Identification of Human-Structure Interaction for Footbridges Using Motion Capture Technology -Engineering - EPSRC DTP funded PhD Studentship Ref: 2946

About the award

This project is one of a number funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Doctoral Training Partnership to commence in September 2018. This project is in direct competition with others for funding; the projects which receive the best applicants will be awarded the funding.

The studentships will provide funding for a stipend which is currently £14,553 per annum for 2017-2018. It will provide research costs and UK/EU tuition fees at Research Council UK rates for 42 months (3.5 years) for full-time students, pro rata for part-time students.

Please note that of the total number of projects within the competition, up to 15 studentships will be filled.

Prof. James Brownjohn

Dr Mateusz Bocian

Streatham Campus, Exeter

Project Description
The aim of the project is to use unique experimental facilities to investigate the phenomena of human-structure interaction such as occurred on the infamous ‘wobbly’ London Millennium Bridge.

Footbridges are often iconic landmark structures improving liveability and transport in cities. As such their designs are elegant, aesthetic and lightweight with the result that dynamic performance due to walking, jogging and running pedestrians needs to be carefully managed using the most reliable design guidance to avoid user discomfort. Vibration serviceability remains a hot research topic, with direct application to developing rational and reliable design guidance to be used in the UK and beyond.

The research aims to develop and apply advanced inertial and optical motion capture technology to measure the contact forces of pedestrians as they occur on footbridges vibrating in use, which would represent a breakthrough in capability. The time-variation of contact forces can reveal the subtle effects of human biomechanics that lead to some strange phenomena such as synchronous lateral excitation. Ultimately the experimental evidence will be used to update design codes leading to better design of these structures.

The University of Exeter recently published preliminary research on contact force measurement and there is a wide range of capabilities yet to be explored to investigate interactions between pedestrians and vibrating footbridges. In the mid-later part of the research, when Exeter’s EPSRC-funded VSimulators motion and virtual reality simulator is operational, it will be used in pilot projects to explore environmental and sensory factors. Pedestrian subjects will experience virtual reality in controlled environmental conditions simulating footbridge motion to explore visual, aural and tactile sensory inputs affecting these interactions. Such research is within the research program planned for VSimulators.

The student will be work with other researchers to learn and develop motion capture capabilities before applying in-situ on footbridges. These may be existing operational structures e.g. around Exeter, or new structures undergoing vibration testing before opening. The Vibration Engineering Section is frequently engaged in such projects with a range of industry partners via its spinout company Full-Scale Dynamics. The student will also develop and manage one of the VSimulators pilot projects during the initial operation of the facility from 2019, learning and developing skills in virtual reality.

There will be some field work for experimental investigation of specific structures, with the student assuming responsibility for the motion capture/force identification aspects. This fieldwork could be in the UK or overseas through established collaborations in the Far East.  Consultant COWI developed the current UK guidance on footbridge vibration serviceability and will provide advice and support in the project with respect to individual structures as well as a route for developing the next generation of design guidance.

Entry Requirements
The PhD studentship will suit students with interests in iconic footbridge design, instrumentation, motion capture and biomechanics. Students from both civil/structural and mechanical engineering backgrounds will be suitable.

The majority of the studentships are available for applicants who are ordinarily resident in the UK and are classed as UK/EU for tuition fee purposes.  If you have not resided in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship, you are not eligible for a maintenance allowance so you would need an alternative source of funding for living costs. To be eligible for fees-only funding you must be ordinarily resident in a member state of the EU.  For information on EPSRC residency criteria click here.

Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are NOT eligible for funding. International students inte Mateusz Bocianrested in studying at the University of Exeter should search our funding database for alternative options.


Application deadline:10th January 2018
Value:3.5 year studentship: UK/EU tuition fees and an annual maintenance allowance at current Research Council rate. Current rate of £14,553 per year.
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Doctoral

How to apply

You will be required to upload the following documents:
•       CV
•       Letter of application outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to
        undertake the project.
•       Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained.  This should be an interim
        transcript if you are still studying.
•       If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your current
        proficiency in English.  For further details of the University’s English language requirements please see

The closing date for applications is midnight (GMT) on Wednesday 10 January 2018.  Interviews will be held at the University of Exeter in late February 2018.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email:
Project-specific queries should be directed to the supervisor.

During the application process, the University may need to make certain disclosures of your personal data to third parties to be able to administer your application, carry out interviews and select candidates.  These are not limited to, but may include disclosures to:

• the selection panel and/or management board or equivalent of the relevant programme, which is likely to include staff from one or more other HEIs;
• administrative staff at one or more other HEIs participating in the relevant programme.

Such disclosures will always be kept to the minimum amount of personal data required for the specific purpose. Your sensitive personal data (relating to disability and race/ethnicity) will not be disclosed without your explicit consent.