Post-Doctoral and Ph.D. Researchers on the Project


Steve Robertson

Worked as a Research Associate on the project: Personal web pages

I currently work on the ROBUST (Regeneration of Brownfield Using Sustainable Technologies) project: a collaboration between the School of Engineering and Computer Sciences, the Department of Geography and the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience. My particular interest is soil chemistry and the interactions between soil organic matter, contaminants, soil biota and any materials we add to the soil to remediate it. I have a relatively multi-disciplinary academic background, with qualifications in forestry (BScFor, Aberdeen) and Environmental Biogeochemistry (MSc and PhD, Newcastle) in additon to research experience in both social and physical sciences. All of that means that the ROBUST project provides a natural home for me, with its emphasis on science, engineering and the social impacts of the regeneration process.

Peter Swift

Worked as a Research Associate on the project: Personal web pages

Having completed in a PhD in condensed matter physics in the applicable science of terahertz radiation here at the University of Durham, I currently work on the Challenging Engineering ROBUST project. Terahertz radiation is the bit of the electromagnetic spectrum that lies between infrared light and microwaves but, due to fundamental physical laws, this part of the spectrum has until recently been difficult to access in the laboratory. Development of novel sources and detectors, pumped by short-pulsed lasers, has led to an explosion in this field of research with potential applications arising in areas as diverse as medical imaging, process control and security screening. This is all because the frequency of terahertz radiation (one terahertz equals a million million cycles per second) corresponds to the natural frequency at which many molecules vibrate and move. Within ROBUST, I am investigating the potential to use terahertz radiation as a novel way to sense organic contaminants at brownfield sites.

Jonathan Asquith

Worked as a Ph.D. Researcher on the project: Personal web pages

I studied for a combined Engineering undergraduate degree and masters in Durham University’s School of Engineering and Computing Sciences between 2005 and 2009. After specialising in Civil Engineering for the latter 2 years I started work in October 2009 on the engineering aspects of ROBUST.

Within the ROBUST project I am investigating the geotechnics, or more importantly, the changes that occur in the geotechnical properties of soil upon remediation. The main focus of my research is the cementicious properties of Manganese Oxides, thus the degree to which the cementation affects soil strength and permeability. Regeneration, in the context of this project, not only means restoring contaminated land back to safe conditions but includes the future use of said land. The future use then depends upon two points, the degree to which the land is risk free and the properties of the soil.

In the future I am hoping the Manganese Oxides prove to be successful and lead to other projects based around the use of current waste materials solving current problems.

Jack Barnard

Worked as a Ph.D. Researcher on the project: Personal web pages

My first degree was a MSci in Geophysics with Geology as the University of Durham. My main interest at undergraduate level was computational modelling of plate tectonics.

My part of the ROBUST project involves the production of computational model which can be used to describe the long term effectiveness of the new remediation technology being developed. The model will also be used to assess the effectiveness of the remediation technology under different potential climatic conditions.

The ROBUST project is giving me invaluable experience in the development of complex computational models and public engagement with science. I am hoping that the ROBUST project will act as a stepping stone to a career in academia.

Nina Finlay

Worked as a Ph.D. Researcher on the project

I studied Environmental Chemistry at the University of Glasgow, and graduated in 2009 with a first class BSc(Hons) degree. I was introduced to the world of contaminated land and remediation during a summer placement with an environmental consultancy. This sparked my interest in issues surrounding environmental sustainability and responsibility, science communication and the understanding of risk.

As part of the ROBUST team, I am investigating using industrial by-products to remediate contaminated soil. The industrial by-products contain manganese oxide which is a powerful natural oxidant that is already present in the soil in very small quantities. My PhD will involve laboratory experiments to investigate the mechanisms controlling how contaminants such as petrol are degraded by the recycled mineral and how to maximise the effectiveness of manganese oxide amendments. In addition, I am interested in exploring community perspectives of the proposed remediation process, and so my project also involves social science training and research. The exciting interdisciplinary nature of this project aims to provide the ROBUST team with a more balanced outlook on issues that can affect society as a whole.