PhD in the School of Engineering - The Role of Bridges in Cities during Emergencies

Newcastle University

Value of award

100% of UK/EU tuition fees paid and annual living expenses of £14,777 (full award).

Number of awards


Start date and duration

September 2018 for 3 years.


Transport networks are the backbone of modern societies because they enable the flows of goods and services. Recent extreme weather events have exposed these networks to flood damage and challenged emergency services. Bridges are strategic links that connect two parts of a city naturally separated by a river. When these connection fails (for example, during floods), the whole city is disrupted with large economic and societal costs (due to accessibility constraints and increased travel times).

Understanding the risks associated with the failure or limited serviceability of bridges is a key priority for resilient cities. Whilst monitoring and structural analysis can help identify bridges that are susceptible to failure, it is also necessary to understand the implications of their failure on the wider transport network to design effective emergencies plans. This project focus on the critical role of bridges and infrastructure in contributing to urban resilience, in particular in the light of the flooding impact from a functional point of views (e.g. rerouting, business interruption, evacuation routes). The research serves a critical bridging function by translating research results into practical recommendations for industry and practitioners (e.g. highway authorities, utility companies), reducing the distance between academics and stakeholders, theory and practice.


Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Name of supervisor(s)

Dr Maria Pregnolato and Professor Richard Dawson, School of Engineering.

Eligibility Criteria

The studentship is open to UK/EU applicants satisfying EPSRC home/UK or EU fee criteria, and are eligible for home fees. EU candidates may only be eligible for a partial award.

You must have, or expect to achieve, at least a 2:1 honours degree or international equivalent, in Civil Engineering, Transport Engineering, Geomatics or a related subject. Experience conducting modelling research would be an advantage, but is not essential. The candidate will be expected to conduct work with industrial and academic partners, and should have good interpersonal skills.

English language skills (if English is not your native language): an overall score of IELTS 6.5 or equivalent, with individual scores of 6.0 in each of the four sub-skills: writing, reading, speaking and listening.

How to apply

You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system. To do this please ‘Create a new account’. 

All relevant fields should be completed, but fields marked with a red asterisk must to be completed. The following information will help us to process your application. You will need to:

  • insert the programme code 8040F in the programme of study section
  • select ‘PhD Civil Engineering (full time) – Civil Engineering (Water Resources)’ as the programme of study
  • insert the studentship code ENG022 in the studentship/partnership reference field
  • attach a covering letter and CV. The covering letter must state the title of the studentship, quote reference code ENG022 and state how your interests and experience relate to the project
  • attach degree transcripts and certificates and, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualifications.

You should also send your covering letter and CV to Dr Maria Pregnolato email to


For further information, please email Dr Maria Pregnolato.

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Northern England