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Research Student Spotlight September - Zhe Zhan


Our monthly spotlight on the work and lives of the next generation of water@leeds researchers. 

September 2022 - Zhe Zhan

School of Civil Engineering and member of the UKRI GCRF Water Security and Sustainable Development  Hub.

PhD title: The impact of flooding on onsite sanitation – new approaches to predicting environmental contamination and health impacts

Supervisors: Prof Barbara Evans, Prof Andy Sleigh

Tell us a bit about yourself

I grew up in a beautiful coastal city, Yantai, in east China. The golden beach and varying waves cultivated my interest in studying water, and led me to choose Civil Engineering as my undergraduate.

After studying Civil Engineering for three years in China, I got a chance to visit Cardiff and finish my undergraduate studies there. One year of living in Wales made me fascinated with the culture of the UK, and strengthened my desire to explore other parts of this beautiful country. I then came to Leeds to study for my Masters in Water, Sanitation and Health Engineering.

Why did you choose Leeds University?

The University of Leeds is well known for its strong scientific research strength, high levels of diversity, and great inclusivity. Furthermore, the University of Leeds enjoys a high reputation in academic circles for leading the research in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).  Also, the graceful campus and convenient location add up to the benefits and make the University of Leeds stand out. And Leeds, one of the most prosperous cities in England, also has its unique charm. The great commuting system, excellent recreational facilities, and cultural events will ensure you have an exceptional student life. I came to the University of Leeds with the above thoughts, and it turned out that I was right!

What is your research about?

My research is testing a hypothesis that the extent of wash out of faecal sludge from latrine pits and tanks in typical urban low-income areas is sufficient to create a significant additional health risk in the exposed population. This research aims to strengthen the knowledge of the interaction between flood water and onsite sanitation facilities through a combination of empirical observation and measurements in the field, and the development of CFD models for different types of latrines operating under a range of hydrological conditions.   I am also a member of the UKRI GCRF Water Sanitation Research Hub team at Leeds, as my PhD is linked to that research.

This research will contribute to improving the resilience of on-site sanitation systems, such as pit latrines, against climate change as the outputs could provide insights on the better design and management of onsite sanitation.

What did you wish you knew before starting a PhD?

Everything! My PhD is cross-disciplinary, and I wish that I knew more about Pathology, Fluid Mechanics, Rheology, Linear Regression Analysis, CFD, etc…Doing a PhD consumes your patience and perseverance, and there will be times when you feel overwhelmed and get stuck and wish you would know more about what you are doing – slow down and relax, good things are happening!

Follow Zhe Zhan on Twitter.