PhD Studentship in Modeling Sustainability


  PhD Studentship

    Sustainability, Tipping Points and Interventions in Ecosystems

    University of Hertfordshire
Centre for Future Societies Research
      University Alliance (UA)
   Doctoral Training Alliance in Future Societies

   Supervision: Jan T. Kim ( )
    Daniel Polani ( )


Application deadline: 22. April 2022
Bursary GBP 15,609 p.a.



Concerns over the "growth philosophy of economy highlights the
critical role of sustainability for long-term stability and survival
of civilisation. However, the concept of sustainability is not well
defined. We aim to substantially advance theoretical approaches to
quantify sustainability using information- and control-theoretic

We will specifically focus on information-theoretic measures,
including empowerment, which has found use for modeling agents in
current Machine Learning, AI and Artificial Life to characterize the
impact of interventions to capture criteria concerning sustainability
for system requiring long-term viability.

The proposed project will study measures that quantify how well a
system is under control and provide early warning signs on approaching
tipping points. This project aims to develop characterization of
sustainability in larger dynamical systems, including characterization
of the stability of attractors, presaging tipping points and the
capacity for effective intervention. We will evaluate it w.r.t. its
applicability to scenarios which may including agriculture,
ecosystems, health, energy or transport networks and other complex

Selected References:

- Kim and Polani (2009), Exploring Empowerment as a Basis for
  Quantifying Sustainability
- Kim and Polani (2020), Quantifying Sustainability in a System of
  Coupled Tipping Elements



We invite PhD applications to investigate this topics. You are
interested in quantifying sustainability using state-of-the-art
methods, especially focused on (but not limited to) information theory
and dynamical systems.

There is the opportunity for you to link these questions towards
biological and/or Artificial Life and ecological, but also economical
models, as well as towards other models of complex societies.

You should have a very strong first degree; a very keen interest and
motivation in delving into and contributing to a fresh, stimulating
and fast-moving research area. An outstanding background in one of the
following or a related field is essential: Computer Science, AI,
Machine Learning, Physics, Mathematics, Statistics, Mathematical
Modelling or any other relevant discipline with a considerable
quantitative/computational component. You will have excellent
programming skills in at least one major computer language. A
mathematical/numerical background would be highly desirable. Knowledge
in at least one of the following fields would be a strong plus:
probability, information and/or dynamical systems theory. Data
modelling/neural network techniques are a plus.



The envisaged research will take place in the framework of the Centre
for Future Societies Research for three fully funded PhD studentships
at the University of Hertfordshire. These research studentships will
be part of the University Alliance (UA) Doctoral Training Alliance in
Future Societies, hosted by the Centre of Future Societies.

You will have the opportunity to work in association with the the
vibrant and enterprising environment of the SEPIA (Sensor Evolution,
Processing, Information and Actuation) subunit of the Adaptive Systems
Research Group in the School of Computer Science at the University of

Research in Computer Science at the University of Hertfordshire has
been recognized as excellent by the latest Research Assessment
Exercise, with 50% of the research submitted being rated as
internationally excellent or world leading.

The University of Hertfordshire provides a very stimulating
environment, offering a large number of specialised and
interdisciplinary seminars as well as general training and researcher
development opportunities. The University is situated in Hatfield, in
the green belt just north of London. Hatfield is close to Central
London (less than 25 minutes by direct train to Kings Cross), with
convenient access to Stansted, Luton and Heathrow airports, and, via
the nearby historic town of St. Albans, also to Gatwick airport.

For informal inquiries and more information about the topics, please contact:

Dr. Jan Kim ( )
Prof. Dr. Daniel Polani ( )



Application forms and submission instructions are available under

For details, click on the "Sustainability, Tipping Points and
Interventions in Ecosystems" section. Also, when applying, mention
"Sustainability, Tipping Points and Interventions in Ecosystems" in
your application.

See also: