As COP26 has reminded us all so clearly humanity is now in the midst of a climate crisis that requires us to change how we behave and how we do things if we are to have a chance to reach net zero. Engineering the products of the future that are sustainable and help us on the way to net zero will require totally new ways of thinking and solving problems. Air travel in the future will look and feel very different to that which we are accustomed to today. To support our targets of net zero emissions in 2050 new vehicle types such as electric air taxis and airships will have a new and bigger role to play in delivering people, foods, medicines and essential supplies to less accessible places and even within more densely populated areas. Airframes will need to be very light and still cost effective when formed into different shapes. The idea of airships is far from a technology of yesteryear with Google co-founder Sergey Brin leading the charge with his new air yacht. The UK is opening its first pop-up airport for air taxis near Coventry, with Vertical Aerospace now having more than 1,000 pre-orders of its exciting VA-A4 aircraft for a new air taxi service. In Biohaviour we are Re-Imagining Engineering Design in a large national programme supported by the UK Research Councils and supported by leading companies including Spirit Aersosytems (Bombardier), Rolls-Royce, Airbus and. In this work the team is exploring new structural geometries and representations that have an organic look and feel, and we are building the tools to automatically create these geometries. The challenge to be addressed in this project is that our manufacturing capability significantly affects the resulting shape, form and material of the configuration and current design methods cannot deal with this. New design methods, CAD tools and algorithms to link with manufacturing will be created and evaluated. We want to ‘grow’ structural designs that are net zero and to do this we are exploring if it is possible to create structures with only 10% of their current weight and that can be made for 10% of the current cost and designed in less than 10% of the current time needed.
Biohaviour is a bioinspired integrated design and manufacturing system created and developed in QUB. It aims to observe the rules nature uses when designing the world around us, and to capture these in a system where they can be applied to engineering design problems. It is envisaged that by doing so it will be possible to design and manufacture innovative products, free from the constraints imposed on the designs of today by existing design processes.
This PhD will play an important role in the overall project, determining how best to create complex representations of airship structures and systems. This will involve assessing the different potential modelling methods and to select the most promising approach to construct a real wing box structure and its supporting systems. The second step will be to identify how the geometric description can be integrated with the advanced manufacturing approaches which Biohaviour aims to exploit.
In this PhD project the appropriateness of a range of different design approaches will be evaluated for this application, along with artificial evolution to explore novel structural configurations that may take advantage of new manufacturing systems to achieve the ambitious reductions needed across this whole process.. The most appropriate approach will be implemented in a prototype framework where it will join the suite of tools being researched by other members of the team.
Aims and Objectives:
The aim is to determine the most effective design approach for applications in extremely light aircraft structures and to provide a useable prototype capability to the project.
The objectives are to:
- Identify the different design approaches that are available and suited to generative design of airframe structures, but particularly wing box structures.
- Identify the different manufacturing strategies that can be used with each design approach
- Prepare a prototype design and modelling environment for use in biohaviour for the design of aircraft wing structures.
As this project is strongly connected to industry there will be opportunities for both long and short term periods in the partner company working with practising engineers in exploring these novel design systems.
The studentship will cover stipend and fees. Funding may be available for local or international applicants.
The studentship includes support from Spirit Aerosystems with a generous top-up to the baseline stipend, plus funding for travel and project support. This results in a total tax-free stipend of £20k per year, and opportunities to spend time in the company gaining valuable practical experience as well.
Mechanical Engineering overview
Our society needs exceptional engineers who can understand, create and harness technology to address our shared global challenges. Without these individuals our long-term success as technologically advanced societies and economies will be diminished. Undertaking a PhD in the School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering will enable you to make a real difference, positively impacting your career and through your research improving engineering methods and practice, and ultimately society.
Research undertaken by PhD students in the School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering forms a critical part of our research portfolio. Our research portfolio is ranked 24th in the UK with 96% of our Engineering research rated as world-leading or internationally excellent [REF 2021/ Times Higher Education]. What is more the REF2021 assessment, which is carried out by panels of academics and international experts, rated over 99% of the university research environment as world-leading or internationally excellent. Within this environment our PhD students research within the broad topics of design, materials, manufacturing, and energy.
Joining us as a PhD student you will be part of a dynamic environment and will study alongside students from many countries worldwide. It is a lively community of over 100 students, in which you will have the opportunity to develop both career and life skills, for example by participating in cohort training and mentoring programmes and student led social and cultural activities.
A PhD studentship is an investment in your personal development, worth over £100,000. Many of our PhD graduates take-up academic roles, while others go on to play leading roles in industry or become entrepreneurs. A PhD provides many benefits, among others it provides a range of “transferable skills”, such as independent and critical thinking, analytical and problem solving skills, leadership, and self-confidence. Because of these developed characteristics we see that many industry leaders hold a PhD. You will likely get a higher salary after graduation from a PhD than you do three years after an undergraduate degree. More importantly, you will get a different type of job and likely make progress faster through promotion and reward mechanisms. This, of course, depends on your ambition, but a PhD builds an exceptional career foundation.
