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Research Studentship in Geotechnical Engineering

Research Studentship in Geotechnical Engineering

Project: Partial Drainage during Earthquake-Induced Liquefaction: Element Testing and Constitutive Modelling.

3.5-year D.Phil. studentship starting October 2021

Supervisors: Prof Orestis Adamidis

During an earthquake, sand found below the water table can lose its shear strength and behave like a heavy liquid, in a potentially devastating phenomenon called liquefaction. At the core of our understanding of earthquake-induced liquefaction lies the undrained hypothesis. It states that during an earthquake there is not sufficient time for water flow to cause void redistribution, thus justifying the assumption of a constant volume, undrained condition at an element level. The convenience of imposing undrained conditions in testing apparatuses facilitated the proliferation of such experimental results, on which current constitutive models used for liquefaction are based. However, there is now sufficient evidence to suggest that the undrained hypothesis is not wholly appropriate during an earthquake; instead, partial drainage occurs. Well-documented data on the partially drained response of granular soils are still very limited, as they require non-standard element testing procedures. Nevertheless, the potential implications of partial drainage during a liquefaction event are significant. Constitutive models used in numerical simulations of liquefaction, developed and calibrated using undrained experiments, must be assessed for their performance under partially drained conditions, where volumetric strains occur. Within this project, there will be the opportunity to perform such element-level experiments using bespoke triaxial testing equipment, to investigate the response of granular media under a range of partially drained conditions. The results are expected to reveal significant information about soil response and also to form a comprehensive database, used in the second phase of the project for the assessment of constitutive models, for the proposal of novel calibration methodologies, and for the introduction of appropriate modifications and updates.


This studentship is funded through the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Doctoral Training Partnership 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.

There is very limited flexibility to support international students. If you are an international student and want to apply for this studentship please contact the supervisor to see whether the flexibility might be available for you.

Award Value

Course fees are covered at the level set for Home students (c. £8290 p.a.) for the full liability i.e. three years. The stipend (tax-free maintenance grant) is c. £15285 p.a. for the first year, and at least this amount for a further two and a half years. 

Candidate Requirements

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

  • A first class honours degree in Engineering, Physics, or Materials Science
  • Excellent written and spoken communication skills in English

The following skills are desirable but not essential:

  • Ability for scientific programming (e.g. Matlab, Python)
  • Previous experience in constitutive/numerical modelling
  • Previous experience in soil element testing

Application Procedure

Informal enquiries are encouraged and should be addressed to Prof Orestis Adamidis (

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.

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

Application deadline:  noon on 2 March 2021

Start date: October 2021