MSE Research Project Database

Scale effects in geotechnical physical modelling in sand

Project Leader: Shiaohuey Chow
Primary Contact: Shiaohuey Chow (
Keywords: civil engineering; geotechnical engineering; knowledge discovery; physical modelling
Disciplines: Infrastructure Engineering

Supervisors: Dr Shiaohuey Chow, Prof Mark Cassidy

Laboratory small-scale model testing is a cost-effective geotechnical physical modelling technique as full-scale testing may not be always feasible (eg: offshore soil-structure interaction). However, small scale model testing typically involves low stress level, which is known to generate scale effects particularly for modelling in sand causing unrealistically high sand dilation. This project aims to systematically investigate the scale effects in geotechnical physical modelling in sand, and propose a reliable scaling approach to enable identical sand constitutive response between small scale and full scale condition. The project will first examine stress-dilatancy relationship at low stress level using element tests, which will form the basis of the stress-scaling approach. The scale effects is then systematically examined for several offshore applications with different failure mechanism (e.g. compressive loading of surface footing and tensile pull-out of deeply buried plate anchor)  through a series of laboratory small scale model tests at low stress level and centrifuge tests at elevated stress level. The project involves travel opportunity where the centrifuge testing will be conducted at the National Geotechnical Centrifuge Facilities, the University of Western Australia, Perth. The project will advance current understanding of fundamental sand behaviour under low stress level and increase confidence in small scale testing in sand benefiting the geotechnical physical modelling community.

Successful applicants will be awarded a tax-free stipend ($31,200) and fee offset scholarship (Round 1 closing date 28 August 2020). For information on scholarships and to apply visit here.


  • Bachelor of Civil Engineering (first class honours) or closely related discipline
  • Meet all relevant criteria to gain entry to University of Melbourne PhD program


  • Track-record of high-quality journal publications.
  • Excellent communication skills in both spoken and written English.

To submit your interest to do a PhD on this project, please email the following information to Shiaohuey Chow at

  • Resume
  • Full academic transcripts
  • Details of any published papers
  • Results of English test such as IELTS (if applicable)