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Graduate Degree in Geotech - How important is FEA?

Graduate Degree in Geotech - How important is FEA?

Graduate Degree in Geotech - How important is FEA?

(OP)
Hey all,

I've been out of school for one year, working for almost one year (construction-civil engineering, geo-structural type work), and have my EIT.

I'm considering several grad schools in my area. Of the schools around me, I notice the better ones include courses with finite element methods for soil analysis and similar classes. The most feasible grad school for me to go to however (based on money/managing work and school schedule) does not offer FEA as part of its geotechnical masters. Otherwise, it has pretty good classes like Embankments & Slops, Foundation Engineering, Advanced Soil Mechanics. It also allows me to pick electives in Structural, which is cool.

Question: how much of a detriment (or not) is it if I get a graduate degree in geotechnical work without having studied finite elements?

Thanks!

RE: Graduate Degree in Geotech - How important is FEA?

Did you not do any FEA in your undergrad?

RE: Graduate Degree in Geotech - How important is FEA?

(OP)
@ canwesteng,

No, and I've never heard of any of my other engineering friends taking FEA in undergraduate either. Calculus, Diff Eq, Linear Algebra, Prob/Stat we took; but no finite elements.

RE: Graduate Degree in Geotech - How important is FEA?

FEA is being used is ways it was never originally intended ... and ways that I'd expect to be very relevant to you (soil mechanics, etc).

FEA is just another tool in the tool box. how good is your toolbox if you're missing The tool when you Need it ?

another day in paradise, or is paradise one day closer ?

RE: Graduate Degree in Geotech - How important is FEA?

There may be online courses on FEA, perhaps by the same universities you had not selected. In any case, you can obtain the same textbook and curriculum outline from the professors at the other universities that apply FEA to soil mechanics, then search for an online FEA course with the equivalent curriculum.
It is not clear if the school you will attend will recognize the online course, though.

"...when logic, and proportion, have fallen, sloppy dead..." Grace Slick

RE: Graduate Degree in Geotech - How important is FEA?

although I think FEA for geotechnical analysis could be very useful, I have not seen it used by any of the geotechs I work with. this work includes a lot of dams, levees, landfills, etc. I have seen it used for structural analysis and hydraulics.

RE: Graduate Degree in Geotech - How important is FEA?

In the immortal words of Glenn Tarbox, FEA is the only way to analyze a rock abutment for a dam as a "Semi infinite solid". (Greenlake Dam, Sitka AK)

RE: Graduate Degree in Geotech - How important is FEA?

On one hand, FEA is becoming ubiquitous throughout engineering. Hearing that you didn't have any exposure to it in undergrad concerns me -- at the very least, I'd want to have enough knowledge in it that when a consultant inevitably provides a solution based on "my model said so", you can determine a rough sense of whether that's valid.

On the other hand, I think FEA is still only occasionally used in most practicing geotech firms (that I observe as a structural). Many common geotech problems can be adequately solved with hand/spreadsheet solutions, especially for the level of subsurface investigation typically performed. So much of geotech comes down to a "significant figures" issue that FEA can be misleading.

If you wanted to get into really cutting edge geotechnical work (foundations for skyscrapers, extreme tunneling, etc), then FEA should be a priority for you.

RE: Graduate Degree in Geotech - How important is FEA?

FEA seems commonly used for slope stability and ground water flow around here. Less so for foudnations

RE: Graduate Degree in Geotech - How important is FEA?

In school, I used a form of FEA in analyzing flow rates around and under cofferdams and other water retaining structures.

I also believe FEA is used to determine soil failure planes if my memory serves me correctly.

Although I never took an FEA course for structural application, I believe the basic principles are similar.

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)


RE: Graduate Degree in Geotech - How important is FEA?

" The most feasible grad school for me to go to however (based on money/managing work and school schedule) does not offer FEA as part of its geotechnical masters"

My school did not offer heat transfer courses as part of its Aeronautical Engineering degree program. We had the option of taking courses from the Mech. Engr. department to supplement, but our professor opted for another path: he taught a 0-credit seminar on heat transfer, and required everybody who signed up for the Aerospace Senior Design course (undergrad) to take the seminar. He was a real b@57@rd about teaching us stuff he thought we ought to know. I miss him.

Point being, does your "most feasible" school have a Mech E. program that offers courses in finite elements? Learning the basics would likely give you at least a leg up. Part of my FEA graduate studies revolved around building my own element and material libraries (subroutines) that could be integrated with the school's home-built solver; you could probably tailor a graduate level class to do similar studies if you talked to the professor beforehand.

RE: Graduate Degree in Geotech - How important is FEA?

There is no such thing as "too much education". That being said, most geotechs I know hardly ever use it.

Whatever you do: take a course in Soil Dynamics. Over the last 15-20 years......the soil dynamics knowledge of most geotechs I work with has done nothing but go downhill. You will standout there.

RE: Graduate Degree in Geotech - How important is FEA?

Late to the show here... I did not study FEA in undergrad or grad school. If you want to go the highly technical route, it would probably help. I found the graduate classes to be very helpful to my career even though I am on more of a management path than a technical path. You will hear, "garbage in, garbage out" with FEA. I would imagine most companies would train you on FEA if they use it since it really boils down to running a computer program like Plaxxis. If you understand the general concepts and are not writing a program, in depth study is probably not necessary.

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