Research Associate in the Fluid Dynamics of Morphing Blades

Edinburgh, UK
Nov 16, 2017
Dec 15, 2017
Contract Type
Full Time

This Research Associate position will contribute to the research in applied fluid dynamics within the Institute for Energy Systems of the School of Engineering at the University of Edinburgh. The Institute for Energy Systems is a world leading centre of research, innovation and knowledge transfer in marine energy research, thus contributing to society's needs for secure, sustainable and affordable energy into the next century and beyond.

This project is led by Dr Ignazio Maria Viola in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, Cranfield University, Nova Innovation and SRI International (California). The aim of the project is to prove nature-inspired flexible blade designs and disruptive meta-materials that will mitigate load fluctuations to enhance turbine's efficiency and durability. This project targets Stage 1 of technology development, corresponding to Technology Readiness Levels 1 to 3. It will include the development of mathematical models and validation with experiments.

The project is likely to have a considerable impact on the wind and tidal energy industry, as well as academic impact in nature-inspired fluid dynamics research and fluid-structure interaction. Hence, the post-holder would likely be in exceptionally good standing for future academic work and/or industrial roles by the end of the post.

The contract will have a duration of 18 months full-time at Grade 7 (£32,548 - £38,833). It is envisaged that shortlisted candidates will be interviewed in December 2017, and it is expected that the selected candidate will commence the position in February 2018.

1. Job Details

Job title: Research Associate in the Fluid Dynamics of Morphing Blades
School: School of Engineering
Unit: Institute for Energy Systems
Line manager: Dr Ignazio Maria Viola

2. Job Purpose

Offshore wind and tidal energy are fast growing industries where the UK is world leader. A unique challenge of these industry, is the large load fluctuations at which the blades of turbines extracting energy are subjected to. These fluctuations, due to the onset velocity shear, turbulence and waves, make dynamic and fatigue failures a key limit to reliability.

Biological flyers and swimmers, on the other hand, exploit these fluctuations in the onset flow. Their flexible bodies interact with the vortical flow structures in the flow, enhancing propulsion efficiency and manoeuvrability. Conversely, turbine blades have a fixed shape and a high inertia, and the energy of flow fluctuations is absorbed by the structure, which is therefore unnecessarily heavy and expensive.

A new-concept nature-inspired blade will be developed, that will manipulate the interaction between the oncoming vortices and the vorticity generated by the blade to control the loads and increase efficiency. The control of the morphing blade will be aided by new programmable meta-materials, which are capable of high-frequency, high-strength, low-power actuation.

The proposed morphing blades will enable a step change in the efficiency and reliability of wind and tidal turbine blades. Therefore, the project will contribute to addressing key challenges in offshore and tidal energy research and to strengthening the UK resilience through a cheaper and more efficient provision of renewable energy.
This project is led by Dr Ignazio Maria Viola at the Institute for Energy Systems of the School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, Cranfield University, Nova Innovation and SRI International (California). The project is co-funded by two EPSRC centres: the UK Centre for Marine Energy Research, and the Centre for Advanced Materials for Renewable Energy Generation.

3. Main Responsibilities

  • Undertake research related to experimental fluid dynamics. This will entail both independent research work and working in collaboration with other researchers in the Applied Fluid Dynamics Research Laboratory led by Dr Viola ( The successful candidate will proactively engage with collaborating researchers to identify fruitful lines of research in this area. (60% of time)
  • Dissemination of research findings through journal publications, conferences, internal reports and appropriate media, and contribute to writing research proposals. (20% of time)
  • Provide leadership and guidance to other staff and students within the Applied Fluid Dynamics Research Laboratory, and contribute to the group activities. (10% of time)
  • Liaison with and support national and international collaborators, possibly including domestic and international travel and support of meetings organised by the University of Edinburgh. (10% of time)
  • 4. Planning and Organising

    • Work with the line manager to define and plan a programme of relevant research work and then to produce publishable results within appropriate timescales
    • Work independently to plan the schedule of tasks to ensure that work of the projects progresses according to agreed overall timetable
    • Organise own time so that different aspects of the project can proceed in parallel giving due consideration to the needs of other members of the team
    • Be proactive in interacting with project partners to share data and ideas
    • Take a leadership role in regular project meetings to report and review progress, and to generate new ideas and lines of research
    • Determine the aims, objectives and deadlines for short to medium term work plan, in discussion with the Line Manager (particularly for medium term planning).
    • Contribute to long-term strategic planning and development of group activities, in discussion with the Line Manager and other researchers.

    5. Problem Solving

    • Be resourceful in overcoming problems encountered in the development of new approaches and the implementation of existing techniques in the normal course of the research.
    • Define the methodology to solve the problems in the project.
    • Work in close cooperation with the other project investigators, project partners, technical staff, and PhD students working on the project to resolve problems, as required.

    6. Decision Making

    • The post-holder should be able to organise his/her work schedule to ensure satisfactory progress and to meet the demands (where realistic) of other project partners, PhD students, etc. The successful candidate will play an important role as a member of the team in making daily decisions about their own plan of work and the allocation of time and resources.
    • Manage day-to-day work load, making independent decisions about immediate priorities to meet short and medium term targets that have been agreed with Line Manager.

    7. Key Contacts/Relationships

    Frequent (daily to weekly) contact with other researchers in the project team and relevant research groups including academic staff, other postdoctoral researchers and PhD students.

    Regular (weekly to monthly) contact with other researchers working on relevant problems in the University of Edinburgh.

    Regular (typically monthly) contact with key stakeholders, likely to include industry.

