PhD Opportunities

Advancing the Frontiers of Earth System Prediction (AFESP) Doctoral Training Programme: 2024 Call for PhD applicants 

The AFESP Doctoral Training Programme 2024 call for applicants has now closed. Details of future opportunities will be published here in autumn 2024.

AFESP is establishing a long-term Doctoral Training Programme to develop skills in the fundamental new research across the physical, mathematical and computational sciences that will be required to address next-generation challenges in Earth system prediction and operational weather and climate forecasting. PhD students will be trained and embedded within the overall AFESP programme.

We are inviting applications to join a cohort of up to ten PhD students to commence in Autumn 2024.


Advancing the Frontiers of Earth System Prediction (AFESP) is a 15-year, £30million research programme at the University of Reading, in partnership with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), the UK Met Office and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science.

All PhD projects will sit within one or more of the three strategic AFESP themes:  

  1. Predicting the Earth system up to the sub-seasonal range (up to 1 month)
  2. Challenges and opportunities in simulating the Earth system at the kilometre-scale 
  3. Data assimilation for the Earth system across a range of scales. 

Our vision is that AFESP will be recognised internationally for: 

  • Making world-leading contributions to the advancement of next-generation, extended-range weather and Earth system predictions; 
  • Offering a unique research and innovation hub combining meteorology, physics, mathematics and computational science;
  • Offering long-term career opportunities for exceptional scientists, able to move seamlessly between fundamental and applied research; 
  • Researching and enabling new applications and services, in partnership with public and private sectors. 

 AFESP also aims to maximise the societal benefits of improved extended-range Earth system predictions by working with operational weather services, weather data users (e.g. energy, agriculture, fisheries), industry and government decision-makers to improve risk assessment, planning and resilience.  

About the AFESP Doctoral Training Programme 

The AFESP PhD programme will offer a wide range of excellent and innovative training in quantitative environmental science, research skills and a wider set of professional skills in preparation for a leading role in science, industry, the public sector or academia. 

The awarding institution for PhDs will be the University of Reading, which will also provide the lead supervisor for all PhD projects. Each PhD will also have at least one co-supervisor from ECMWF, the UK Met Office, or NCAS. 

From the start of their PhD, students will be part of a supportive research group, including other PhD students, early-career researchers and senior investigators. Students will be immersed in an excellent research environment and involved in regular AFESP science workshops and meetings, where they will hear about the wider research developments, help shape the programme, and have the opportunity to discuss their research with world-leading scientists. 

A wide range of MSc modules are available to PhD students from the full range of modules at the University covering the specific requirements of AFESP research. In addition, the University’s Doctoral and Researcher College runs a Researcher Development Programme which offers transferable skills training with courses on, for example, how to write a thesis, publishing papers, and interacting successfully with your supervisor.


Studentship awards from the University of Reading will cover tuition fees, research-training costs and a stipend for up to four years to cover living costs, on similar terms to the PhD funding offered by UK Research & Innovation. This call is open to applicants worldwide, with additional support for international students to help with costs of visas, access to UK healthcare and travel.

How to apply 

We are aiming to recruit a cohort of up to ten PhD students to commence in Autumn 2024. Applicants should have the potential to contribute outstanding work to the programme and demonstrate a keen motivation for working in one of the AFESP strategic themes.  

Applicants must set out their interest in, and suitability for, doctoral training in one of the AFESP strategic themes listed above with reference to the AFESP Science Plan. Co-development of specific PhD projects will take place following acceptance onto the programme (previous awarded projects can be found here and further examples of future projects can be found here). 

Applicants should hold or expect to gain an excellent Bachelors (2.1 or equivalent) and/or Masters Degree in physics, mathematics, computer science, or a closely related environmental, physical, or engineering science. Strong programming skills (Python and Fortan) will be beneficial, but programming and software development will be part of the training offered.

The selection criteria are: 

1. Degree in core scientific disciplines, e.g. physics, mathematics, chemistry, engineering, computational science (50%)

       a. Candidate profile fit to the AFESP science programme (criteria include: type of degree, modules covered, grades, etc.)

       b. Previous research experience of relevance to a PhD in any of the three AFESP themes. 

2. Personal statement (50%), which should discuss: 

       a. Why you want to apply to this PhD programme on Earth System Prediction; 

       b. What particular skills and experience you would bring to the programme;  

       c. Which AFESP theme, or, in special cases, themes, are of interest to you, and why; 

       d. Why you think that AFESP will make a difference, e.g. in terms of benefits to society. 

3.  Other indicators of merit/distinction, e.g. overseas development work (even as volunteer), previous work in government/industry that motivated a return to academia (bonus 10%). 

The application form can be found here. 

Applications should be submitted to by midnight (GMT) on Sunday 14th January 2024. (n.b. 7th January deadline extended)   

Following a selection process based on the criteria listed above, initial panel interviews will be held in the w/c 22 January 2024. Shortlisted candidates will then progress to project matching & individual supervisor interviews in February 2024 and final offers will be made to successful applicants early March 2024. Offers will need to be responded to by mid-March to ensure entry onto the programme.  

Further information  

For enquiries and further details please contact: Claire Wyllie, AFESP Programme Manager, University of Reading via  

Further information about AFESP, including the Science Plan, is available on the AFESP project website 

Programme partners 

Below is some contextual information about each of the AFESP partners.  

University of Reading  

AFESP is a programme of the entire University of Reading.  It builds on strengths in many Schools and seeks to develop wider collaborations across the University.  In particular, the School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences applies the core disciplines of computing, environmental sciences, mathematics, and meteorology to a wide range of urgent societal needs. Scientists will also be involved from the School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Sciences which aims to further the understanding of environmental systems, human communities and their interactions in the past, present and future. We anticipate significant engagement from other Schools as the programme develops.

The University of Reading is ranked 4th in the world for Atmospheric Science” (Shanghai Ranking 2022 Global Ranking of Academic Subjects).  

The two Schools host more than 280 academics and research scientists, including five Fellows of the Royal Society, a Regius Professorship, and six lead authors of the most recent IPCC Assessment Report. At any point in time, there is a community of approximately 200 PhD students.    

All PhD students are supported by the Doctoral and Researcher College which provides advice, study facilities, training and professional development for all doctoral students (c.1880 students from over 100 countries). The Doctoral and Researcher College is dedicated to ensuring students get the most out of their PhD and fulfil their potential as a researcher. It runs a number of programmes to help students develop academically and professionally.   


The European Centre for Medium-Range Forecasts is both a research institute and a 24/7 operational service, producing medium and extended-range global numerical weather predictions and other data for the European Member and Cooperating States and the broader community. The Centre has one of the largest supercomputer facilities and meteorological data archives in the world. Other strategic activities include delivering advanced training and assisting the World Meteorological Organisation in implementing its programmes. 

The Met Office  

The Met Office is the national meteorological service for the UK, providing weather services and world-leading climate science for government and business in the UK and around the world. The Met Office is a science-led organisation and its reputation for weather forecasting and climate prediction depends on its world-class research programme, which spans an ever-increasing range of science disciplines from fundamental atmospheric physics to ecosystem behaviour. 


The National Centre for Atmospheric Science is a world-leading research centre, funded by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council. NCAS research covers three key areas: air pollution, climate and high-impact weather and long-term global changes. NCAS also provides the UK with state-of-the-art services for observing and modelling the atmosphere. These include a research aircraft, advanced ground-based observational facilities, computer modelling and support, and major facilities for storing and analysing diverse data.