PostDoc @Heriot-Watt Edinburgh

Postdoctoral Research Associate in Multiscale Mechanics of Mineralised Tissues

Vacancy Details

Job ReferenceIRC27904
Closing Date8 Aug 2020 23:00 (UK time)
Salary£32,817– £38,017 (Grade 7)
DepartmentInstitute of Mechanical, Process and Energy Engineering
CategoryAcademic and Research
Duration of Contract (months)36 months
Informal enquiries by email to:Dr Uwe Wolfram at
How to apply:

About our Team

We are excited to be able to recruit a postdoctoral research associate in the area of Multiscale Mechanics of Mineralised Tissues to the Biomechanics group at Heriot-Watt University. The selected candidate will join a multidisciplinary team to work on a Leverhulme Trust funded project seeking to understand rapid cold-water coral habitat loss in a future ocean. Specifically, we seek to understand how climate change induced ocean acidification and bioerosion affect the multiscale mechanical properties of cold-water coral reefs and how these effects may accelerate reef-habitat loss.

The selected candidate will be based at Heriot-Watt University joining a multidisciplinary team working on multiscale mechanics of biologic tissues and structures. This is a joint project with the Changing Oceans Group at the University of Edinburgh, which conducts incubation experiments on live and dead coral skeletons under projected future conditions. The selected candidate will benefit from co-supervision by Dr Sebastian Hennige of the Changing Oceans Group along with visiting scholar access to University of Edinburgh.      

Detailed Description of Position

Ocean acidification threatens deep-sea coral reefs and could lead to dramatic and rapid loss of the habitat they make. Here we combine biology and engineering approaches to quantify the risk and time scales of such habitat loss. Increases in porosity and loss of skeletal material in structurally critical parts of the coral reef foundation could lead to physical habitat collapse on an ecosystem scale, reducing its potential to support associated biodiversity. Our unique interdisciplinary approach will identify the timescales and conditions such ‘tipping points’ would occur within, to allow more effective future management of these vulnerable ecosystems.

To do so, we seek to (i) quantify skeletal dissolution rates under different future oceanic conditions (primarily delivered by University of Edinburgh); (ii) develop a simulation framework that allows quantification of failure rates of coral skeletons; (iii) use results from (i) and (ii) to scale up to larger reef-type structures and estimate tipping points of habitat loss. The successful candidate will also develop and conduct characterisation and validation experiments based on extensive expertise in multiscale experimentation. The successful candidate will work closely with our collaborators (with regular joint meetings) to link results of (ii) and (iii) to the marine-biological aspects (i). The successful candidate will also work with our partners within JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee) and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Department of Commerce) to foster dissemination along the policy making route. This is an exciting new project with scope to contribute significantly to tackling some of the most pressing global challenges.

The successful candidate will make use of our excellent facilities including dedicated biomedical tissue laboratories, and cutting-edge equipment including a broad suite of tissue processing equipment, mechanical testing equipment, imaging equipment (micro-CT, microscopy and optical coherence tomography) and a dedicated node on a high-performance cluster for computation.

We are looking for someone who is ambitious and collaborative, with a passion for developing solution for pressing global challenges.  The post will be for 36 months.  There may be the opportunity for the post holder to develop their own fellowship applications during this post, with support from the PI.

The successful candidate will work in two departments that have an international reputation for engineering, strong expertise in biomedical engineering as well as marine biology, and world-class equipment and facilities.  

Key Duties and Responsibilities

The successful appointee will be expected to undertake the following:

  • Plan and execute work plans to progress investigations into the multiscale mechanical behaviour from ‘crystal building block to reef’
  • Lead and contribute to research dissemination (i.e. papers and conference attendance)
  • Work closely with the PI and collaborators to analyse, interpret, and present experimental and modelling data
  • Work closely with other postdoctoral associates, PhD students and collaborators to ensure smooth research team function
  • Participate actively in group meetings
  • Take a leadership role to ensure the effective running of computational analyses.
  • Participate in outreach activities, which may involve talks for the general public, attendance at science festivals or and preparation of demonstrators.
  • Participate in advisory meetings with Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), which may involve talks to executive decision makers
  • Responsibilities will also include assistance in the day-to-day running of the simulations and computational analyses using own servers as well as HWUs HPC cluster, liaising with companies and external collaborators.
  • Contribute, under supervision, to the planning of research projects, including the development of new grant/contract proposals.

Please note that this job description is not exhaustive, and the role holder may be required to undertake other relevant duties commensurate with the grading of the post.  Activities may be subject to amendment over time as the role develops and/or priorities and requirements evolve. 

Education, Qualifications and Experience

this will form the basis of your selection criteria and shortlisting. Please use the examples below and delete /add as appropriate.

Essential Criteria

  • Applicants should a PhD in biomedical engineering, physics, material science, or a related subject (Applicants should have submitted their PhD thesis first draft by the start date.) broadly in one of the following areas:
    • Multiscale constitutive modelling (ideally but not necessarily biologic hard or soft tissues)
    • Multiscale mechanics of materials (mathematically, experimentally, or theoretically)
    • Image based multiscale computational modelling
  • Experience of programming and simulation
  • Working with image data (key word: imaged based modelling)
  • Experience working in a multidisciplinary environment/team and openness to dive into a novel research field in biomechanics
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • A record of high quality, peer-reviewed publications and evidence of contribution to the writing of these publications proportionate to opportunity.
  • Willingness and ability to travel for dissemination, outreach, and public engagement activities.

Desirable Criteria

  • Experience in conducting validation and material characterisation experiments (nanoindentation, micropillar testing, macroscopic testing, or similar)
  • Experience in using/developing artificial neural network approaches
  • Experience of research-student supervision.

When applying, please include a cover letter addressing these selection criteria. 

The intention is to hold the interviews towards the end of week commencing 17/8/2020.

Job Share

At Heriot-Watt University we understand that being diverse makes us better which is why we support a culture of respect and equal opportunity, and value diversity at the heart of what we do. We want to increase the diversity of our workplace to underpin a dynamic and creative environment.

While this is a full-time post, flexible percentage working regimes may be possible for the right candidate.