FREE Virtual Study Fair | 1 - 2 March | REGISTER NOW FREE Virtual Study Fair | 1 - 2 March | REGISTER NOW

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

   Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

Click here to search for PhD studentship opportunities
  Dr Gerrit Meijer, Dr K Briggs  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the University of Bath URSA competition.


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.

A better insight in the mechanical behaviour of such materials is required. We need to understand the behaviour of both 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 root reinforcement 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. 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, soil science or plant biology. Applicants should have an interest in soil-bioengineering. Experience with conducting experiments will be an advantage.

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First Class or good Upper Second Class Honours degree (or the equivalent). A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous.

Non-UK applicants must meet our English language entry requirement by February 2023 in order to be considered for funding.

Enquiries and Applications

Informal enquiries are encouraged! Direct these to Dr Gerrit Meijer - [Email Address Removed]

Please make a formal application should via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Civil Engineering

When completing the form, please identify your application as being for the URSA studentship competition in Section 3 Finance (question 2) and quote the project title and lead supervisor’s name in the ‘Your research interests’ section. 

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found on our website.

Funding Eligibility

To be eligible for funding, you must qualify as a Home student. The eligibility criteria for Home fee status are detailed and too complex to be summarised here in full; however, as a general guide, the following applicants will normally qualify subject to meeting residency requirements:

  • UK nationals (living in the UK or EEA/Switzerland)
  • Irish nationals (living in the UK or EEA/Switzerland)
  • Those with Indefinite Leave to Remain
  • EU nationals with pre-settled or settled status in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme.

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list. Additional information may be found on our fee status guidance webpage, on the GOV.UK website and on the UKCISA website.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

We value a diverse research environment and strive to be an inclusive university, where difference is celebrated and respected. We encourage applications from under-represented groups. In particular, we are welcoming applications from candidates with Refugee, Asylum Seeker, or Humanitarian Protection in the UK to our Doctoral Sanctuary Studentship in Engineering and Design.

If you have circumstances that you feel we should be aware of that have affected your educational attainment, then please feel free to tell us about it in your application form. The best way to do this is a short paragraph at the end of your personal statement.

The Disability Service ensures that individuals with disabilities are provided the support that they need. If you state if your application that you have a disability, the Disability Service will contact you as part of this process to discuss your needs.

Keywords: Civil Engineering; Environmental Engineering; Forestry & Arboriculture; Geotechnical Engineering; Plant Biology; Solid Mechanics

Funding Notes

Candidates may be considered for a University of Bath (URSA) studentship tenable for 3.5 years. Funding covers tuition fees at the ‘Home’ rate, a stipend (£17,668 p/a in 2022/23) and a £1000/annum training budget.
As URSA studentships only cover the ‘Home’ tuition fee rate, Overseas students are not eligible to apply. Are you an Outstanding Overseas student (e.g. with a UK Masters Distinction or international equivalent) who is interested in this project? If so, please contact the intended supervisor in the first instance, to discuss the possibility of applying for additional funding.

How good is research at University of Bath in Engineering?

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities
Search Suggestions
Search suggestions

Based on your current searches we recommend the following search filters.

PhD saved successfully
View saved PhDs