Dr Matteo Ciantia

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Matteo is a Senior Lecturer of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering. He joined the University of Dundee as a Lecturer in August 2017. Prior to this, he held a Junior Research Fellowship at Imperial College for 2 years undertaking independent research focussed on the use of the Discrete Element Method (DEM) to study the installation of displacement piles jacked in sand from a micromechanical perspective. Before that Matteo was postdoctoral researcher at UPC Barcelona (2013-2015) working on DEM modelling of grain crushing and its effect on insitu cone penetration tests (CPT). Matteo obtained his PhD from Politecnico di Milano in 2013 on the hydro-chemo-mechanical coupled behaviour of soft carbonate rocks.

With more than 35 journal papers and over 50 international conference peer reviewed papers his background is broad and covers experimental (including physical modelling and field testing), theoretical (constitutive modelling) and numerical (FEM, DEM and PFEM) geomechanics of carbonate rocks and of crushable soils. Matteo’s research contributions to date were internationally recognised in 2019 when he received the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE) Bright Spark Award and in 2021 when he received the International Association for Computer Methods and Advances in Geomechanics (IACMAG) Promising Investigator Contest (ePIC) Nominee Award. His current research interests fall into four main areas:

  • Offshore Geotechnical Engineering
  • Computational Geomechanics
  • Geomechanics applied to geohazard mitigation
  • Engineering assessment of tree stability
  • Discrete element analysis and the micro-mechanics of granular materials

This research has been supported by funding from the UK Research Councils and industrial organisations to a total value of over £1.1M.

Matteo currently serves on the Géotechnique journal Advisory Panel and just completed his 4-year service on the Proceedings of the ICE Geotechnical Engineering Journal. He is currently Secretary of the Scottish Universities Geotechnical Network (SUGN), a member of the ICE Scottish Ground Engineering Group (SGEG) and a UK National Representative on ISSMGE Technical Committees 105, 211, 221 (Geo-Mechanics from Micro to Macro, Ground Improvement and Tailing and Mine Wastes, respectively). Matteo is a member of the Young Academy of Scotland (YAS) and was also involved with the organisation of the 2018 Engineering in Chalk International Conference which took place at Imperial College and attracted many industrial participants.

Matteo is a Fellow of the Advance Higher Education Academy and as such he has a broad understanding of effective approaches to learning and teaching-support as a key contribution to high quality student learning. As an effective educator he designs and delivers courses to produce graduates who have a strong theoretical background but at the same time are prepared to challenge practical problems making them industry ready.

Academic background

2021    Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)

2013    PhD Structural Seismic & Geotechnical Engineering, Politecnico di Milano
Thesis title: Multiscale hydro-chemo-mechanical modelling of the weathering of calcareous rocks: an experimental, theoretical and numerical study

2009    Master’s degree (110/110 cum laude) in Structural Engineering, Politecnico di Milano

2007    Bachelor’s degree (110/110 cum laude) in Civil Engineering, Politecnico di Milano


2020-               Senior Lecturer of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, University of Dundee

2017-2020       Lecturer of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, University of Dundee

2018-2018       Visiting Fellow, The University of New South Wales (UNSW)

2015-2017       Junior Research Fellow, Imperial College London

2013-2015       Postdoctoral Researcher, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya

Professional memberships

  • Institution of Civil Engineers (Graduate Member)
  • British Geotechnical Association (Member)
  • International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE; Member)
  • Chartered Engineer in Italy, (2009)

Professional roles

  • Member of Editorial Board: Géotechnique (1/2022- to date)
  • Member of Editorial Board: Proceedings of the ICE - Geotechnical Engineering (2018 - to date)
  • Member of UK Research & Innovation Future Leaders Fellowships (FLF) Peer Review College (PRC)
  • Int. Soc. Soil Mechanics & Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE), UK representative on Technical Committee 105, Geo-Mechanics from Micro to Macro
  • ISSMGE UK representative on Technical Committee 211. Ground Improvement
  • ISSMGE UK representative on Technical Committee 221. Tailing and Mine Wastes
  • IACMAG Promising Investigator Contest (ePIC) Nominee Award awarded for the single authored paper Micromechanics of Pile Cyclic Response in Sand (2021)
  • ISSMGE Bright Spark Award - Keynote presentation & paper (2019)
  • Royal Society of Edinburgh Young Academy of Scotland Membership (2020)
  • Committee member of ICE Scottish Geotechnical Group (SGG) regional group of the BGA
  • Graduate Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)
  • Member of the British Geotechnical Association (BGA),
  • Member of the International Society for Soil Mechanics & Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE),
  • Member of the British Dam Society (BDS)
  • Member of the International Society for Rock Mechanics (ISRM)
  • Member of the Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society (SAGES)
  • Organised the 18th UK Travelling Workshop: GeoMechanics: from Micro to Macro (GM3), December 2021, Dundee  
  • Co-organising an invited session at the Particles 2019 conference, Barcelona: DEM models of soils: from clays to rockfill
  • Member of the organising committee of the International conference Engineering in Chalk. Central London, September 2018 http://www.chalk2018.org


Offshore Geotechnical Engineering and Computational Geomechanics:

