Available studentships

SEAHA will support your career along three typical paths. We have started recruitment for our 2017/2018 studentships, please continue to check the website over the coming weeks for new opportunities. Information on how to apply can be found in the project adverts below. You may also wish to consider registering your interest by sending an email to the SEAHA Centre Manager.

Current opportunities available to start in 2017/18:

‘Thinking out of the box – modelling preventive conservation benefits of boxes’

In the context of heritage preservation, boxes are a very well established method of storage of archival material and serve a variety of purposes: as physical protection (e.g. during handling), as a buffer against adverse effects of the environment (e.g. T and RH fluctuations, absorption of pollutants), against pests and as protection against fire and water. Boxes represent a long-term investment and need to last several decades as re-boxing is resource intensive. Therefore, their cost-benefit needs to be modelled, which is the purpose of this cross-disciplinary project, likely to have an immediate impact on the field.

This research project will be supervised jointly by Professor Matija Strlic, UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage, Caroline De Stefani, London Metropolitan Archives and Dirk Hendrickx, Conservation by Design Ltd (industrial sponsor).

Application deadline: Open until filled.

The following opportunities have now closed:

‘Development of a robust methodology for assessing moisture in solid brick walls’

Moisture is acknowledged as the critical factor in almost all building problems, from deterioration of the materials and structure, to difficulties with building use (such as problems with mould and “dampness”). Nevertheless, there remain fundamental gaps in our understanding of how moisture travels into and around building fabric, and most particularly in our knowledge of the way water absorbed into and evaporated from permeable porous materials, and how it moves within the pores.

This project aims to investigate the uptake of moisture into masonry in relation to its existing moisture “conditions”. The project will concentrate on solid masonry walls composed of brick and mortar (with a focus on central London 19th Century buildings)

The project will be supervised by Dr Hector Altamirano, UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering and Dr Robyn Pender, Historic England. The candidate will have the opportunity to work in the IEDE Environmental Laboratory and collaborate closely with Grosvenor (industrial sponsor).

‘The role of plasticiser loss in the degradation of plastic objects in heritage collections’

This exciting project aims to answer these questions. The dynamics of degradation of PVC and CA will be investigated using a combination of novel experimental techniques. Plasticizer concentrations will be tracked using hyperspectral imaging, and the resulting deformation will be measured using digital image correlation, amongst other techniques. By exploring the relationships between degradation and environmental parameters, this research will provide crucial evidence that will inform preventive conservation and storage conditions. The project will be supervised by the Institute for Sustainable Heritage in University College London (Dr. Josep Grau-Bové and Dr. Katherine Curran), the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute (Dr. Odile Madden) and Dow Chemical (Dr. Michael Petr). The candidate will have the opportunity to work both in the Heritage Science Laboratory in UCL and in the Smithsonian Institute.

‘Total Performance of ‘Passivhaus’ Schools – Making Heritage Schools Fit for Purpose’

Schools in England and Wales are responsible for 15% of the energy used in public buildings. A significant proportion of the school building stock in England and Wales could be considered as heritage and school building age is a strong predictor of carbon intensity. The challenge of reaching the Government’s target to reduce national carbon emissions by 80% compared to 1990 levels by 2050 is overwhelming, and this project addresses whether and how the Passivhaus standard could be applied to the new and existing school stock. The Passivhaus standard has potential to deliver on carbon reductions, but there are serious concerns that this is mostly at the expense of overheating and poor indoor air quality, as well as heritage characteristics.

Before wider adoption of Passivhaus standards across the historic UK school building stock occurs, this project aims to explore and compare the operational performance of contemporary schools built to the Passivhaus standard and of historic schools that are listed or with outstanding heritage characteristicts, to analyse possible implications to retrofit of historic schools and to contemporary school buildings with the potential of becoming future heritage.

