UCL Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering


Dr Wendel Sebastian

Reader in Structural Engineering

Dept of Civil, Environ &Geomatic Eng

Faculty of Engineering Science

Joined UCL
1st Sep 2017

Research summary

Dr Wendel Sebastian holds a double degree in Engineering from Cambridge University. 

He is now Reader in Structural Engineering at UCL. 

His research themes and topics include the following :

  • Field monitoring ;
  • High-cycle fatigue behaviour of key infrastructure components ;
  • Novel symbolic, graphical and numerical nonlinear analyses of hyperstatic structures ;
  • Low-carbon composite structures, e.g. timber-concrete composite floors and advanced composite road bridges.

Commonly the constituent materials of the composite structures are themselves composite, e.g. timber is a natural composite of cellulose fibres and the resin lignin, while advanced composites comprise glass, carbon or other fibres in an epoxy, vinyl ester or polyester resin. This means that study of composite action across a spectrum of scales, from the material scale up to the scale of the entire structure, is a crucial feature of his research. At the scale of the structure, his work on fatigue assessment of bridges has been significantly enhanced by the construction of a unique, large-scale test facility funded by Highways England and the ICE (Institution of Civil Engineers).

Gravitation towards the best possible blend of constructability, low cost, low carbon footprint and in-service performance is an over-arching driver for the research. Ideally, we want to exploit the mouldability and the complementary stress-resisting properties of the materials to produce modular, light structural panels that are easily transported to site, then quickly assembled like a LEGO set and finally craned into position to give a structure which performs well and has a long life-span with minimum maintenance.

Composites are light, stiff, strong, durable, mouldable materials which show a strong potential to revolutionise construction technology in these ways. This will build on the successful track record of advanced composites in other spheres of engineering. For example, composites have already made step changes to the performance of yachts used in the America's Cup. They have further reshaped wind turbine technology to make renewable energy more competitive, and moreover have rendered passenger aircraft lighter and so more fuel efficient.

Dr Sebastian's notable roles and achievements include :
  • Editor-in-chief of the ICE's Structures and Buildings journal, from November 2017.

  • Recipient of a Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship from the Royal Academy of Engineering.
  • Consultant to Highways England on the in-service performance of advanced composite road bridges.
  • Examiner of PhD theses submitted to Universities in Australia, Italy, Switzerland and the UK.
  • Visiting Professor to the timber structures research group at The University of Trento, Italy.
  • Visiting Professor to the Composites in Construction Laboratory (CCLab) research group at EPFL, Switzerland.
  • Appearance (July 2017) on BBC2 televised programme "Britain's Greatest Invention".
  • Outstanding Teaching Award nomination.