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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Peter Levi, St Catharine's College, 2013 -14

MPhil, Engineering for Sustainable Development, 2013-14

PhD, Engineering, 2014-18

After a Year In Industry during my gap year, I studied Civil Engineering at the University of Bristol with a year abroad at UC Davis in California. I then worked as a structural engineer for 2 years at Hockley & Dawson – a practice specialising in conservation, remediation and adaptation of historic buildings in the UK. This included work at the Tower of London, Royal Hospital Chelsea and Hampton Court Palace.

Dissertation title:

Cost trajectories of low carbon electricity generation technologies in the UK: A study of cost uncertainty

Supervised by Dr Michael Pollitt, Judge Business School.

Published as an article of the same title in the journal Energy Policy

Students report:

I greatly enjoyed my time working as a structural engineer. I don't think I would have been as well equipped or motivated for further study without the industry experience I gained. However, I increasingly felt I was only engaging problems on the periphery of some of the greatest challenges for the engineering profession; those associated with energy provision and climate change. The ESD MPhil seemed as if it would – and in retrospect certainly did – increase my exposure to a greater variety of engineering challenges, and tools for tackling them. I particularly wanted to learn more about the technical and economic issues associated with energy provision and climate change. The course provided a broad spectrum of options, which allowed me to focus on these subjects.

Since completing the ESD MPhil I have continued to study at Cambridge. I am doing a PhD in Engineering, supervised by Dr Jonathan Cullen (another ESD MPhil alumnus). The studentship forms a small part of the Foreseer Programme, headed by Prof Julian Allwood and funded by BP. I am examining global energy and material flows in the chemical and petrochemical sector, in the context of climate change mitigation. The first step is to map flows of feedstock energy (primarily oil, natural gas and coal) from extraction and refining, through complex processing networks, to the sector's myriad products (fertilizers, plastic etc.). The second step is to model which technologies can be deployed to limit emissions levels in the medium/long-term, whilst meeting growing demands for the sector's products.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.