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The University of Southampton
Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

Intelligent Oceans

About the Scholarships:

The Leverhulme Trust has awarded the Southampton Marine & Maritime Institute a prestigious Leverhulme Doctoral programme “Intelligent Oceans”. This will support 15 fully funded PhD scholarships.


Hub and Spoke structure
Figure 1 Diagram of Intelligent Oceans ‘hub & spoke’ structure*

The first cohort of Leverhulme Trust Doctoral Scholars (LTDS) will start in October 2021. Each Studentship will provide fees (at UK student level), a UKRI-level stipend (~£15,285 per year for Oct 2021), generous research support and bespoke development opportunities. 

*The outer ring relates to example PhD project ‘home’ disciplines for illustrative purposes – each hub could entertain projects from any of the University’s Faculties.

Am I eligible?

We seek exceptional researchers with a passion for interdisciplinary, ocean-based research, a strong academic record (see below), team ethos and clear motivation for completing a PhD. Funding is predominantly targeted towards UK scholars but strong EU and OS-candidates are also encouraged to apply.

What are the topics?

Intelligent Oceans Leverhulme Doctoral Scholars (LDS) will address how we could and should engage with the world’s oceans and seas.  In 2016 the first UN World Ocean Assessment concluded that we are running out of time to generate sufficient knowledge and understanding to manage our oceans sustainably.  The underlying principle of Intelligent Oceans is that generating knowledge and understanding to effect change, demands more than increased activity alone. It requires a concerted effort to transcend disciplinary boundaries – to redefine what relevant knowledge is, expanding our conceptions of what could be done, what should be done, and why? Intelligent Oceans targets critical issues facing society; from the cross-cutting impacts of coastal change, through the implications of increasing exploitation of the deep ocean, to the emergent complexities in managing and governing ocean space in the 21st Century.  In so doing it challenges our points of engagement with these issues, placing methods and knowledge originating in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences on an equal footing to STEM subjects.

Intelligent Oceans adopts a ‘hub and spoke’ approach to PhD research and support (Figure 1).  Six core themes (hubs)  provide the basis for a series of connected projects (spokes).  Each hub will have a team of coordinating academics drawn from the Intelligent Oceans’ Board, who will facilitate interaction between individual scholars and the wider cohort.  Groups will meet and work together regularly, allowing students to share and learn from each other.  In turn, all of the hubs will share points of commonality through their collective focus on the ocean – relationships which will be strengthened through regular programme wide events. 

How to apply

As this scheme reflects a different sort of opportunity to many PhD programmes, the application route is also slightly different.

Application process:

1. By the 10 February 2023 Submit your expression of interest as a zip file to  This should include:
a. Current CV which details
i. Evidence/expectations of holding, a distinction (or equivalent) at Masters level, or, a 1st class degree, or, high II:I with subsequent experience.
ii. Evidence of ability to complete a research project (UG dissertation grade, publication record, artistic portfolio etc.).
iii. Details for two referees
b. An example piece of work of your choice (essay, group design project, dissertation, publication etc.).
c. Motivation and interest statement: this may take the form of a 5 min video clip, 800 words of text or other form of communication that you see as most appropriate (and that can be submitted electronically) making clear your motivation and interests for applying. This should touch on the following a) why you think ocean facing research is important, b) what topic you see as of critical importance (the area you are interested in), c) why interdisciplinary research is significant in this context, d) why you – what is your motivation.

2. 15 February: You will find out if your expression of interest has been successful. Your application will have been reviewed and ranked in light of:
• Quality of the example work submitted
• Motivation and interest statement
• Academic track record and CV
• Demonstrated, or potential for, transdisciplinary research

3. 21 February: top ranking candidates will be invited to an online workshop This will provide more detail on current challenges and how they relate to the 'hub' themes, as well as guidance on how to write this proposal. Candidates will be set a team exercise over the two days to help develop ideas and encourage interaction. You will also be given time to discuss projects and create initial proposal with supervisors.

4. 14 March: Submit your formal proposal through the University of Southampton website.

5. 20-24 March: Final interviews with outcomes based on a) the quality of the proposal and your ability to speak to it, b) response to questions at interview, c) CV, d) content of references.

6. End of March: Offers will be made to successful candidates, and feedback given to unsuccessful candidates.

Who do I contact if I have any questions?

Please feel free to email with any questions you may have, or if it relates to a particular research area, to contact an appropriate member of the Intelligent Oceans board (listed at the end of this document).

