Self-funded PhD students only

Project code



School of Mechanical and Design Engineering

Start dates

October and February

Closing date

Applications accepted all year round

Applications are invited for a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD project.

The PhD will be based in the School of Mechanical and Design Engineering  and will be supervised by Dr Jason Knight and Dr James Buick.

The work on this project could involve:

  • Wind tunnel testing of various wings with various spring loading to define aerodynamic characteristics.
  • Modelling the motion using Star CCM+ CFD software combined with a structural solver.
  • Generation of scaling laws and performance tables with application to motorsport wing or alternative.
Dr Knight and Dr Buick at the University of Portsmouth have been using computational modelling to simulate a wide variety of fluid flow problems ranging from blood flow, convertible car roofs and hydrofoils. This timely and novel research project aims to advance knowledge and use of computational methods to predict aero-elastic effects of wings that purposively deform. These can be used in applications of drag reduction of cars whilst maintaining directional stability or shielding of workforce whilst maintaining ventilation. The development of scaling laws and high quality experimental results will be used to validate and further identify benefits that contribute towards a more efficient use of power and a more sustainable future.  Initially, agreement with the results from previous experimental and computational work (Knight, 2020) using a commercial CFD code will be found. The mechanical properties of the wing structure will be modified to determine its influence and provide performance characteristics using various aerodynamic loading and mounting configurations. Further integration of the methodology will be made to allow investigation for even more complex geometries to be studied. The effects of fibre orientation within the materials used for the wing surface will be studied to yield tailored performance characteristics. Such tailoring has been used in composite structures for forward swept wings and a similar approach will be used with wings to deform to prescribed shapes at particular wind speeds or aerodynamic loadings. In addition to automotive and motorsport, further applications of the technology could be applied for use in aviation, marine and other industrial environments that could provide potential employment prospects in the future. Background work can be found at Knight et al, 2020, Fluid-Structure Interaction of a Spring-Mounted Symmetrical Rigid Wing for Drag Reduction of Cars at Higher Wind Velocities.

Fees and funding

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).

2021/2022 fees (applicable for October 2021 and February 2022 start)

PhD and MPhil

Home/EU/CI full-time students: £4,500 p/a**

Home/EU/CI part-time students: £2,250 p/a**

International full-time students: £17,600 p/a*

International part-time students: £8,800 p/a*

PhD by Publication 

External candidates: £4,407*

Members of staff: £1,720 

All fees are subject to annual increase. If you are an EU student starting a programme in 2021/22 please visit this page.

*This is the 2020/21 UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) maximum studentship fee; this fee will increase to the 2021/22 UKRI maximum studentship fee when UKRI announces this rate in Spring 2021.

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

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

A keen interest in aerodynamics is essential back up with some relevant project experience. Experience in wind tunnel testing, use of Star CCM+ CFD software and /or structural  modelling would be an advantage.

How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Jason Knight  ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Mechanical and Design 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. 

When applying please quote project code: SMDE5191021.