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Ciara Higham

PhD Project Title
COVID-19 transmission risks associated with environmental contamination in workplace and public toilets

Background: I studied Mathematics and Physics at the University of Manchester and graduated in 2019. I studied a few fluids modules during my undergraduate degree which sparked my interest in fluids. My Master’s project focused on modelling how surfactant spreads in a liquid filled maze. I had a highly theoretical background with very little experimental experience.

Research Interests: I am investigating how environmental effects, such as ventilation and room layout, can have an effect on the transport of droplets and aerosols produced by flushing the toilet. I will then investigate how this translates into an effect on the risk of a person becoming infected from such droplets and aerosols. My project is a combination of experimental environmental microbiology work, CFD (ANSYS Fluent) and mathematical risk modelling. I chose my project because I had an interest in the fluid flow of droplets and aerosols in indoor air settings and the link to disease transmission. I also have a strong interest in how science can be used to influence policy makers.

Why I chose the CDT in Fluid Dynamics: I had thought of doing a PhD in my final year but was put off due to the fact I didn’t know exactly what topic I wanted to choose having had a limited exposure to fluids in my degree. After graduating I found out about the CDT and it seemed ideal for me as I would be able to find out what exactly interested me first before committing to a specific project. I also chose it due to the cohort aspect of it as I tend to work best with others. Moving to a new city and knowing no one was quite daunting for me so it’s good to have a network of people within the cohort too! 

Conference attendance and presentation

  • Conference attendance:
    • UK Fluids 2021 (Online)
  • Conference presentation:
    • Poster presentation at UK Fluids 2022 (Sheffield, UK);
    • Poster presentation at FIS/HIS 2022 (London, UK);
    • Oral presentation at Healthy Buildings 2023 (Aachen, Germany)

Outreach: I have worked part time at MathsCity since September 2022, before which I was a volunteer. At MathsCity I have also been involved in running Fluid Dynamics workshops. I am an Educational Outreach Fellow at the University which has involved developing and running activities (Mathematical Modelling for Disease Transmission; The Geometry of Social Distancing) for the University’s Reach for Excellence programme and an astronomy activity (Day and Night) for Year 5 students. In May 2022 I was part of a group running a Fluid Dynamics stall at the University’s Be Curious event (find out more about Be Curious). I am part of an organisation championing women and non-binary people in Science, ScienceGrrl (read about ScienceGrll). As part of my involvement with ScienceGrrl, we had a stall at the science festival Bluedot in July 2023.

Linked in profile: Find out more about me at my Linked in profile.