John S. McCartney, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE

Professor and Department Chair

University of California San Diego

Department of Structural Engineering

9500 Gilman Dr., MC 0085

La Jolla, CA 92093-0085

E-mail: mccartney(at)

Phone: (858)534-9630

Fax: (858) 822-2260

Courses Taught:

  • SE 181: Geotechnical Engineering

  • SE 182: Foundation Engineering

  • SE 241: Advanced Soil Mechanics

  • SE 242: Advanced Foundation Engineering

  • SE 244: Numerical Methods in Geomechanics

  • SE 246: Unsaturated Soil Mechanics

  • SE 248: Engineering Properties of Soils

Our group's research in geotechnical engineering focuses on unsaturated soil mechanics, thermo-hydro-mechanical behavior of soils, foundation engineering, incorporation of geothermal heat exchange into civil engineering infrastructure (energy piles, thermal energy storage systems, landfill heat extraction), and geosynthetics engineering. Our work in unsaturated soil mechanics focuses on the effects of earthquake loading and application of high external stresses. We are also focused on the behavior of waste materials used in geotechnical engineering applications like shredded tires in the form of tire-derived aggregates. Our research involves a combination of laboratory measurements of the thermo-hydro-mechanical properties of saturated and unsaturated soils, development and use of advanced sensors and testing methods in unsaturated soils, physical modeling of geotechnical structures at different scales (laboratory, geotechnical centrifuge, field scale), and use of numerical modeling to understand complex coupling encountered when subjecting soils to changes in temperature, water content, and externally-applied stresses.

Fundamental Research Areas:

  • Unsaturated Soil Mechanics

  • Thermo-Hydro-Mechanical Behavior of Saturated and Unsaturated Soils

  • Hydro-Mechanical Interaction between Unsaturated Soils and Geosynthetics

  • Static and Dynamic Deformation of Tire Derived Aggregate (TDA)

Applied Research Areas:

  • Energy Geotechnics (Analysis and Design of Energy Piles, Heat Dissipation Embankments, Soil-Borehole Thermal Energy Storage Systems)

  • Long-term Behavior of Nuclear Waste Repositories

  • Thermal Soil Improvement (Thermal Drains, Thermal Drying)Seismic Compression of Unsaturated Soils and Effects on Infrastructure

  • Mechanically-Stabilized Tire Derived Aggregate (MSTDA) Walls

  • Centrifuge Modeling of Geotechnical Systems involving Unsaturated Soils

Google Maps: To find our lab, please search for "Structural and Materials Engineering"

Lab Location: Our lab is physically located in the Structural and Materials Engineering Building, SME 409.

Parking: Visitor parking is available in the Gilman Parking Structure (10 min on foot to the SME Building).