4th Year in Civil Engineering, and what we do!

Semester 1 is nearing the end, and it has been a busy one! Time flies when you are having “fun”? I can’t say the whole semester has been great, but it has been one of my best ones in terms of satisfaction with my course. I am here to tell you why!

Previously, I was tired of getting the same kind of coursework, that I felt I couldn’t relate to real life. There were lab tests and reports that obviously are done for assessing ground conditions, but I felt I needed work that I could imagine myself doing after university. (in my opinion). This semester has done that for me!

This year, my modules are much more interesting and in-depth. I study the following:

  • Geotechnical Design
  • Structural Design
  • Concrete Durability and Repair Technology
  • Geo-environmental engineering
  • Project Management
  • Water Resources and Treatment
  • Individual Research Project – Dissertation chosen by me

It will be a very hard year; I have heard it is the hardest year of a Masters degree. The modules run over the course of the full year – with exams in May. I will have to re-study the material I learned in September, in April while finishing 6 Courseworks and a Dissertation. But, let’s not think about that quite yet…

I have had some involving coursework that I have enjoyed as much as you can with any coursework.

  1. Liquefaction Identification and Mitigation – our class was taught that certain soil can liquefy under seismic loading or just hammering etc. The extent of the liquefaction is dependant on the soil and loading), which can cause mass destruction. We used excel to calculate the soils that are possibly liquefiable and what can be done to prevent it. This was particularly interesting to me as it is linked to my dissertation work about the Palu, Indonesian Earthquake-induced liquefaction where 4300 people lost their lives.

    Palu Earthquake-induced Liquefaction (WSJ)
Liquefaction of an Embankment


  1. Offshore Wind Turbine Foundation Design – The location weather data and sea state can be transferred into forces that affect the structure; along with its self-weight, it can be used to calculate a design for foundations that will satisfy ULS (the structure won’t collapse!). This can be knowledge to use in future jobs.
CW2 Brief Offshore Wind Turbine Foundation Design
  1. Concrete Durability – it is like a report you would write for a client to recommend suitable concretes and exposure classes that prevent erosion and damage to buildings and different civil engineering structures. It is about assessing the site and looking for where concrete could be affected.


  1. Structural Design – designing prestressed concrete beams. This means that tension cables within the concrete are “pulled” to cause tension in the beam then let go. This will then actually cause compression in the concrete to combat tension within the concrete (as concrete is bad in tension). This was extensive calculation work by hand to design a beam to withstand a load. IT is a VERY hard module, so fair warning to the future 4th years = WORK HARD!


  1. Water Treatment – We have been taught about river routing and designing reservoirs for water storage and to design flood prevention schemes. A visitor from SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) talked about natural flood preventions. Our coursework was drawing hydrographs on excel to calculate the total outflow volume of a reservoir and the minimum weir height for the require outflow volume rate.
Inflow and Outflow Hydrograph


These are a few of the projects we have had so far. I will write a blog next semester about my dissertation to give you more insight into how you can choose a project that will inspire you and further your interest in a specific field. For me, it is Geo-Environmental Engineering and Disaster Relief and Recovery engineering, which explains my choice of earthquake-induced liquefaction on shallow flow slides project.

Hopefully, this blog has shown civil engineers that coursework is relevant and can be interesting if you view it as practice for future work. For those of you who may not be civil engineers, I hope it gives an insight into what we do and what kind of work Civil Engineers do in the real world to improve infrastructure!

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