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Improving models of spatial correlation of earthquake ground motions

The aim of this project is to develop improved models predicting how earthquake ground motions vary spatially. These models are important for modern earthquake risk assessments, especially of civil engineering lifelines (e.g. road, water and power networks).

Number of places



13 October 2017




Applicants should have (or expect) a distinction at Master’s level, or a first class BEng/BSc Honours degree, or equivalent, in an Engineering or Physical Sciences subject, with a high mathematical content. Prior knowledge or experience in engineering seismology or seismic hazard or risk assessment would be advantageous but not essential. Previous experience of computer programming would be particularly welcome. Overseas applicants should submit IELTS results (minimum 6.5) if applicable.

Project Details

This PhD provides an opportunity to join a group of other students investigating various aspects of engineering seismology and earthquake engineering. It would particularly suit a highly-numerate student who is keen to work in the exciting and rapidly changing topic of earthquake hazard and risk evaluation.

The shaking that occurs in the epicentral region of large earthquakes can be highly destructive to civil engineering infrastructure. Sophisticated methods have been developed to assess the risk posed to infrastructure from future earthquakes. These methods combine an evaluation of the earthquake ground motions that could occur during the lifetime of the structure (along with their probability of occurrence) with the chance that these ground motions could cause damage. This project seeks to improve the first of these components.

How earthquake ground motions vary over distances of a few kilometres (spatial correlation) can be important in correctly assessing risk, particularly to lifeline infrastructure (e.g. road, water and power networks). Some models of this spatial correlation have been published but these show considerable variations, which suggests that the correlation depends on: the magnitude of the earthquake, the geographical region and the near-surface site conditions (e.g. rock or soil). Therefore, the aim of this project is to use large databases of recorded strong ground motions from previous earthquakes as well as ground-motion simulations to develop more reliable models through statistical analyses. Subsequently the effect of these more reliable models on estimates of earthquake risk will be evaluated. The results of this project will have implications for (re)insurance companies evaluating the risk to high-value civil engineering infrastructure, for example.


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How to apply

Please contact John Douglas for information on how to apply for this position.