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Oxford University’s Helen Dunne named Cooling Prize winner

Oxford University PhD student Helen Dunne was named as the 47th Cooling Prize winner at an event hosted by the ICE Wales Cymru Ground Engineering Group at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff last night.

Dunne’s review of finite element limit analysis of rectangular mudmats subject to combined loading beat off stiff competition from presentations by Aecom graduate geotechnical engineer Paul Sargent and Arup geotechnical engineer Aidan Hopkins.

Wales millennium centre

Wales Millennium Centre

The 2016 finalists delivered their presentations at an event hosted by the ICE Wales Cymru Ground Engineering Group last night at the Wales Millennium Centre (pictured)

The Cooling Prize is an annual event which is organised by the British Geotechnical Association to celebrate young geotechnical engineers in memory of Leonard Cooling, one of the pioneers of soil mechanics in the UK, who was always a positive mentor to his younger colleagues.

Last night’s event started with a presentation by Cooling’s daughter Christine Cooling before the three finalists delivered their presentations.

While Dunne’s talk focused on finite element analysis, Sargent presented on the suitability of geopolymers for stabilising alluvium loaded by high speed rail traffic and Hopkins spoke about ground movements and compensation grouting during the passage of Crossrail tunnel boring machines through Tottenham Court Road Crossrail station.

All three presentations were well-received and led to a high level of engagement with the audience during the question and answer session before the judges withdrew to decide on the winner.

While the judges debated over the winner, Arup infrastructure associate director Matthew Skuse gave a presentation describing the foundations of the Wales Millennium Centre and the challenges overcome in identifying and addressing the complex ground conditions within the reclaimed Cardiff port area.

The judges, who were led by BGA chairman Stephan Jefferis, commented that all three presentations would have been worthy winners but considered that Dunne’s presentation provided insight into how her research may be used in future to optimise foundation design through finite element limit analysis.

As Cooling Prize winner, Dunne will receive a cheque from GE for £200, a cut glass decanter and BGA sponsorship to the European Young Geotechnical Engineers conference to be held in Sibu, Romania in June this year. Her paper will also be published in GE later this year.

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