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Graduate’s Final Year research published in leading ICE paper

Research by Michelle Hicks, who graduated from Surrey’s MEng Civil Engineering programme in 2014, has been published in the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Journal Buildings & Structures.

The research – which examines the masonry quadripartite vaults which lie beneath many historic buildings, and provides an important new formula for assessing the likely failure of these vaults – is already being cited and used by experts in the field.

Quadripartite vaults are often below ground level, so when a new structure is built over these vaults, it is important to be able to assess their strength. The new formula Michelle has developed enables structural engineers to predict the ultimate capacity – and therefore the strength – of existing masonry vaults.

Michelle’s new paper includes the results of her final year project at Surrey: an analysis she conducted on the vaults under London Bridge station. She was inspired to explore this area while working for engineering company WSP during her Professional Training placement year. As part of a team working on the redevelopment of London Bridge station, which included a new rail bridge, Michelle was involved in looking at the existing vaults to see whether they could cope with the additional loading.

She said: “It’s incredibly rewarding to see the work I started on my Professional Training year being published in a journal endorsed by the Institution of Civil Engineers. A lot of hard work went into the research but it all pays off when you can see your efforts contributing to the industry. The support I received from the University and WSP helped make this project a reality and I hope my work inspires future students to publish their research.”

Dr Juan Sagaseta, Structures Lecturer within Surrey’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is co-author on the paper. He commented: “It is fantastic to see a Final Year project making an impact on industry and research, and a great motivation for future students when tackling their projects.”

Michelle’s paper, ‘Structural appraisal of existing masonry quadripartite vaults’, was published in ICE Buildings & Structures in September 2017. This paper complements her earlier research, ‘The quadripartite vaults at London Bridge station’, which was awarded the prestigious Guthrie Brown Award 2016 by the Institute of Structural Engineers, while her dissertation project won the 2013 IStructE Engineering Architecture Prize and the University’s Atkins prize for best project.

Having graduated from Surrey, Michelle joined WSP, one of the world’s leading engineering firms, before moving to Merlin Entertainments where she is Project Manager.

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