PhD position in Engineering Geophysics at UCD

Project title: Development of a fibre-optic approach for geophysical monitoring of earthwork slopes

Supervision team: Dr. Shane Donohue, Dr. Jonathan Chambers, Dr. David Gunn (both British Geological Survey)

Project description: The world’s major transportation arteries are supported by a vast network of earthworks (e.g. embankments/cuttings) that require sustainable cost-effective management, while maintaining an appropriate service level to meet social, economic and environmental needs. Recent extreme weather has highlighted the vulnerability of these slopes, with the resulting failures severely impacting users, operators, and the wider economy. As climate variations are projected to become more extreme, climate resilient infrastructure is becoming an increasingly important international priority.

Recent research has demonstrated the potential benefits of advanced geophysical techniques for non-invasively characterising the heterogeneity and internal condition of geotechnical infrastructure slopes. The aim of this project is to develop an approach, using distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) of fibre-optic cables, to enable near surface seismic monitoring of these slopes. DAS has been shown to enable continuous measurements that do not rely upon individual sensors, but utilise the full length of an optical fibre as a sensing element. This enables dense spatial sampling, at the metre scale, over large survey lengths. More specifically, the project aims to (1) assess the sensitivity of fibre optic cables for seismic data acquisition, (2) develop an appropriate data acquisition methodology, and (3) use the fibre optic methodology to monitor seismic data in parallel with other measurements at a number of unstable earthwork slopes.

Position Description: This is a four-year full-time PhD position that is funded by Science Foundation Ireland, Geological Survey of Ireland and the Environmental Protection Agency under the SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme. In addition to the student stipend, EU fees will be covered by the project. The successful candidate will primarily be based in the School of Civil Engineering, University College Dublin. All applications submitted will be treated equally and evaluated impartially on their merits, irrespective of the applicants’ gender, origin or identity.

Essential Criteria: The candidate should have at a minimum an upper second class honours (e.g. 2H1 or equivalent) Bachelor's or Master's degree in Geophysics, or a closely related discipline.

Desirable criteria: Skills and experience in programming and in use of scripting software (e.g. Python), Driving license

Application: Please e-mail a CV (max. 2 pages) and a cover letter (max. 1 page) outlining your experience and motivation to Assoc. Prof. Shane Donohue ( by 12th of January 2020. The successful candidate should be willing to start in Q1 2021.


posted: 04 December 2020     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.