne pathogens (e.g., E. coli, norovirus, adenovirus, sapovirus) are estimated to cause between 1 and 2 million deaths each year.

The anticipation, mitigation and prevention of flood-driven waterborne disease outbreaks requires suitable modelling approaches for predicting pathogen transport within riverine systems. This project’s vision is to realize a synoptic modelling approach, that enables and enhances preparedness against infectious disease outbreaks.

Project objectives

Objective 1: Develop a novel modelling approach for simulating the transport and dispersal of waterborne disease pathogens during flood events. Importantly, the new approach will combine catchment-scale mobilization of pathogens with high-resolution simulation of river channel and overbank flow dynamics, to capture pathogen dispersal onto floodplains during flood events.
Objective 2: Explore the new model’s potential and limitations relative to empirical data. This objective assesses the reliability of the new modelling approach.
Objective 3: Analyse sensitivities and resilience of pathogen dispersal dynamics under present-day climate conditions and under future extremes. Simulating, analysing and comparing pathogen transport dynamics and dispersal patterns under these future flood events will elucidate sensitivities and resilience in the pathogen dispersal dynamics.
This thus is a true interdisciplinary project – incorporating hydrology, fluvial hydraulics, epidemiology, climate science, and numerical modelling – that will advance knowledge of overbank pathogen dispersal dynamics for different pathogens and will enable assessment of risk of post-flood pathogen exposure to riparian communities. Ultimately, then the project will enable new research to prevent or mitigate waterborne disease outbreaks, which in turn will contribute to achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 6 (particularly Target 3.3: combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases; Target 3.9: substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from air, water and soil pollution and contamination; Target 6.1: universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all).


This is a fully-funded studentship, including tuition fees and stipend/bursary.


The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities.

Entry requirements

  • A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 60% mark in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average.


  • The potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a 3.5 years.
  • A minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS academic overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component).

Academic environment

Established in 2014 through substantial university investment, the Centre for Agroecology, Water & Resilience (CAWR) is rapidly building a global reputation for transdisciplinary research into processes of resilience in social-ecological systems. Among its key lines of research is work focusing on modelling of water and food systems, aided by high performance computing facilities. The Centre also houses a number of state-of-the-art laboratories which are available for use by the successful candidate.

Essential criteria:

  • Knowledge of hydraulics and sediment/pollutant transport
  • Experience with environmental and numerical modelling and computational fluid dynamics
  • Knowledge of epidemiology, microbiology and infectious diseases
  • Competency in high-level programming languages
  • Working knowledge of: basic statistical methods, quantitative data analysis, etc.
  • Excellent written and spoken English language skills (e.g. effective presentation skills, writing technical/scientific reports)
  • Creativity in problem solving
  • Strong research ethic
  • Proven ability to undertake independent study
  • The candidate will be required to conduct fieldwork in Wales for two 5-day field visits throughout the duration of the project, and will need to work largely independently for this period.

Desirable criteria:

  • Experience with advanced statistical techniques
  • Great proficiency in high-level programming languages (especially C# and Python)
  • Familiarity with laboratory techniques for pathogen analysis

How to apply

To find out more about the project, please contact Dr Matteo Rubinato

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus a 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project.

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