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Insights A day in the life of Atkins' Geotechnical Engineers and Engineering Geologists

Ground engineering: where no day is the same

Introducing five members of our Ground Engineering and Tunnelling team at Atkins, a member of the AtkinsRéalis Group. Jessica, Tom, Michael, Josh and Bhagi tackle some of society's biggest challenges, from climate change to increasing demand for clean water and our need for resilient places and spaces. Here's what they do and why they love it:
image of Jessica abseiling
“I can do what’s right for people and the environment."
Jessica, Principal Engineering Geologist, Glasgow

Since joining Atkins in 2015, I've upgraded major roads, remediated critical water supply tunnels, and developed guidance for assessing natural slopes that can impact infrastructure. I'm currently working on a proposal for a pumped-storage hydroelectric scheme and helping to deliver Scotland and the UK's net-zero ambitions. 

My job is to ask the ground the right questions. I do this through desk-based studies, field mapping campaigns, and intrusive ground investigation, reducing the uncertainty of the site's ground model to an acceptable level for design and construction.

Atkins' Ground Engineering & Tunnelling team offers excellent support to those who volunteer with professional bodies. I'm the Vice President of the Geological Society. As a People Manager, I encourage my team to seek out development opportunities like these. It makes me proud to see Atkins represented on many committees, panels, and boards across the engineering sector.  
image of tom in a tunnel
"An exciting balance between on-site and desk work."
Tom, Assistant Tunnel Engineer, Epsom

My day can vary drastically depending on the projects I'm working on. One day I'll be in the office, working on detailed design for one of Europe's most significant infrastructure projects. The next day, I'll be deep underground inspecting existing tunnels or supervising construction works.

As part of the design team on the Thames Tideway project, I lead sections of the detailed design of many underground structures. This involves calculations, producing design reports, liaising with the Client and supporting site teams. 

My previous project couldn't have been more different. I inspected existing tunnels in London and Surrey. This included spending two nights in a reinforced concrete segmental tunnel made with a tunnel boring machine vs an afternoon in hand-dug 17th-century sandstone caves!
image of Josh looking into some bushes
"We have a huge variety of projects on the go at any one time."
Josh, Engineering Geologist, Birmingham

Getting hands-on with soil samples from a trial pit. Hiking up a hillside to monitor groundwater. Or working in an office deriving material parameters. No two jobs as an engineering geologist are the same. And so far in Atkins, I've worked on so many different schemes and sectors, including highways, rail, water and energy, to name a few.

At the moment, I'm delivering the South Wales Trunk Road Agent framework. My responsibilities are technical reporting, supervising ground investigation projects and creating detailed design work. I make sure subsidence, landslide risk and karst dissolution can be managed and mitigated, keeping South Wales's motorways and trunk roads open. The fieldwork I do allows me to have a good balance between my office and the great outdoors.
image of Michael next to a ground drill
"Even at entry level, you'll own your projects and drive your own development."
Michael, Assistant Geotechnical Engineer, Glasgow

Geotechnical engineers at Atkins work on just about every type of project you can think of across a vast range of market sectors. I've been able to explore so many different aspects of the profession. Everything from supervising a ground investigation on a major road project, to producing 3D ground models, to designing retaining walls, foundations and earthworks for railways, roads and wastewater works.
One of my main projects has been the A9 Dualling Programme. Part of the project was a design and build. From day one, I collaborated with colleagues across every discipline you can imagine. I designed earthworks, performed slope stability and settlement analyses, and designed the foundations for several bridges. 

It was exciting to see the digital twin for the project evolve over time as elements were designed. It was even better to see photos and aerial videos from my colleagues on site once construction started. Since then, I've driven along the A9 underneath some of the bridges I helped design!
imag of Bhagi smiling
“We solve complicated problems together.”
Bhagi Hegde, Senior Geotechnical Engineer, Epsom

What do I love about working in the Ground Engineering & Tunnelling team? We embrace Atkins' flexible work culture, valuing good work-life balance. I enjoy being part of our staff networks promoting equality, diversity and inclusion, health and wellbeing, mentorship and training, early careers, returners, and career progression at all levels. I also feel pride and joy in working on world-class UK and international projects.

As a task leader or project manager, I appreciate our diverse and inclusive environment. My team members are from mixed backgrounds and experience levels. All share a passion for technical excellence and civil engineering innovation.

My role is to deliver detailed designs of complex engineering solutions such as bridge foundations, steep earthworks for road, rail or flood defences, large retaining walls, and ground improvement. It requires critical judgement to identify unique ground conditions. And I lead a collaborative team that understands how soil, structures and water interact through construction hazards and other ground-related safety risks. 

We work across the entire project life cycle from inception to construction and maintenance. I also have to understand the scope of work and contractual obligations while maintaining good relationships and communication with Clients, contractors and stakeholders. 

I've recently worked on East-West Rail Phase 2 and the A465 Head of Valleys Sections 5&6. Both the schemes were highly collaborative, demonstrating engineering excellence. Above all, they made a tangible difference to communities, uplifting them socially and economically.

Excited about shaping infrastructure that makes a difference while taking on a variety of new challenges? Find out more and search for jobs in Ground Engineering & Tunnelling.