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 February or October.

This PhD involves the study of transparent soil modelling of soil-structure interaction under dynamic conditions, and is supervised by Dr Nikos Nanos and Dr Mehdi Rouholamin.

Soil-structure interaction is a well-researched but still largely-unexplored area of soil dynamics. Knowledge in the field is still mainly understood empirically and further work is needed to explore its fundamental mechanisms. One of the main challenges is the difficulty of direct soil-structure observations under full- or small-scale dynamic conditions.

But the development of Transparent Synthetic Soil in geotechnical physical modelling is now making visualisation of physical soil models and non-intrusive, real-time measuring of internal soil displacements/strains easier, through laser-aided imaging and Particle Image Velocimetry.

The work will include:

  • Conducting simulations of rock deformation (failure) using high force triaxial cells focusing on volcanic rocks (basalt and andesite).
  • Using new calibrated micro-seismicity sensors and methods to qualitatively track the source of the earthquakes in space and time.
  • Apply these new data to two models, to better understand the role of liquids and attenuation (energy scattering) in the rock mass (volcano).

This project is focused on innovative instrumented shaking table tests using transparent soil models. By merging the two methodologies, direct visual observation will provide a new insight into the underlying mechanics of dynamic excitation of foundation systems.

During this project, you'll also devise a testing programme aimed at characterising the soil structure interactions which govern the performance of shallow, deep, rigid and flexible foundations, and through your tests, help make an impact on current design practice.

You'll need to be motivated, and possess good analytical, research and problem-solving skills. A good degree in civil engineering or a related discipline is necessary and both laboratory research and work experience in geotechnical design (or equivalent) would be beneficial. Good communication skills in English (both written and verbal) are essential.

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, Computing or a related subject. A suitable MSc/MPhil/MEng degree with a background in Geotechnical Engineering 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.

How to apply

Informal enquiries are encouraged and can be made to Dr Nikos Nanos ( (+44 (0)23 9284 2947), Dr Mehdi Rouholamin (, quoting both the project code ACES4781020 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.