Rothamsted Research

where knowledge grows

SoilSquash: Development of a fibre optic soil compaction sensor

Sponsored by Rothamsted Research and Cranfield University, this studentship will provide a bursary of £17,500 p.a. (tax free) plus fees* plus research consumables for 3.5 years

This project will develop a novel method for detecting compaction based on fibre optic technology. This will use detectable variations in the refractive index of fibre optic sensors to identify the changes in soil density as a result of soil compaction.

We need to feed a growing global population through sustainable intensification of our current land resources. However the continued productivity of agricultural soils is threatened by various pressures, one of which is soil compaction from agricultural machinery. Compaction causes changes in the soil structure and pore space, with negative effects on crop growth and yield. Currently there are few reliable, practicable methods for measuring changes in soil compaction. This project will seek to provide a cheap, practical alternative to laborious and costly laboratory-based assessments. The student will join the engineering photonics group at Cranfield and the soil physics groups at Cranfield and Rothamsted Research.

Soil AgRIA Doctoral Training Centre The studentship is one of seven in Soil Technology Innovation being funded by Rothamsted Research and Cranfield University as part of a new Agricultural Research and Innovation Accelerator (AgRIA) based at Rothamsted. The Soil AgRIA has been established to accelerate applications of science and engineering advances to soil technology development, to tackle widely-acknowledged constraints to soil and land management, both nationally and globally.

The aim is to accelerate innovation by bringing together engineers, information technologists, natural scientists and soil scientists with business. Students will be co-supervised by Rothamsted and Cranfield scientists and will also be embedded in a multidisciplinary innovation accelerator, advised by a think tank of industrial stakeholders. The degree programme will include training in innovative thinking and entrepreneurial skills, as well as the more-standard Cranfield and Rothamsted doctoral programmes. Students will be registered at Cranfield and will have social and networking opportunities within the Cranfield and Rothamsted wider research communities.


At a glance

  • Application deadlineOngoing
  • Award type(s)PhD
  • Start date02 Oct 2017
  • Duration of award3.5 years
  • EligibilityEU, UK
  • Reference numberSWEE0007


Dr Jack Hannam (Cranfield)
Dr Matthew Partridge (Cranfield)
Prof Wilfred Otten (Cranfield)
Dr Richard Whalley (Rothamsted)

Entry requirements

Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as a Natural Science, Environmental Science or Engineering. A full driving licence and fluency in English is also required.


Sponsored by Rothamsted Research and Cranfield University, this studentship will provide a bursary of £17,500 p.a. (tax free) plus fees* plus research consumables for 3.5 years 

*RCUK eligibility rules apply. To be eligible for a full award a student must have no restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship. To be eligible for a fees -only award, a student must be ordinarily resident in a member state of the EU.

Cranfield Doctoral Network

Research students at Cranfield benefit from being part of a dynamic, focused and professional study environment and all become valued members of the Cranfield Doctoral Network. This Network brings together both research students and staff, providing a platform for our researchers to share ideas, identify opportunities for collaboration and create smaller communities of practice.  It aims to encourage an effective and vibrant research culture, founded upon the diversity of activities and knowledge. A tailored programme of seminars and events alongside our Doctoral Researchers Core Development programme (transferable skills training), provide those studying a research degree with a wealth of social and networking opportunities.

How to apply

For further information please contact: Jack Hannam,

If you are eligible to apply for this research studentship, please complete the attached application form and send together with a CV to Guy Kirk,

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