Professor Jonathan Knappett

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Jonathan joined the University of Dundee as a Lecturer in 2006, following MEng and PhD degrees at the University of Cambridge, and was promoted to Professor of Civil Engineering in 2018.  His expertise includes centrifuge and 1-g physical modelling, numerical (Finite Element) simulation and analytical modelling, with research interests in four areas associated with innovative design against extreme dynamic environmental actions:

  1. Earthquake Engineering
  2. Use of nature-based and other low-carbon approaches in Civil Engineering
  3. Adaptation of infrastructure to Climate Change
  4. Offshore Geotechnics, primarily anchoring & foundation 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, the TK Hsieh Award for Civil Engineering Dynamics from the ICE/IStructE in 2010 and the ISSMGE TC203 Young Researcher Award in Earthquake Engineering in 2018. In 2017 he gave the 13th Géotechnique Lecture on the use of vegetation in low carbon geotechnical engineering.

He was 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 has been an instructor on the Standard and Advanced courses in Computational Modelling in Geotechnics run annually in the UK by PLAXIS BV (2016-2018) 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 and 9th Editions and co-author of Design of Piles in Liquefiable Soils.

Jonathan was Discipline Lead for Civil Engineering (2016-2021), having previously co-developed and led the University's MSc in Geotechnical Engineering for 6 years

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


2019-2021      Visiting Professor, IIT Bhubaneswar, India

2018-               Professor of Civil Engineering, University of Dundee

2016-2021      Discipline Lead for Civil Engineering, University of Dundee

2015-2018      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 (GMICE)
  • British Geotechnical Association (Member)
  • International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE; Member)

Professional Roles

  • British Standards Committee B/526/3 Ground investigation & ground testing (Liaison to CEN TC 250 SC8: Eurocode 8 – Earthquake resistant design of structures)
  • 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 structure-soil-structure interactions in dense urban environments
  • Analysis and performance of interconnected underground structures
  • 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. 

Adaptation of infrastructure using nature-based and low carbon methods

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:

  • CACTUS - Climate Adaptation Control Technologies for Urban Spaces.  Research Grant EP/R005834/1, EPSRC, UK
  • Rooting for sustainable performance.  Research Grant EP/M020355/1, EPSRC, 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 high-efficiency 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 within engineering analysis and design

Key projects:

  • SAFS – Development of Screw Anchors for Floating marine renewable energy System arrays incorporating anchor sharing.  EU H2020 Marie SkŁodowska-Curie Actions 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.


Jonathan currently teaches on the following modules:

  • EG12003 – Science and Engineering Maths 1B
  • CE40002 – Geotechnical Design (Module Lead)
  • CE40005 – Structural Design
  • CE50025 – Soil Dynamics and Earthquake Engineering
  • CE40001 – Individual Research Project (project supervisor)
  • CE50007 – Research Project (project supervisor)
View full research profile and publications