With the goal to improve the efficiency and cost effectiveness of foundations to support the further development of renewable energy structures offshore Matteo’s research in this area is focussed on experimental and numerical modelling of soil structure interaction (SSI) problems which involve complex loading conditions and large deformations. To guide the design of experimental and physical modelling campaigns and to better interpret consequent test Matteo uses advanced numerical methods such as the Discrete Element Method (DEM) and the Particle Finite Element Method (PFEM) as a virtual chamber to simulate SSI experimental physical models. Particular topic areas include:

  • Installation effects on the performance of Offshore Renewable Energy foundation and anchoring systems
  • Effects and modelling of multidirectional cyclic loading of foundations
  • Design of foundations, anchors and rock bolts in rocks

Key projects:

  • Ciantia M. (1/2022 – 1/2025) ICE-PICK: Installation effects on cyclic axial and lateral performance of displacement piles in chalk. New Investigator Award: EP/W00013X/1 - funding body: EPSRC
  • Arroyo, M., Gens, Di Mariano A, Carbonell P., Tarrago D., Fuentes, R., Zhang N., A. Ciantia M. (9/2021 – 9/2024) Principles and Applications of Soil Mechanics for Anchoring offshore renewable energy installations (PASMA). - funding body: Spanish Ministry of Science Proyectos I+D+i 2020
  • Ciantia M.  Tamagnini C. (9-2021 9-2023) Multiscale modelling of multidirectional cyclic behaviour of ORE anchoring systems RSE Saltire International Collaboration Award, Royal Society Edinburgh, UK
  • Ciantia M. (1/2021 – 1/2024) Accounting for installation effects on cyclic performance of driven piles in soft carbonate rocks - funding body China Scholarship Council
  • Ciantia M., Brown M., Ivanovic A. (3/2021 – 9/2024) Development of a novel rock anchoring system for floating renewable energy mooring. ETP Energy Industry Doctorate Programme, Industrial sponsor: Sustainable Marine Energy
  • Ciantia, M. (06/18 – 07/18) Driven Piles for Offshore Wind Turbine and Marine Renewable Energy Foundations: Advanced Numerical Study for Improved Infrastructural Design. SRPe PECRE, PECRE17-18/04

Geomechanics applied to geohazard mitigation

Matteo research helps design strategies and technical solutions for safe and economic operations to mitigate geohazards induced by global warming enhanced local extreme weather conditions. Matteo’s research mission is to advance the understanding of geomaterials failure in extreme conditions. It leverages cutting-edge modelling, computing, geophysical, and remote-sensing research to better understand how geomaterials fail when subjected to coupled bio-hydro-chemo-mechanical effects. Topic areas include:

  • Numerical modelling to predict sinkhole formation, rock cliff stability and deep mining support performance
  • Improved design and monitoring of flexible protection barriers
  • Assessment of the stability of trees against uprooting

Key projects:

  • Ciantia, M.  Kikumoto, M. (9/2020 – 8/2022) Soil liquefaction within shear bands induced by grain crushing and its detrimental consequence on landslide runoff distance. Int. Exchanges Scheme, Royal Society, UK, ES\R1\201238
  • Arroyo, M., Ciantia, M. (1/2014 –  6/2014) The effect of rock degradation on gabion –type systems of tunnel support. Centre for excellence in mining innovation (CEMI)
  • Ciantia M. (PI), Bengough, G., Knappett, J., (3/2020 – 2/2023) Integrated Approach to Assess Tree Stability in Storms and Risk Assessment. SRPe Industry Doctorate Programme, SRPe-IDP/011 (Industrial sponsor:  AgroService SRL)

Discrete element analysis and the micro-mechanics of granular materials

To improve the reliability of soil and rock constitutive models, the understanding of the material behavior and its response to loading is fundamental. This is traditionally performed by means of timely and expensive laboratory experimental tests. Matteo’s research in this area involves the use of micromechanical tools such as the DEM (where each sand grain is modelled as a rigid body interacting through contact laws) as a virtual experimental laboratory to improve our understanding of soil behaviour. Performing numerical experiments on “digital twins” of laboratory specimens allows to unveil the micromechanical processes behind the macroscopic behaviour of soils and rocks. These can then be incorporated in continuum models used in engineering practice to improve design reliability.

Topic areas include:

  • Effect of particle shape, roughness, and breakage on mechanical response of sand
  • Micromechanics of the incremental behaviour of soils
  • Using DEM as a virtual calibration chamber and virtual centrifuge

Key projects:

  • Ciantia, M. (10/2018 – 10/2019) On the critical state of crushable materials using LAMMPS. EPCC- CIRRUS Scottish Academic Access
  • Ciantia, M. (06/2019 – 07/2019) Sustainable Chemical Consolidants as an Alternative to Portland Cement Grouting: Experiments and Numerical Models. SRPe PECRE, PECRE18-19/03
  • Ciantia, M. (10/15 – 09/18) Simulating Civil Engineering Boundary Value Problems Using DEM. Imperial College, London, JRF 2015-cohort  
View full research profile and publications


CE22002 (Project and Surveying) 

CE40007 (Computational Mechanics) 

CE40002 (Geotechnical Design) 

CE50024 (Advanced Soil Mechanics and Geoenvironmental Engineering) 

PhD Projects

Principal supervisor


Press release

An expert in soil mechanics at the University of Dundee is ploughing a furrow of success after receiving a major international honour

Published on 20 September 2019