UNSW Global Water Institute Research - Thanh Hung Pham

In profile: Thanh Hung Pham, PhD student

Remote communities in developing countries are some of the most vulnerable to the impacts of extreme weather events. Floods in particular can result in significant loss of life, illness, injury and irreversible damage to livelihoods ad natural environments.

In most developed countries, sophisticated tools are available which allow scientists to predict when floods will occur, as well as the likely impacts of these floods—and provide warnings to the public to prepare for such scenarios. However, many developing countries and remote communities lack access to these resources due to economic constraints, sparse monitoring networks and delays in accessing field data.

Thanh Hung Pham (‘Hung’), a PhD Candidate at the UNSW School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is looking at how floods can be predicted in ‘ungauged’ basins – where in-situ data are not available.

In 2011, Hung was working as a Research Assistant on a flood simulation project in Vietnam when he recognised first-hand the urgent need for improved flood forecasting.

At UNSW, you can find harmony between science and engineering; it is a place where education, research and practice are always working together

Thanh Hung Pham PhD student

“People in vulnerable areas are losing their lives, and their property is damaged by flooding because they lack reliable flood warning information which would help them to prepare for these disasters,” said Hung.

Hung is focusing on using satellite data to observe precipitation, soil moisture, land surface temperature, topography and water levels for flood forecasting purposes in areas where field data is not available.

 “Satellite data offers large-scale spatial coverage, free data and near real-time data access—all aspects which enable sufficient flood forecasting in these areas,” said Hung.

Hung believes his research has significant potential to reduce the impacts of devastating floods on people and ecosystems in remote areas or in developing countries.

Following his PhD, he is hoping to seek research positions in Australia or the USA where he can advance and expand his research on the same topic.

Hung’s experience at UNSW has ensured that his academic research is relevant, meaningful and applicable to an important real-world issue. He believes this is thanks to having access to experts from research institutes and governments as well as universities—and due to the comprehensive support he receives from his UNSW supervisors: Dr Fiona Johnson, A/Prof Lucy Marshall and Prof Ashish Sharma

“At UNSW, you can find harmony between science and engineering; it is a place where education, research and practice are always working together,” said Hung.

“I always receive useful advice from my supervisors, and through my PhD I have been able to build both my technical and professional skills as well as my collaborative networks, paving the way for future opportunities.”

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