Research Projects

Research Focus and Philosophy 
Our group performs  fundamental research in Geotechnical Engineering and Geomechanics that is focused on characterization of the constitutive relationships governing interactions between thermal, hydraulic, and mechanical processes in unsaturated soils, buried structures, and geosynthetics. The specific goals of his research are to: (a) solve new problems encountered when using the subsurface and geotechnical engineering systems (foundations, retaining walls, landfills) as thermal resources; (b) explore the dynamic response of unsaturated soils during surface vibrations or earthquake shaking; (b) investigate performance-based design strategies involving unsaturated soil mechanics which enable more efficient use of materials in geotechnical systems; and (c) understand  how geosynthetic reinforcements can be used to improve the efficiency and sustainability of geotechnical systems. The overall vision of our research group is to lead the geotechnical engineering community toward these goals by developing simple understandings of complex phenomena through physical modeling of geotechnical systems, novel element scale testing, and development and validation of constitutive models.

Most of our research involves experiments for two main reasons: (1) geotechnical engineering research encounters several new physical processes which must be evaluated experimentally; and (2) theoretical models typically do not consider all physical processes present in reality, so they must be calibrated and validated with experiments. Theory, physical principles, and mathematics are used to guide experiments to ensure that they are both effective and efficient in developing an understanding of the task at hand. An array of tools are used in our research, including element-scale testing, geotechnical centrifuge modeling, innovative sensors, and monitoring of full-scale systems in the field (landfill covers, pavements, and foundations). These tools are used to develop or validate constitutive models which can be used in numerical simulations.