Geotechnical Engineering Group

Department of Civil & Structural Engineering

Dr Paul Shepley

Paul Shepley

0114 222 5751

Department of Civil and Structural Engineering
Sir Frederick Mappin Building
Mappin Street,
S1 3JD


Paul graduated with a MEng in Civil and Structural Engineering from Cambridge University in 2009.  He then joined the Geotechnical and Environmental Research Group in Cambridge to complete a PhD, making use of the Turner beam centrifuge to complete small scale physical modelling.  Throughout the course of his research, Paul worked with Giken Seisakusho Co. Ltd., a Japanese piling contractor, leading model studies at Cambridge and participating in full scale testing in Japan.  He joined the University of Sheffield in 2013 as a lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering.

Research Interests

His research interests predominantly lie in construction process modelling.  These build upon his PhD experience, but push into related and novel areas with the presiding quesiton remaining, "If the process can be thoroughly understood, are more efficient designs possible?".  Two projects within this vein of enquiry are the work on the thermal properties of clay (with application to heat exchanger foundation piles) and the transportation of soil particles in high energy flows (with application to pile installation methods).

The majority of this construction process modelling is conducted through physical modelling methods.  The Geotechnical Research Group at the University of Sheffield has substantial physical modelling capabilities through the main research lab for element testing, the learning and teaching soils lab for small physical models and the recently commissioned geotechnical centrifuge lab.  

Other interests are in relation to the properties of geotechnical materials, notably the effects of clay plasticity in their mechanical performance, and the micromechanical behaviour of geotechnical materials.

Prospective PhD Students

Paul is actively looking for motivated prospective PhD applicants.  Projects framed within his current interests would be especially welcomed, but is willing to discuss his ideas with others.  Particular topics centre around fluid-particle interactions, installation of open-ended piles, water injection-aided piles, and particular aspects of physical modelling.  Please contact him for further information.

Additional information for potential PhD applicants can be found at the following web addresses, for potential projects here and for funding sources at the University of Sheffield here.  The Civil and Structural Engineering Department offers a handful of funded scholarships each year for both UK home and overseas applicants.  Funding is competitive, but information can be sought in advance. 

Further information on life as a PhD student at the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering is located here.


Paul currently teaches the geotechnical components of the Interdisciplinary Design Project (IDP) in third year.  The course covers site investigation methods, geological ground profiling and novel foundation design through a problem based learning approach.  Learning activities are structured around a small number of lectures, providing students the freedom to develop their own solutions.

From the academic year 2015/16, he will be teaching an MSc-level module in Constitutive Modelling of Geotechnical Materials.  This will investigate the various modelling methods available to designers through a series of lectures, seminars and debates over the 6-week module.

In addition, he leads the geotechnical component of the first year Rother Valley Field Trip, where students design a local water slide complex.


Paul is the course tutor for the MSc in Civil Engineering course, starting in the academic year 2015/16. 

He is also on the Editorial Panel for the International Journal of Physical Modelling in Geotechnics.

Recent activities and achievements

Won a Researcher Mobility Programme award from the Worldwide University Network to spend a month at the University of Western Australia working with Conleth O' Loughlin to conduct experiments in particle transportation in high energy flows.  More details of the planned work can be found on the project page.


PhD, University of Cambridge, 2013
MA MEng (Cantab), University of Cambridge, 2009

Research project(s)

The effect of cyclic temperature variation on pile foundations used as heat exchangers

The incorporation of heat exchangers, for ground source heating and cooling, into pile foundations is becoming increasingly prevalent within the construction industry. Using pile foundations as heat exchangers has the ability to reduce a buildings carbon emissions produced through space heating and cooling, along with hot water production. However, there...


(2015). Methods for the physical measurement of collisional particle flows. In IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science.
(2015). Optimisation of water injection nozzles to aid pile jacking. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Geotechnical Engineering, 168 (3), pp. 257-266.
(2014). Using water injection to remove pile base resistance during installation. Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 51 (11), pp. 1273-1283.
(2013). Water supply to a geotechnical centrifuge. International Journal of Physical Modelling in Geotechnics, 13 (3), pp. 99-110.