Meet Zhaoyao, a PhD fellow at the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute, driving innovation in offshore foundation engineering through the “MONODYN” project within FRONTIErS MSCA DN. With a background in offshore foundations from the Ocean University of China, Zhaoyao is developing a groundbreaking CPT-based model for large-diameter monopiles, integrating dynamic analysis and scour effects. He is motivated by FRONTIErS’ mobility and industry exposure and emphasises the collaborative strength in diverse research topics. Zhaoyao encourages resilience in the face of rejection, highlighting the transformative potential of programs like FRONTIErS in advancing renewable energy solutions.

Can you provide a brief introduction of yourself and your project within the FRONTIErS DN?

I previously graduated from Ocean University of China focusing on offshore foundations, and my research topics include pile-soil interaction, local scour and soil improvement around pile foundations. Now I am a PhD fellow at the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI) in Oslo, working on a project named “MONODYN” within the FRONTIErS MSCA DN. The project will develop a CPT-based multi-spring model for analysing the monotonic response of large-diameter monopiles and extend it for dynamic analysis incorporating scour effects.

What motivated you to apply to FRONTIErS DN?

I was attracted by the valuable opportunities it can provide. Thanks to its mobility and flexibility, I can be exposed to advanced research institutions and major industry partners in the offshore wind sector. Also, I can get skills which are helpful for my career through well-designed training systems.

What drives your passion for the work you have done so far and the work you will do within FRONTIErS?

I think interest plays an important role. It is always exciting to find solutions for a practical engineering. This project aims to tackle emerging challenges in offshore foundation engineering, and I always look forward to it.

How do you believe collaboration enhances the effectiveness of FRONTIErS DN?

To train talents in the offshore wind industry, a single institution’s effort is sometimes limited, thus cooperation is an ideal choice. Meanwhile, as each doctor candidate’s research topics are highly related, they may get inspired by each other therefore creating better results that would not have been expected.

Can you share any personal stories or experiences that have shaped your decision to apply?

I saw the post of this position very early, yet I did not apply at first time, because I was worried that my Chinese citizenship would affect the selection and visa process due to geo-political tensions between the EU and China. Luckily, with help from Professor Ken Gavin of TU Delft, I met my supervisors Hans Petter Jostad of NGI and Gudmund Eiksund from NTNU, and they all encouraged me to apply since each case would be considered separately. Then things turned out to be very good, I got admitted and the visa process was smooth. I am glad that the applicant’s nationality, ethnicity and colour do not matter, and each individual is treated equally, I feel grateful for all the nice people I have met during the application.

What are your future goals and aspirations as a member of the FRONTIErS DN?

As a member of FRONTIErS DN, I hope to make my contribution to the offshore wind industry. I want to bring about changes to create a clearer world. I will try my best to pass on these values and encourage more people to join in.

How do you envision your role evolving and contributing to the FRONTIErS DN success?

By continuously learning from my colleagues, supervisors and other PhD candidates, I believe I can adapt my new role as a PhD fellow and then contribute to the FRONTIErS DN. I will focus on achieving the objectives listed in the research proposal of DC 4 and work together for the success of this whole project.

How do you anticipate your MSCA fellowship will impact your broader career aspirations?

Firstly, receiving the MSCA fellowship as an early-stage researcher is a significant recognition of my work and a lifelong honour. More importantly, it will encourage me to embrace new career challenges and continue pursuing my dreams.

What message or key takeaway would you like to convey to the public about FRONTIErS?

It is a project focusing on the full life cycle of offshore foundations, which involves from site investigation to performance evaluation. By advancing the understanding of offshore geotechnics, it will help offshore renewable energy development, and create a cleaner world for all of us.

Can you provide insights or advice for individuals interested in pursuing similar programs and fellowships?

Never be disappointed if you have been rejected. Sometimes it is just there were more fitted applicants not under-qualified. Even though there may be times of failure and frustration, there might be something better waiting.

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