Become a student

Engineering doctorate (EngD) students, or research engineers as they are known, are part of the Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in MiNMaT and will spend four years principally with their industrial sponsor, with visits to the University for courses and to use the characterisation facilities.

Key benefits

Some of the key benefits of undertaking an EngD are:

  • Experience of tackling a relevant research problem (or problems) within an industrial organisation
  • High quality training in technical skills and non-scientific areas such as project management and communication skills, delivered by the CDT within the University of Surrey, a top 10 UK university
  • The support of a supervisory/support team, comprising one or more sponsor-based supervisors, two academic supervisors and a support network based in the CDT, headed by the Centre Director and Centre Manager
  • Access to expertise from academics at the forefront of their field, and to state-of-the-art characterisation facilities
  • The opportunity to start building your professional network via events such as the Centre’s Annual Conference
  • An annual stipend of around £19,900, normally tax free. (Academic fees are met separately to this amount).

Case studies

I was attracted to the idea of a EngD because I wanted to make use of all the knowledge that I had gained during my undergraduate course and I never wanted to stop learning. So, when a research opportunity opened in the exciting field of quantum technologies I jumped at the chance.

Current manufacturing techniques for quantum technologies are either imprecise or slow and lack the ability to be mass-scaled. My project is focused on the development of a focused ion beam system that will act as a manufacturing tool for quantum devices such as qubit arrays with increased precision, quickly and reproducibly, which will greatly advance the research into quantum technologies   

I am part of a SME that focuses on the development of focused ion beam systems. Being part of a small team means I am allowed great responsibility in the roles I am entrusted as part of the development of my instrument. Last year I presented my work at the International School and Symposium on Nanoscale Transport and photonics in Japan.  

The Centre for Doctoral training provides a truly fantastic support network. They provide taught short courses in relevant subjects along with management training to develop soft skills. In addition, they provided many opportunities for funding, travel and personal development.

Upon completing our undergraduate degree, we each wanted to get involved in something that could both excel and push the limits of our capabilities. So when we found out about the EngD programme, research that involves an industrial partner, and leadership and management training, it seemed like this was exactly what was needed to propel us forward both academically and industrially. We could learn not only the technical and research skills necessary, but also get the chance to further our personal development, through opportunities to practice our communication skills to a wider audience, via events such as the annual EngD conference.

Our projects are concerned with the residual strength and damage detection of composites used in the military area, after being subjected to repetitive damage. Current protocols require periodic replacements of equipment, regardless of use, unless major damage detrimental to performance is apparent. This approach is necessarily conservative, but is a costly procedure that can result in the replacement of adequate kit. After being given an initial briefing, we each subsequently chose the particular direction of our projects, and were able to work on a topic that interests us. Cerise chose to investigate the effects of damage on the impact properties of the composite, thus potentially increasing the time period between replacements. Scott opted to find and develop a mobile damage detection system, which could result in testing in-field, rather than transporting acceptable equipment.

While doing an EngD in itself is ultimately challenging, because of the persistence it requires when there is a lack of progress being made, our academic supervisors at Surrey, and industrial supervisors at Dstl, have always been supportive and approachable from day one. The CDT staff at MiNMaT have also always been supportive since the day of induction, and were always there when there were concerns raised. We have been extremely lucky to have both supportive supervisory and administrative teams while on our EngD, and the resources and opportunities available to us are there such that we can make the most out of this journey.

Doing doctoral research that has a direct application in industry is something worth considering. Even more when the University of Surrey offers high quality training in different areas of materials science and management skills.

Both our projects look into the development of lightweight crashworthy structures for energy absorbing applications in the automotive industry, through experimental tests and numerical modelling techniques. In particular, one of the projects is focused on investigating the delamination failure mode in composite laminates and skin-core debonding in sandwich panels, whereas the other project looks into the mechanical characterisation of crushable foams and crushing of sandwich structures. The outcome of both investigations are intimately related, since they will provide the necessary information for predicting the behaviour of automotive structures subjected to high speed impacts.

As third-year Research Engineers, thanks to the CDT, we feel that we are already making a contribution to the research community, as we will be able to present our work at international conferences in the near future. Following the CDT philosophy, we are involved in outreach activities to spread our work and encourage young people to pursue a career in STEM subjects.

When I finished my undergraduate degree in materials science from Swansea University, I decided to go into the world of work. But after just a year I decided I wanted a truly immersive and challenging target for myself, so I decided to apply for the EngD at the University of Surrey.

My project is based on using graphene to toughen carbon fibre composites for use on structural components for military aircraft. Graphene, dubbed the miracle material of a generation, is a 2D nanomaterial with extraordinary mechanical and conductive properties. The objective at hand is translating those properties from the nanoscale to the macro scale for components that can be used in service.  

