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DPhil (PhD) - Research Studentship in Polymer Support Fluids for Piles and Diaphragm Walls

4-year DPhil studentship, available at Oxford University from October 2021 (subject to eligibility). 

This studentship is funded through the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Industrial Cooperative Awards in Science & Technology (iCASE) Award Scheme in collaboration with engineering design firm, Arup. The successful applicant will work alongside industry partners and the geotechnical research group at Oxford University (http://www2.eng.ox.ac.uk/geotech).

Research Area

The use of ‘support fluids’ to provide temporary hydraulic support for excavations is a common technique adopted in the construction industry. Whilst most civil engineering designs must account for the performance of support fluids during construction, they often do so in an ad hoc manner, relying primarily on the development of empiricism from accumulated field experience. Early indications are that polymer-based support fluids offer significant improvements in performance over more traditional bentonite alternatives. However, a scarcity of high-quality research has inhibited their take-up within the industry. As our cities and infrastructure are continuing to demand larger and deeper foundations, the aim of this research is to better understand the behaviour of polymer support fluids and accelerate their take-up in situations where they can offer better technical and financial outcomes than traditional bentonite-based support fluids.

The proposed DPhil programme will result in new design rules and testing techniques for polymer support fluids, with significant benefits for the construction industry in terms of risk, material use, time to construct and hence economy. These objectives will be achieved through fieldwork, laboratory testing and theoretical analysis. The focus of this project will be on improving piling and diaphragm wall design and construction but the research outcomes will have substantially broader impact, for instance in large-diameter concrete caissons, shafts, tunnels and pipejacking.

The project will be supervised by Dr Brian Sheil and Professor Stephan Jefferis of Oxford University, and Chris Barker and Duncan Nicholson of Arup.

Candidate Requirements

Applicants will be judged according to how well they meet the following criteria:

·       A good first honours degree (first or upper second) in engineering or cognate discipline;

·        Good written and spoken communication skills in English;

·        Strong record of academic and/or professional achievement.

The following are desirable but not essential:

·        Previous experience of laboratory-based work;

·        Practical experience in geotechnical or construction engineering.

Eligibility

This studentship is funded through the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Industrial CASE award and is open to Home students (full award – home fees plus stipend). Full details of the eligibility requirements can be found on the UK Research and Innovation website.

Award Value

Course fees are covered at the level set for Home students (c. £8290 p.a.). The stipend (tax-free maintenance grant) is c. £15609 p.a. for the first year, and at least this amount for three more years.

Application Procedure

Candidates must submit a graduate application form and are expected to meet the graduate admissions criteria. Details are available on the course page of the University website.

NOTE: Candidates are expected to meet the graduate admissions criteria available at https://eng.ox.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/applications/ and a full graduate application must be made at the same time as applying for this studentship. Your studentship application will not be considered until you have submitted a graduate application (use course-code RD_EN1). Further details about making a graduate application are available at http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/graduate/applying-to-oxford.

Please quote 21ENGCI_BS in all correspondence and in your graduate application.

Informal enquiries may be addressed to Dr. Brian Sheil, email: brian.sheil@eng.ox.ac.uk. Note that applications sent directly to this email address will not be accepted.

Application deadline: noon on 2 March 2021

Start date: October 2021

DPhil (PhD)

3.5 year DPhil studentship, available at Oxford University from October 2021 (subject to eligibility).

Research Area

One of the biggest obstacles to improving the efficiency of underground construction is uncertainty surrounding how structures interact with soils during construction operations i.e. ‘soil-structure interaction’ (SSI). Soil-structure interaction plays a critical role in underground construction operations yet the tools that are used to predict them remain remarkably poor. The FOCUS project will develop the underpinning engineering science for SSI design applied to underground construction processes.

Within this overall scope, there will be opportunities to develop the project in one or more of the following areas:

(a) small-scale laboratory modelling,

(b) advanced large- deformation numerical model development,

(c) real-time fibre optic monitoring of live construction sites including bespoke sensor development,

(d) development of Bayesian machine learning models to provide ‘early warning’ of adverse events.

Accurate estimation and monitoring of SSI is particularly critical for tunnelling and construction of large-diameter open caissons.

This is the focus of the research – the methods developed could, however, be easily applied to other problems. The project will be supervised by Dr Brian Sheil.

Eligibility

 This studentship is available to Home qualified students only.

Award Value

 The studentships cover course fees at the level set for UK students (£8290 p.a.) plus a stipend (tax-free maintenance grant) of £15,285 p.a.

Candidate Requirements

Applicants will be judged according to how well they meet the following criteria:

  • A good first honours degree (first or upper second) in engineering, physics or computer science;
  • Good written and spoken communication skills in English;
  • Evidence of high self-motivation and good organisational skills;
  • Excellent record of academic and/or professional

The following are desirable but not essential:

  • Ability to undertake scientific programming (e.g. in Matlab, Python);
  • Previous experience of laboratory-based work;
  • Previous experience with finite element

Application Procedure

Candidates must submit a graduate application form and are expected to meet the graduate admissions criteria. Details are available on the course page of the University website.

NOTE: Candidates are expected to meet the graduate admissions criteria available at https://eng.ox.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/applications/ and a full graduate application must be made at the same time as applying for this studentship.

Your studentship application will not be considered until you have submitted a graduate application (use course-code RD_EN1). Further details about making a graduate application are available at http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/graduate/applying-to-oxford.

Please quote FOCUS21 in all correspondence and in your graduate application.

Informal enquiries may be addressed to Dr. Brian Sheil, email: brian.sheil@eng.ox.ac.uk. Note that applications sent directly to this email address will not be accepted.

Start date: October 2021

Contact Us

Address

FOCUS Project, Civil Engineering Research,
Department of Engineering Science, Oxford University, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PJ, United Kingdom

Contact Information

Call: +44 (0) 1865273170
Email: focusgroup@maillist.ox.ac.uk