Science and Heritage Programme

PhD Funding Opportunities

Quantifying corrosion of historical wrought iron and steel to develop predictive preservation methods and strategies.

Based at Cardiff University Department of Archaeology and Conservation
Closing date for applications: August 3rd 2012

AHRC/CDA Research Training Grant (PGR)
Project Partners: Historic Scotland; The Tank Museum
Start date: October 2012
Supervisor: Professor David Watkinson

Background and structure
Iron forms a large part of the historical heritage preserved in museums, monuments and engineering contexts. Its tendency to corrode means that it presents a complex preservation problem. Many museum collections contain a wide range of vehicles, machinery and equipment housed outdoors or in rudimentary sheds and stores where they are subject to high fluctuating humidity and condensation.  Within the heritage sector, controlling corrosion in these contexts mostly takes the form either of protective coatings such as paints, lacquers and waxes or environmental control of the moisture that promotes corrosion. Yet, the longevity and protective ability of these coatings are largely unknown and un-quantified, as are the corrosion rates of uncoated iron alloys contained in heritage contexts.

Quantifying corrosion of historical wrought iron and steel to develop predictive preservation methods and strategies
This research will provide quantitative data that will be used to develop evidence based conservation and to predict corrosion damage. It will quantify the corrosion rates of historic wrought iron from architectural furniture and steels from historic military vehicles in controlled laboratory environments. Results will be used to assess and predict the impact of differing storage environments on the corrosion of heritage iron and steel. The same quantitative method of measuring corrosion by oxygen consumption in controlled environments will be used to determine the performance of protective coatings applied to historic ferrous metal samples. The results will allow comparisons between the effectiveness of individual coating systems and their performance when compared to uncoated samples. Ultimately, the project will provide underpinning data for developing a management tool for predictive preservation of ferrous metals within the Heritage Sector.

Current Work at Cardiff
Professor Watkinson currently manages an AHRC/EPSRC Science and Heritage grant employing a post-doc to examine the corrosion rate of archaeological iron objects post-excavation as a function of relative humidity and object chloride content. Historic Scotland fund Cardiff research examining the preparation of wrought iron surfaces for paint and the performance of paint on those surfaces.

Research Group Context
The Department of Archaeology and Conservation ferrous metals research group contributes leading research on the preservation of archaeological and heritage based ferrous metal objects. The group elucidated corrosion processes occurring on the iron hull of Brunel’s ss Great Britain and established operational parameters for its preservation by desiccation. Long term study in Cardiff has identified how deoxygenated alkaline chloride extraction methods reduce the corrosion rate of archaeological iron, which provided an evidence based protocol for their use within the heritage sector. Current collaboration with English Heritage is producing national storage and display guidelines for archaeological metals. Cardiff research is widely reported at international conferences, with over 20 presentations in the past 10 years, and also in print within conservation-oriented journals and conference proceedings.

Project Partners
Historic Scotland is an executive agency charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment and promoting its understanding and enjoyment. It has a Conservation Department that undertakes its own research and sponsors wide ranging research into material decay and conservation. This project will include a 6 month period in Edinburgh at the Historic Scotland laboratories. The Tank Museum has over 300 military vehicles to preserve and maintain and is active in promoting and supporting scientific research to support the preservation of its collections, as well as developing policy for the conservation of vehicles.

Funding Information
Full UK/EU tuition fees (if applicable, any eligible non-EU candidates must fund the remainder of the overseas fee)
Doctoral Stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum
Travel allowance and consumables funded by Historic Scotland and The Tank Museum

Academic Criteria: Applicants should normally possess a 2.1 degree preferably from a conservation or materials science background. Applicants holding other degrees may be considered according to their overall academic profile and/or experience. Possession of a science or heritage oriented Masters Degree would be an advantage, but is not essential.

Application information: Please apply online via Cardiff University's website. Once you have submitted your online application, please send a full CV and a statement as to why you wish to undertake this study to Professor Watkinson (email

Application deadline: Friday 3rd August 2012.  Interviews will be held in the week 20th-24th August 2012. Invitations to interview will be by email
For more information:

Risks, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change of cultural heritage in Scotland 

Based at the University of the West of Scotland
Closing date for applications 14th May 2012

Climate change together with sea level rise and its impacts on temperature, rainfall patterns, flooding, coastal erosion, and a potential increase in storminess will pose a challenge to the conservation of the cultural heritage. A policy response, such as the development of adaptation strategies, will be required to manage the transformational pressures of this changing climate. However, there is currently a lack of knowledge about the risks of climate change to the historic environment in Scotland, thereby making the development of a policy response unworkable. This project will first involve a scoping study of the threats that climate change poses to the historic environment in Scotland, including the production of risk assessment maps using a geographical information system. For the purpose of this study the historic environment or cultural heritage is defined as old buildings, monuments, and archaeological sites. Then, based on the outcomes of this national risk assessment, a more detailed vulnerability assessment either geographically-based or focusing on a specific sector of the cultural heritage will be accomplished. The assessment will be bottom-up, starting with the identification of the sensitivities of the historic environment to climate change through interviews with key stakeholders, including site visits, and surveys; the identification of adaptive measures to deal with existing vulnerabilities; and the subsequent use of the outputs from a regional climate model providing projections for relevant climatic variables. The project will report on the methodological challenges in measuring vulnerability and aims to develop a framework of analysis applicable to the cultural heritage. The outcomes of this risk and vulnerability analysis will form the basis of an initial assessment of opportunities for adaptation and inform about the information required for a policy response within the sector.

This studentship brings together the research expertise of Dr Alexandre Gagnon in vulnerability and adaptation to climate change and that of Dr John Hughes in construction, conservation, and restoration of the built heritage both at the University of the West of Scotland. This proposal grew from experience gained through an AHRC-funded Research Network on the transformational and resilience pressures on immovable Cultural Heritage coordinated by Dr Hughes, involving academic and heritage organisation stakeholders in Scotland and Northern Ireland. This project will also benefit from external supervision from Dr Ewan Hyslop at Historic Scotland. For further information about the Environmental Initiatives Research Group, please refer to:

UWS is an inspiring, vibrant place to study with a growing research community; an important aspect of which is its outstanding and committed research students.

Successful candidates will receive a £12,000 stipend for three years and payment of tuition fees (current value £3400).

This studentship is open to Home/EU candidates with a first degree in a relevant discipline.

Non-EU students can apply, but will not receive the stipend and will be required to pay fees.

Candidates must be available to commence their studies in October 2012.

Application deadline is 14th May 2012 – please quote Project Reference Number PHDSC1002.

All interviews will take place between 21st May and 8th June 2012.

Please note that this project is part of a competitive round and there is no guarantee that it will be awarded.

How to apply:
Please apply online at
Applications without all relevant documents will not be considered.

If you have any queries please contact Charlie Fielding on + 44 (0)141 848 3919 or email