Models and Modelling for Researchers

Models and Modelling for Researchers

Participant profile

Doctoral students of the UPV/EHU


March 2022

Duration / Timetable

  • 10 hours* (three three-and-a-quarter hour clases run over three weeks)
  • Time: 10:00 to 13:15

*The certificate of attendance and achievement will include a total of 10 hours.


Students will be expected to attend 100% of the clases together with submission of all three practical work assignments.




A real-classroom

Location and dates

Carlos Santamaría building,
Room 4
Tuesday Mar 08 Mar 15 Mar 22
Micaela Portilla Research Centre
Room 0.6
Wednesday Mar 09 Mar 16 Mar 23
Biblioteca building,
Room 7
Thursday Mar 10 Mar 17 Mar 24

Speaker, Trainer and Profile

Tim Smithers: I have a degree in Aeronautical Engineering, from Kingston Polytechnic, London, and a PhD from Cambridge University, for research on computational techniques for the design of cyclically symmetric structures, which I used to design the main reflector support structure of the James Clerk Maxwell millimeter wave telescope built on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Following this, I worked for a small company on the design of parallel algorithms and parallel hardware architectures for finite element analysis -- a widely used numerical modelling technique. I then moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, to work in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Department, on intelligent design support systems, and intelligent robotics. I also taught Masters' and PhD courses on Knowledge Representation and Reasoning and Intelligent Robotics, and supervised PhD students. After a two year sabbatical at the VUB AI Lab in Brussels, where I continued my robotics and AI in Design work, I moved to Donostia. Here I have worked in all of the Universities in the region, and several Technology R&D Centres, leading international research projects, directing research groups, designing and running PhD programmes, and teaching undergraduate, Masters' and PhD courses. For the past ten years I have worked as a freelance Research Practitioner, developing and teaching courses on the Foundations of Research Practices for mixed discipline groups of PhD students, helping research groups design research programmes and strengthen their research practices, and working for the EU Commission. Over the years I have worked with many different people, on a variety of different research topics, including with artists, bio-chemists, historians, medical doctors, and physicists. I continue to design things, make paintings using Logo, and currently work in a small collaboration on a topic in Number Theory.

Group size

There is a maximum of 18 students in Donostia-San Sebastián and in Leioa, and 15 in Vitoria-Gasteiz.


Registration closed


Models, of one kind or another, are needed in the construction of reliable and robust new knowledge and understanding across all research disciplines.

We make and use models in research when direct observations and measurements aren’t possible, or are too difficult to do well enough, or are not allowed for ethical reasons.

The particular knowledge and skills needed to build and properly use the different kinds of models is found in the different research disciplines that employ them, and you will need to learn the practices and skills particular to your own kind of research.

There are, however, a set of concepts and issues common to all model building and model using in research. A sound and critical understanding of these common issues, and how they show up in the model building and using in different research disciplines, forms a valuable foundation for successful model building and model using in any kind of research.


The course is composed of three three-hour classes run over three weeks, with practical work set each week to be completed and presented for the following week. There will be a 15 minute break about mid-way through each class. And the practical work will need between three and four hours each week.

All classes will work as seminars, and include both presented material and open discussion. So, researchers should come prepared to make their own notes, and actively engage in, and contribute to, each class.

All clases will be conducted in English and it will be expected to use and work in English during the classes. A good level of confidence of working in English is therefore recommended. But the English does not need to be perfect, just good enough!


The three classes of this course:

  • Models and modelling in research — what is a model?, and seeing some of the differences and similarities in models used in different kinds of research;

  • Introduction to the Modelling Relation — which must be satisfied for something to be a model; and

  • Building and using models for research — the practical matters of verification, validation, calibration, testing, accuracy,and precision.

See more

Foundations of Research Practices

This course is offered in collaboration with Euskampus Fundazioa.