UK: PhD Studentship in University of Bristol in Department of Civil Engineering

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The project:  A new and exciting PhD opportunity is offered in the challenging field of geotechnical design at the state of the art geotechnical testing laboratories at the University of Bristol.

Manufacture of construction materials accounts for around 50,000,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted from the United Kingdom annually. Reduction of 10% of this is akin to taking 25,000 cars off the road. Specifying smaller foundations, retaining walls and thinner road pavements is desirable. To do this, smaller factors of safety need to be used. A factor of safety can be described as a ‘factor of uncertainty’. High factors of safety are not directly a safety feature as they are used to prevent excessive settlements by factoring soil strength heavily. Better understanding the science of settlement will reduce uncertainty and allow for smaller factors of safety. The fundamentals of the mobilised strength design framework give a philosophical basis for attempting this. However, enhanced understanding of the sensitivity of the key parameters is needed to give industrial engineers confidence in application of the method.

Recent work has shown that the past-stress history of fine grained soils is a significant indicator of the serviceability performance of the structures that they carry. Applicants are sought for a PhD student to carry out high-quality and rigorous testing of natural and reconstituted fine grained materials for use in improving current and evolving design methods. The data will be used as part of a large study targeting improved serviceability design criteria for structures using the mobilization strain framework as a basis. There is a strong link to the evolution of Eurocode 7 the use of the findings in the code context will be a major component of the research.

Candidate requirements: Applicants must hold at least an upper second class degree in Civil or Mechanical Engineering or Engineering Geology (or hold an equivalent qualification).

Experience in experimental geotechnics or geotechnical design will be an advantage.

Due to funding requirements (see below) this is limited to UK/EU applicants only.

Funding: Studentship covers full UK/EU (EU applicants who have been resident in the UK for 3 years prior to application) PhD tuition fees and a tax-free stipend at the current RCUK rate (£13,726 in 2013/14). EU nationals resident in the EU may also apply and will qualify only for PhD tuition fees.

How to apply: Please make an online application for this project at Please select Civil Engineering PhD on the Programme Choice page.

Please ensure that in the Funding section you tick “I would like to be considered for a funding award from the Department” and specify the title of the scholarship in the “other” box below.

Contacts:  If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr Paul J. Vardanega (lead supervisor) or Dr David Nash on (associate supervisor)

For general enquiries, please email:

Deadline for applications:  4th February 2014

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