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The University of Southampton
EngineeringPostgraduate study

Alex Dykes PhD Civil Engineering

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Hi, I'm Alex Dykes and I studied PhD Civil Engineering within Engineering and the Environment at the University of Southampton.

I visited the department and was impressed by the laboratory and office facilities afforded to the postgraduate students.

Before coming to Southampton I studied for an undergraduate masters in geological sciences. I enjoyed my undergraduate studies but I was keen to apply the skills I had gained in the understanding of natural systems and rheology of geological materials to an engineering problem. I visited the department and was impressed by the laboratory and office facilities afforded to the postgraduate students. On the initial visit I talked to my supervisor and was able to learn more about the project as well as the general research interests of the school. The school has an excellent reputation in research, which includes a 5* RAE rating. The city of Southampton has something to offer a wide range of tastes from cheesy student venues to laid back DJ bars. The New Forest is a great retreat on your doorstep. The department’s postgraduates have active social scene with nights out and intramural sports; unfortunately our 5-aside team finished 2nd from bottom of the league, but as they say it’s the taking part that counts. The sports facilities at Southampton are superb and good value, a one off annual payment giving unlimited access to most activities.

My research focuses on the characterisation of old embankment fills built from the clays of southeast England. Since I started at Southampton I’ve been developing new transferable skills and lab techniques. Working with other researchers from differing backgrounds has allowed me to explore approaches to problems I may not have considered in a less vibrant and mixed research group. My work is mainly laboratory based using standard geotechnical apparatus as well as powder x-ray diffraction, CT scanning and scanning electron microscopy to examine the microfabric of the clay. It is however not all lab work; site work forms a component of my research. Site work is usually done in partnership with industry, which keeps my research relevant and offers opportunities for networking. I enjoy the independent learning aspect of a PhD and the control I have over the direction of the research. Part of doing a PhD often includes demonstrating work with undergraduates. I have been using my geological experience on engineering geology field trips and lab sessions. This is not only financially useful but gives me good experience in teaching should I decide I want a future career in academia. I’m currently unsure what I want my post-Southampton future to hold; whether I pursue a career in academia or industry, I’m sure I’m getting a solid start.

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