Met-Ocean data for autonomous marine systems, Engineering –PhD (Funded) Ref: 3305

About the award


Dr Ian Ashton, University of Exeter

Prof Lars Johanning, University of Exeter

The Centre for Offshore Technology, part of the University of Exeter’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in January 2019 or as soon as possible thereafter.  For eligible students the studentship will cover tuition fees (UK/EU/International) plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £14,777 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study.  The student would be based in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences on the Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

Autonomous vehicles offshore are unmanned vessels that can carry sensor packages, take measurements and communicate results. They represent an emerging technology that is revolutionising oceanographic measurements. Across applications as diverse as taking bathymetric surveys for offshore engineering, inspecting offshore infrastructure, ground-truthing satellite measurements and acoustic monitoring for whale research, self-propelled autonomous vessels are making long-duration missions more affordable. Of particular interest is the ability to control the location of measurements in real time, so that they can be targeted to areas of interest, or respond to mobile events, such as pollution; increasing the detail and relevance of measured data.

The speed and direction in which vehicles can move is dependent on a combination of their naval architecture and the met-ocean conditions they encounter. Predicting their navigational capabilities is an essential component of mission planning. It will rely on the quality of met-ocean data available for the planned routes, and include the ability for autonomous systems to monitor their own met-ocean data.

A PhD candidate is sought to develop met-ocean modelling alongside algorithms for predicting the navigation of autonomous systems. The research will explore methods to integrate measured data into wider spatial data from met-ocean models and satellite earth observation, for the management of autonomous systems offshore.

The project would suit someone who is organised and has strong computational skills, including programming and a reasonable level of maths. A background in one or more of the following would be advantageous; computational analysis, software development, physical oceanography, satellite remote sensing, offshore engineering and naval architecture. However, candidates across the marine sciences, engineering, maths, computing or physical sciences will be considered. To an extent, the project can be tailored to suit the skills and interests of the applicant and would suit someone who has strong research skills and is confident in developing their own ideas.

The project will take advantage of facilities within the Centre for Offshore technology, including high-powered computing, test facilities, offshore measurement technology and research vessel. As such, the project may include fieldwork, so the confidence that you can operate on a boat with both manual and computer tasks in support of instrument deployment, servicing and recovery could be beneficial.

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 an appropriate area of science or technology. 

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.0 IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project.  Alternative tests may be acceptable (see

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.
• If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 22 November 2018.  Interviews will be held on the University of Exeter Penryn campus the week commencing 10th December 2018.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email or phone +44 (0)1392 722730 or +44 (0)1392 725150.  Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor.


Application deadline:22nd November 2018
Value:£14,777 per year for 3.5 years
Duration of award:per year
Contact: PGR Support Office +44 (0)1392 722730 / 5150