The 2016 British Geotechnical Association Cooling Prize awarded to Helen Dunne

Congratulations to Helen Dunne (Mansfield College), a 3rd year DPhil student in the Civil Engineering Research Group, who has been announced as the 2016 winner of the British Geotechnical Association's prestigious Cooling Prize.

Helen DunneHelen'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.

Helen was one of three finalists selected to present their work at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff on 10 March 2016. The event was reported as follows in Ground Engineering magazine:

'Oxford University PhD student Helen Dunne was named as the 47th Cooling Prize winner at an event hosted by the ICE Wales Cymru Ground Engineering Group at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff last night.

Dunne’s review of finite element limit analysis of rectangular mudmats subject to combined loading beat off stiff competition from presentations by Aecom graduate geotechnical engineer Paul Sargent and Arup geotechnical engineer Aidan Hopkins.

The 2016 finalists delivered their presentations at an event hosted by the ICE Wales Cymru Ground Engineering Group last night at the Wales Millennium Centre.

The Cooling Prize is an annual event which is organised by the British Geotechnical Association to celebrate young geotechnical engineers in memory of Leonard Cooling, one of the pioneers of soil mechanics in the UK, who was always a positive mentor to his younger colleagues.

Last night’s event started with a presentation by Cooling’s daughter Christine Cooling before the three finalists delivered their presentations.

While Dunne’s talk focused on finite element analysis, Sargent presented on the suitability of geopolymers for stabilising alluvium loaded by high speed rail traffic and Hopkins spoke about ground movements and compensation grouting during the passage of Crossrail tunnel boring machines through Tottenham Court Road Crossrail station.

All three presentations were well-received and led to a high level of engagement with the audience during the question and answer session before the judges withdrew to decide on the winner.

The judges, who were led by BGA chairman Stephan Jefferis, commented that all three presentations would have been worthy winners but considered that Dunne’s presentation provided insight into how her research may be used in future to optimise foundation design through finite element limit analysis.

As Cooling Prize winner, Dunne will receive a cheque from GE for £200, a cut glass decanter and BGA sponsorship to the European Young Geotechnical Engineers conference to be held in Sibu, Romania in June this year. Her paper will also be published in GE later this year.'

Helen's success follows that of William Beuckelaers, another DPhil student in the Civil Engineering Research Group, in the same competition last year. This is only the third instance of consecutive winners from the same institution since the Cooling Prize was established in 1970.

For more information about the Cooling Prize: