Project code



School of Civil Engineering and Surveying

Start dates

October, February and April

Application deadline

Applications accepted all year round

Applications are invited for a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD project, to commence in October or February.

This is a self-funded PhD project studying Advanced Engineering Analysis of Chalk in Construction. Supervised by Dr Muhammad Ali and Dr Alireza Tatari.

Chalk has been used by humans for thousands of years for its physical, chemical and mechanical properties. It has been used as a raw material for cement and as a means to control soil acidity; as filler in paper and plastic and as a white pigment; and as means for neutralising acid gasses generated in power plants.

Pure chalks are mainly built up of whole and fragmentary skeletons produced by planktonic algae known as coccolithophorids. However, while there is significant information available on the formation and history of chalk, there is a comparatively limited amount of in-depth research on the mechanical properties of chalk.

There's already strong evidence that chalk is a sound building and construction material and Portsmouth's location in Southern England - where chalk is in plentiful supply - makes it the ideal location to study chalk's application.

This study is a timely one, chalk has recently been used for a number of large construction projects, such as the channel tunnel and development of Portsmouth’s M275 motorway.

The work will include:

  • the use of Finite Element Method (FEM) modelling to simulate the nonlinear shear behaviour of earthwork in chalk
  • considering which of two approaches (micro and macro modelling) will be used for the calibration of the FEM model based on the experimental results, as well as for the simulation of the experimental results and the sensitivity analysis which will further explore the impact of variability in chalk in properties
  • Using numerical modelling to evaluate the performance and behaviour of earthwork in chalk when subjected to different loading conditions

On this project you'll assess the future issues of chalk in engineering related projects, employing advanced computing techniques for investigation, testing, modelling and design of construction-related earthwork.

This research is intended to bridge the gap between experimental testing and numerical modelling of chalk-based construction.

The end goal of this research is to develop reliable and accurate numerical models for future earthworks including foundations, embankments, and piling in chalk.

Fees and funding

Visit the research subject area page for fees and funding information for this project.

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only).

Bench fees

Some PhD projects may include additional fees – known as bench fees – for equipment and other consumables, and these will be added to your standard tuition fee. Speak to the supervisory team during your interview about any additional fees you may have to pay. Please note, bench fees are not eligible for discounts and are non-refundable.

Entry requirements

  • The project requires a candidate with a good first degree (minimum 2.1 or equivalent) in Civil Engineering, Engineering Geology, and Geology, Computing or a related subject.
  • Training will be offered on FEM software including PLAXIS, DIANA or ABACUS and on other relevant laboratory equipment.
  • A suitable MSc/MPhil/MEng degree with a background in Geotechnical Engineering and or Geology computer modelling is desirable.
  • This project is suitable for both home/EU and or International students.
  • You’ll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (depending upon chosen course, minimum second class or equivalent) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject.
  • Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered.
  • English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Make an Enquiry

For administrative and admissions enquiries please contact Lion Gate Hub at

How to apply

To make an enquiry about this project, contact Dr Muhammad Ali (02392 842398) or Dr Alireza Tatri (02392 842437), quoting both the project code ACES4701020 and the project title.

When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Civil Engineering PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.