School of Engineering

Staff Profile

Dr Ross Stirling

Lecturer in Geotechnical Infrastructure


Latest paper in Applied Clay Sciences: Modelling the deterioration of the near surface caused by drying induced cracking

Background & Research Interests

Since completing my PhD in numerical modelling of desiccation cracking in unsaturated, compacted clay fill in the field of infrastructure slope stability, I worked simultaneously on two EPSRC funded projects – iSMART and Assessing The Underworld

My role was primarily as an experimentalist (laboratory and full-scale). I manage and maintain the BIONICS research facility - a trial infrastructure embankment which hosts a number of innovative techniques to monitor the slope asset condition (e.g. ALERT-ME and SlopeALARMS) as well as a comprehensive suite of buried and meteorological sensors and associated extensive dataset. My laboratory interests revolve around the cyclic wetting-drying behaviour of clays - specifically geotechnical properties (e.g. Soil water retention curves (SWRC), tensile and shear strength testing and small-large strain stiffness testing), geophysical techniques (i.e. resistivity) and imaging (Digital Image Correlation, Environmental-SEM and XRCT).

During my Post-Doc work, I have gained an understanding and appreciation of geotechnical deterioration mechanisms across the scales of infrastructure performance, from the soil element itself up to the network, strategic level. Through my involvement with iSMART and ATU, I have helped to develop ideas of progressive asset deterioration in the infrastructure slope and buried utility contexts, assets upon which the future resilience of our cities relies.

I am currently guiding the design and future research potential of the UKCRIC Green Infrastructure and Urban Water Laboratory at the Urban Sciences Building on Science Central, Newcastle City Centre. This is a world-class facility in which to conduct collaborative, multi-disciplinary research into sustainable drainage systems and Green Infrastructure performance.


I am actively engaged in geotechnical design consultancy and have worked with Electrokinetic Ltd on several slope stabilisation sites for Highways England in Cambridgeshire.  Electrokinetic Ltd provides solutions for remediating unstable slopes and dewatering slurries and sludges based on patented electrokinetic geosynthetic technology. They are recipients of numerous ICE awards owing to the outstanding sustainability credentials that electro-osmotic remediation brings.

Together with the Environment Agency, I am supervising bank stability monitoring and analysis project on the River Tyne. The purpose of this work is to identify sustainable remediation methods that exploit coupled hydro-mechanical mechanisms to provide green, aesthetic solutions.    


  • BSc (Hons) - Geology - Durham University 2008
  • MSc - Geotechnical Engineering - Newcastle University 2009
  • PhD - Multiphase modelling of desiccation cracking in compacted soils - Newcastle University 2014 (pdf)

-        Development of a pseudo-discrete continuum finite difference model (FLAC) capable of capturing two-phase flow within a porous media subject to mechanical and hydrological boundary conditions and a tension failure criterion. Additionally, this work saw the design and development of an apparatus to establish the variable (un)saturated soil tensile strength.


  • Fellow of the Geological Society
  • Member of the British Geotechnical Association
  • TUD COST Action TU1202 member (Website)

Grants & Awards

  • CACTUS - Climate Adaptation Control Technologies for Urban Spaces (EP/R005834/1) Jan 2018 - Dec 2021 (£1,761,592)
  • PLEXUS - Priming Laboratory EXperiments on infrastructure and Urban Systems (EP/R013535/1) Co-Investigator, Jan 2018 -  Dec 2019 (£1,013,092)
  • UKCRIC - UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure & Cities: Newcastle Laboratories (EP/R010102/1) Researcher Co-Investigator, April 2016 - March 2021 (£9,671,332)
  • Organiser of the International Training School ‘The Vadose Zone Workshop’.  An event for European Early Stage Researchers convened between Newcastle University and Durham University, July 2015 (15,000EUR)
  • ‘Short Term Scientific Mission’ travel grant to École des Ponts ParisTech, February 2015 - COST Action TU1202 (Report) (2,500EUR)
  • CEGS Newcastle internal conference - Oral Presentation Prize 2011
  • CEGS Newcastle internal conference - Poster Prize 2010

Journal Reviewer

  • Canadian Geotechnical Journal
  • Journal of Geotechnical and Geological Engineering
  • International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences
  • Engineering Geology
  • Geotechnique Letters

Researcher Profile: ResearchGate

Google Scholar: Click here.

SCOPUS: Click here.


Research Project Supervision:

  • Oboho Okon Eminue (PhD) - Environmental and Material Controls on Desiccation Cracking in Engineered Clay Embankments (Completed 2018)

  • MSc Geotechnical Engineering/Engineering Geology (PGT) (annually)
  • MEng Civil Engineering (UG) (annually)

I am also a holder of 'Introduction to Teaching and Learning in Higher Education - Part A' and have experience as a Postgraduate Demonstrator on the following courses:

  • Stage 1-2 Geotechnical Properties of Soils and Rocks (Classroom, Laboratory and Fieldtrip)
  • Stage 3  Computational Engineering Analysis (Computer Lab)
  • MSc Geotechnical Engineering/Engineering Geology (Laboratory and Classroom)
  • MSc Pipeline Engineering (Laboratory)