The project will be supervised by Dr Anna Mavrogianni and Professor Dejan Mumovic, UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering and Professor Matija Strlic, UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage. The candidate will collaborate closely with Architype (industrial sponsor) and Historic England (heritage partner).

‘Novel Retrofit Technology Incorporating Robots for Lower Energy Healthy Buildings’

There are ~22.2 million dwellings in England. One in five (21%) dwellings were built before 1919. About three quarters of these older dwellings have been subject to at least some major alterations since they were built, mostly extensions or loft conversions. A further 17.9% of dwellings was built between 1919 and 1944 and further 18% from 1945 to 1964. Dwellings built after 1990 account for just 12% of the stock. A large proportion of English housing stock is thus considered as heritage.

Customers such as local authorities value the low-disruption energy performance improvement. However, an important question needs to be addressed: the PU foam itself and its impact on the indoor environment and occupants during the installation and afterwards. The currently used PU foam is sourced from BASF (Walltite) and it appears to contain ~30 Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), some with unknown effects on human health. This could potentially create a risk to inhabitants due to exposure to chemicals that might, in the future, turn out to be (or have been) harmful.

This project aims to explore the impact of various PU foams (and other sprayable insulation materials) on environmental and energy performance of retrofitted historic houses. The project will be supervised by Professor Dejan Mumovic, UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering and Professor Matija Strlic, UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage. The candidate will collaborate closely with Q-Bot (industrial sponsor) and Historic England (heritage partner).

‘Learning from nature: evaluating site-based conservation approaches to mitigating climatic risks to earthen heritage sites in N W China’

Large concentrations of historic earthen sites are found along the Silk Roads, such as in arid NW China where many heritage sites contain earthen remains (usually rammed earth with some mud brick). These ruins are deteriorating rapidly, often in response to climatic hazards such as storms, and the Chinese authorities are worried about their resilience in the face of future environmental change. Nature-based (or biometic) conservation strategies, using local plants may provide a solution to this problem. This studentship provides a unique opportunity to contribute to improved nature-based conservation methods for such earthen sites, through developing cellular automata-based modeling approaches to evaluate their performance under changing environmental conditions. The student will be jointly supervised by Prof Heather Viles and Dr Richard Bailey (University of Oxford), Dr Tom Learner (Getty Conservation Institute) and Professor Wang Xudong (Dunhuang Academy).

‘Improving the evaluation of conservation treatments for deteriorating sandstone in built heritage’

Many of the world’s greatest built heritage sites are crafted in sandstone, which often deteriorates rapidly posing major challenges for conservators. Many treatments have been proposed (such as consolidants, water repellents and anti-graffiti coatings). What is now needed is to develop a robust methodology to test the performance of these treatments under real-world conditions. This studentship addresses this knowledge gap, through a developmental sequence of laboratory and field experiments.  The student will be jointly supervised by Prof Heather Viles (University of Oxford), Dr Tom Learner (Getty Conservation Institute) and Alistair Kerrigan (TQC).

‘Strain modelling in historical tapestries’

This studentship will investigate cutting edge real-time in-situ tri-axial strain monitoring sensors to provide data to inform analytical modelling of tapestries using Finite Elements and explicit mathematical formulations together with modern Dynamic Equilibrium methods used in fabric simulations. The project will be jointly supervised by the UCL Department of Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering , UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage, Historic Royal Palaces and IBM T.J. Watson Research Center.

‘Micro-environmental control for the mitigation of mould growth in indoor heritage’

The successful candidate will have the opportunity to work on experimental research, environmental design and preventive conservation. Experiments will be carried out in environmental chambers with controlled T, RH and air velocity conditions, as well as monitoring in actual historical properties in order to explore the conditions for mould growth. The environmental research will focus on the development of a science-based solution to the micro-management of environmental conditions. This project will be jointly supervised by UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage, UCL Chemical Engineering , Tobit Curteis Associates and the National Trust.

