Brian Sheil BE PhD

Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow

  • Biography
  • Research
  • DPhil Opportunities


Dr Brian Sheil studied Civil Engineering for his undergraduate degree at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG). His PhD was a collaboration between NUIG and the University of California, Berkeley on the behaviour of pile group foundations.

In 2014, Brian joined the University of Oxford as a postdoctoral researcher in experimental geotechnics focused on industry-funded research projects and was subsequently promoted to departmental lecturer in geotechnical engineering in January 2017. 

He was recently awarded a Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowship for the period 2018 - 2023 titled 'Intelligent Real-Time Monitoring to Inform Underground Construction Processes'.

Research Interests

A particular focus of Brian's research has been in the area of soil-structure interaction (SSI), covering development of normal and frictional contact stresses exerted by soil onto structures, soil strength mobilization displacements, pore water pressures and their time dependence. His research has included the use of numerical modelling, laboratory testing at model scale, and field testing/monitoring.

Underground construction

Underground construction monitoring represents a new line of research within civil engineering at Oxford University. The aim of this work is to develop the underpinning engineering science for SSI design applied to underground construction. This involves the use of laboratory testing and numerical modelling to elucidate the mechanics of soil-structure interface behaviour. Intelligent monitoring systems are being developed to measure and monitor soilstructure contact stresses on live construction projects to provide (i) field data for rigorous validation of developed design methods and (ii) real-time, automated feedback to site engineers to inform the construction of the field project itself essentially providing ‘early warning’ of unsatisfactory performance. Recent advances in fibre optic sensing will be exploited to develop novel multi-directional contact stress sensors.

Machine learning algorithms are also being employed such that prior data from previous construction projects may be synthesised with newly-acquired data to provide a robust datadriven decision-making process. Monitoring systems developed by Brian's research group have already been successfully trialled on a number of major UK construction projects. They will also be used to guide part of the Thames Tideway construction works in the near future.

Buried pipelines

This research involves experimental testing, at small-scale and full-scale, applied to buried pipelines transporting hot pressurised fluids for the oil industry. Quantifying the interaction between pipelines and the soil backfill is essential when designing a buried pipeline for various limit states (serviceability, ultimate, fatigue) as well as for buckling prevention and economy. This has included the design and development of a full-scale experimental testing rig to measure pipe-soil interaction during cyclic axial displacement.

Pile group foundations

His research on pile group foundations involves the use of numerical and analytical modelling to improve our understanding and predictions of  pile interaction effects. This has included the settlement performance of axially-loaded groups as well as the ultimate capacity of laterally-loaded and torsionally-loaded groups.

Current Projects

  • Intelligent underground construction monitoring
  • Machine learning in construction
  • Behaviour of buried pipelines
  • Interaction effects within pile groups

DPhil Opportunities

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you are interested in postgraduate or postdoctoral research opportunities