British Geotechnical Association presents two major awards to Engineering Science postgraduates

The British Geotechnical Association (BGA) recently held its 13th Annual Conference at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London. The conference showcased the best of British research and practice in geotechnical engineering, with leading speakers from research and industry, a poster display, an industry exhibition and concluding with an informal drinks reception. Congratulations to Helen Dunne and Iona Richards, from the Department, for winning two major student awards.

Stephan Jefferis, Helen Dunne and Iona RichardsHelen Dunne (Mansfield College) was awarded the Cooling Prize, which was based on a paper submission and oral presentation earlier in the year and Iona Richards (now St Peter’s College, formerly St Catherine’s College) was awarded the BGA MSc Prize, based on her fourth year project completed as part of her undergraduate degree last year. These two awards are the major student awards given by the BGA, and for both to be won by students from the same institution is an impressive performance. Helen and Iona were presented with their Awards at the BGA’s AGM, held midway through the conference, by Professor Stephan Jefferis, Chair of the BGA and a Visiting Professor in the Department.  They also gave presentations describing their research to a packed auditorium, generating significant interest amongst the attendees.

About Iona’s project

Iona Richards with Stephan JefferisIona’s final-year MEng project titled: ‘Time and rate effects for laterally loaded driven piles in clays’, has application in the offshore wind industry. Her supervisor was Professor Byron Byrne.

Iona said: ‘The offshore wind industry is rapidly developing, and by 2020 the UK is expected to have 10 MW of installed capacity. Offshore wind turbines are commonly supported on large-diameter driven piles, known as monopiles, which are up to 7.5 m in diameter. Currently, a lot of work is focussed on improving existing design methods for monopiles to bring down the overall cost of offshore wind energy. The PISA project has carried out key work in this area – developing new design methodologies for laterally loaded monopiles. Time and rate effects are two design issues which may become increasingly important as monopiles increase in size to support larger turbines, and as conservatism in design reduces’.

Iona’s project principally investigated these effects using small-scale model tests in the laboratory, where significant beneficial effects were observed. Iona added: ‘Further work is recommended to understand these effects at full scale, as there is potential for optimisation of monopile design’. Iona is now a member of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Renewable Energy Marine Structures, hosted by Cranfield University and the University of Oxford, where she is pursuing further research into the design of monopile foundations.

About Helen’s project

Helen Dunne with Stephan JefferisHelen was announced as the 2016 winner of the British Geotechnical Association's prestigious Cooling Prize. Helen's DPhil research topic is: ‘Foundation optimisation using finite element limit analysis’. Her studentship is being funded by the offshore engineering firm Subsea 7, and her supervisor is Professor Chris Martin.

For more information about Helen’s award please visit:

Department entrantsHelen and Iona were also joined at the Conference by Wing Nam Yiu (Balliol College) and Ronan Royston (St Catherine’s College) who displayed posters describing their research during the BGA Conference Poster Event.

For more information about the British Geotechnical Association please visit: