PhD positions in characterizing emissions from urban freight systems to support decarbonization

Posted 2 months ago

An interdisciplinary team at the University of British Columbia (UBC) seeks multiple postdoctoral fellows or graduate students at the PhD level to join an Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) funded study on decarbonisation pathways for urban freight systems. This study will bring together field-measurements of real-world freight systems, emissions and air quality modeling, and the design of decision-support tools for policy and planning.

We are seeking candidates who are interested in field-based and modeling-based investigations of:

  • On-board marine emissions from a variety of ships (e.g., tugboat, ferry) for a variety different operating conditions and fuels
  • On-board railway emissions measurements
  • Near roads in and around ports, freight corridors and other urban freight areas of interest
  • Air quality and health impacts of freight systems

What makes this project unique: This project involves direct engagement with stakeholders from industry and government at the local, regional and national scale. The project will pilot ways of integrating a range of measurements and modeling tools to support decision-making. Outcomes from this research will directly support policy scenario analysis, technology investment, and facilities operation, giving students and postdoctoral fellows the unique opportunity to understand how academic research can be translated into policy and technology outcomes. Additionally, the study team comprises 6 departments and 3 faculties at UBC, providing important interdisciplinary training.

Anticipated background: Engineering (mechanical, environmental, chemical, civil), atmospheric science, engine emissions, aerosols, chemistry, public health/experimental medicine. Prior experience with air pollution and climate research is strongly preferred, including hands-on experimental research and/or modeling and data analytic research. Applicants interested in interdisciplinary collaboration with non-academic partners are especially encouraged to apply.

Desired skill sets (note: we do not expect to find candidates with all of these skills as this is a joint posting across numerous departments; if you have some of these skills we encourage you to reach out!):

Field-based skill sets

  • Research or related experience working with engines, fuels, and/or exhaust emission measurement equipment.
  • Experience working with hand tools and mechanical systems or the strong desire to develop these skills.
  • The ability and willingness to participate in field campaigns, which requires working in industrial settings and adhering to safe work practices.
  • Experience with aerosol instrumentation
  • Experience with ambient air quality measurement
  • Research or related experience working with cell culture, aerosols, toxicology, PCRELISA, relevant statistical analysis.

Modelling- and analysis-based skill sets

  • Experience with dispersion or chemical transport modelling
  • Experience with geospatial data wrangling, cleaning, and analysis
  • Interest or experience in applied mathematics related to optimization problems, and/or uncertainty quantification

Cross-cutting skills

  • Ability to analyze large and complex data sets (data mining, data cleaning)
  • Proficiency with languages and software for advanced data analysis (e.g., R, Python, MATLAB, ArcGIS)
  • Evidence of strong written and oral communication
  • Strong collaboration and the ability to work with a diverse team, including other researchers, equipment operators, policy-makers and project management.

Expected start date and location: Any start date between January – September 2023 is acceptable. Location will be in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, but projects will include extended field deployments in the broader Metro Vancouver region.

Advisors: Students may be matched with one or more advisors from the study team including Prof. Patrick Kirchen (Mechanical Engineering), Prof. Steven Rogak (Mechanical Engineering), Prof. Naomi Zimmerman (Mechanical Engineering & Atmospheric Science), Prof. Allan Bertram (Chemistry), Prof. Chris Carlsten (Medicine), Prof. Amanda Giang (Mechanical Engineering & Atmospheric Science & Resources, Environment and Sustainability), Prof. Bhushan Gopaluni (Chemical Engineering). This means that prospective students could receive a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, Atmospheric Sciences, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Medicine, or Resources, Environment & Sustainability, depending on their interest. We also support co-supervision.

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Contact: If interested, please send an email to, using the subject line “Inquiry Re: Graduate Student Application, Urban Freight”. Please briefly describe your research interests and experience and include a CV and transcript when inquiring. Please mention the supervisor you are most interested in working with in your email, and preferred start date.

Equity and diversity are essential to academic excellence.  An open and diverse community fosters the inclusion of voices that have been underrepresented or discouraged.  We encourage applications from members of groups that have been marginalized on any grounds enumerated under the B.C. Human Rights Code, including sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, racialization, disability, political belief, religion, marital or family status, age, and/or status as a First Nation, Metis, Inuit, or Indigenous person.

This posting is for the UBC Vancouver campus in British Columbia, Canada.

Please refer to reference number NC-56269 during correspondence about this position.

To express interest and initiate contact to the principal investigator applicants are encouraged to follow the instructions as provided in the position description or to submit the form on the Nature Careers website. Please note that applicants will have to complete an online application to the University of British Columbia and gain admission as a graduate student to the university.

About UBC
The University of British Columbia is a global centre for research and teaching, consistently ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world. Since 1915, UBC’s entrepreneurial spirit has embraced innovation and challenged the status quo. UBC encourages its students, staff and faculty to challenge convention, lead discovery and explore new ways of learning. At UBC, bold thinking is given a place to develop into ideas that can change the world.

Doctoral studies at UBC Vancouver
UBC is a public university with a comprehensive program offering – covering all major academic disciplines and degree levels, with both research- and course-based program options. More than 50,000 students attend UBC Vancouver. As a PhD student at UBC Vancouver you’ll be part of a diverse community of over 3,600 doctoral scholars at an institution that recognises and rewards the significant contributions of doctoral research. UBC is at the forefront of responding to and building on the extraordinary changes happening in our societies and our world, through reimagining approaches to research graduate education and exploring flexible methodologies for learners to develop needed expertise. UBC’s Public Scholars Initiative for example is a pioneering program designed to encourage and support doctoral students to reimagine the PhD, contribute to the public good, and with their doctoral work rise to the challenges that increasingly define our times.

At UBC, you will be supported with a range of professional development workshops and services, and we’ll partner with you to ensure you have a graduate game plan for academic and professional success.

You are encouraged to review the awards and scholarship database to determine funding opportunities for your doctoral degree. UBC Vancouver guarantees a minimum of CAD $22,000 of funding to eligible students for your first four years of PhD study with many programs offering higher funding packages. Funding highly varies by program and will be commensurate with qualifications, experience and awards secured. Most international students benefit from the International Tuition Award and PhD students usually qualify for the President’s Academic Excellence Initiative PhD Award.

About Vancouver
Vancouver is a dynamic, cosmopolitan and progressive city, consistently ranked as one of the top cities to live in the world. Canada’s third largest city has it all: sea, parks, mountains, beaches, and four seasons per year, including beautiful summers and mild, wet winters with snow in the mountains. It’s the perfect backdrop to your academic research.

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