UCL Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering

Prof Wendel Sebastian

Prof Wendel Sebastian

Professor of Structural Engineering

Dept of Civil, Environ &Geomatic Eng

Faculty of Engineering Science

Joined UCL
1st Sep 2017

Research summary

Having been promoted to his personal Chair, Wendel Sebastian is Professor of Structural Engineering at University College London (UCL). After attending at Cambridge University where he obtained both his MA in Engineering and his PhD in Structural Engineering, he became an academic at Bristol University before joining UCL.

He aligns his research with the United Nations' Sustainability Development Goals, e.g. by spearheading studies to develop cutting-edge composite structures from low-carbon materials including engineered timber, dimension stone, fibre polymer composites and cement-free concrete. This entails tests at the material, connection and overall structure scales, coupled to nonlinear analysis by commercial software or his self-developed computer code. Accordingly, his research team of RAs and PhD students work on topics spanning the length and time scales, from structural joints the size of a human hand to structural health monitoring of the world's longest three-tower cable-stayed bridge (2.7 km long), and from historic railway bridges to next-generation carbon-neutral buildings.

Professor Sebastian holds several key advisory positions in academia and industry. He is external examiner for a suite of MSc courses in Structural Engineering at Imperial College, and he has been a member of panels appointed by the UK's Engineering Research Council to rank grant applications for funding. He is also consultant to the World Bank and to the UK government's National Highways Agency on developing hazard-resilient bridges using conventional and new materials. Indeed, his research on fibre polymer composite road bridges is now embedded in the latest updates of the UK and international design standards CD 368 and prCEN/TS 19101 respectively. Moreover, he is an expert advisor to industry on novel low-carbon structures such as the multi-storey, timber framed Kantor Centre of Excellence building with timber-concrete composite floors in London.

His research is recognised across the key Engineering institutions. He was awarded a prestigious Leverhulme Fellowship by the Royal Academy of Engineering, he is Editor-in-Chief of the Institution of Civil Engineers' Structures and Buildings International Journal, and he was co-opted by the Institution of Structural Engineers to deliver continuing professional development courses on innovative, sustainable structures.

He tackles problems from first principles. This led to his discovery of optimisation criteria that identify the most efficient structures in one illuminating calculation, rather than by iterative computations. Equally, he is well-versed in developing (where necessary) highly convergent iterative numerical analyses. Due to this approach, applied to exciting practical applications, he has been nominated for teaching awards at both Bristol University and UCL.

Professor Sebastian led the development of an innovative Structural Engineering laboratory within UCL’s Here East facility at the Olympic Park in London. This lab enables large-scale testing, under short- and long-term static and dynamic (including seismic) loads, of traditional and futuristic structural forms including timber-stone composite or prestressed natural stone floors and fibre polymer composite bridges.

He has been invited as external examiner for PhD theses submitted at Universities in Australia, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland and across the UK including Cambridge and Southampton Universities. He has also held Visiting Professorships at EPFL (Switzerland) and at the University of Trento (Italy).

Professor Sebastian has supervised numerous PhD students, many of whom now hold senior positions in academia (e.g. Dr Joel Ross, senior lecturer at Bristol University) and in industry (e.g. Dr Stephen Salim who has held the position of technical director for bridges at large companies in the UK and Australia).