PhD Studentship – Nottingham Centre for Geomechanics

University of Nottingham

Applications are invited for a PhD Studentship from suitably qualified graduates to work in the Nottingham Centre for Geomechanics, at the University of Nottingham.

Project Description:

Historically, large uncertainty in soil behaviour has resulted in significant levels of conservatism within the geotechnical design of Civil Engineering projects. In reaction to this, numerical and physical modelling researchers have worked to allow soil behaviour to be more accurately predicted. It might be thought therefore, by combining these advanced soil constitutive models with suitable mechanical models of adjoining structures, that the entire behaviour of the soil-structure system could now be relatively accurately modelled. However this is not the case.

The difficulty in modelling the soil-structure system stems from the fact that the behaviour of the soil-structure interface cannot be accurately captured by existing soil or structural models. This is a critical issue as the soil-structure interface plays an important role in the overall response of the soil-structure system, particularly in terms of cyclic loading. As a result, a special interface element with its own constitutive model is required. However, although such models have been validated against simplified lab element testing, these models often fail to correctly model the behaviour of the soil-structure system when utilised in simulations of the entire soil-interface-structure system. This is due to the complex stress states which develop around the soil-structure boundary and the intricacy of merging the interface elements with the rest of the soil body.

To avoid these complications, physical and numerical researchers will often simplify the interface behaviour, for example, by roughening the structural surface so that a ‘no-slip’ condition in the numerical model can be imposed. This approach enables numerical models to replicate the behaviour observed in physical models relatively accurately. However, such models are of limited use to the practising engineer who aims to design soil-structure systems without artificially roughened interfaces. Indeed, increasing the interface friction can often have a detrimental impact on the structure of interest (such as a building, tunnel or retaining wall), thus this research project aims to address this issue with the ultimate aim of benefitting practising engineers. The research will primarily utilise experimental tools, however will contain some numerical and analytical aspects, and will build on work already underway within the Nottingham Centre for Geomechanics.


There is potential for internal funding covering fees and stipend (min £14,057 for 2015/2016) depending on the academic record of the applicant and provided the applicant is an H/EU.


Informal enquiries may be addressed to Dr Charles Heron, tel: 01157 484850 or Email:

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Midlands of England