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  Dr S Divall, Dr Andrew McNamara  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

London United Kingdom Geotechnical Engineering

About the Project

Project summary

Conventional bored concrete piles are designed to transfer loads from a structure into the ground. In order for a concrete pile to generate capacity the pile is required to displace. Therefore, the stiffness of a pile is of great importance. Piles are usually designed as very stiff inclusions where the modulus of elasticity of an uncracked concrete pile typically varies between 30-40kN/m2. However, this results in low mobilisation of shaft friction as the stiff pile displaces uniformly. In addition, base resistance of deep piles is mobilised at very high loads which may exceed the working load of the pile shaft. It is accepted that the adhesion factor, α, used in design for bored piles in London Clay may range between 0.45 and 0.6. Thus indicating that a significant proportion of the soil strength cannot be mobilised. The proposed research project will investigate the behaviour of alternative low stiffness piles under axial load. The potential benefits of utilising low stiffness piles could be the reduction in carbon heavy materials (i.e. concrete) and the ability to more easily repurpose an existing site during its redevelopment.

Research objectives

This research proposal is subdivided into four components:

  • To compare the capacity of a conventional solid shafted stiff pile against a lower stiffness pile of equal dimensions,
  • Establish the effect of varying the effective length of the lower stiffness sections,
  • Quantify the range of adhesion factor, α, and how this can be incorporated into practice. 


The doctoral studentship will provide:

  • An annual bursary (£16k)
  • 100% Home equivalent Tuition Fees: £4.5k.  Applications from international applicants are welcome but the applicant must make appropriate arrangements to cover the difference between the international and home tuition fee.


The studentships will be awarded on the basis of outstanding academic achievement and the potential to produce cutting edge-research. Prospective applicants must:

  • Hold a good honours degree (normally no less than a good upper-second class honours degree or an equivalent qualification) in an appropriate subject. Exceptionally, if the first degree is in a different subject area, we can consider applications from those with a good Master’s Degree in a relevant subject or extensive professional experience in the area of their proposed research
  • Be able to demonstrate proficiency in the use of oral and written English
  • Applicants whose mother tongue is not English must meet any one or a combination of the following:
  • A minimum IELTS average score of 6.5; with a minimum of 6.0 in each of the four components
  • The award of a Masters’ degree, the teaching of which was in English from an English Speaking country.

How to Apply

Applications are welcome from individuals wishing to pursue research in Civil Engineering and Temporary Works. You are strongly encouraged to discuss your application in advance with either Dr Sam Divall or Dr Andrew McNamara.

The online application can be found in the How to apply section, on each of the Research Degree page listed above and should include the following supporting documents:

  • Copies of Degree Certificates and Transcripts in official English translation – original will be requested before an offer is made
  • Official work e-mail addresses (not private ones) for two referees (one of which must be an academic)
  • Proof of English Language proficiency (minimum average score of 6.5 IELTS, with a minimum of 6.0 in each of the four components) if English is not your first language
  • Passport.

Email [Email Address Removed] for further information about the studentships.

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