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PhD Opportunities

ACRG: Uncertainty propagation across scales for composite laminates

School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering | PHD
Reference Number
Application Deadline
31 March 2021
Start Date
None specified


Key skills required for the post: Candidate should demonstrate knowledge/experience/skills in at least one of the following areas: • Computational modelling • Python scripting • Mechanics of composites • Finite element modelling (preferably Abaqus) • Stochastic modelling • Advanced statistics Key transferable skills that will be developed during the PhD: These will include an ability to effectively communicate research outcomes to academic peers and industry, independent analytical thinking and problem solving, time management, and leadership.

Due to the multiphase and heterogeneous nature of carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP) laminates, the
system properties can exhibit variability in nature, resulting in uncertainty on the response of the structure.
Therefore, some variabilities need to be considered in the mechanical response of composite structures. Scatter
in material properties influences the quality of the material, the product or the effect of a processing step. In
composites, scatter is affected by differences in (i) fibre path, (ii) void content and distribution, and (iii) presence
of microcracks. Natural material variability, manufacturing defects, and material parameters cause composites to
possess variations in their mechanical response. With respect to material variability: fibre diameter & length &
distribution within the polymer matrix, among other properties, are observed; regarding manufactured
imperfections: variability in the fibre volume fraction, voids, fibre misalignment, thickness distribution, and
interlaminar defects are normally expected to appear to a greater or lesser extent. Fracture/material parameters
include elastic properties, strength limits, fracture toughness, and model parameters.
Uncertainties are classified as either aleatory (inherent randomness in the system) or epistemic (due to partial
knowledge of the problem and parameters). Aleatory (random) refers to fibre and matrix characteristics,
manufacturing variations, among others; whereas epistemic is associated with the type of the methods
considered. These uncertainties are currently accounted for through a conservative approach to composite
structural design. Incorporating uncertainties in the design of CFRP structures for aerospace vehicle design will
lead to less conservative factors (without compromising safety) and a reduction of design cycle times through
reduced experimental testing.
Probabilistic methods can be used to quantify these variabilities.
Probability distribution functions (PDF) may be established for
all uncertain parameters, giving the possibility to correlate
several parameters. The outcome may be interpreted in
a statistical sense, and the probability of each output
quantity depends on the input probabilities and their
correlations. It is vital that these inputs are somehow
validated in order to allow a proper statistical
interpretation, which is usually neglected, and
assumptions are made on the input PDFs.
The Figure on the right side shows that different factors
take place at each length scale in a composite structure.
Therefore, it becomes essential to understand to
quantify them within their scale and how they affect
other scales, i.e. how they propagate across scales and
what these uncertain events might entail.
Adapted from Tan W, Falzon BG, et al. Compos B Eng 2018;138:206-221.
Advanced Composites Laboratory
Aims and Objectives:
This PhD project aims at overcoming current limitations with regards to quantify uncertainties related to material
and manufacturing parameters and investigate how they affect and propagate across length scales. The
considered scales are: micro, meso and macro.
It is aimed to develop a bottom-up stochastic multiscale model taking uncertainties into account using the finite
element (FE) method. The utilization of metamodels is aimed to train the FE models towards developing
computationally efficient frameworks.
The outcomes from the framework will allow understanding the failure and damage mechanisms of composite
laminates under several loading scenarios.

Funding Information

UK nationals only.

Guaranteed stipend £15,285 tax free.

PhD students in the School may have the opportunity to apply to be demonstrators on undergraduate modules.
Compensation for this can amount to in excess of £2,400 per year.

Project Summary
Dr Humberto Almeida Jr
Apply now Register your interest

Mechanical Engineering overview

Doing a PhD in the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering is a highly rewarding experience. You will carry out your research in a friendly and supportive environment, supervised by academics who are leaders in their field, using well-equipped laboratories and research facilities, alongside students from all over the world. We have around 100 students enrolled on a PhD at a time. The School has a vibrant PhD student mentoring programme and a student led Research Culture Committee.

The School’s research is focused around six interconnected research themes: Advanced Manufacturing and Processing, Future Aircraft, Composite Materials and Structures, Simulation Technologies, Clean Energy and Biomaterials and Biomechanics.

PhD opportunities are available in a wide range of subjects aligned to the specific expertise of our PhD supervisors. Many are linked with leading companies and organisations.

Key Facts

Research students are encouraged to play a full and active role in the research activities undertaken within the School. Students attend international conferences and participate in relevant external academic and industrial networks worldwide.

  • The School has strong links with both local and international engineering employers, and has longstanding relationships with companies such as Airbus, Caterpillar, ExxonMobil, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, Lotus, McLaren F1 and Rolls-Royce.
  • PhD research contributes to major interdisciplinary centres in the University, including:
    •Northern Ireland Advanced Composites and Engineering Centre (NIACE)
    •Polymer Processing Research Centre (PPRC)
    •Northern Ireland Technology Centre (NITC)
  • The School has well equipped laboratories and great research facilities. PhD students share offices alongside postdoctoral staff. The School has Research Culture Committee to enhance the research environment of the School and support PhD students.

