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Untangling the mechanical behaviour of grass-rooted soil layers for sustainable infrastructure construction

   Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering

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  Dr Gerrit Meijer, Dr K Briggs  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The University of Bath is inviting applications for the following PhD project commencing in October 2021.

Project team: Dr Gerrit Meijer and Dr Kevin Briggs

Informal queries should be directed to Dr Gerrit Meijer - [Email Address Removed]


Layers of grassy soil can be remarkably tough. This is useful in day-to-day life, for example for sports pitches, but may also have engineering applications. During construction of infrastructure embankments, layers of rooted soil can act as (temporary) drainage channels and nature-based geotextiles, stabilising the embankment until the newly deposited soil has gained sufficient strength through consolidation. Such living natural fibre-reinforcement provides a more sustainable and carbon-friendly alternative to traditional engineering methods such as the use of synthetic geotextiles.

A much better insight in the mechanical behaviour of such materials is however required. We need to understand the behaviour of soil and grass roots, as well as how they mechanically interact. One of the main challenges is determining the role of the architecture of the roots. Does the entangling of numerous roots results in extra strength? And is the interaction between roots and soil frictional in nature or perhaps cohesive (or both?). How does any rootreinforcement change with changing moisture conditions in the soil, for example after heavy rainfall?

During your PhD, you will design and conduct series of mechanical tests to determine the stress and stiffness properties of grass-rooted soil to answer these fundamental questions. With this test data you will develop a simple material model for the combined soil-root mixture that can be used to make predictions of its behaviour under various types of loading. Your work will provide geotechnical practitioners and researchers with much-needed data to underpin future bio-inspired engineering. 

Candidate Requirements:

This post is open to applicants with backgrounds in engineering or biology. Applicants should have an interest in soil-bioengineering. Experience with conducting experiments will be an advantage.

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, an undergraduate Masters first class degree or MSc distinction (or equivalent from a non-UK top-tier University). English language entry requirements must be met at the time of application to be considered for funding, see Postgraduate English language requirements for international students (


Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Architecture & Civil Engineering. Please ensure that you state the full project title and lead supervisor name on the application form. Please state if you intend to apply for a Global Doctoral Scholarship as part of the URSA PhD studentship competition.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found here:

Expected start date: 4 October 2021

Fee status:

Information may be found on our fee status guidance webpage, on the GOV.UK website and on the UKCISA website

Funding Notes

An URSA PhD studentship includes ‘Home’ tuition fees, a stipend (£15,609 per annum, 2021/22 rate) and research/training expenses (£1,000 per annum) for up to 3.5 years. For 2021/22 the Faculty of Engineering & Design has two Global Doctoral Scholarship awards. These awards will be allocated in conjunction with the URSA PhD studentship competition and will cover the difference between home fees and overseas fees.
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