Professor Jonathan Knappett

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Fulton Building


Jonathan joined the University of Dundee as a Lecturer in 2006, following MEng and PhD degrees at the University of Cambridge. He is currently a Reader in Civil Engineering and Discipline Lead, having developed and previously led the University's MSc in Geotechnical Engineering for 8 years.

His expertise includes centrifuge and 1-g physical modelling of soil-structure interaction problems, numerical (Finite Element) simulation and analytical modelling. His research interests fall into three main areas:

  1. Earthquake Engineering
  2. Biomediated Geotechnical Engineering
  3. Offshore Geotechnics, primarily anchoring systems for marine renewable energy

This research has been supported by funding from the UK Research Councils, the European Commission, and various overseas, charitable and industrial organisations to a total value of over £4.5M. He was awarded the British Geotechnical Association Medal in 2009 and the TK Hsieh Award for Civil Engineering Dynamics from the ICE/SECED in 2010. In 2017 he gave the 13th Géotechnique Lecture on Use of vegetation in low carbon geotechnical engineering.

He is Chairman of the Editorial Panel of the International Journal of Physical Modelling in Geotechnics (2014-2018) and has previously served on the Géotechnique Advisory Panel (2011-2013). He is an instructor on the Standard and Advanced courses in Computational Modelling in Geotechnics run annually in the UK by PLAXIS BV and is a UK National Representative on both Technical Committees TC104 (Physical Modelling) and TC203 (Earthquake Engineering) of the International Society of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE).
He is also the principal author of Craig's Soil Mechanics, 8th Edition and co-author of Design of Piles in Liquefiable Soils.

Academic background

2007    PhD Geotechnical Engineering, University of Cambridge
Thesis title: Piled foundations in liquefiable soils: accounting for axial loads

2003    MEng (Hons) Engineering, University of Cambridge


2016-               Discipline Lead for Civil Engineering, University of Dundee

2015-               Reader in Civil Engineering, University of Dundee

2012-2015       Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering, University of Dundee

2006-2012       Lecturer in Civil Engineering, University of Dundee

Professional Memberships

  • Institution of Civil Engineers (Graduate Member)
  • British Geotechnical Association (Member)
  • International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE; Member)

Professional Roles

  • ISSMGE – National Representative, Technical Committee TC104 (Physical Modelling)
  • ISSMGE – National Representative (corresponding member), Technical Committee TC203 (Earthquake Engineering & Related Problems)
  • Chairman of the Editorial Board, International Journal of Physical Modelling in Geotechnics (2014-2018)
  • Editorial Board, Géotechnique (2011-2013)


Earthquake Engineering:

Jonathan’s research in this area is focussed on improving the resilience of the built environment to natural hazards, particularly in a World that is increasingly urbanised with fewer resources.  Particular topic areas include:

  • Understanding the interactions between groups of structures in dense urban environments
  • Soil-structure interaction in liquefiable soils
  • Design of novel high-performance foundation systems for seismic regions

Key projects:

  • Shaking tunnel vision.  Research Grant EP/N03435X/1, Newton Fund: EPSRC, UK & CONICYT, Chile.
  • Seismic response of the built environment in densely populated urban areas.  Research Grant EP/H039716/1, EPSRC, UK.  

Biomediated Geotechnical Engineering

This area is predominantly focussed on the various potential uses of vegetation within engineered systems, particularly where vegetation can extend their longevity in an uncertain future (e.g. under the effects of climate change).  This includes:

  • Understanding the behaviour of vegetated slopes under extreme environmental loading
  • Development of numerical and analytical tools to quantitatively include vegetation within civil engineering design
  • In-situ measurement of rooted soil properties

Key projects:

  • Rooting for sustainable performance.  Research Grant EP/M020355/1, EPSRC, UK. 
  • Tay-GENE: Tayside Centre for Geotechnical Engineering in Natural Environments.  Norman Fraser Design Trust, UK. 

Offshore Geotechnical Engineering

Research here is focussed on the development of novel anchoring systems for marine renewable energy and aquaculture that can lower the cost of renewables and allow exploitation of more exposed locations.  This includes:

  • Development of novel anchor concepts with low environmental impact (e.g. screw anchors)
  • The role of anchoring in the holistic design of marine renewable energy systems
  • Development of numerical and analytical tools for simulating anchor performance

Key projects:

  • SAFS – Development of Screw Anchors for Floating marine renewable energy System arrays incorporating anchor sharing.  EU H2020 Marie SkŁodowska-Curie Actions: Individual Fellowships H2020-MSCA-IF-2016, Grant no. 753156. 
  • GeoWAVE: Geotechnical and mooring design solutions for the offshore renewable wave energy industry.  EU FP7, Grant no. 287056: Research for the benefit of SME’s.
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