    8. Knowledge, Skills and Experience Needed for the Job

    • A good undergraduate degree and a PhD in Engineering, Physics, Mathematics or a clearly related area, with a focus on fluid dynamics; exceptional candidates who have not been awarded a PhD but have nearly completed will also be considered.
    • Proven track record of research in fluid dynamics, with a specific focus on the flow past immersed bodies or a closely related area
    • Experience in delivering research project results and a record of peer-reviewed journal and conference papers in a relevant area
    • Capable of working collaboratively with researchers from different disciplines or technical background
    • Capable of working independently, exercising a high degree of initiative and demonstrating a pro-active and flexible approach to work
    • Ability to work under pressure and meet agreed milestones
    • Ability to develop and maintain effective working relationships
    • Good time-keeping and time-management, with associated effective prioritisation of tasks
    • Good communication skills; oral, writing and presentation of data
    • Ability to contribute ideas and initiate new ways of working
    • Ability to be adaptive and accepting of new ideas and a willingness to approach new challenges and adjusts plans to meet new priorities

    • Proven track record of research in experimental fluid dynamics, including particle image velocimetry and fluid-structure interaction
    • Ability and willingness to provide leadership and mentorship within a research team

    9. Dimensions

    • Potential to help supervise up to 4 PhD students and 2-4 Masters project students
    • Work collaboratively with other research assistants, industrial and academic partners, PhD students from the participating and related groups and researchers from other universities
    • Responsibility for regular progress reporting to project partners
    • Keep line manager up-to-date with progress
    • Contribute to interactions between immediate group and broader communities working in the fields of fluid dynamics

    Application Procedure

    All applicants should apply online by clicking the apply link at the bottom of this page and submitting an up to date CV. The application process is quick and easy to follow, and you will receive email confirmation of safe receipt of your application. The online system allows you to submit a CV and other attachments.

    Closing date is 5pm GMT on 15 December 2017.

    Eligibility to Work

    In accordance with the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 the University of Edinburgh, as an employer, has a legal responsibility to prevent illegal working and therefore must check that all employees are entitled to work in the United Kingdom (UK).

    To do so, the University of Edinburgh requires to see original documents evidencing right to work in the UK before commencement of employment and this is normally carried out at interview. Details will be provided in any letter of invitation to interview.

    For further information on eligibility to work please visit our eligibility to work website

    If you are not currently eligible to work in the UK, the University has the authority to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to successful candidates who meet the eligibility criteria. The CoS enables candidates to apply for a Tier 2 (general visa) in accordance with current UK Visas and Immigration rules.

    For applicants interested in sponsorship information is available on our Working in the UK website

    However, if you have previously been sponsored by an employer within the UK but your leave has expired or lapsed and you are no longer in the UK, according to Home Office Visa Immigration rules you cannot apply for sponsorship under any category of Tier 2 for a period of 12 months after the date your visa expired and/or you left the UK.

    If you are an academic in the field of sciences; humanities; engineering; medicine; digital technology; or the arts and come from outside the EEA, it may be possible for you to apply for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa.

    The Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa route offers a greater flexibility in your employment compared to other UK immigration routes, meaning you can, for example, move organisation, location and/or job role. By contrast with, a Tier 2 visa where you are 'tied to a UK sponsor'. Tier 1 provides greater flexibility in undertaking additional engagements, such as collaborations and is intended as a route to settlement. Allowed absences from the UK are up to 180 days per year without losing the eligibility to qualify for settlement, with no restriction on the reason for absence (unlike Tier 2, where any absences from the UK must be for a purpose consistent with the person's employment or economic activity, including paid annual leave, or for serious or compelling personal reasons).

    You would initially need to apply to be endorsed as an internationally recognised leader or emerging leader in your particular field by a designated competent body (Arts Council England, British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering, Royal Society, Tech City UK).

    Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)

    Once successfully endorsed, you are able to apply for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa. More information on this entry route is available at UKVI Website .

    Conditions of Employment

    Pension Scheme

    This role is grade UE07 and therefore the post holder is automatically included in membership of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), subject to the USS membership criteria, unless they indicate that they choose not to join the Scheme.

    For further information please visit our Pensions website .


    The role is grade UE07 and attracts an annual salary of £32,548 to £38,833 for 35 hours each week. Salary is paid monthly by direct transfer to your Bank or Building Society account, normally on the 28th of the month. Salaries for part-time staff are calculated on the full-time scales, pro-rata to the Standard Working Week.

    The University reserves the right to vary the candidate information or make no appointment at all. Neither in part, nor in whole does this information form part of any contract between the University and any individual.
    var links = document.querySelectorAll(".targetLink"), i, j, aTags, string; for(i=0; i The School of Engineering The integrated School of Engineering addresses diverse complex challenges across the entire field of engineering, at the micro- and macro/global scales. At the microscopic scale, its research supports the design and deployment of novel nanotechnology and devices for biological monitoring and medical diagnosis; at the macro/global scale, it optimises the security and sustainability of the built environment and develops engineering solutions to climate change issues. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, the School's joint submission with Heriot-Watt University was first in the UK in research power (662) with 94% of our research activity achieving world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*) ratings. The School has a strong track record in producing more than 50 technology spin-outs and developing industry links that enable our graduates to build career-long relationships. In the last three years, the School has achieved an average of £18.5M pa in research funding awards.

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      College of Science and Engineering ( ) The College of Science and Engineering (CSE) is one of the largest and highest-ranked science and engineering groupings in the UK. Headed by Professor Dave Robertson, CSE comprises seven Schools (Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Engineering, GeoSciences, Informatics, Mathematics, and Physics and Astronomy). Informatics is located in the University's Central Area near George Square, with the other six 2 miles further south at the King's Buildings. The College has over 3,000 academic and support staff, and educates some 6,000 undergraduates, over 1000 taught postgraduates and more than 2,000 research students. It is in the front rank of UK university science and engineering groupings for research quality and income, and is a key player in many European and international research collaborations.

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