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Investigation into the Accumulated Fatigue Damage in Riveted Connections in Steel Bridges

Applications are invited for our EPSRC funded Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) PhD studentships that will support six (6) research projects starting 1 October 2022. One of these projects is “Investigation into the Accumulated Fatigue Damage in Riveted Connections in Steel Bridges led by Dr Elisa Bertolesi in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Successful applicants will receive an annual stipend of £18,062 including outer London allowance plus payment of their full-time tuition fees for a period of 42 months (3.5 years).

You should be eligible for home (UK) tuition fees but there is a limited number of studentships (no more than two) available to overseas applicants, including EU nationals, who meet the entry criteria.

The Project

The project intends to analyse the mechanism behind fatigue propagation in riveted connections of steel rail bridges, addressing the effect of loading conditions and rivet geometry on crack nucleation, propagation and failure. Riveted connections will be modelled in Abaqus©, with an emphasis on analysing the specific geometry of the rivets and rivet holes. Also, the project will use the data taken from the FE analysis to provide an increased understanding of appropriate methods for strengthening and retrofitting for other existing bridges suffering similar damage.

project intends to analyse the mechanism behind fatigue propagation in riveted

Please contact Dr Elisa Bertolesi at elisa.bertolesi@brunel.ac.uk to find out more about the project.


You will have or will receive an undergraduate degree classified at 1st class or 2:1 (honours) in computer science or an engineering related discipline. A postgraduate masters degree may be an advantage. Where appropriate, applicants must have English language proficiency to an overall score of IELTS 6.5 or equivalent.

Skills and Experience

A good basic understanding of AutoCAD is essential however no previous modelling or 3D experience is necessary but advantageous. This position requires familiarity with Finite Element modelling using Abaqus. It is also recommended that you have knowledge of steel structures, Eurocodes and modelling of steel/composite materials. You should be a highly motivated individual and possess a strong sense of curiosity. The ability to study independently, think critically and collaborate with others is essential.

How to apply

Email the documents below as a single PDF file to cedps-studentships@brunel.ac.uk by 16:00 on Friday 3 June 2022. Please state the name of the project supervisor in your email.

  • Your up-to-date CV;
  • Your 300-word personal statement setting out why you are suitable for this position;
  • Your Undergraduate/Postgraduate Masters degree certificate(s) and transcript(s);
  • Your English Language qualification of IELTS 6.5 overall or equivalent, if applicable;
  • Two references, one of which can be provided by a member of Brunel University academic staff.

Interviews will take place in June 2022.

Meet the Supervisor(s)

Elisa Bertolesi - Elisa Bertolesi is Lecturer in Structural Engineering at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Brunel University London (UK). Dr Bertolesi obtained her PhD (with Honours) in Architecture, Built Environment & Construction Engineering at the Polytechnic University of Milan (Italy). The PhD Thesis obtained international recognition when it was awarded the Postgraduate Project Prize by the prestigious International Masonry Society (London, UK). In February 2018, Dr. Bertolesi won a competitive post-doctoral grant with a two-year contract from the Polytechnic University of Valencia and a Juan de la Cierva post-doctoral fellowship. Dr. Bertolesi participated in seven projects that obtained funding in open competition from the European Commission, BBVA Foundation and the Spanish State Research Agency. Her work in these projects included structural monitoring by means of optical sensors and full-scale experimental testing and advanced numerical modelling of masonry and steel structures and structures subjected to extreme events. Since 2018, Dr. Bertolesi has been collaborating with the spin-off company CALSENS (www.cal-sens.com) and the Building Resilient Group (https://b-resilient.webs.upv.es/collaborators/) at the Polytechnic University of Valencia (Spain). Her academic profile is characterised by a high degree of international activity. To date Dr Bertolesi has published more than 35 papers in high-impact journals (h-index 16 - Scopus: https://www.scopus.com/authid/detail.uri?authorId=56395484400). In addition, Dr Bertolesi is a peer reviewer for 17 high impact factor journals and collaborates with the editorial board of the ASCE - Journal of Composites for Construction, Scientific Reports (Springer Nature). The most important recognition of her scientific achievements was her appointment as Managing Editor of the prestigious first-quartile JCR-indexed Journal Construction and Building Materials. Dr Bertolesi participated as Guest Editor for the collection "Numerical Modelling Trends for Historical Masonry Structures", published by Frontiers in Built Environment (Computational Methods in Structural Engineering).

Related Research Group(s)

Flood, Coastal and Water Engineering

Flood, Coastal and Water Engineering - The Flood, Coastal and Water Engineering Group addresses the challenges of water scarcity, aging water infrastructures and flood management in the UK and worldwide. The group also concentrates on providing research solutions for recycling water and offering sustainable water resources for domestic and industrial uses.

Resilient Structures and Construction Materials

Resilient Structures and Construction Materials - RIMS research group brings together material scientists and structural engineers to deliver resilient infrastructure (buildings, bridges etc.) made of sustainable, advanced materials to perform under harsh natural environment and human-induced hazards.