Sonar systems are routinely used for bathymetric surveying and, through analysis of the returning acoustic signal, to infer characteristics of the ocean floor, such as sediment grain size and density. However, standard signal processing methods are unsuitable for shallow water environments, like lowland rivers, where sediment properties vary significantly over short distances. Read more Read less

In this funded PhD studentship, the successful candidate will work with manufacturers to develop new sensor configurations, novel transmitted sonar signals, and innovative signal processing for application to shallow water environments. The main outcome will be an acoustic method to characterise vertical and horizontal variations in sediment properties, which has significant potential applications for exploration, navigation, flood risk assessment as well as for geomorphological research.

High frequency Phase Differencing Bathymetric Sonar (PDBS) (>300 kHz) has a wide beam (12 times water depth) and yields high-resolution bathymetry with precise depth measurements (3-12 mm), making it ideal for surveys in shallow water environments. Standard high resolution bathymetric sonar, though, is limited in the information that can be generated from the acoustic backscatter data. The PhD student will work with ITER Systems to (1) develop and test a prototype multi-frequency PDBS, novel transmitted sonar signals, and signal analysis protocols, and then (2) evaluate their performance to detect variations in bottom characteristics of waterways, ports and shallow coastal environments.

The PhD student will use a combination of approaches in their research: geo-acoustic simulations, laboratory testing, and field experimental trials. The field experiments will involve the testing of the sonar array and single processing in different types of shallow water environments, as well as repeat visits to lowland and/or transitional waterways to detect changes in bathymetry and sediment characteristics. The sonar fieldwork will be boat-based and will be complimented with sediment sampling (e.g. cores/grabs) and current profiling (ADCP) measurements. The discipline-specific knowledge and experience in acoustics, along with the rigorous research training of PhD programme, will prepare the student well for a future career in industry or academia.

The student will be based at Cranfield University in the School of Water, Energy and Environment and will interact with researchers at Cranfield Defense and Security at the Defense Academy of the United Kingdom, Shrivenham. The student will also spend several months in France working with the sonar manufacturers, ITER System.

Applications for this studentship are ongoing but ideally we are looking for the candidate to start as soon as possible before September 2017.

At a glance

  • Application deadlineOngoing
  • Award type(s)PhD
  • Start date01 Sep 2017
  • Duration of award3 years
  • EligibilityEU, UK
  • Reference numberCRAN1169


Dr. Robert Grabowski -Lecturer in Catchment Science
Dr. Alessio Balleri – Radar Lecturer, Sensors

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a first or second class UK honours degree or equivalent in a related discipline, such as engineering, physical oceanography, earth sciences, computer science, or mathematics. The ideal candidate would be self-motivated, and have knowledge and practical experience in acoustics, good communication skills in English, an interest for industrial research, and an enthusiasm for getting out of the lab to test the equipment in rivers, lakes and ports.


Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), in collaboration with ITER Systems, this studentship will provide a bursary of up to £16,000 - £ 19,000 p.a. (tax free) plus fees* for three years.

The studentship is only available to UK and other EU nationals (due to funding criteria, EU nationals who have not been resident in the UK for the three years prior to the start of their studentship will be restricted to a fees-only award).

Doctoral Training Centre

Research students at Cranfield benefit from being part of a dynamic, focused and professional study environment and all become valued members of the Cranfield Doctoral Network. This Network brings together both research students and staff, providing a platform for our researchers to share ideas, identify opportunities for collaboration and create smaller communities of practice.  It aims to encourage an effective and vibrant research culture, founded upon the diversity of activities and knowledge. A tailored programme of seminars and events alongside our Doctoral Researchers Core Development programme (transferable skills training), provide those studying a research degree with a wealth of social and networking opportunities.

How to apply

For further information, please contact: Dr Robert Grabowski, E:, T: (0)1234 758360.

If you are eligible to apply for this research studentship, please complete the online application form

For further information contact us today:

School of Water, Energy and Environment
T: 44 (0)1234 758008