Intelligent Oceans Board

Professor Fraser Sturt is a maritime archaeologist with research interests in maritime prehistory, sea-level change and geomatics.  He was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize (2016) in recognition of his research on maritime prehistory. His work is distinctly interdisciplinary in nature, with current research funded by the Leverhulme Trust, AHRC, ESRC, and the Royal Academy of Engineering - all with a maritime focus. This reflects the close connections between archaeology and other disciplines, and a depth of experience in interdisciplinary project management. 

Professor Susan Gourvenec is an offshore geotechnical engineer, with research activities in intelligent seabed characterisation and design of ocean structures. Susan holds a Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Technologies in Intelligent & Resilient Engineering – the only Emerging Technologies Chair in oceans space.  Susan is or has been PI or Co-I on various multidisciplinary projects from a range of funders including LRF and EPSRC collaborating across engineering and the physical sciences, life sciences, social sciences and the humanities. 

Dr Stephanie Jones works in the field of law and literature, and uses interdisciplinary methods to study fictional, poetic and legal texts about the ocean. Her publications include papers on the poetics of maritime law; fictional and historical piracy and privateering; literary and legal “belonging”; and East African and South Asian literatures. She is on the editorial boards of the international writing magazine Wasafiri, and the journals Law and Humanities and Law and Critique. She has been the P-I on a large AHRC Landscape and Environment project about the Indian Ocean. 

Professor Larry Lynch is a writer, artist and teacher, and a publisher, curator and producer. Across these related domains, his main area of interest is ‘poetics in the expanded field’ - that is to say, poetic writing practices across other social and disciplinary contexts. Larry’s work frequently engages coastal and marine/maritime contexts: He consulted on Tone Twin’s cultural Olympiad commission, The Boat Project, on Liminal’s sound design work for Living Coasts and the Cotswold Water Park, and he led a major ERDF project developing the relationship between arts/arts education and the coastal economy of West Cornwall.

Professor Sabu S. Padmadas is a Demographer with expertise in population dynamics and global health, including the interdisciplinary application of demographic and statistical modelling. He has supervised 23 doctoral research students, of which 17 have successfully completed, 3 recently completed and 3 currently under progress. Sabu has over 75 research publications in peer-reviewed international journals, 15 official evaluation and policy reports, and successful research grants funded by the UK and International Research Councils. He was one of the core investigators of a multi-million £ project on deltaic environment, vulnerability, migration and climate change in Asia and Africa, funded by IDRC-DFID.

Professor Emily Reid is expert in International Economic Law and Sustainable Development. She is a member of the Centre for Law, Policy and Society, the Institute of Maritime Law, and the Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute.  Emily’s current work focuses upon the regulatory challenges engaged in pursuit of the sustainable development goals. This includes both substantive questions relating to how the tension between the economic, environmental and social pillars can be resolved, and also, the need for, and complexities of, new partnerships at and between global and local level, and between traditional and emerging public and private actors. Case studies through which this is being explored include Climate change, environment and maritime aspects. EEmily is currently Co-I on an interdisciplinary project funded by Lloyds Register Foundation about Solid Bulk Cargo Liquification.

Dr Blair Thornton is Professor of Marine Autonomy and current EPSRC fellow with expertise in robotics, sensing and artificial intelligence. Blair has spent >450days at sea deploying robotic platforms in the field. Achievements include receiving the Okamura Kenji marine technology award for his contribution to radiation monitoring off Fukushima; generating the world’s largest seafloor visual reconstruction as PI of the #AdaptiveRobotics campaign; placing 2nd in the $7M Shell Ocean Discovery X-Prize as a director of Japan’s Team KUROSHIO. Blair believes the greatest value of multidisciplinary research is in providing different perspectives on a shared problem that enables its perceived and actual aspects to be told apart.

Professor Damon Teagle is Professor of Geochemistry in the School of Ocean & Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton, and Director of the Southampton Marine & Maritime Institute.  He held a Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award (2014-2018). He is expert in fluid-rock interactions and their impacts on global chemical cycles, ore mineralisation, tectonic deformation, and the formation of the ocean crust. His recent research has been to apply this expertise to novel methods of atmospheric greenhouse gas reduction, and promoting decarbonisation of the maritime sector. He has sailed on numerous oceanographic cruises include 4 expeditions as Co-Chief on the scientific ocean drilling ship JOIDES Resolution.

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