Geotechnics and Infrastructure Research Group

Our research focuses on solving challenging geotechnical problems and how to improve surface and underground infrastructure. We do this by developing and implementing cutting-edge experimental, data-driven and computational tools, as well as field investigation techniques.

Our focus

Our researchers are powering the future of geotechnical infrastructure with industry-shaping projects across the following focus areas.

  • recycled and eco-friendly materials for soil stabilisation
  • rock mechanics
  • pavement damage and rehabilitation
  • ground subsidence and groundwater simulation
  • slope stability and rock slope collapse
  • rock fracture and rock burst in mine excavation
  • mining geo-mechanics.

Research areas

Geomechanics for surface and underground infrastructure

Through significant industry experience in both the civil and mining industries, our research and laboratory staff focus on providing practical solutions to existing and future infrastructure problems. This includes laboratory and field projects related to tunnelling, slope stability, rock blasting, road pavement, pre-conditioning and demonstrating novel mining methods.

Multi-scale geomechanical modelling

Deakin has a strong numerical modelling team with significant experience in geomechanical simulation in all three, particle-based, finite element and discrete element codes. These codes are applied to solve complex non-linear geomechanical problems at multi-scales that range from particle (millimetres) to roads and tunnels (metres), slopes (hundreds of metres) and large-scale mines (kilometres). At each of these scales our researchers are able to couple geomechanical responses with dynamics (blasting) and hydrodynamics (water). This experience within the one research group is unique and provides confidence in research outcomes that are fit-for-purpose.

Road and rail infrastructure design and materials

The Australian transport industry is developing smarter and more sustainable infrastructure systems to address contemporary challenges such as increasing passengers and freight mobility, shortage of resources and risks from wastes/pollutions released from construction and transport activities. This Deakin transport infrastructure research group specialises in managing these challenges using cost-effective design processes, recycled materials, and smart transportation technologies.

We have expertise in advanced data analysis and computational techniques for monitoring and better predicting the behaviour of pavement systems, and road and railway infrastructure. We work with innovative pavement materials and mixes, taking advantage of the by-products from other industries to improve pavement sustainability. In collaboration with universities, research organisations and the industry, we aim to make roadway and railway infrastructure systems smarter, safer, more cost-effective and sustainable.

Group members


Name Research interests
Dr Susanga Costa Geomechanics, unsaturated soil, numerical modelling of soil, fracture mechanics
Dr Kazem Ghabraie Optimisation and design, numerical modelling, failure and damage mechanics, material characterisation
Dr Saba Gharehdash Computational geomechanics, smoothed particle hydrodynamics, computational fluid dynamics modelling, explosion, tunnelling, rock mechanics
Dr Bidur Kafle Structural dynamics, earthquake engineering, timber structures, structural health monitoring, composite structures, pavement engineering
Dr Nhu Nguyen Geomechanics, discrete element method, CFD-DEM modelling, pavement engineering, computational plasticity
Professor Bre-Anne Sainsbury Mining geomechanics, backfill, tunnelling, slope stability, 3D complex non-linear modelling
Professor Wendy TimmsPorous earth engineering and engineering barriers, groundwater, mining and subsidence, hydrogeomechanical-geochemical interactions, sustainability of water and energy systems

PhD students

Name Thesis topic
Sadia Afroza Examination of commonly omitted factors in pedestrian safety analysis
Abolfazl Baghbani Application of machine learning to predict desiccation cracking in soil
James Lett Quantitative characterisation of a Caveability index in high-strength rock masses
Diane Mather Investigation into the effects of rock mass modulus in the design of excavations
Abtin Farshi Homayoun Rooz Investigating the unloading deformation characteristics of rock masses.
Milad Barzegar TouchahiAdvanced monitoring and analysis systems for subsurface monitoring of rock strata and groundwater systems
Cristhiana PerdigaoUsing microbial calcite precipitation to seal shrinkage cracks in clay


Funded projects

    • Investigation of properties of gravel from various locations for use in road pavement (2022), Horsham Rural City Council, $8,571
    • Consideration of cracking damage to concrete tunnel lining system (2020–2021), Transurban, $74,361
    • Numerical simulation research – caving geomechanics (2020), Palabora Mining Company, $32,740
    • Advanced monitoring and analysis systems for subsurface monitoring of rock strata and groundwater system (2020–2023), Fluid Potential, $20,000
    • Large scale unconfined compression strength analysis of cemented rockfill (2018) Evolution Mining, $7743
    • Infrastructure futures phase 1 (2018), $75,000
    • Anisotropic rock mass modelling (2018–2020), Geotechnica, $52,740
    • Waste Tyre Reinforcement of Construction Materials within Mining Operations (2021–2023), ARC TREMS HUB, $200,000
    • Drip monitoring to underground tunnels, National Groundwater Observing System (2022–2023), ARC LIEF, $211,000
    • Groundwater management in the Anglesea mine and catchment area – Independent technical review (2022–2024), Victorian government, $30,000 ongoing.

Highlighted projects

Anisotropic rock mass modelling (2018–2019)

Anisotropic rock masses, the behaviour of which is dominated by closely spaced planes of weakness, present particular difficulties in rock engineering analyses. The orientation of discontinuities relative to an excavation face has a significant influence on the behavioural response. At the present time, discontinuum modelling techniques provide the most rigorous analyses of the deformation and failure processes of anisotropic rock masses. However, due to their computational in-efficiency in large-scale problems (tunnel or cavern scale) they are limited. An efficient numerical framework has been developed to provide accurate results for a number of high-profile infrastructure projects that include the Melbourne Metro Tunnel and the Snowy 2.0 Cavern Complex.

ARC TREMS HUB (2021–2023)

Waste tyres pose a significant environmental problem. One of the challenges in using waste tyres is the cost of transport and processing into a crumbed or shredded form for re-integration into a recycled product. The current practice in underground cut and fill mines is to use cemented waste rock fill (CRF) to fill excavations to limit ground movement and increase resource recovery. The inclusion of tyre rubber (up to about 40%) into the CRF mix (T-CRF) is expected to increase flexural and shear strength and energy absorption capacity of the CRF product. T-CRF will provide additional benefits to mining operations through cost savings, increased mining efficiency and contribute to solving an important environmental problem.

Drip monitoring to underground tunnels, National Groundwater Observing System (2022-2023)

Rainfall “events” drive water flow through the upper layers of soil to the water table below. This water though the earth environment causes rivers to flow and percolates through the ground - especially where the bedrock contains fractures that expedite flow. Seepage of water through soils and rock has implications for designing stable slopes and tunnels, and for evaluation of subsidence risks and enabling sustainable water supplies.

Our understanding of groundwater recharge is traditionally limited to changes measured in wells or boreholes; however, the National Groundwater Recharge Observing System (NGROS) is placing sensors in tunnels, mines and other subsurface spaces to measure recharge over time and space and utilise locally available rainfall data (e.g., from BoM) to calculate “event-based” recharge following rainfall.  NGROS is the first dedicated sensor network for observing the recharge of groundwater at an event-scale across a wide range of geologies, environments and climate types across Australia.

Contact us

Interested in researching with us? Contact a researcher listed above to discuss a potential topic of interest.