Published: 04 September 2014

Top awards for student’s dissertation on London landmark

Civil Engineering student Michelle Hicks has won three awards for her final year project: an analysis of the vaults under London Bridge station.

Michelle’s dissertation was named best structural engineering project in the Surrey region by the Institution of Structural Engineers, and won the University’s Atkins prize for the MEng project that contributes most to the industry as a whole.

An essay by Michelle on the same subject won the Institution of Structural Engineers’ Engineering Architecture Prize, which required students and graduates to write about ‘My favourite structure’. This prestigious global prize is given to only two students or graduates worldwide a year.

Having Michelle as a student in the Department was a delight.

Professor Gerard Parke

The inspiration for Michelle’s final year project came when 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, she was involved in looking at the existing vaults to see whether they could cope with the additional loading.

Focusing on the likely failure mechanisms of these historic vaults, Michelle’s final year project has provided a useful resource not only for WSP in its redevelopment work, but also for other companies involved in similar projects in the future.

She said, “I was delighted to find that my project had won recognition with these awards. The Engineering Architecture competition was a particularly interesting challenge because it required me to explore the aesthetics of the structure as well as the engineering aspects. The engineers and architects succeeded in preserving the heritage of the structure by echoing the style of the existing masonry vaults in new concrete elements.”

Having now completed her Civil Engineering degree, Michelle is due to join WSP’s infrastructure team in September. The company has sponsored her during her degree programme through Surrey’s ICE scholarship scheme.

“The sponsorship has given me a great start to my professional career since it has enabled me to continue my relationship with WSP throughout my studies and during summer placements and the Professional Training Year,” said Michelle.

Michelle’s Personal Tutor and Head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Professor Gerard Parke said, ‘Having Michelle as a student in the Department was a delight.  Michelle obtained the highest exam marks I can ever remember and as a consequence we have asked her to join our Industrial Advisory Board. Michelle will be the youngest member to join this important committee.’

Michelle’s dissertation was entitled ‘An assessment of the quadripartite vaults at London Bridge station using finite element software’.


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