Civil and Environmental Engineering PhD

If you wish to investigate a specific problem in design, manufacture and construction of structures, you may be interested in studying as a research student here. I have come back to academia after 15 years in industry, establishing my own company and being involved in over 130 projects related to spatial structure. The University has given me the opportunity to explore my ideas in an international academic environment under the guidance of supervisors who are experts in the field.

Alireza Behnejad PhD Civil and Environmental Engineering

Why choose this course?

From optimising the management of large-scale complex networks, through the long-term behaviour and interactions of structures and soils with their surroundings, down to the development of new materials and the monitoring and control of air and water quality, our research seeks to support the design, delivery and management of efficient and sustainable infrastructure in the widest of contexts.

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is committed to providing research students with access to a range of experimental facilities, analytical services, computer systems and associated technical support.

Over the past five years there has been significant investment in the development of a suite of flexible, multi-use, experimental facilities and other specialist resources.

This includes major refurbishments, and re-equipment, of the laboratories supporting research in construction materials, the testing of large-scale structures and for the study of water and related health issues.

Most recently a new Geomechanics Laboratory has been created with the capacity to characterise soils and study soil-structure interaction problems under controlled environmental conditions. 

By sharing resources with other departments across the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences we are able to support multi-disciplinary, multi-scale research which spans traditional subject boundaries.

This is in keeping with the Faculty’s ethos of positive engagement with the world and enables science-led enquiry to create engineered solutions to industrial and socially relevant problems both nationally and internationally.

What you will study

Our PhD programme offers the opportunity to undertake research across the range of subjects covered by the three research centres within the Department and the wider research interests of the Faculty.

As might be expected the research community within the Department is diverse and multi-disciplinary with students coming from a variety of backgrounds, including civil and mechanical engineering, environmental engineering and associated disciplines such as physics and chemistry.

When combined with the wide range of skills and interests of the academic they form a strong group of civil, structural and environmental engineers who are working together to create, maintain and enhance our environment.

Students benefit from the monthly research seminars held in the Department. These aim to promulgate research outputs and encourage discussion of their implications within the wider community.

They also enable individual researchers to develop and improve their presentation skills and explore new concepts, ideas and approaches with fellow students and the academic staff.

In support of this the Department strives to maintain a friendly and supportive environment for its postgraduate research students and encourages an active engagement with staff at all stages in the degree process.

Those applying for registration as a research student must hold either a BSc, BEng or MEng degree in a relevant subject area at, or above, the 2.1 level, or an MSc with an average mark (normally) exceeding 70 per cent.

Those applying with qualifications from overseas universities should seek advice from the Postgraduate Admissions team.

Research themes

Researchers with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering typically work within one of three main research areas:

  • Infrastructure Systems Engineering covers activities across a wide range of length scales aimed at sustainable infrastructure delivery and management. Research encompasses the characterisation and modelling of damage processes through asset life-cycles, the simulation of complex structural systems under cyclic, dynamic and extreme loads, and the performance assessment and management of large infrastructure networks
  • GeoMechanics covers activities related to the characterisation of granular materials, soil, clays etc and understanding, and modelling, their behaviour under a range of conditions and time scales. Particular areas of interest are the modelling of soil-structure interactions including soil-vehicle interactions for extra-terrestrial applications and the behaviour of liquefiable soils subject to seismic and other dynamic effects
  • Environmental & Health Engineering covers activities ranging from catchment management, water supply and treatment, wastewater and sanitation, to emergency response, network assessment and the socio-economic and environmental impact of water management. Work includes the development of novel, rapid test methods for the assessment of water safety and cross-disciplinary projects that incorporate mobile technology in water and health related data collection and dissemination. Other themes are the health implications of recreational water use and the mapping of nano-scale pollutants within the urban environment

Why not discover more about our research?

Research areas

Infrastructure Systems Engineering
  • Innovative construction materials and their durability
  • Reliability assessment of large infrastructure systems
  • Asset performance and management of potable water networks
  • Advanced FE modelling and testing of structural systems under static/dynamic/fatigue loading
  • Structural glass and glass facades
  • Robustness and progressive collapse of structures
  • Structural health monitoring and damage assessment
  • Mechanics and micro-mechanics of granular materials including image analysis
  • Discrete Element Modelling (DEM) of granular materials including laboratory validation
  • Physical modelling of geotechnical problems including soil-structure interaction with particular emphasis to off-shore wind turbines
  • Soil-Vehicle interactions including extra-terrestrial applications
  • Wave propagation in, and constitutive models for, nonlinear materials
  • Pipelines and piles in seismic areas including liquefiable soils
  • Study of soil liquefaction using element tests
Environmental & Health Engineering
  • Advanced chemical and biological wastewater treatment technologies
  • Water supply and sanitation for developing world and relief needs
  • Solid waste and sludge management
  • Water resource protection, catchments surveillance and vulnerability assessment
  • Waste load allocation and remediation of polluted rivers
  • Catchment and groundwater modelling and integrated urban water cycles
  • Environmental flows and air quality monitoring
  • Nanomaterials and their characterisation in the environment

