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PhD Fellowship "Urban Metabolism and Nature-based Solutions" (UMaNS)

Project Description

PhD position in Engineering Science at the University of Louvain

Project title: Urban Metabolism for Advanced Nature-based Solutions (UMaNS): An integrated framework to support the development of extended case-sensitive Urban Metabolism modelling approaches.

Funding: Fonds Spéciaux de Recherche FSR (The Wallonia-Brussels Federation).

The Faculty of Architecture, Architectural Engineering and Urban Planning (LOCI) at the University of Louvain is currently increasing its research capacity associated with urban sustainability and the Urban Metabolism approach more particularly. The doctoral research will be supervised by Prof. Daniela Perrotti. The distinct focal area of Prof. Perrotti’s research team consists of advanced urban metabolism assessment methods measuring the potential of nature-based solutions to mitigate urban resource demand and associated waste and pollutant rejection.


The growing evidence-base demonstrating cities’ responsibility for accelerated natural-resource erosion and exacerbated impacts on climate change suggests the need for more systemic urban resource-demand mitigation strategies. In this sense, the popularity of Urban Metabolism assessment methods, and the mass-balance model for Material Flow Analysis (MFA) more particularly, reflect an increasing recognition of the need for a whole systems approach to natural resource management. Nature-based solutions provide nowadays an extensive reservoir of techniques and strategies to optimize the metabolism of cities through enhanced resource cycling and emission abatement. However, this reservoir is largely untapped in Urban Metabolism research, despite substantial progress in ecosystem-service knowledge and classification.

This doctoral research project involves the development of an integrated Urban Metabolism and Ecosystem Service framework facilitating computation and modelling of advanced nature-based strategies for resource-use mitigation. The framework will be tested across a gradient of contrasting case-study cities differing in urban metabolism profiles and biophysical configurations across climate zones, including cities in Northern-Europe (Brussels, Amsterdam, London, and Reading UK), China (Beijing), and Latin America (Santiago Chile and Mexico City).

The project will involve secondment periods (of 3 up to 6 weeks) at the School of the Built Environment in the University of Reading, United Kingdom, under the supervision of Dr. Vincent (Zhiwen) Luo, Lecturer in Sustainable Technologies.

Within UCLouvain, the PhD researcher will collaborate with the research center Architecture et Climat led by Prof Sergio Altomonte as well as the University-wide research platform Louvain4Water.

The doctoral researcher will be part of the Doctoral Programme offered by the University of Louvain’s Science and Technology Sector.

Start date: between 1st November 2019 and no later than 1st January 2020 (depending on the availability of the selected candidate)


- Minimum of a MSc Degree in relevant subject area: Industrial Ecology, Environmental Engineering, Urban Ecology or Environmental Sciences
- Relevant MSc dissertation topic

- Excellence command of English (knowledge of either French, Dutch, Spanish or Chinese will be an additional asset)
- Excellent written English communication skills
- Excellent organizational and communication skills
- Good presentation and oral communication skills
- Ability to work independently within agreed guidelines
- Commitment to developing internationally competitive publication profile

Relevant experience
- Knowledge of and interest in the Urban metabolism approach
- Knowledge of and interest in the “Ecosystem Service” concept
- Previous experience in academic research (e.g. Master thesis, research assistance, article writing)
- Engagement with quantitative and qualitative data collection (e.g. Master thesis)

- General Urban Sustainability Knowledge
- Previous experience in conducting basic system modelling (e.g. Master thesis)
- Previous experience in conducting geospatial analysis (e.g. Master thesis)


Applications should include (in one single pdf file):

1. A cover letter (2 pages) including an explanation on how your profile matches the research project, Skills/Qualifications and Specific Requirements.

2. A full CV, including degrees and marks obtained for each study year, title and a short summary of your Master thesis, relevant courses taken, a list of publications and conference papers, as well as contact details of two academic referees.

3. Copy of the master thesis (completed or in progress) and any other relevant research output (article, conference paper, etc).

Please submit your application file to the project supervisor, Prof. Daniela Perrotti:

Interviews with short-listed candidates will be held on Skype or, when possible, at the UCLouvain campus of Louvain-la-Neuve (Place du Levant 1, 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve) or Brussels (Rue Henri Wafelaerts, 47, 1060 Brussels).

Further details about this fellowship can be obtained from Prof. Daniela Perrotti: .

Funding Notes

The net monthly salary is of 2000€. The funding package also covers tuition fees and social benefits. An additional budget of 5000€ is provided to cover international mobility expenses, IT costs and other operating costs.
The funding package will be awarded for an initial duration of two years, extendable over two additional years. Within the first year of the project, the PhD researcher will be provided the opportunity to apply to dedicated funding by the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research in collaboration with the supervisor and to extend the funding package over the final two years of the project.

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