Exploring instability in complex systems, Mathematics – PhD (Funded) Ref: 3006

About the award

The University of Exeter’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in April 2018 or as soon as possible thereafter.  For eligible students the studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £14,553 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study.  The student would be based in Exeter in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the Streatham Campus in Exeter.


Mathematics, Streatham Campus, Exeter

Academic Supervisors:
Dr Jan Sieber, University of Exeter

Project Description:

The prediction and analysis of sudden changes in complex systems and models (called tipping) are a current topic in science and an urgent problem for society. A few hotly debated examples are the possible collapse of the Gulf Stream, the sudden loss of vegetation in nutrient-polluted lakes, or the change between the vegetated and desert state in dry regions. While these cases of tipping are well understood in idealised mathematical models, their analysis is restricted in field observations, laboratory experiments and complex model simulations by the impossibility to systematically explore dynamically unstable phenomena. For many complex systems the notion of equilibrium is only defined in a statistical mechanics sense as an emerging phenomenon, which, by its definition, must be stable.

This project will study in which sense these complicated models can have, for example, unstable equilibria. Unstable equilibria are important since they determine thresholds for tipping. During the project the student will have the opportunity to develop rigorous mathematics and computational methods. We aim to apply the developed methods for example to simulations of the Atlantic Overturning Circulation (related to the Gulf Stream).

Keywords: Tipping in Climate Science and Ecology, Dynamical Systems and Chaos.

This award provides annual funding to cover UK/EU tuition fees and a tax-free stipend.  For students who pay UK/EU tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees in full, plus at least £14,553 per year tax-free stipend.  Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee and no stipend. 

The studentship will be awarded on the basis of merit for 3.5 years of full-time study to commence in April 2018 or a later agreed date and is subject to confirmation of funding.  

The studentship will cover a stipend at the minimum Research Council rate, currently £14,553 per annum, research costs and tuition fees at the UK/EU rate for students

Entry requirements:
Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in mathematics, physics, or another appropriate area of science or technology.  
If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.0 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project.  Alternative tests may be acceptable (see http://www.exeter.ac.uk/postgraduate/apply/english/).

How to apply

In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents:

• CV
• Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project).
• Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying)
• Names of two referees familiar with your academic work. You are not required to obtain references yourself. We will request references directly from your referees if you are shortlisted.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 5 March 2018.  Interviews will be held on the University of Exeter Streatham Campus the week commencing  12 March 2018.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email emps-pgr-ad@exeter.ac.uk or phone +44 (0)1392 722730.  Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor.


Application deadline:19th March 2018
Number of awards:1
Value:£14,553 for 3.5 years
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Postgraduate Research Office emps-pgr-ad@exeter.ac.uk