Geotechnical Engineering Discipline

Our group focuses on the safe and sensitive transformation of our natural environment to support the infrastructure that underpins society.


Projects | Facilities | People

The research in our Geotechnical Engineering Group is aimed at helping improve the design and efficiency of geotechnical structures, and enhancing the resilience and performance of ageing infrastructure assets.

We employ both laboratory, full-scale and centrifuge techniques to investigate a range of practical problems. Our particular work areas include: geotechnical hazards such as landslides, sinkholes and soil instability; optimised design and construction; blast effects; offshore engineering; physical modelling of geotechnical processes; and soil-structure interaction in masonry arch bridges.

Research projects

Our research builds upon a culture of nurturing and addressing industry needs in collaboration with a range of stakeholders to provide innovative solutions to challenging problems.

Research Themes

Our work is focused across five major research themes, which align our interdisciplinary academic strengths to address some of the key scientific, social and environmental challenges of the new millennium.

Facilities and resources

Element Test Facilities
  • GDS controlled 100mm stress path triaxial cells
  • GDS thermally controlled 50mm stress path triaxial cell
  • ELE controlled 100mm cyclic triaxial cell
  • VJ Tech Pro Automatic triaxial, ShearSCAN and ACONS Pro consolidation systems  
  • Conventional Rowe cells, oedometers and permeameter systems
Model Test Facilities
  • Granular flow/debris flumes with high speed camera capture
  • Plane strain model chamber for masonry arch testing, complete with image capture and hydraulic loading capability 
  • Transparent soil test laboratory with four lasers 500mW – 2000mW for internal imaging within coarse and fine grain soils in model experiments. Examples include visualising internal erosion within a unique flow permeameter or pile interaction studies. 
  • Geotechnical beam centrifuge: 4m and 1m diameter facilities for research and teaching
  • Blast and impact dynamic testing of explosive and hazards at Buxton including: Split-Hopkinson pressure bar for material characterization, testing at strain rates up to 1000/sec and high-speed photography, pulse radiography.
Large scale testing
  • 45m long by 5m deep by 6m wide test cell at The Integrated Civil and Infrastructure Research Centre (iCAIR), part of the UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure in Cities.
Numerical Modelling
  • State of the art numerical limit analysis modelling capability using LimitState:Geo (including access to enhanced research level features)
  • Post-triggering modelling of landslides with in-house depth-averaged software RASH3D
  • In-house DEM software for grain-scale simulation of geophysical processes
  • Multi-phase investigation of geo-hydraulic processes with DEM-LBM
  • Oasys Geotechnical suite
  • Itasca FLAC-2D & 3D (with modules)
  • FLAC3D



Name Title
Bowman, Dr Elisabeth Reader in Geomechanics
Clarke, Prof. Sam Professor of Blast Geotechnics
Gaspar, Dr Tiago Lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering
Smith, Prof. Colin Professor in Geomechanics
Leonardi, Dr Alessandro Lecturer in Geomechanics

Our league table rankings

Top 100 Civil & Structural Engineering department in the world and 9th in the UK according to the QS World University rankings by subject (2023).

8th in the UK according to the Complete University Guide (2023).

10th in the UK according to the Times University League Table (2023).

Flagship institutes

The University’s four flagship institutes bring together our key strengths to tackle global issues, turning interdisciplinary and translational research into real-world solutions.