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EPSRC PhD Studentship in: Performance Assessment and Whole-Life Costing of Sewage Treatment Works Grit Removal Processes

University of Sheffield - Sheffield Water Centre in collaboration with Hydro International Ltd and the Centre for Doctoral Training in Water Infrastructure and Resilience.

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Sheffield
Funding for: UK Students
Funding amount: This post will fully cover university tuition and provide a tax-free stipend for UK students of £19,000 per year.
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 25th March 2021
Closes: 30th April 2021

Start date: 27th September 2021 (contract duration 4 years)

Sewage Treatment Works (STW) headworks are the first line of defence in removing material detrimental and damaging to downstream processes. Despite relatively modest capital and opex costs compared to latter treatment stages, the importance of these systems is often disregarded and prediction of grit removal systems’ performance (and cost) is poorly understood. Recent studies by UK water companies have shown STWs incur significant and unnecessary costs due to poorly performing grit removal systems.

The project aims to understand the factors that control effective grit removal and deliver more consistent performance to offer higher resilience to STW. The key end user output from the underlying research will be standardised equipment assessment methods and models for whole life costing (WLC) of STW grit removal processes.

The project will initially focus on experimental validation of grit sampling methods and field quantification of grit removal performance. Validation of multiple sampling methods will be performed via controlled laboratory testing using wastewater grit surrogates. Accuracy and robustness of the grit sampling methods will be compared to establish best practice for sampling equipment design and procedures. This may form the underlying research for a new UK/international standard.

A desk study will quantify the potential cost of uncertainties in grit sampling on subsequent treatment processes, enabling the development of a WLC model for wastewater grit removal. Finally, field quantification and impact assessment of grit on downstream processes will be achieved through periodic monitoring of grit removal performance at a number of selected STWs, correlating this with maintenance activities, energy usage and historical records.

The research programme will be undertaken as part of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Water Infrastructure and Resilience (CDT WIRe). CDT WIRe is a collaboration between the three leading UK Universities in water resilient infrastructure. Students will benefit from a bespoke training scheme delivered by world leading experts from academia and industry, access to world leading experimental and computational facilities and close and regular contact with industry and end users.  CDT WIRe is committed to promoting a diverse and inclusive community, and offer a range of family friendly, inclusive employment policies. For further information on CDT WIRe visit:

The project will be supervised by Dr Nichols and Professor Tait in collaboration with partners from Hydro International Ltd. Hydro International will provide industrial focus and enable the successful applicant to work at the interface between industry and academia, with substantial time spent both at the university and the company. There is also likely collaboration with several UK water companies.

Eligibility Criteria

Normal EPSRC funding eligibility applies to this award, so students must have a relevant connection with the UK (usually by residence).

The selection criteria for the position are; 

  • Good honours degree (or equivalent experience) in Engineering, Physical Science, Mathematics, Environmental Sciences or a related subject.
  • Enthusiasm for research
  • Good written and oral communication, as appropriate for disseminating research and communicating with project partners.
  • Willingness to collaborate with other researchers, industry and end-users.
  • Aptitude for research in a relevant area (e.g. hydraulics, wastewater processes, sensing and monitoring systems, data analysis) evidenced by previous experience.

How to apply

Interested candidates should email a covering letter and their CV to Lindsay Hopcroft (

For information and informal enquiries please contact:  

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