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Structural optimization applied to space missions

   Department of Mathematics

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  Dr A Paganini  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

PhD Start date: September 2021

Optimization plays a key role in industry: manufactured products are constantly optimized to improve performance and reliability. This research project focuses on a fascinating class of optimization problems known as structural optimization.

Structural optimization aims at improving the geometric design of product components. This is challenging for two reasons. First, the geometry of a design can be modified in infinitely many ways, and it is difficult to anticipate which geometric modifications are beneficial. Second, new designs must be tested in laboratories to verify their performance, which requires re-fabrication. This results in a difficult, expensive, and time-consuming iterative process.

This project aims at accelerating the structural optimization of satellite components with particular emphasis on the development of structure that can sustain high energy vibrations experienced during launching. The University of Leicester has a strong expertise in satellite design and manufacturing and collaborates closely with the European Space Agency (ESA). For example, the University of Leicester has developed sophisticated glass optics for the ESA mission BepiColombo, which was launched in October 2018. These delicate glass optics are mounted on a support structure that must be precisely calibrated to the correct position, while being both lightweight and sufficiently robust to tolerate mechanical stresses due to vibrations during the telescope launch. This was a challenging task that has been overcome with intense efforts.

Support structures of this kind are ubiquitous in satellites, and ensuring their resilience to launch vibrations is essential for the successful deployment of space satellites. To accelerate the design process, we will develop new mathematical discretizations based on discontinuous Galerkin methods to allow for greater modelling flexibility and more efficient and accurate numerical simulations. Theoretical efforts will be complemented with the development of a high-performance computing software. This software will be used in the design of satellite components developed at the University of Leicester.

How to apply:
Please submit your online application:

Include with your application:
Degree Certificates and Transcripts
Details of any study currently being undertaken
Enter the supervisor name and project title in the Proposal Section (no proposal required)
Enter contact details of two academic referees in the boxes provided or upload reference letters if already obtained.
Evidence of English language.
In the funding section include: Ref EPSRC-Paganini

When you have submitted your application we will send you a personal statement form to complete separately.

Eligibility: UK/EU/ International

Funding Notes

Funding Source: EPSRC Studentship

Funding Details
This project is eligible for a funded EPSRC studentship which includes:
• A full UK/EU fee waiver for 3.5 years
• An annual tax free stipend of £15,285 (2020/21)
• Research Training Support Grant (RTSG)


A. Cangiani, Z. Dong, E. H. Georgoulis, P. Houston, hp–Version discontinuous Galerkin methods on polygonal and polyhedral meshes, Springer, 2017.
R. Pinnau, M. Hinze, M. Ulbrich, S. Ulbrich, Optimization with PDE constraints, Springer, 2009.
M. C. Delfour, J.-P. Zolésio, Shapes and Geometries: Metrics, Analysis, Differential Calculus, and Optimization, SIAM 2011.
D. Wagg, S. Neild, Nonlinear vibration with control, Springer, 2010.
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