Through working with my sponsor company, QinetiQ, I have become part of the wider scientific community through excellent networking opportunities. I have been to multiple events at the National Graphene Institute (NGI) and worked alongside individuals at the National Composites Centre (NCC). Through which I have made a vast number of connections to carry forward in my career.

The University of Surrey has provided me with great opportunities to develop my scientific and professional skills. Such as, presenting multiple poster and oral presentations for both QinetiQ and the University. I have come to relish the ongoing challenges as opportunities to continue developing alongside the next generation of engineers.

The MiNMaT EngD programme at the University of Surrey is an excellent opportunity to continue to learn whilst also gaining industrial experience with a world-leading company such as Rolls-Royce. The four-year doctoral programme the MiNMaT Centre offers, is designed for researchers who ultimately aspire to key leadership positions in industry and this really appealed to me

I am approaching two years into the programme and so far the overall experience of pursuing an EngD with the University of Surrey has been both incredibly enjoyable and rewarding. Having the freedom to pick your own research paths, methods and techniques is initially daunting but it quickly becomes an exciting endeavour. The support from my supervisors has been excellent; they are incredibly knowledgeable and supportive of my ideas.

I have used a number of resources from across the University during my EngD. I initially utilised the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) at the MircoStructural Studies Unit (MSSU) to look at my coating materials at the microstructural level, enabling me to make detailed conclusions about composition and structure. I have also used the X-ray diffractometers in the Department of Chemistry to analyse the phases present in my samples.

Whilst studying for the EngD I am based full-time at the sponsoring company, Rolls-Royce, in Derby. This allows for continuous links with the business and gives an opportunity to network. I regularly meet with materials experts in Rolls-Royce to discuss my project and develop it in a way that suits the long term research and development programme at the company. Initially these meetings at the start of the EngD programme determined the requirement for new coatings generating the need and drive for the current research direction.

During the EngD programme you are encouraged to be actively involved with the business, and not long after starting my EngD in 2015 the Rolls-Royce Civil Nuclear business launched the Small Modular Reactor programme. I was responsible for designing the initial layout of the plant which I was ultimately named as a designer for.

 It was a real achievement and has been the start of a number of side projects I have taken part in within the business.

Get in contact

Available projects

If you would like to receive information about projects as they become available, please email our Centre Manager, Noelle Hartley, attaching a copy of your current CV and a covering letter telling us why you are interested in studying for an EngD at Surrey.

Register your interest

To register your interest please email the Centre Manager, Noelle Hartley or call to discuss your interest +44 (0)1483 683467.

Available Projects



Understanding the influence of nanoscale interactions on the macroscale rheological properties of complex fluids

Complex fluids containing suspensions of colloidal particles are critical to a wide variety of industrial processes in the petroleum industry, for well construction (drilling fluids, cements) and oil recovery.  This project combines experimental and modelling approaches to understanding the non-Newtonian rheological properties of these fluids.

Complex fluids containing suspensions of colloidal particles are critical to a wide variety of industrial processes. Such complex fluids are used extensively in the petroleum industry, for well construction (drilling fluids, cements) and oil recovery (aqueous polymer and surfactant solutions). Prediction and control of the non-Newtonian rheological properties of these fluids, such as gel strength and ability to suspend non-colloid particles, is essential for successful operations. These macroscopic rheological properties are governed by the nanoscale interactions between the colloidal particles that result in phenomena such as shear banding and viscoelasticity. These properties are challenging to measure in conventional rheometers and there is considerable industrial and academic interest in developing new characterisation methods. The aim of this project is to determine the microscopic length scales that control the macroscopic rheology using novel magnetic resonance imaging and optical light scattering techniques in combination with conventional tools. The connection between the measured length scales and macroscopic properties will be validated against existing models for non-Newtonian fluids and used to support new models being developed in parallel projects. Greater understanding of the hierarchy of relevant structural lengths from the nanoscale to the macroscale will enable the design of improved complex fluid formulations with predictable rheological properties.

Schlumberger is an oilfield services company with a global footprint. Activities at the Cambridge centre focus on the development of new science and technology for well construction, with an emphasis on drilling and automation. The facilities available for this proposed project include a suite of low field magnetic resonance instruments, microscopy (optical and X-ray) platforms, conventional rheometers, and hydrodynamic flow experiments. A unique low field magnetic resonance rheometer will be a core technology, enabling the spatial variation of shear stress and non-colloidal particle migration to be visualised within complex fluids. The project will be supervised by Dr Jonathan Mitchell (magnetic resonance) and Dr Andrew Clarke (nanoscience). Support for aspects of the project related to conventional rheology, fluid chemistry, and modelling/simulation will be provided by other scientists and engineers at Schlumberger Cambridge Research.


