School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics

PhD Mechanical Engineering

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is awarded for a research study, normally over a three-year period, which makes a significant contribution to knowledge. Candidates must demonstrate that they have made an original personal contribution to the understanding of a problem in a specific field, the advancement of knowledge, or the generation of new ideas.

Key features

  • Mechanical engineering research is embedded in two research groups; Autonomous Marine Systems, Materials and Structures, and supports Coastal, Ocean and Sediment Transport.
  • Autonomous Marine Systems (AMS) research group comprises a multidisciplinary team with expertise across artificial intelligence (AI), advanced control systems engineering theory, multi-sensor data fusion, dynamics, thermodynamics and fluids, smart materials, marine power plant, marine vehicle performance prediction, propulsors, integrated navigation systems and marine renewable energy.
  •  MAterials and STructures (MAST) research (including Civil and Structural Materials, Composites Engineering, and Structural Integrity) covers many aspects of mechanics in materials and structures. This includes structural integrity focusing on fatigue and fracture of materials, multi-scale and multi-phase modelling of materials, and structural modelling using FEA.
  • Composites Engineering addresses fibre-reinforced polymer matrix composites with specialisations in composites manufacture, process-property-mesostructure relationships, marine composites, natural fibre reinforcements, or smart materials and intelligent structures.

Course details

  • Year 1

  • This full time or part time doctoral programme is suitable for people who have a particular research question or topic in mind, and wish to explore this through independent study in order to produce an original contribution to the subject. If you aspire to a research career this is the most appropriate research degree to undertake.
    You will be guided by a small supervisory team of academic experts under the direction of a Director of Studies. 
    You will be expected to fully engage with skills development and training and to present your research in a range of scholarly contexts.
    Your PhD will be assessed via submission of either a written thesis (approximately 80,000 words), and a viva voce (an oral examination).
    For full details of what doing a PhD entails at the University of Plymouth, please visit our postgraduate research degrees pages

    Core modules

    • Research Mechanical Engineering (GSRMECH4)

  • Year 2

  • Core modules

    • Research Mechanical Engineering (GSRMECH5)

  • Year 3

  • Core modules

    • Research Mechanical Engineering (GSRMECH6)

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to have completed a masters level qualification to a high standard (e.g. at 'merit' or 'distinction' level) as well as either a good 2:1 or first class honours undergraduate degree in an area of study appropriate to your project proposal. We are happy to consider equivalent qualifications. 
You will also need to provide evidence that you are ready to pursue the project you propose in your application. This will take the form of a sample of critical writing, and if relevant, documentation of relevant creative or professional practice.
If English is not your first language, you must have proficiency in written and spoken English (normally a minimum test score of 6.5 for IELTS, or equivalent). Given the nature of the programme, you’ll be expected to read and engage with complex theoretical texts and debates for which fluency in English is essential.
Remote supervision of overseas students is possible subject to identification of a supervisor local to the candidate.
For more general guidelines and application requirements, please visit the research degrees applicants page.

Fees, costs and funding

Please visit tuition fees for postgraduate research for information about fees. ResM/MPhil/PhD Mechanical Engineering is in Band 2 for fees purposes.
If you are a full time student, you will pay full time fees for three years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional one year writing up period.
If you are a part time student, you will pay part time fees for four years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional 'writing up' period of up to two years.
You are responsible for meeting all of the costs related to your own research project, beyond the resources available in the department.
Please visit our postgraduate research money matters page to find out more about issues related to fees, funding, loans and paying for your programme of study.
Please note that home fees are reviewed on an annual basis. 

How to apply

In addition to completing the online application form (which includes space for a personal statement), you must also upload a research project proposal. Your research proposal should outline your research topic, your key aims and the research question/problem you are addressing, a brief literature review, your proposed methodology, and an explanation of why this topic is significant or important.
Your personal statement should briefly explain why you have chosen to apply to our programme and what you feel you can offer our research community.
Submitting your application
Complete your application and upload supporting documents to the Doctoral College by completing our online application form.
Questions on the application process?
We're here to help. Please contact the Doctoral College and we'll be happy to assist you.
More information and advice for applicants can be referenced in our admissions policy which can be found on the student regulations, policies and procedures page. Prospective students are advised to read the policy before making an application to the University.
If you have a disability and would like further information on the support available, please visit Disability Services.
International Student Advice (ISA) provides support for our international students.
Find more information about Apply for a postgraduate research programme.

