Postgraduate study at SEI

Sphagnum Spreading 1

Doing a PhD with SEI at our York office gives you the opportunity to study in a beautiful medieval city in northern England, surrounded by world-class researchers who are working on environment and development issues at a local, national, regional and global level. 

Our staff and PhD students sit together in a large, bright office in a new building on the Heslington West campus at the University of York. We are an international and diverse group of people, welcoming of everyone. We offer full and part-time options for study.

Our goal is to bring about change for sustainable development by bridging science and policy through integrated analysis that supports decision makers. We are consistently in the top ten global Environment think tanks, which demonstrates our success in achieving this ambitious aim. 

Why York?

Our York office undertakes research in wide variety of fields including air quality, climate change, sustainable consumption and production, well-being and behavioural change, participatory research (including citizen science), and ecosystem services.

We are looking for enthusiastic, motivated and talented students to undertake postgraduate study in these research areas.  

Although you will be based in our York office, there is the opportunity to work with researchers across the different SEI centres (Stockholm, Sweden; Boston, California and Seattle (USA), Bangkok, Thailand; Nairobi, Kenya; Oxford, UK) and with colleagues in other departments at the University of York. 

We are located within the Environment Building at the University of York, and we enjoy close research and teaching collaboration with the Environment Department. You will have access to all the University facilities (library, undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, our network of world-class researchers, training and development opportunities, student support services).


We have limited places available for postgraduate study so have strict eligibility criteria. You need a good (1st or 2.1) undergraduate degree, excellent English proficiency and a proven dedication to environmental research.

Details of fees for studying at York can be found here, which also provides information on how you can get help with obtaining funding. 

Application procedure

The first step in applying for a PhD at SEI York is to get in touch with your potential supervisor.  A list of SEI staff eligible to be first or second supervisor can be found below. Other SEI staff can also provide support with supervising PhD students, please see the Our staff pages for details.

Mike Ashmore - air quality, including impacts on ecosystems and human health, citizen science

Iain Brown - climate change and sustainable development, integrated approaches to decision making

Patrick Bueker - air pollution and it's effects on agricultural yields, forests, and human health

Steve Cinderby - community resilience, urbanisation and their links to well-being

Lisa Emberson - air pollution and climate change, and their impacts on agricultural yields and ecosystem productivity

Jon Ensor - community-based adaptation, human rights

John Forrester - community resilience, social systems, sustainable development

Andreas Heinemeyer - terrestrial carbon cycling, with a particular focus on peatlands

Kevin Hicks - air pollution impacts on terrestrial ecosystems, ecosystem services, and policy engagement

Johan Kuylenstierna - climate change and air pollution, policy processes

Corrado Topi - global supply chains, ecosystem services, predictive modelling, green economy

Harry Vallack - air pollution emission inventory preparation and scenario building

Chris West - sustainable consumption and production, supply-chain impacts

Sarah West - citizen science, participatory research, science communication, environmental education

After you have contacted a potential supervisor, they may request further information on your research ideas and follow up with a Skype / phone call. If they feel your work is a good fit for SEI, then you will be invited to formally apply through the University of York, usually via Environmental Economics and Environmental Management MPhil or PhD.   

Our students

The following students are at least 50% under the supervision of SEI staff:

Andriannah Mbandi

Andriannah Mbandi

Supervisors: Dieter Schwela and Lisa Emberson.

Andriannah's research focuses specifically on the contribution of road transport emissions to air pollution in Sub-Saharan African cities.

Read her blog posts here:

 - Can a sustainable transport road map support Africa’s development agenda?


Emissions testing

Andriannah - testing car emissions.

Phoebe Morton

Phoebe Morton

Supervisor: Andreas Heinemeyer

Defra project (BD5104) on peatland management and ecosystem services in the UK.

She is specifically looking at the effects of different types of heather management on peatland vegetation, carbon dynamics, greenhouse gas fluxes and water quality.

Read more>>

Sphagnum spreading2
Phoebe - Sphagnum spreading on the Dales.
Giulia Paggiola

Giulia Paggiola

Supervisor: Professor James H. Clark from the Green Chemistry Centre at the University of York

She works between the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence and the Green Economics Research Group (GECO) at SEI York. 

Her main interest is on the factors influencing sustainable decision-making and corporate responsibility in the chemical sector. She is currently involved with the European CHEM21 project investigating sustainable chemical technologies for drug manufacture with funding from the Innovative Medicines Initiative. 



Steph Osborne
Steph Osborne

Supervisors: Dr Gina Mills and Dr Lisa Emberson

She works between the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), and SEI York.

Her research project focusses on quantifying the effect which rising levels of ground-level ozone around the world is likely to have on the growth, physiology and yield of soybean and wheat.




Other students:

Jehad Jabr Nasser Albusaidi

Leha Jeha

Manogna Goparaju

Olajide Omotola Olawoyin

Anjar Priandoyo

Ruchirek Ratchaburi

Guido Rutten

Tortrakal Wattanoavorakijkul


What do our researchers go on to do?

Student: Chubamenla Jamir

Supervisor: Lisa Emberson

Years: 2008-2012

Research: Assessing Ozone impacts on arable crops in South Asia. 

Chuba Jamir

Chuba's research investigated the impacts of the air pollutant ozone on key staple crops of  south Asia (wheat, rice, soybean and potato) and found that yield losses of between 5 and 15% occurred frequently across the region. The study was also able to identify co-varying factors that contributed to risk including proximity to ozone precursor emission sources, local meteorology and crop physiology. This information was used to identify phenological traits (crop sowing dates and maturing periods) that might alter the sensitivity of new cultivars to ozone for use in informing future crop biotechnology efforts.  

Chuba is now Assistant Professor at the Department for Natural Resources at TERI University, India. Visit her page here.