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Sarah Stallebrass, 1989, aged 26

Now: Lecturer in geotechnical engineering, City University, London.

Qualifications: MA, PhD.

Winning paper: Development of a new constitutive model to improve predictions of the deformation of stiff soils.

Then: In the second year of a PhD research supervised by Professor John Atkinson at City. Before that I spent two years in industry working for Fraenkel International, and before that had been an undergraduate at Cambridge.

Afterwards: Stayed at City, initially on a two year SERC postdoctoral fellowship, evaluating the use of new soil model in finite element analysis using centrifuge model tests, working with Professor Neil Taylor. In 1992 I was appointed lecturer at City, sponsored by Ove Arup & Partners for the first three years, and have continued with research, particularly constitutive modelling and finite element analyses predicting deformations around structures constructed in stiff overconsolidated soils.

Professional highs: Winning the 1997 BGS Prize for a paper co-authored with Neil Taylor.

Did winning have an impact on your career?

I won the prize in the second year of my PhD, and it gave me the little bit of encouragement necessary to ensure that I had a good final year and finished on time. It also publicised the work I was carrying out with John Atkinson at City, which has underpinned a lot of my subsequent research.

How did you spend the prize money? I don't remember.

Anecdotes: The BGS AGM was held in December, on the evening of the research group Christmas lunch. As usual that was a pretty alcoholic affair and I was very worried about tripping on the steps up to collect my prize. I have received many joking comments about the photograph which subsequently appeared in Ground Engineering, which shows me leaning at a slightly drunken angle on the balustrade overlooking the foyer of the ICE.

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