Success story – Amandeep Virk

 Amandeep Virk’s doctoral thesis contributed to eight refereed research papers, three journal review papers and one book chapter.
Read about his project description
Virk’s doctoral thesis contributed to 3 journal review papers, 8 refereed
research papers and one book chapter.
Springer - unmanned surface vehicle


Brunel Bridge

MAterials and STructures (MAST) Research Group  

The research carried out in this area covers many aspects of mechanics in materials and structures. 
This includes structural integrity focusing on fatigue and fracture of materials, durability of marine reinforced concrete (RC) structures, multi-scale and multi-phase modelling of materials, and structural modelling using finite element analysis.


Meet our school technical staff 

Our technical staff are integral to the delivery of all our programmes and bring a diverse range of expertise and skills to support students in laboratories and workshops.

Research degree candidates

Benjamin Bryant
Contaminates within Ultra Violet Polymers with reference to Additive Manufacturing
Director of studies: Dr Jasper Graham-Jones

Casper Kruger
Effect of complex geometry on closed form FRP analytical methods, i.e., CLT, CBT, plate and shell deflection
Director of studies: Dr Jasper Graham-Jones

Adam Kyte
Microarterial anastomosis in reconstructive surgery; a numerical study of the factors affecting anastomosis patency
Supervisor: Dr Richard Pemberton 

Rabiu Mohammed Rabiu
Predictive Maintenance of a Liquefied Natural Gas liquefaction process unit
Director of studies: Dr Jian Wan

Jihad Taha 
Development of an ingrated approach for smart virtual factories based on Model Bases Systems Engineering and Cyber Phyxial Systems Approach
Director of studies: Professor Vahid Salehi (Munich Node)

Ulysse Vautier
Navigation, guidance and control of autonomous sailing boats with robustness for long duration missions
Director of studies: Dr Jian Wan

Paul Arnold
Self-Sensing and Energy-Harvesting (SSEH) composite materials for coastal infrastructure
Director of studies: Professor John Summerscales 

Aissa Bouaissi
Development of a new concrete for marine environment using a high volume of industrial by-products
Director of studies: Professor Long-yuan Li 

James Butler
Development of a novel antibacterial resin-based silver nanocoating to protect patients from bioaerosol infections in hospitals
Director of studies: Dr Alexander Besinis 

Kunjie Fan
Fire performance assessment of concrete materials with supplemental cementitious materials
Directors of studies: Professor Long-yuan Li and Dave Easterbrook (Chinese Scholarship)

Jie Ji
Fatigue analysis of reinforced concrete in the marine environment
Director of studies: Dr Shanshan Cheng 

Matthew Prowse
Automation systems applied to traditional fishing methods used in boats to improve sustainability within ethical considerations and reduce fatalities and casualties
Director of studies: Dr Jasper Graham-Jones 

Simon Weait
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle for extreme environment operations using heat-resistant ceramic-coated and sustainable Fused Deposition Modelled materials
Director of studies: Dr Jasper Graham-Jones 

Qi Ye
Structural performance of floating marine energy devices
Director of studies: Dr Shanshan Cheng 

Nanting Yu
The buckling behaviour of cold-formed steel built-up channel beams with web perforations
Director of studies: Dr Boksun Kim 

Postgraduate research studentships 

Do you need funding for a research degree? 
If you cannot fund your own PhD research project then please look at the advertised studentships as they become available throughout the year. Please check the advert carefully to ensure you are eligible and what funding and support are available.
Postgraduate students
Coastal Processes Research Group Perranporth beach
Postgraduate research students listening to a talk