Dr Colin Smith

Senior Lecturer

Department of Civil and Structural Engineering
Sir Frederick Mappin Building
Mappin Street, Sheffield, S1 3JD

Telephone: +44 (0) 114 222 5717
Fax: +44 (0) 114 222 5700

Email: c.c.smith@sheffield.ac.uk
Room: E106




My work aims to understand how materials and constructions interact physically. This understanding helps to identify the causes of critical collapse, meaning we can design geotechnical structures to minimise the probability of failure, and ensure our infrastructure is as safe as possible.

dr colin smith


Colin Smith graduated from the University of Cambridge in 1987. He joined the Cambridge Soil Mechanics research group in the same year and completed a PhD in 1991. Following two years as a research associate at Cambridge he joined the Department in 1992.

His research aims to improve the design and efficiency of fundamental geotechnical structures, such as foundations, retaining walls, slopes/embankments and tunnels.
His work focuses on:

  • Limit analysis and optimisation in geotechnics: numerical and analytical tools, which allow engineers to identify critical collapse mechanisms and associated margins of safety. Also Discontinuity Layout Optimization (DLO), a numerical technique for solution of plasticity problems and its application in a range of areas including offshore and unsaturated soils.
  • Masonry arch bridge analysis, modelling and assessment.
  • Design code development focusing on theory and application of design codes using numerical methods and Eurocode 7.
  • Unsaturated soil-structure interaction: soil physics, soil-biology interaction and micromechanics.

The experimental work has a strong basis in physical modelling, supported in particular by innovative digital imaging techniques. Whilst at Sheffield his research has been funded by EPSRC, NERC and industry.

He is co-founder of University spin-out company LimitState Ltd, specialising in the development of novel ultimate limit state analysis and design software that rapidly analyses geotechnical constructions and predicts the conditions under which they would collapse. The software is used in industry and universities in over 30 countries across the world.

Activities and Distinctions

  • Member of the editorial advisory panels of 'Computers and Geotechnics' and 'ICE Journal of Engineering and Computational Mechanics'. Past member of the editorial advisory panel of 'Geotechnique'.
  • Secretary to the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering Technical Committee TC205 'Limit State Design'.
  • Awarded the 2007 ICE Baker Medal for the paper "Load carrying capacity of flooded masonry arches.", Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Bridge Engineering.

Selected Publications

Journal articles