Dr Elisabeth Bowman

Department of Civil and Structural Engineering

Reader in Geomechanics

CIV Lis Bowman
+44 114 222 5747

Full contact details

Dr Elisabeth Bowman
Department of Civil and Structural Engineering
Sir Frederick Mappin Building (Broad Lane Building)
Mappin Street
S1 3JD

My work aims to understand how landslides, high speed debris flows and rock avalanches behave, so we can protect lives and infrastructure from their impact.

Dr Elisabeth Bowman

Elisabeth (Lis) Bowman completed her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the University of Cambridge and spent several years in consulting practice. She received her PhD in 2002 researching the mechanics of creep and ageing in freshly disturbed granular materials.

She then spent three years as a Royal Academy of Engineering Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Cambridge exploring the mechanics of large and catastrophic landslides via physical modelling, after which she joined the academic staff at the University in Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.

There she gained valuable field experience in investigating landslide and earthquake behaviour as well as continuing with experimental research and numerical modelling of slope stability / landslide mechanics.

Lis joined our Department in 2013. Her research is aimed at understanding particulate-scale mechanisms of geomaterials under deformation, including roles of particle size segregation, creep and fracture that produce important and sometimes puzzling geotechnical phenomena. Questions being addressed:

  • What is the role of particle breakage in the runout of large rock avalanches?
  • How does particle size segregation and pore pressure influence the velocity and run out of debris flows? How does this affect barrier design?
  • How can seepage induced internal erosion of fine particles be characterized towards increased safety of hydraulic structures such as dams and levees?
  • Why and how do granular soils “age” (increase in strength and stiffness with time)?

The investigative tools she uses in her research include physical modelling, transparent soil, high speed imaging, PIV and PTV techniques, centrifuge, flume and element testing and field mapping.

Research Themes



Research interests
  • Physical modelling of geotechnical problems using centrifuge experimental facilities
  • Transparent soils and non-intrusive physical modelling
  • Foundation engineering (such as monopile foundations for offshore wind turbines)
  • Resilience of infrastructure such as slopes, embankments, flood defences etc. to climate change
  • Soil reinforcement though mechanically stabilised soils.
  • Creep of granular soils leading to observed ageing effects
  • Mechanisms behind the extraordinary spreading of large and catastrophic rock avalanches, including static-dynamic behaviour of rock breakage
  • Mechanics of the motion of debris flows with a view to better modelling of their runout behaviour
  • Behaviour of granular flows within geotechnical centrifuge physical model experiments
  • Internal erosion of susceptible soils (such as glacial tills), which may lead to internal instability in embankment dams, levees and canals
  • Local deformation modes of model geosynthetic reinforced soil walls under seismic loading

Journal articles

Research group

Geotechnical Engineering

Earthquake Engineering Group


Particle-Scale Investigation of Seepage Induced Geotechnical Instablility

Awareness is growing that seepage forces imparted on individual particles can preferentially erode the smaller particles in sandy soils. There can be significant internal erosion of the soil under scenarios that are considered safe according to the classical continuum calculations used in engineering practice; this phenomenon is called internal instability.

The Rosetta Stone Network: Physical testing towards a common unstanding of debris flow

This project aims to create a “Rosetta Stone” of communication between the disciplines through physical tests undertaken with common material characteristics, informed by monitored field events, leading to improved numerical models.

Potential PhD offerings

Unfortunately I am not seeking any PhD Students at this time, however please contact me if you are interested in doing a project in my area of research.