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Research Studentship in In-situ Mechanical Identification of Masonry Materials

Research Studentship in In-situ Mechanical Identification of Masonry Materials

Project: MINT: Masonry In-situ Testing and Identification

3.5-year D.Phil. studentship 

Supervisors: Prof Sinan Acikgoz

Historic masonry structures comprise a significant proportion of the building stock in Europe. A wide range of activities concerning the assessment, restoration, retrofit and reuse of these buildings are underway. All of these activities require detailed knowledge of the mechanical properties of masonry materials. However, standard laboratory-based material characterisation techniques require extensive sampling and destructive testing. As a result, these techniques are rarely applied to existing buildings. In-situ testing and characterisation of materials is a promising alternative. However, in their current form, standard in-situ tests provide limited information on material properties.

The MINT project aims to develop a minor-destructive in-situ testing method to identify the key deformability and strength parameters of historic masonry materials. This method will combine unconventional flat jack testing with robust imaging and rapid material identification algorithms to overcome the limitations of standard material characterisation techniques. To support this development, this DPhil project will involve conducting detailed laboratory tests on small and large masonry assemblies, developing robust image processing procedures to conduct in-situ strain measurements of units and mortar, and adapting rapid material identification algorithms based on the virtual fields method to enable automatic determination of a wide range of mechanical properties. It is envisioned that this new method will deliver a step change in our ability to collect detailed mechanical information on masonry materials and unlock the potential of numerical simulations to reliably assess structural response. In return, this can enable more informed engineering decisions concerning the restoration, retrofit and repair of historic buildings, extending their lifetime.

Candidates with an interest and aptitude in experimental mechanics, constitutive modelling of composite materials, structural engineering and computer vision are sought for this project.


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.

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. £15,609 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, or strong upper second class, honours degree in general engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, or other relevant discipline such as physics or applied mathematics
  • Excellent mathematical and computational skills
  • Excellent English written and spoken communication skills
  • Ability to undertake scientific programming (e.g. in Matlab, Python, Fortran or C/C++)
  • Excellent record of academic and/or professional achievement
  • Enthusiasm to undertake the research required for a doctorate

Application Procedure

Informal enquiries are encouraged and should be addressed to Prof Sinan Acikgoz (

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_SA in all correspondence and in your graduate application.

Application deadline: noon on 30 July 2021

Start date: October 2021