Course content

Career Prospects

Employment after the Course
Many of our PhD graduates have moved into academic and research roles in Higher Education while others go on to play leading roles in industry, industry or become entrepreneurs.

People teaching you

Dr Trevor Robinson
Doctoral Programme Director
Mech & Aerospace Engineering

Learning Outcomes

Course structure

You will carry out leading research under the guidance of your supervisory team. A full time student will normally complete in three years (up to a maximum of four), or part time over six years (up to a maximum of eight).

Research will usually be in one of the key, interlinked research themes in the School, and the subtopics they cover, include:-

Advanced Manufacturing and Processing - cost modelling, ergonomics, intelligent control, laser processing, life cycle analysis, material characterisation, mechatronics, parallel kinematic machines, polymer processing, robotics and ultra-precision manufacturing.

Future Aircraft - aero engines, aerodynamics, aeroelasticity, aircraft operations, design and analysis, optimisation and structural testing

Composite Materials and Structures -damage mechanics and crashworthiness, material characterisation, multifunctional composites and nano-enhanced composites

Simulation Technologies - FEA/CFD/EFG/DES/MD, kinematic modelling, meshing, multiscale/Multiphysics, optimisation, simulation intent, systems modelling, uncertainty quantification, virtual testing and design visual analytics and big data

Clean Energy - biofuels, catalysis, life cycle assessment, power systems, turbomachinery and waste management

Biomaterials and Biomechanics - biomimetics, material characterisation, mechanobiology and medical devices.

Also, over the course of study, you can attend postgraduate skills training organised by the Graduate School, or other internal and external training courses organised through your supervisor.

Entrance requirements

The minimum academic requirement for admission to a research degree programme is normally an Upper Second Class Honours degree from a UK or ROI HE provider, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University. Further information can be obtained by contacting the School.

International Students

For information on international qualification equivalents, please check the specific information for your country.

English Language Requirements

Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.0, with not less than 5.5 in any component (*taken within the last 2 years) is required.

International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.

For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see:

If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be offering Academic English and Pre-sessional courses online only from June to September 2020.

  • Academic English: an intensive English language and study skills course for successful university study at degree level
  • Pre-sessional English: a short intensive academic English course for students starting a degree programme at Queen's University Belfast and who need to improve their English.

Tuition Fees

Northern Ireland (NI) 1 £4,500
Republic of Ireland (ROI) 2 £4,500
England, Scotland or Wales (GB) 1 £4,500
EU Other 3 £22,000
International £22,000

1 EU citizens in the EU Settlement Scheme, with settled or pre-settled status, are expected to be charged the NI or GB tuition fee based on where they are ordinarily resident, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly Student Fees Regulations. Students who are ROI nationals resident in GB are expected to be charged the GB fee, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.

2 It is expected that EU students who are ROI nationals resident in ROI will be eligible for NI tuition fees, in line with the Common Travel Agreement arrangements. The tuition fee set out above is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.

3 EU Other students (excludes Republic of Ireland nationals living in GB, NI or ROI) are charged tuition fees in line with international fees.

All tuition fees quoted are for the academic year 2021-22, and relate to a single year of study unless stated otherwise. Tuition fees will be subject to an annual inflationary increase, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

For further information please refer to

More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

Mechanical Engineering costs

There are no specific additional course costs associated with this programme.

Additional course costs

All Students

Depending on the programme of study, there may also be other extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies . Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £100 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges. Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen. There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, and library fines. In undertaking a research project students may incur costs associated with transport and/or materials, and there will also be additional costs for printing and binding the thesis. There may also be individually tailored research project expenses and students should consult directly with the School for further information.

How do I fund my study?
1.PhD Opportunities

Find PhD opportunities and funded studentships by subject area.

2.Funded Doctoral Training Programmes

We offer numerous opportunities for funded doctoral study in a world-class research environment. Our centres and partnerships, aim to seek out and nurture outstanding postgraduate research students, and provide targeted training and skills development.

3.PhD loans

The Government offers doctoral loans of up to £26,445 for PhDs and equivalent postgraduate research programmes for English- or Welsh-resident UK and EU students, £10,000 for students in Scotland and up to £5,500 for Northern Ireland students.

4.International Scholarships

Information on Postgraduate Research scholarships for international students.

Funding and Scholarships

The Funding & Scholarship Finder helps prospective and current students find funding to help cover costs towards a whole range of study related expenses.

How to Apply

Apply using our online Postgraduate Applications Portal and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to apply.

Find a supervisor

If you're interested in a particular project, we suggest you contact the relevant academic before you apply, to introduce yourself and ask questions.

To find a potential supervisor aligned with your area of interest, or if you are unsure of who to contact, look through the staff profiles linked here.

You might be asked to provide a short outline of your proposal to help us identify potential supervisors.