Please note that this is an Engineering Doctorate and you will be based on site at the sponsor premises. Schlumberger are based in Cambridge in the UK

Nanostructure surveys of natural and biomimetic dental tissues by 3D SAXS tensor tomography

This funded project on novel 3D SAXS tensor tomography is a joint studentship between University of Surrey, Diamond Light Diamond Light Source and Chalmers University of Technology to create new knowledge and address challenging problems for bioinspired and natural materials

This 3.5-year studentship is part of a funded project on 3D SAXS tensor tomography being jointly undertaken by the University of Surrey (Dr Tan Sui), Chalmers University of Technology (Dr Marianne Liebi) and Diamond Light Source (Prof Nick Terrill & Dr Andy Smith).

In our quest to understand the behaviour of natural materials in order to make better use of existing ones and create novel and superior products, we need to be able to determine the structure at every increasing levels of resolution throughout the body. In this project, we seek to develop and apply the advanced 3D SAXS tensor tomography at beamline I22 to create a unique capability that will significantly extend our characterisation expertise and open up new avenues of research. The objective of the project is to enable significant understanding of the nanofibrillar collagen structural evolution at different stages of dentine demineralisation using an acid induced model, and the understanding of key structural factors that affect the mechanical performance of novel bio-inspired hierarchical dental composite aiming for biomimetic design of reliable dental prosthesis and other dentine-like materials. Whilst the new science that this instrumentation will enable spans a range of seemingly disparate areas (initially from dental materials), the development of common methodologies will unite the various users and provide a mechanism for the cross-fertilisation of research ideas. Additionally, this project will serve as a basis for new science exploitation leading towards Diamond II and the projected low emittance properties of the new ring.

This project allows close collaboration between University of Surrey, Chalmers University of Technology and Diamond Light Source (DLS) to create new knowledge and address challenging problems for natural and biomimetic dental tissues. The successful PhD candidate will engage in performing a comprehensive study and research using the complementary state-of-the-art instrumentation and equipment at the I22 beamline at DLS and the Department of Mechanical Engineering Sciences (MES) at Surrey (e.g. Plasma FIB Laboratory, Surface Analysis Laboratory and Microstructural Studies Unit). This project is also supported through the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in MiNMaT (Micro- and NanoMaterials and Technologies) at the University of Surrey studentship programme (

The sponsor for this project is Diamond Light Source

Positive Pulse Plasma Technology

This project will focus on the development of new instrumentation and equipment for the thin film and coating sector.

The project is part of ongoing research at our University providing scientific background to the advanced manufacturing sector.

Gencoa produce a wide range of devices for vacuum plasma deposition sector. The different products are used for a variety of purposes such as layer creation, plasma pre-treatment or vacuum diagnostics and control.

A more recent family of products incorporates the use of positive voltage reversals of the bias applied to the deposition or plasma source. This is being pioneered by Gencoa and has the potential to secure unique technology and devices for plasma creation, etching and also layer deposition.

The project will be based upon the study of the fundamentals of this form of plasma generation mode, the potential uses of this mode for plasma processing, and the application for advanced source technology in the semiconductor, precision optics and general vacuum deposition sectors.

The student will be expected to work collaboratively with the Gencoa R&D team to explore and learn the science behind the existing devices and to create new devices aimed at securing commercial and technical advantages for different market sectors.

The work will be varied and combine studies of the plasma properties, the characterisation of this power mode to etch surfaces, and the analysis of layers created by this technology.

Application areas envisaged will include the following:

Creation of a mini ion beam etch and deposition source for the R&D sector.

            Positive pulse mode 200-400mm wafer etching devices.

            High density linear plasma sources.

            Coating enhancement by deposition and ion assistance from a single plasma device.


Please note that this is an Engineering Doctorate and you would be expected to be based at the sponsor premises near Liverpool in the UK.


The Control of Corrosion in Cast Iron Trunk Main

Extensive research has been undertaken to determine the mechanisms of corrosion in cast iron, and the factors that affect corrosion rate. This project will investigate methods of preventing such corrosion from occurring and disrupting active corrosion in existing structures.

