University of Exeter funding: Composites for Life

PhD Studentship: EPSRC “Composites for Life”, Engineering, Material Science or Physics – PhD (Funded) Ref: 3823

About the award


Lead Supervisor

Dr Luke Savage, College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter

Additional Supervisors

  • Dr Samuel  Erland, College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter
  • Professor Oana Ghita, College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter

Project Description

Applications are invited for a PhD student to investigate the nature of fracture in fibre-based polymer composite systems. You will join a small team working on the “Composites for Life” programme,  The team is focused on new types of high performance thermoplastic-based composites that are rapidly gaining ground against the more traditional epoxy-based systems, where latest thermoplastic engineering composites can match performance, but are greener, being re-mouldable, and hence recyclable. The other major advantage of such systems is that thick-section mouldings can be produced, meaning that a whole range of new application areas for composites are now possible, particularly large metallic components that can now be produced via a composite processing route, thus saving weight and therefore particularly interesting to aerospace. The “Composites for Life” programme is supported by plane makers Boeing, Leonardo Helicopters, Meggitt Aviation plc, Royal Tencate based in the Netherlands, and Victrex plc – the World’s leading supplier of high performance polymers.

The studentship will attempt to understand the fracture mechanisms at work in discontinuous polymer composite systems, establishing how far the idealised fibre-based fracture mechanics models can be applied in these systems. The study will utilise ultra high-speed cameras to capture real time fracture events, along with Fibre Bragg grating sensors in order to establish strain field data, to evolve a FEA strain field model.  The study will attempt to break new ground in the fundamental understanding of the nature of fracture in real-world composite systems.

We are seeking applications from high quality individuals, that can add a new element to our existing team, who are equally at home with organising hands-on practical research involving e.g. the making of and testing samples, along with designing experiments, plus an ability to understand and use of advanced analytical techniques, including high speed cameras. The Studentship also includes an FEA modelling aspect in order to support your work, where your data will be used to  inform and build an FEA model utilising a commercial software modelling package.
This award provides annual funding to cover UK/EU tuition fees and a tax-free stipend.  For students who pay UK/EU tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees in full, plus at least £15,009 per year tax-free stipend.  Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee and no stipend. 

The studentship will be awarded on the basis of merit for 3.5 years of full-time study to commence in 2nd March 2020, or as soon as possible thereafter.

The studentship will cover a stipend at the minimum Research Council rate, £15,009 in 2019/20, research costs and tuition fees at the UK/EU rate for students who meet the residency requirements outlined by the EPSRC.  Students from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award but no stipend.  Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are not eligible for funding.  Further information about eligibility can be found here.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements:

  • First-class or upper second-class Honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline, such as engineering, material science or physics
  • Background or knowledge of composites and/or composite processing
  • Evidence of ability to conduct a self-driven programme of work.
  • Good written communication skills.
  • Experience in finite element modelling and composite modelling (e.g. Abaqus, Ansys) would be an additional advantage.

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.0 IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project.  Alternative tests may be acceptable (see

How to apply

In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents. 

  • CV
  • Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project).
  • Names of two referees familiar with your academic work. You are not required to obtain references yourself. We will request references directly from your referees if you are shortlisted.
  • If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 3rd February 2020.  Interviews will be held on the University of Exeter Streatham Campus late February.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email or phone +44 (0)1392 722730 or +44 (0)1392 725150.  Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor. Dr Luke Savage via email or telephone (0)1392 725911


Application deadline:3rd February 2020
Number of awards:1
Duration of award:per year
Contact: STEMM PGR Admissions