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Dr Joel Smethurst BEng PhD GMICE FHEA

Associate Professor in Geotechnical Engineering

Dr Joel Smethurst's photo

Dr Joel Smethurst is an Associate Professor in Geotechnical Engineering within Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Southampton. He is member of the Infrastructure Research Group and is currently the undergraduate Admissions Tutor for Civil Engineering.

Geotechnical Engineering underpins the transport infrastructure that we all rely on every day – my research is about ensuring that as it ages, it continues to perform for society.

His main technical interest is in geotechnical transport infrastructure, including the long-term performance, deterioration/aging, and failure of geotechnical structures, and their upgrade and repair.

Joel completed his PhD in Geotechnical Engineering at the University of Southampton in 2004, and was previously a Research Fellow (2004-2012), and Lecturer (2012-2018) at the University.

He is a member of the Editorial Board of Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology, has been a reviewer for more than 20 international scientific journals, and for research councils in the UK and abroad. Joel is also the current chair of the ICE South Geotechnical Group.

His Web of Science ResearcherID record is F-6734-2010

Research interests

My research on geotechnical infrastructure encompasses:

  • The effects of vegetation and climate on the performance of earthworks (cuttings and embankments)
  • The stabilisation of both infrastructure slopes and large landslides using discretely spaced piles
  • The mechanical stabilisation of soil by plants roots
  • The use of terrestrial laser scanning in geotechnical engineering, and development of novel slope instrumentation approaches
  • Short and long-term heave of clay beneath deep basement structures
  • The design of earth retaining structures
  • Coastal recession, including landsliding processes and the geotechnical aspects of barrier beaches

Much of my research is based on field measurement of the performance of real structures, often over long periods of time, with one instrumented slope site having been monitored continuously for 15 years. In many cases, field data have been used to calibrate numerical models which are used to further investigate behaviour and/or performance.

My research has been funded by EPSRC and a number of industrial partners including Cementation Skanska, Environment Agency, Highways England, London Underground, Mouchel, Mott MacDonald, Network Rail, and Rail Safety and Standards Board.

Monitoring of the effects of mature trees on the serviceability of railway earthworks
Monitoring of the effects of mature trees on earthworks
Laser scanning of ground displacements
Laser scanning of ground displacements
Monitoring the performance of pile stabilisation schemes
Monitoring the performance of pile stabilisation schemes

Research group

Infrastructure Group

Research project(s)

Infrastructure monitoring using passive remote imagery

Performance of Ground Energy Systems Installed in Foundations

Validation of a spatial-temporal soil water movement and plant water uptake model

Working with Network Rail to develop sensors to determine embankment stability

A project is currently underway to establish whether there is a connection between soil quality measurements made with low cost (screen printed) sensor arrays and the stability of railway embankments.

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Book Chapters


Code Title Role
CENV3015  DESIGN 3 Coordinator

Research Staff and Students

Please get in contact if you are interested in conducting either PhD or Post-Doctoral research in collaboration with me. Competitions for doctoral research studentships are available every year, if suitable match funding from industry can be found.

Current/Former Post-Doctoral Researchers

Dr T Dias (2019-present)
Dr A Blake (2019-present)
Dr D Bull (2017-present)
Dr N Woodman (2016-present)
Dr S Schmidt (2016-17)
Dr A Hudson (2015-2017)
Dr G Watson (2014-2015)
Dr K Briggs (2011-2012)

Current/Former PhD students

J Sang-Iam (2018-present)
G Espindola (2015–present)
M Procter (2012–present)
Dr A Sellaiya (2010-2018)
Dr M Woodruff (2010-2017)
Dr P Redshaw (2011-2014)
Dr L Fan (2010-2014)
Dr D Pan (2009-2013)
Dr N Bicocchi (2007-2011)
Dr K Briggs (2007-2011)
Dr S Kanagasabai (2006-2010)

Dr Joel Smethurst
Engineering, University of Southampton, Southampton Boldrewood Innovation Campus, Burgess Road, Southampton, SO16 7QF

Room Number : 178/3013

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