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PhD Studentship in Performance of polymer support fluids for piling and diaphragm walls

A fully-funded 4 year PhD studentship funded through a CASE award sponsored by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and Arup is available in the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Dr Giovanna Biscontin. This PhD will be carried out in parallel with research into offshore drilling fluids.  The studentship has a start date of October 2017. Due to funding restrictions the studentship/project is only available to UK (full fees and maintenance) or EU citizens (fees only). We are unable to consider applications from any non-EU citizen for this studentship.

The construction industry experience with polymer fluids instead of traditional bentonite slurry for temporary ground support during the boring of piles and diaphragm walls is still limited and developing. Construction issues continue to arise on projects resulting from poor understanding of the behaviour of polymers and various additives available. Monitoring compliance values in the UK are still based on limited experience. Current guidelines provide limited recommendations on polymer fluid use due to a lack of test data and understanding.

Working with industry, the proposed PhD will focus on developing a fuller understanding of the behaviour of different polymer fluids, investigate the necessary properties of polymer fluids and optimise site practice, including maintenance of fluid properties while in use and site control procedures. Comparisons will be made with traditional bentonite support fluids.  The work will involve laboratory testing and numerical simulations to investigate behaviour and performance for foundation design and construction control. Field work would also be undertaken to sample and test polymer fluids during foundation construction to develop a database of test results for determining specification limits.  This work will be done in conjunction with members of the European Federation of Foundation Contractors and the Deep Foundation Group who are developing an industry guide on Support Fluids.

The research is conducted in partnership with engineering consultants Arup ( 

Additional information on the project is found at:

Applicants are expected to have:

1.  A First Class degree in a relevant field from a UK institution or the equivalent from a non-UK university. If you hold a non-UK degree, please follow the link to determine if your final grade/mark satisfies the requirement:

2. Strong experimental and problem solving skills

3. The standing needed to meet the graduate admissions entrance requirements of the University of Cambridge. The successful candidate will be expected to formally apply for admission:


To apply for this position, please email the following to Ms Magdalena Charytoniuk, by Wednesday 29 March 2017:

  1. Please ensure that you are eligible by visiting:

  1. A cover letter summarising your qualifications and interests
  2. A copy of your CV
  3. A copy of your transcripts and/or certificates from your previous degree(s) that show the grades/marks received.
  4. Include reference iCASE-ARUP in the subject of your email

If you are unable to send your application via email, please post it to: Ms Magdalena Charytoniuk, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, Schofield Centre, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0EL

The University values diversity and is committed to equality of opportunity. The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.


Deadline: 29 March 2017