This project will seek to develop methods to control the rate 9type and extent) of corrosion within buried trunk main over time. Laboratory studies will be used to assess the effectiveness of methods for reducing the rates of general and local corrosion within already degraded cast iron trunk main in service. The impact of applying corrosion control methods on the load capacity of the pipe wall material will also be assessed. You will be based in the Faculty of Engineering & Physical Sciences here at the University of Surrey – within the Centre for Doctoral Training in Micro & NanoMaterials Technologies (MiNMaT). You will work closely with the research engineers based at the sponsor’s (Thames Water) Water Innovation Centre at Kempton Park Water Treatment Works in south-west London.

The sponsor is Thames Water.


Deterioration relationships for a variety of water main materials

For something that we drink every day, water is a surprising problem for the materials scientist: there are no materials suitable for large scale water distribution networks that remain unaffected by their contents over time. This project will review the mechanisms by which water based degradation can occur, and develop material specific models to assist with life-time failure predictions.

The project forms part of a larger on going programme of research into large diameter (trunk) water mains and trials of pipe condition assessment technology. The wider goal is to improve the sponsor’s ability to understand the condition of its water network for the purposes of long-term asset management, medium-term investment targeting, and short-term tactical planning and risk mitigation.

Thames Water’s network include ferrous (cast iron, ductile iron, steel) and non-ferrous (asbestos cement, polyvinylchloride, polyethylene, concrete and glass reinforced polymer) pipes. Depending on the material, pipes are joined using methods such as socket and spigot, bolted flange and compression couplings, as well as welding. The project aims to establish how both the material and the jointing systems of the pipeline structure are likely to deteriorate and fail in the future.

The existing approach to predicting average future performance in non-ferrous trunk mains is to carry out statistical analysis of past failures of assets, grouped by pipe age, material and diameter.  Moving on from using backward-looking analysis as a guide to future failures, Thames Water would like to arrive at a better understanding of the deterioration mechanisms and processes of failure for the individual pipe systems making up its network. This should take into account the material assessment as well as considering the water main as a structure, so that the majority of common failure types (including pipe barrel and joint failures) are accounted for.  The work presents challenges in identifying those failure mechanisms and being able to model their future trajectory towards eventual failure. It is anticipated combining this approach with the original failure data will allow for better targeting of asset investment and improved confidence in its long term strategy for the network.

To start with the project will require a comprehensive literature review of scientific publications and industry-specific reports to identify existing research and data that will be relevant to the project. Essentially the Research Engineer would be identifying pertinent knowledge within previously under-utilised research and applying it to provide genuine business need.

Cleansing and analysis of historical pipe failure records will also be necessary, which will require an ability to apply critical judgement, and will provide an understanding of the challenges of data collection and analysis in a large company. Statistical analysis of these datasets, informed by engineering knowledge, needs to be undertaken to produce meaningful mathematical relationships that the sponsor can use in its risk models. The project will also inform the sponsor what changes to routine data capture would be worthwhile.

The intention is that a phased approach will be taken; a basic first pass should be completed to make straightforward improvements to the deterioration relationships used for all pipe materials, before further development work is put into each pipe material type, with effort proportionate to the expected benefit.

The research engineer will be based at the sponsor’s Water Innovation Centre at Kempton Park Water Treatment Works in south-west London.

The sponsor is Thames Water.

Metallic additive manufacture (AM) is an exciting emerging technology that is changing the way advanced engineering structures are made.

This project is the first time that flux-cored wires have been explored for next generation additive manufacturing of advanced materials for automotive, aerospace and defence applications.

Project Description

Corewire Ltd manufacture flux-cored wire welding consumables. They also manufacture equipment which uses these wire consumables to repair and resurface a variety of high wear resistance steel components. This includes dies for the manufacture of automotive components and rolls used in the production of rolled metal.

                This project will explore how this current technology and capability can be evolved into additive manufacturing of full components. A key thread will be establishing and quantifying the specific challenges to moving from resurfacing by depositing a few layers of weld metal to full component manufacture using tens or even hundreds of layers. The project will therefore commence with the deposition of current resurfacing solutions (first six months) and progress with the manufacture of increasingly challenging steels and prototypical components. The challenges include higher performance steels, increased reinforcement, compositional grading, more complex geometry, etc. The research programme will include microstructural characterisation, experimental stress-strain measurement, modelling of stress-strain accumulation during additive manufacture and alloy development. High wear resistance steels will be the focus of the research programme and the research is likely to include some wear evaluation and fracture toughness testing.

                Alongside the scientific, technological and engineering programme the project will work with a range of existing customers and new industrial partners to identify specific applications of this emerging additive manufacturing capability.

This project is an Engineering Doctorate – you will be based at the sponsor premises in Aldershot Hampshire for around 80% of the programme time, returning to the University for meetings and lectures.

The project will be supervised by Dr Mark Whiting here at Surrey

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