Research Student Spotlight February: Mark Bernhofen

Our monthly spotlight on the work and lives of the next generation of water@leeds researchers.
This month: Mark Bernhofen
PhD Title: Testing and evaluating the applicability of global flood models.
School / Faculty: School of Civil Engineering
Supervisors: Dr. Mark Trigg and Dr. Andy Sleigh

Tell us a bit about yourself 

I’m half German half American. I was born in the US and lived in Massachusetts until my family and I moved to Nottingham when I was 10 years old. I’ve been in Leeds for almost 8 years now, as I did my undergraduate studies here too. Outside of my studies I’m an avid skier, I play football, and during lockdown I’ve been playing lots of golf.

Why did you choose University of Leeds?

I originally came to Leeds as an undergraduate to study Civil & Structural Engineering. I chose the University of Leeds based on the quality of the Engineering programme. In my final year, when deciding on a dissertation topic, I wanted to try something other than steel and concrete. I chose to work with Dr. Mark Trigg on a project about global flood models. I really enjoyed working on my dissertation, so when the opportunity came up to continue the work as PhD student I jumped on it!

What is your research about? 

My research is focussed on testing and exploring the applicability of global flood models. These global models differ from more traditional local flood models in that they use globally available datasets and semi-automated methods to map flood hazard globally. Because this is a relatively new research area, the testing done on these models has been fairly limited. In my first year, I published a paper validating six of these global models against historical flood events. I recently submitted a paper which explores the different levels of river representation in global flood models, and the implications this has on flood exposure calculations. My research is intended to inform the appropriate use of these models and identify where further model development is needed.

What did you wish you knew before starting a PhD? 

I didn’t realize all the opportunities I would get to work on interesting projects that weren’t directly related to my PhD. For example, I got to work on a project evaluating global plastic pollution and I got to contribute to a paper about the Congo River.

Mark presenting his research at water@leeds 10th Anniversary, 2019

Follow Mark on twitter @markbernhofen