PhD Position in Soil-Structure Interaction Framework for Monopiles in Sand Under Cyclic Loading

Catholic University of Leuven Department of Civil Engineering

Within the Civil Engineering Department and the Hydraulics & Geotechnics Section, the Coastal & Geotechnical Engineering Research Group at KU Leuven, Campus Bruges, Faculty of Engineering Technology is currently seeking to recruit a highly enthusiastic and motivated person to pursue full-time doctoral studies in the field of Soil-Structure-Interaction for Offshore Renewable Energy Systems. The Group focuses on the Water-Soil-Structure Interaction with applications in hard and soft sea defenses, offshore energy and (deep) foundations. This doctoral project is in collaboration with the Structural Mechanics Section at KU Leuven which performs research in structural dynamics and building acoustics with a wide range of applications including vibrations and noise in buildings due to traffic and construction activities, vibration-based structural health monitoring, airborne and structure-borne sound transmission, vehicle-bridge interaction and wind-structure interaction. More information on both research groups can be found on the websites: and


This joint PhD project will be based at KU Leuven with a minimum 12 month stay at The University of Melbourne, Australia and is part of the "Cyclic soil-structure interaction framework for the foundations of offshore renewable energy structures" project.

Recent developments in offshore renewable energy sector have resulted in bigger wind turbines and thus an increase in the mostly commonly used monopile foundation’s diameter to guarantee their performance especially under higher lateral cyclic loads due to waves and wind.

Taking into account the effects of the cyclic loading especially on the long-term foundations’ capacity, highlights the monopiles’ ability to control the response as well as the life span of such energy infrastructure. Despite the diverse group of available approaches to estimate cyclic soil-structure response, an alternative which can considers strain accumulation by means of a thermodynamically consistent, multi- surface plasticity framework to generate more accurate predictions of cyclic long-term displacements, remains still unexplored.

In this regard, this joint KU Leuven (KUL) – University of Melbourne (UoM) project aims to develop a novel three-dimensional (3D) soil-structure interaction model for monopiles subjected to lateral cyclic loading in sand by means of a finite element solution using advanced soil constitutive modelling and laboratory testing. Theoretical development will include model calibration via a laboratory cyclic testing program and application to monopile-soil interaction problems including comparisons with predictions from existing models and available test data.

The specific objectives of this project can be summarized in the following: (objective 1) development of a novel rigorous 3D finite element model to predict the response of soil-pile system supporting wind turbines under lateral cyclic loading and (objective 2) conduction of advanced laboratory monotonic and cyclic triaxial tests.

The outcomes of the project will be integrated into an accessible design tool to enable better predictability of monopiles cyclic capacity in engineering practice. The successful candidate will be primarily based at KUL to conduct the theoretical work and will spend a period of 12 months at UoM to conduct the experimental work.

The project will be complemented by the project on "Soil-structure interaction framework for plate anchors in sand under cyclic loading" and the collaboration will ensure a successful completion of the project.


  • The applicant is soon to obtain or has obtained an MSc degree (or equivalent) in Civil Engineering or a closely related field.
  • The applicant must have a solid background and keen interest in geotechnical engineering (constitutive modelling), dynamics, numerical modeling, strong communication, programming, and problem solving skills. 
  • The successful applicant is proficient in English (i.e., TOEFL, IELTS, Cambridge Certificates C1/C2), is a team player, has the ability to meet the admission requirements of the KU Leuven Arenberg Doctoral School, and the motivation to successfully complete a full time PhD program within 3.5-4 years. 
  • Besides the main research activities, the successful candidate will also serve as a teaching assistant for one or more courses related to civil/geotechnical engineering and co-supervise masters theses.
  • The successful candidate is expected to collaborate closely with the doctoral student who will be working on the "Soil-structure interaction framework for plate anchors in sand under cyclic loading" project.
  • The successful candidate is expected to present their research at international conferences and national events.
  • The successful candidate is expected to take up the position as soon as possible and no later than 1 September 2021.


  • An opportunity to pursue fully funded doctoral studies in a stimulating and ambitious research environment including a stay of 12 months at the University of Melbourne in Australia.  
  • A remuneration package competitive with industry standards in Belgium, a country with a high quality of life and excellent health care system. This includes a fully funded PhD scholarship of approximately 2,100 euro per month (net income, depending on experience and marital status).
  • A collaborative and internationally oriented research environment at one of the leading universities in the world (top 50 university worldwide, Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021). Founded in 1425, KU Leuven has been a center of learning for almost six centuries and today it is Belgium’s highest-ranked university as well as one of the oldest and most renowned universities in Europe. KU Leuven offers a truly international experience, high quality education, world-class research, and cutting-edge innovation (tops four years in a row Reuters ranking of Europe's most innovative universities).
  • The successful candidate can benefit from our strong international research and industrial network, will be joining our diverse research group on Campus Bruges and will have the opportunity to spend time on Arenberg Campus in Leuven.
  • Ample additional opportunities to develop yourself professionally benefiting from training sessions offered by the KU Leuven Arenberg Doctoral School

  • Our new campus is located in Bruges, a magnificent medieval city in West Flanders with high quality life which is among the most visited tourist destinations in Europe and is also in the proximity of international engineering companies.


To apply for this position please follow the online application tool and make sure you submit  the following documents:

(1) a motivation letter (max 1 A4 page addressing your strengths and qualifications relative to the project)

(2) your complete academic CV (including clear and detailed information about education, work experience - if any, employment gaps - if any, hobbies, interests, extracurricular activities, stays abroad, projects which demonstrate your programming/software skills and degree of experience) 

(3) a list of publications (please do not include pdfs of the publications)

(4) copies of (translated in English) diplomas (BSc and MSc degrees)

(5) detailed (translated in English) transcript of records (BSc and MSc degrees). In case you have not finished your masters degree yet, please do provide available credits and scores and a list of courses you are taking next semester.

(6) an English version of your master thesis or a detailed summary in case you have not yet completed your masters degree

(7) proof of proficiency in English (TOEFL, IETLS, C1 Advanced (CAE) or the C2 Proficiency (CPE). We request a TOEFL iBT total score of 94 or an IELTS overall band score of 7.0 with no band scores below 6.5.

(8) contact details of three references who can provide a recommendation letter upon request (please do not include letters)

Selected candidates will be invited for an online interview.  Screening of applications will start after February 19th, 2021.  Shortlisting and final selection of the PhD student are based on scientific background, merit and potential, with due consideration given to gender equality and minority rights. The scientific merit of the candidates not only considers course grades, but also evidence of team work, interdisciplinary knowledge, creativity, independent working, transferable skills, and public engagement. The promotion of equal opportunities and gender balance will be a key recruitment strategy.

The deadline of February 19th, 2021 might be extended in case applications do not meet the requirements of the position.

For more information please contact Prof. dr. Georgios Anogiatis (known as George Anoyatis), tel.: +32 50 66 49 78, mail: or Prof. dr. ir. Stijn François, tel.: +32 16 37 35 83, mail:

You can apply for this job no later than February 19, 2021 via the
KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at
  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Brugge
  • Apply before: February 19, 2021
  • Tags: Ingenieurswetenschappen