PhD studentship at the University of Bath (UK)

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

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

For more detailed information, please see

Project team: Dr Gerrit Meijer and Dr Kevin Briggs

Informal queries should be directed to Dr Gerrit Meijer –

Funding is available to candidates who qualify for ‘Home’ fee status. Following the UK’s departure from the European Union, the rules governing fee status have changed and, therefore, candidates from the EU/EEA are advised to check their eligibility before applying. Please see the Funding Eligibility section below for more information.

Project description:

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 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 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 non-UK equivalent). 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.

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

Expected start date: 4 October 2021

Funding Eligibility:

In order to be considered for a studentship, you must qualify as a ‘Home’ student. The UK Government has not yet published the relevant Fee Regulations for courses commencing in 2021/22; however, our current understanding is that the main categories of students likely to qualify for ‘Home’ fees are (subject to confirmation by the UK Government):

  • UK nationals (meeting residency requirement*)
  • Irish nationals resident in the UK/Ireland since at least September 2018
  • EU/EEA applicants with settled or pre-settled status in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme (meeting residency requirement*)
  • Applicants with indefinite leave to enter/remain in the UK (meeting residency requirement*)

*Residency requirement: in most cases applicants must have lived in the UK, EU, EEA or Switzerland continuously since September 2018.

EU/EEA citizens who live outside the UK are unlikely to be eligible for ‘Home’ fees and funding.

Up-to-date information may be found on our fee status guidance webpage and on the UKCISA website

Funding Notes:

A 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.

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