Mechanical Engineering Highlights
- The school boasts a number of strategic partnerships with world leading engineering companies. These partnerships enable our postgraduate students to forge vital links with industrial collaborators throughout their studies, gaining valuable exposure and real-world feedback. For example, the WTech Research Centre is working alongside Wrightbus to develop innovative and crucial global transport solutions. A dedicated team partnered with Rolls-Royce, is developing novel design approaches to deliver the aircraft of tomorrow. These partnerships, amongst others, mean PhD students can begin making real industry impact from year one of their studies.
World Class Facilities
- The school encompasses world class facilities which are tailored to meet the needs of our students and research specialisms. Our materials testing laboratories can characterise a wide range of materials, including polymers and advanced composites. Our High Performance Computing (HPC) facility supports demanding numerical analysis such as Finite Element Analysis and Computational Fluid Dynamics. State-of-the-art manufacturing capabilities, including additive manufacture and robotics are powering research into The Factory of the Future.
It is cutting edge facilities such as these, that give our PhD graduates a unique set of skills to enhance their future careers.
Internationally Renowned Experts
- Undertaking a research degree in the School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at Queen’s, you will work with and be supervised by world-leading experts in their respective fields.
- An enhanced student experience is at the heart of what we do. As part of a diverse community of over 100 PhD students, you’ll be a valued part of a vibrant research community. You will benefit from a supportive mentoring program, a wide range of training opportunities and avail of the social events and wellbeing initiatives rolled out by our student-led Research Culture Committee.
Research students are encouraged to play a full and active role in relation to the wide range of research activities undertaken within the School and there are many resources available including:
- A vibrant research community with opportunities to socialise, integrate and personally develop through student and university organised events.
- Excellent graduate prospects ranging from academic, industrial to entrepreneurial opportunities.
- The School has strategic research partnerships with a number of globally leading engineering companies, e.g. Rolls-Royce, Wrightbus, in which researchers undertake cutting edge and impactful research within multidisciplinary teams.
- Access to state-of-the-art research laboratories and computing facilities (Northern Ireland High performance computing), along with office accommodation and opportunity to work within our aligned innovation centres
- Access to the Queen’s University Postgraduate Researcher Development Programme and a wide range of personal development and specialist training courses.
Employment after the Course
Dedicated to translating our research innovation into real world industrial and societal benefit. 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. Queen's postgraduates reap exceptional benefits .
People teaching you
Dr Declan Nolan
Doctoral Programme Director
Mech & Aerospace Engineering
Course structureUndertaking a PhD presents the opportunity to carry out novel research guided by dedicated supervisory teams who are built on expertise.
A PhD programme runs for 3-4 years full-time or 6-8 years part-time. Students can apply for a writing up year should it be required. Supervisors will offer feedback on the research work at regular intervals throughout the period of registration on the degree.
During the lifecycle of your research programme, you will be required to reach key milestones:
Initial Review – within three months (FTE) of first registration. A light touch progress meeting to establish the feasibility of the project and the research plan.
Differentiation – within nine months (FTE) of first registration. You will remain an ‘undifferentiated PhD student’ until this milestone has been completed wherein you will be required to satisfy academic staff that you are capable of undertaking a research degree.
Annual Progress Reviews – yearly thereafter Differentiation, requires students to present their work in writing and orally to a panel of academics. Successful completion of this process will allow students to register for the next academic year.
Viva voce [oral examination] - the final assessment of the doctoral degree is both oral and written. Students will submit their thesis to an internal and external examining team who will review the written thesis before inviting the student to orally defend their work at a Viva Voce.
Over the course of study, you can attend postgraduate skills training organised by the Graduate School, with opportunities to attend conferences and further training organised through your supervisor. Further growth and development opportunities are supported by community events (seminars, workshops, competitions, conferences etc) which are intentionally designed to provide platforms for showcasing your research to wider audiences.
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.
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: www.qub.ac.uk/EnglishLanguageReqs.
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.
|Northern Ireland (NI) 1||£4,596|
|Republic of Ireland (ROI) 2||£4,596|
|England, Scotland or Wales (GB) 1||£4,596|
|EU Other 3||£23,850|
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. 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.
Mechanical Engineering costs
There are no specific additional course costs associated with this programme.
Additional course costs
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.
Some research programmes incur an additional annual charge on top of the tuition fees, often referred to as a bench fee. Bench fees are charged when a programme (or a specific project) incurs extra costs such as those involved with specialist laboratory or field work. If you are required to pay bench fees they will be detailed on your offer letter. If you have any questions about Bench Fees these should be raised with your School at the application stage. Please note that, if you are being funded you will need to ensure your sponsor is aware of and has agreed to fund these additional costs before accepting your place.
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.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
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.