Research facilities

We offer modern facilities in areas such as:

  • Materials and Structures laboratory provides support for the manufacture, and assessment, of construction materials and structural components. This facility forms part of a large suite of mechanical testing equipment which provides the capacity to assess static, dynamic and fatigue performance, in the range 10 N to 1000 kN, at size scales of 1 mm to 5 m across a range of test modes, including tension, compression, and flexure
  • GeoMechanics laboratory provides a range of equipment for the characterisation of soils including the macro- and micro-mechanics of granular materials using image analysis. Facilities are also available for the study of soil-structure interactions, such as pipelines and piles in liquefiable soils and the foundations of off-shore wind turbines
  • The WHO-collaborating Centre for Environmental Health Engineering and the Robens Centre for Public and Environmental Health, recognised for their internationally leading work addressing water-quality, sanitation and associated health issues in both the developed and developing parts of the world. Their work forms part of a university-wide network of water researchers (SWIRL) focused on meeting Millennium Development Goals for the sustainable provision of safe drinking water and sanitation. This work has been recognised through a Queen’s Anniversary Award in the Diamond Jubilee round 2010-12 for ‘in depth research expertise for improving access to safe drinking water and sanitation worldwide’ and re-designation as a World Health Organization collaborating-centre for the Protection of Water Quality and Human Health (2012)
  • Access to a range of wind-tunnel facilities available for measuring pollution dispersion within, and around, model structures with a particular focus on the movement of vehicle emissions within urban canyons. In addition, specialist equipment has been acquired to enable the detection and characterisation of nano-scale contaminants that arise within the environment as a consequence of both natural processes and human activities

The above facilities are supported by a team of technical and research staff who able to provide appropriate advice in the design and implementation of experimental programmes. In addition, the Department supports its research community through the provision of computer systems for both data acquisition and analysis.

It also provides access to a wide range of advanced analysis software for modelling across a range of scales including the response of large structures (and their foundations) to dynamic and static loads, the deformation and fracture behaviour of components and materials, the constitutive response of compacted granular soils under stress and the dispersion of air- and water-borne pollutants within the environment.

The Department strives to maintain a friendly environment that enables its postgraduate research students to explore new concepts informally with staff.

You will benefit from the monthly research seminars held in the Department which encourage peer-based discussions of current research problems and help develop your individual presentation and communication skills.


There are a number of fully funded PhD studentships for suitably qualified UK and EU nationals who can demonstrate the appropriate residency requirements. Other funding opportunities are also available within different research centres.

Related research areas

Related departments/schools

Course facts

Qualification Study mode Course length Start date
PhD Full-time 30-48 months October, January, April, July
PhD Part-time 60-96 months October, January, April, July

Entry Requirements

A First or 2.1 class degree in a relevant subject, or equivalent overseas qualification, or a 2.2 plus a good Master’s degree.

View entry requirements by country

English language requirements

Non-native speakers of English will normally be required to have IELTS 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category. 

Non-native speakers of English will normally be required to have IELTS 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category. 

We offer intensive English language pre-sessional courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.


Study mode UK/EU fees Overseas fees
Full-time £4195 £20,000
Part-time £2100 £10,000

Please note these fees are for the academic year 2017/18 only. All fees are subject to annual review.

Overseas students applying for 2017 entry should please note that annual fees will rise by four per cent (rounded up to the nearest £100) for each year of study.

A complete list of all fees for our research programmes

Doctoral College

Our Doctoral College supports researcher excellence and employability across the doctoral and early career stages of the researcher journey.

Find out more

Code of practice for research degrees

Surrey’s postgraduate research code of practice sets out the University's policy and procedural framework relating to research degrees.

The code defines a set of standard procedures and specific responsibilities covering the academic supervision, administration and assessment of research degrees for all faculties within the University.

Download the code of practice for research degrees (PDF).

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