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Research Studentship in Civil Engineering

Project: Polymer Support Fluids for Piles and Diaphragm Walls

4-year D.Phil. studentship 

Supervisor: Dr Brian Sheil and Professor Stephan Jefferis of Oxford University, and Chris Barker and Duncan Nicholson of Arup.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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 http://www.eng.ox.ac.uk/study-here/postgraduate/graduate-admissions-criteria 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