Use of Large Language Models (LLM) as a Structural Engineering Design Assistant

   Civil Engineering

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

Click here to search for PhD studentship opportunities
  Dr Michael Rustell , Prof Tatiana Kalganova  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Large Language Models such as Chat GPT3 represent a significant development in artificial intelligence and its impact on society. Trained on a huge amount of data and able to generate useful responses to complex and multi-layered questions, it is potentially the most useful tool available for handling structural engineering tasks. However, its results are not always completely accurate and sometimes completely incorrect, though delivered with authority.

This project will develop a computational interface to a leading LLM (such as the latest Chat GPT) through its API to assess the capability of the model to act as a structural engineering design assistant. The research will aim to identify the following:

  1. The limits of the model's understanding of structural engineering concepts through its ability to answer complex technical questions correctly.
  2. Its ability for developing code for automating design calculations to specified standards such as Eurocodes, ASCE, API, etc. based on text or voice inputs. This will be for routine design scenarios (such as steel and concrete beam design) through to complex ones (such as buckling of plate girders, non-linear M-phi interaction, calculation of eigenvalues (mode shapes)) and the ability for sequences of multi-step calculations to be developed to assess multiple stages of a design.
  3. Interpretability of code outputs and their translation into human-readable Latex-based calculation reports for verification purposes.
  4. Its accuracy in writing technical reports that summarise calculation outputs as well as provide the context of the design and include relevant images to demonstrate concepts.

A wide range of automated tests such as unit testing, integration testing, functional testing and acceptance testing will need to be developed to determine the LLM's ability as a design assistant.

The output of the research will be a computational interface to an LLM that can operate as a structural engineering design assistant to perform complex design calculations and write technical reports.

This project will require familiarity with programming languages such as Java, C++, Python or similar as well as an understanding of structural engineering design.

The successful applicant will join the Centre for AI: Social and Digital Innovation, which has more than 15 PhD researchers working in the field of computer vision, robotics, drones and includes a newly fitted artificial intelligence and robotics lab.

Research journey

Doctoral research programmes (PhDs) take a proud place in the world-class research environment and community at Brunel. PhD students are recognised and valued by their supervisors as an essential part of their departments and a key component of the university's overall strategy to develop and deliver world-class research.

A PhD programme is expected to take 3 years full-time or 6 years part-time, with intakes starting in January, April or October.

The general University entrance requirement for registration for a research degree is normally a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (1st or 2:1) or an international equivalent. A Masters degree is a welcome, but not required, qualification for entry.

Find out how to apply for a PhD at Brunel

Research support

Excellent research support and training

The Graduate School provides a range of personal, professional and career development opportunities. This includes workshops, online training, coaching and events, to enable you to enhance your professional profile, refine your skills, and plan your next career steps as part of the Researcher Development Programme. The researcher development programme (RDP) offers workshops and seminars in a range of areas including progression, research management, research dissemination, and careers and personal development. You will also be offered a number of online, self-study courses on BBL, including Research Integrity, Research Skills Toolkit, Research Methods in Literature Review and Principles of Research Methods.

Library services

Brunel's Library is open 24 hours a day, has 400,000 books and 250,000 ebooks, and an annual budget of almost £2m. Subject information Specialists train students in the latest technology, digital literacy, and digital dissemination of scholarly outputs. As well as the physical resources available in the Library, we also provide access to a wealth of electronic resources. These include databases, journals and e-books. Access to these resources has been bought by the Library through subscription and is limited to current staff and students. 

Dedicated research support staff provide guidance and training on open access, research data management, copyright and other research integrity issues.

Find out more: Brunel Library

Careers support

You will receive tailored careers support during your PhD and for up to three years after you complete your research at Brunel. We encourage you to actively engage in career planning and managing your personal development right from the start of your research, even (or perhaps especially) if you don't yet have a career path in mind. Our careers provision includes online information and advice, one-to-one consultations and a range of events and workshops. The Professional Development Centre runs a varied programme of careers events throughout the academic year. These include industry insight sessions, recruitment fairs, employer pop-ups and skills workshops.

Computer Science (8) Engineering (12)

Funding Notes

This is a self-funded project - please only apply if you have funding to undertake this project

How good is research at Brunel University London in Engineering?

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities