PhD: Climate change-related mortality in different population groups in urbanized Belgium

Updated: about 7 hours ago

The Faculty of Engineering, Department Elektronica en informatica, Research Group Electronics and Informatics: Research – Development - Innovation is looking for a PhD-student with a doctoral grant

More concretely your work package, for the preparation of a doctorate, contains: 

You will take part in the 4-year project financed by the FWO (Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek), titled “ClimaTE change-related Mortality in different Population groups in URbanized Belgium (TEMPUR)”. The project is a collaboration between Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Ghent University, Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium, UCLouvain and Sciensano. Prof. Dr. Lesley De Cruz will be your academic promoter.  

Summary of the project 

Climate change is established to be unequivocal and has been unanimously identified as one of biggest threats to health worldwide. Greenhouse gas emissions are the main driver of these global rising temperatures, affecting health and mortality worldwide. Currently almost half of the global population lives in urban areas, usually characterized by their higher environmental hazard burden (e.g., elevated levels of heat and air pollution). With future projections of both population growth and climate change, exposure to environmental hazards and subsequent health risks are only expected to increase. For Belgium, one of Europe’s most urbanized countries, most of climate change-related research has focused on health- and mortality associations in relation to heat and has been mostly investigated at country- and citywide level using classical regression methods. Evidence for the Belgian context is still scarce regarding climate change-related health impacts at high spatiotemporal resolution. The main aim of this project is to evaluate for the first time in Belgium climate change-related (cause-specific) excess mortality attributed to temperature under different future climate and population projections at high spatiotemporal scale for the entire country. 

Your research tasks 

Climate change is an escalating global health crisis, especially for the 50% of the world population that lives in urban areas, which suffer from the urban heat island effect and higher air pollution levels. It is therefore crucial to understand the impact on our health, to take the most effective measures.  

The aim of this project is to use urbanized Belgium as a test bed to go beyond the classical city-wide regression methods associating heat with health effects. A more detailed, high-resolution analysis will be made possible thanks to the unique cross-pollination of scientific domains represented by the different project partners, which combine high-resolution climate, air quality, health, mortality, socio-economic, demographic, and geographic data.  

Your role in this project is to combine these unique, high-resolution data sets with innovative machine learning methods to create a method that provides an interpretable local estimate of heat, heat stress and health impacts, given the large-scale temperature, local properties of the city (e.g. presence of greenspace, water...), and the individual socio-economic and health background. Your method will then be applied to future climate and demographic projections, to estimate the future evolution of heat-related health impact, but also to investigate which measures we can take to harness our cities against heat-related health problems. 

You will have a limited set of teaching responsibilities. This includes the practical or exercise sessions for a course in the Master in Applied Computer Science (MACS) programme (e.g. Techniques of AI), and the co-supervision of a Master’s thesis related to your research. 

For this function, our Brussels Humanities, Sciences & Engineering Campus (Elsene) will serve as your home base. 

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