Kate Rawlings is a SCDTP-funded student doing a PhD in Geography at the University of Southampton, and is part of the Sustainability, Environment and Resilience pathway. Her PhD aims to bring population data, route analysis and flood risk data together to develop methods for assessing the disruption caused by road flooding to a community, generating new risk information.
At the start of the summer I headed down to Brighton to begin my three month internship with Ambiental Risk Analytics, a flood modelling and risk analysis company. My PhD research looks at how flooding affects road travel for different groups of the population, combining physical and social sciences. I had wanted to do an industry placement from the beginning and Ambiental suited me perfectly as the work they do aligns with my PhD, but there were also social science elements of my research which were different and could be explored in a commercial context. Ambiental also work on a wide variety of projects from around the world, compared to my UK-based PhD study site, so I was keen to get stuck into the world of flood risk.
The aim of my placement was to exchange knowledge, so I would bring ideas from my own research to their business and I would learn from them how they address flood risk problems. My task was to see how the methods I used for network analysis could be combined with their flood risk analysis to create a prototype extension to one of their existing data products. Researching in this environment was a bit daunting at first as I was asked “this is academically interesting, but how can we commercialise it?” something which I hadn’t had to do before. However, it was incredibly valuable to have to think about my work from a business perspective and explore the ways in which my academic knowledge could be applied to the ‘real world’.
At the end of my placement, I presented the results of my prototype to the company and this led to interesting conversations on how including road network analysis could enhance the understanding of indirect effects of flooding. During my time with Ambiental I also assisted with ongoing flood risk projects through finding data sources, looking up past flood event information and processing flood data. As well as giving me the opportunity to work on my technical abilities, it was also very enjoyable to be working on projects with other people, as a PhD can be quite solitary.
My time with Ambiental was incredibly rewarding as I was able to contribute towards their business in a small way and develop valuable skills to bring back to the final year of my PhD research. I would highly recommend an internship with a business to anyone who is interested in going into industry after their PhD, but also getting a different perspective on research is incredibly useful for academics wishing to communicate their findings to a commercial audience. Finally I’d like to thank the Ambiental team for hosting me and being so welcoming and supportive, and also to the SCDTP for funding my internship and giving me this invaluable opportunity.
For more details on internships, please visit http://www.southcoastdtp.ac.uk/additional-funding-opportunities/#intern
Ambiental’s home page