‘Mary Rose: Assessment of Environmental Risks during Display’

This exciting project aims to understand the environment surrounding the Mary Rose, the Tudor warship salvaged in 1982 in one of the most complex and ambitious projects of maritime archaeology. The student involved in this innovative research will study the gaseous pollutants of outdoor origin and generated indoors due to the decay of archaeological wood, and will investigate their unknown effects on the exposed materials. This project combines the expertise on sensors of the National Physical Laboratory, materials and environment of UCL, and conservation knowledge of the Mary Rose Trust.

‘Nanoscale strategies for the consolidation of cellulose in cultural heritage’

This studentship will investigate the use and development of nano-cellulose and modified nano-cellulose with nanoparticles for the strengthening and deacidification of damaged fibres in modern and historical canvases. This project brings together nanometrology, functional chemistry and cultural heritage to tackle this challenging problem. This project fits within the newly awarded H2020 NanoRestart project and will enable the student to work and meet a large consortium of conservation specialists across Europe. The studentship will be jointly supervised by the UCL Eastman Dental Institute, Birkbeck College Biological Sciences, Chevalier-Aurelia SME and ZFB Zentrum für Bucherhaltung GmbH, Germany.

‘Characterising marine archaeological iron degradation and the efficacy of treatments to date: worth a shot?’

This project offers the outstanding opportunity to spend up to 12 months at Diamond Light Source, applying cutting edge techniques to investigate the corrosion of archaeological iron through the analysis of material from Henry VIII’s iconic flagship Mary Rose. The wreck provides a unique sample set of around 900 examples of iron shot and other artefacts, which have undergone various treatments and experienced varied storage conditions. These will be investigated using synchrotron XRD and XAS along with SEM techniques.  The project is supervised by UCL Institute of Archaeology, Diamond Light Source, Mary Rose Trust and EURA Conservation.

‘From Samples to Complex Objects: Detecting Material Degradation in Plastic Artworks’

This project will investigate whether it is possible to demonstrate a correlation between volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions and key signs of deterioration in common plastics within contemporary art collections and whether and how this information can be deployed within collections to identify works that require examination or to monitor mitigation and preventive measures.  This project will be jointly supervised by the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage, UCL Department of Chemistry, Tate and Arkema.

‘An optimised system for Multispectral Imaging of Documentary Material’

This cross-disciplinary project applies multispectral imaging techniques to the emerging field of digital humanities in the multispectral imaging of documents to enhance the reading of lost text, corrections and watermarks. In this project, you will characterise and validate multispectral imaging for use in the cultural and heritage sectors. The project will be supervised jointly by UCL Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering and UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, R B Toth Associates, British Library and London Metropolitan Archives.

‘Comparison of painting lining methods for historic house environments’

An excellent opportunity for a student wishing to develop skills in a range of mechanical and spectroscopic techniques, including digital image correlation, dynamic mechanical analysis, nuclear magnetic resonance and near infrared spectroscopy. This project will be jointly supervised by UCL Department of History of Art , UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage, EH Collections Conservation Team and LaVision UK Ltd.

‘Spectrally dependent light sensitivity of modern materials’

This is an exciting project for candidates looking to build knowledge and skills in material and polymer science, illumination technologies, radiometry, photometry and colorimetry, as well as the conduct of colour appearance experiments with groups of observers and statistical analysis of experimental data. This project will be jointly supervised by the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage, UCL Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, Philips Research and the V&A.

‘Hyperspectral imaging for heritage: From books to bricks’ 

This is an exciting project for candidates looking to build knowledge and skills in material science, spectroscopic techniques, product development (equipment and technique), and the use of non-standard software for visualising and interpreting hyperspectral data. This challenging interdisciplinary project will enable you to seek employment in any number of multidisciplinary environments: from academia to industry. The project will be supervised jointly by The University of Oxford School of Geography and the environment , UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, The Bodleian Libraries and Headwall Photonics.    

Centre for Doctoral Training in Science and Engineering in Arts Heritage and Archaeology