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Urban Infrastructure Systems Under Multiple Overlapping Shocks and Stresses

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, May 17, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Our infrastructure networks have hidden characteristics that define their performance during events caused by manmade and natural hazards. As our infrastructure systems (transport, digital, water, energy etc) become integrated, creating hyper connected complex engineering systems, our understanding of their behaviour, particularly during shocks such as natural disasters or terrorist events reduces. As systems become more complex, their ability to create counterintuitive behaviour increases. Research in the understanding of such complex systems is creating new insights but these remain largely in the domain of theoretical hypotheses. This project will build upon this body of work and define real tangible ways in which we can design our infrastructure systems to increase their resilience. The work will focus on the confluence of two key driving pressures; [1] our infrastructure systems are ageing, under greater pressure and becoming more complex and integrated and [2] our climate system is projected to create more frequent and severe weather events. The culmination of these two issues is that, moving forward, the likelihood of multi-tile overlapping events (such as failures and system degradation due to severer weather or equipment failure) is increasing to the point where they will overlap in their consequences. Current infrastructure systems are designed to manage such phenomena.

The PhD will explore and attempt to define how to design infrastructure systems for multiple overlapping shocks and stresses with particular attention to the cascading enabled by the users and favoured by the asset conditioning.

The project will ideally consider a single infrastructure network with social interactions coupling otherwise distant nodes, where the dynamics can be modelled through a multi-layer network framework. The project could then extend to multiple infrastructure layers as well, investigating cascade effects.

The infrastructure network of interest will be chosen within the urban environment focus of the project together with the set of shocks and stresses the infrastructure have to be resilient to. The research questions will deal with the way urban infrastructure can be designed to be more resilient and recover more quickly from manmade and natural disasters.

The research will explore some of the following challenges [i] Translating to practice network science methods in order to create an analytical framework for the design of resilient infrastructures. [ii] How to define an a-priori metric for infrastructure resilience specifically for rapidly urbanising and informal cities. [iii]. Explore mobility-energy system interdependencies of informal cities under multiple overlapping shocks and stresses.

These objectives will be pursued through the following tasks.
[a] Departure from purely theoretical methods. The translation of theoretical methods, from network science and decision making will inform a resilience centred design for urban infrastructure. The candidate will be asked to consider mobility infrastructure and power network.
[b] Creation of an analytical framework for practical applications. This will establish a set of analytical tools derived from theory but strongly connected to practice.
[c] Resilience metric definition. We shall characterise resilience based on the structure of the network and its dynamics.
[d] Assessment of network interdependencies. Having characterised the mobility network, and the user layer over it, the candidate may develop a parallel model of the power network through the use of available data and the definition of expected network characteristics to create a synthetic power network model.


Candidates are expected to at least hold the equivalent of a first class or upper second class degree in relevant numerate discipline, such as computer sciences, mathematics or engineering.

Funding Notes

Students receive fees and stipend (at the standard RCUK rate).

How good is research at University of Sheffield in Civil and Construction Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 34.80

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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