Research Studentship in Nickel-base Superalloys in Oil Drilling Applications

3-year D.Phil studentship, available from Jan 2016 (subject to eligibility requirements below).

Research Area

Nickel-base superalloys form an important family of materials that find extensive use in aerospace applications. These alloys are also widely used in oil and gas exploration and production in the manufacture of drill string components that experience fatigue, abrasion and environmental attack in operation. This project concerns reliable prediction of safe life of nickel-base superalloy drilling components based on microstructure analysis under the conditions of fatigue, wear and corrosion.

The studentship is part of a funded project jointly undertaken by the University of Oxford under Professor Alexander M. Korsunsky’s group and Weatherford International. It will involve visits and short placements with project partners in Tewkesbury, UK.

Aerospace nickel-base superalloy IN718 is the material of choice for drill string assembly components, and is widely used in the field. We will perform a systematic study of fatigue crack initiation in IN718 alloy components under conditions representative of those encountered during reservoir drilling. This will involve carrying out thermo-mechanical tests, extracting miniature samples for microscopic examination, and characterising these samples using a variety of advanced imaging tools.

The student will combine experimental characterisation activities with numerical modelling and the development of predictive design tools using Finite Elements and other simulation approaches.

Award Value

The studentship covers University fees at the level set for UK/EU students plus a stipend (tax-free maintenance grant) of £14,200 p.a. for the first year, and at least this amount for a further two years. The studentship does not cover the payment of college fees (c £2,848 p.a.).


This studentship is available to all applicants but the University fees are covered only at the UK/EU rate.  Therefore overseas students would have to provide the difference between the UK/EU and the overseas student rates for University fees from some other source, such as a scholarship or personal funds.

Candidate Requirements

Prospective candidates will be judged according to how well they meet the following criteria:

  • A first class honours degree in Engineering, Materials Science or related subject
  • Evidence of experience in research related to structural integrity, pipeline durability design, joining and fabrication
  • Excellent English written and spoken communication skills


The following skills are desirable but not essential:

  •  Experience in electron microscopy and XRD analyses
  •  Experience in Finite Element Analysis
  •  Experience in writing technical and scientific reports

Application Procedure

To apply for this studentship, candidates should send the following documents to

  • CV
  • Covering letter (explaining your suitability for the study, what you hope to achieve from the DPhil and your research experience to date)
  • Contact details for two academic or professional referees


NOTE: Candidates are expected to meet the graduate admissions criteria available at  and a full graduate application must be made at the same time as applying for this studentship.  Your studentship application will not be considered until you have submitted a graduate application. Further details about making a graduate application are available at

Please quote this code: AMK-WFT in all correspondence to the Department and in your graduate application.

Informal enquiries regarding the project may be addressed to Prof. Alexander M. Korsunsky []. Please note that applications sent directly to this email address will not be accepted. 

Application deadline:  by noon on 20th Nov 2015