Maria Pregnolato

PhD researcher



I believe that science has a crucial role in developing solutions to global change and demand, by improving the resilience and the quality of urban infrastructure through applied research. I undertook my MSc in Building Engineering in Italy at the University of Pavia in collaboration with the Tongji University of Shanghai (China), setting the basis for an international and inter-disciplinary research culture. In 2014 I moved to Newcastle University to start my PhD project (EPSRC funded), under the supervision of Prof. Richard Dawson, in the School of Civil Engineering and Geoscience. The research explored the impact of flooding and climate change in urban environments, and lead to the development of an integrated flood-transport model. In 2017 I am starting as Postdoc for the ITRC-MISTRAL project, focusing on future development of infrastructure.

PhD Project Details:

Critical infrastructures, such as transportation systems, are at risk of natural hazards worldwide, in particular in urban areas.  A changing climate and a strong urbanization is posing under pressure communities, assets, and built environment.  As infrastructures can be considered the backbone of cities, network resilience has become a necessary component of any structured development.

This research addresses the challenges by focusing on the development of probabilistic methodology for managing risk by modelling urban transport networks within the context of flooding events, through a combination of climate simulations and spatial representations.  By overlaying spatial data on hazard thresholds from a flood model and a flood safety function, different levels of disruption to commuting journeys on road networks are evaluated as indirect tangible damage (Jenkins et al. 2012).  To calculate the disruptive effect of flooding on transport networks, a function relating water depth to safe driving car speed has been developed by combining data from experimental reports, safety literature, analysis of videos of cars driving through floodwater, and expert judgement (Pregnolato et al. 2015a).

The first stage includes a preliminary impact analysis in Tyne & Wear (in North-East England) region, assessing the disruptions for commuter journeys due to flooding.  This step involves flood risk estimation of events with different severity and frequency, and the consequent evaluation of indirect damage due to rerouting and time lost.  The second stage investigates potential urban adaptation measures through a cost-benefit analysis, for an optimal employment of resources and a cost-effective risk management.  A portfolio of potential risk reduction options is considered, alongside the quantification and comparison of benefits and cost of the different options selected (Pregnolato et al. 2015b).


M. Pregnolato, A. Ford, R. Dawson (2015a) ‘Analysis of the Risk of Transport Infrastructure Disruption from Extreme Rainfall’, 12th International Conference on Applications of Statistics and Probability in Civil Engineering (ICASP), Vancouver, Canada, 12th-15th, July 2015.


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