PhD positions in characterizing emissions from urban freight systems to support decarbonization

An interdisciplinary team at the University of British Columbia (UBC) seeks multiple postdoctoral fellows or graduate students at the PhD level to join an Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) funded study on decarbonisation pathways for urban freight systems. This study will bring together field-measurements of real-world freight systems, emissions and air quality modeling, and the design of decision-support tools for policy and planning.

We are seeking candidates who are interested in field-based and modeling-based investigations of:

  • On-board marine emissions from a variety of ships (e.g., tugboat, ferry) for a variety different operating conditions and fuels
  • On-board railway emissions measurements
  • Near roads in and around ports, freight corridors and other urban freight areas of interest
  • Air quality and health impacts of freight systems

What makes this project unique: This project involves direct engagement with stakeholders from industry and government at the local, regional and national scale. The project will pilot ways of integrating a range of measurements and modeling tools to support decision-making. Outcomes from this research will directly support policy scenario analysis, technology investment, and facilities operation, giving students and postdoctoral fellows the unique opportunity to understand how academic research can be translated into policy and technology outcomes. Additionally, the study team comprises 6 departments and 3 faculties at UBC, providing important interdisciplinary training.

Anticipated background: Engineering (mechanical, environmental, chemical, civil), atmospheric science, engine emissions, aerosols, chemistry, public health/experimental medicine. Prior experience with air pollution and climate research is strongly preferred, including hands-on experimental research and/or modeling and data analytic research. Applicants interested in interdisciplinary collaboration with non-academic partners are especially encouraged to apply.

Desired skill sets (note: we do not expect to find candidates with all of these skills as this is a joint posting across numerous departments; if you have some of these skills we encourage you to reach out!):

Field-based skill sets

  • Research or related experience working with engines, fuels, and/or exhaust emission measurement equipment.
  • Experience working with hand tools and mechanical systems or the strong desire to develop these skills.
  • The ability and willingness to participate in field campaigns, which requires working in industrial settings and adhering to safe work practices.
  • Experience with aerosol instrumentation
  • Experience with ambient air quality measurement
  • Research or related experience working with cell culture, aerosols, toxicology, PCR, ELISA, relevant statistical analysis.

Modelling- and analysis-based skill sets

  • Experience with dispersion or chemical transport modelling
  • Experience with geospatial data wrangling, cleaning, and analysis 
  • Interest or experience in applied mathematics related to optimization problems, and/or uncertainty quantification

Cross-cutting skills

  • Ability to analyze large and complex data sets (data mining, data cleaning)
  • Proficiency with languages and software for advanced data analysis (e.g., R, Python, MATLAB, ArcGIS)
  • Evidence of strong written and oral communication
  • Strong collaboration and the ability to work with a diverse team, including other researchers, equipment operators, policy-makers and project management.

Expected start date and location: Any start date between January – September 2023 is acceptable. Location will be in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, but projects will include extended field deployments in the broader Metro Vancouver region.

Advisors: Students may be matched with one or more advisors from the study team including Prof. Patrick Kirchen (Mechanical Engineering), Prof. Steven Rogak (Mechanical Engineering), Prof. Naomi Zimmerman (Mechanical Engineering & Atmospheric Science), Prof. Allan Bertram (Chemistry), Prof. Chris Carlsten (Medicine), Prof. Amanda Giang (Mechanical Engineering & Atmospheric Science & Resources, Environment and Sustainability), Prof. Bhushan Gopaluni (Chemical Engineering). This means that prospective students could receive a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, Atmospheric Sciences, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Medicine, or Resources, Environment & Sustainability, depending on their interest. We also support co-supervision.

Information on Graduate Studies in MechE at UBC:

Information on Graduate Studies in ATSC at UBC:

Information on Graduate Studies in CHEM at UBC:

Information on Graduate Studies in CHBE at UBC:

Information on Graduate Studies in IRES at UBC:

Information on Graduate Studies in Medicine at UBC:

Contact: If interested, please send an email to, using the subject line “Inquiry Re: Graduate Student Application, Urban Freight”. Please briefly describe your research interests and experience and include a CV and transcript when inquiring. Please mention the supervisor you are most interested in working with in your email, and preferred start date.

Equity and diversity are essential to academic excellence.  An open and diverse community fosters the inclusion of voices that have been underrepresented or discouraged.  We encourage applications from members of groups that have been marginalized on any grounds enumerated under the B.C. Human Rights Code, including sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, racialization, disability, political belief, religion, marital or family status, age, and/or status as a First Nation, Metis, Inuit, or Indigenous person.

Reference Number

Please mention reference number GPS-56269 in all your correspondence about this Doctoral student position.


Read tips on applying, reference letters, statement of interest, reaching out to prospective supervisors, interviews and more in our Application Guide!