Hicks, M.A.


Michael Hicks is Professor of Soil Mechanics and Head of Geo-Engineering at Delft University of Technology. Previously, he was Senior Lecturer and Head of Geo-Engineering at The University of Manchester. He has 33 years experience in finite elements, specialising in constitutive modelling, static liquefaction, strain localisation, stochastic analysis, soil heterogeneity and adaptive mesh refinement. He has around 110 technical publications, has supervised 23 research students and 7 post-doctoral researchers, and has obtained numerous contracts from research councils, industry and the European Union. He currently supervises a team of 2 post-docs and 8 PhD researchers focusing on risk and variability in geotechnical, geo-environmental and geo-nuclear engineering.

Michael's research has mainly focused on the development, validation and practical application of innovative numerical methods. In the 1980's he was involved in: slope liquefaction studies, with Laboratorium Grond Mechanica; the stability assessment and re-design of foundations for the North Rankin A gas platform off north-west Australia, with Fugro BV; the stability assessment and re-design of artificial sand islands in the Canadian Beaufort Sea, with Gulf Canada Resources; and the 3D finite element modelling of spud-can foundations for offshore oil platforms, with Noble Denton. In the 1990's his work included: the use of adaptive mesh refinement in analyses of well-bore stability, with KSEPL; and trigger mechanisms and the role of heterogeneity in the liquefaction of hydraulic sand fills, with Golder Associates. Recent research activities have included: the characterisation, modelling, handling and geological disposal of radioactive waste, with Sellafield Limited and Ove Arup; and the characterisation, modelling and influence of heterogeneity on the performance of, and risks posed by, tailings dams and long slopes in general, with KGHM and Boskalis.

Michael was Chairman of the Organising Committee for Geotechnique's 2005 Symposium in Print, "Risk and Variability in Geotechnical Engineering," and is Editor of a published (2007) Thomas Telford book by the same name. He was Chairman (2006-2010) of the British Geotechnical Association's Working Group on "Numerical Methods in Design," is a member of the Board of Directors of ALERT Geomaterials, was Chairman of ALERT's 2007 Workshop Session on "Inverse and Stochastic Modelling," Chairman of the International Workshop on "Safety Concepts and Calibration of Partial Factors in European and North American Codes of Practice" (Delft, 2011), Chairman of the International Conference on "Installation Effects in  Geotechnical Engineering" (Rotterdam, 2013), and Chairman of the International Conference on "Numerical Methods in Geotechnical Engineering" (Delft, 2014). He is on the Editorial Panels of the international journals "Computers and Geotechnics" and "Georisk," was Coordinator of ALERT's 2014 Doctoral School on "Stochastic Analysis and Inverse Modelling," and is a member of the ISSMGE Technical Committee (TC 103) on "Numerical Methods in Geomechanics." He was awarded the Institution of Civil Engineers' Geotechnical (Gold) Research Medal in 1999, for a 1998 Geotechnique paper on the static liquefaction of hydraulic sand fills. He received the Georisk 2014 Best Paper Award in 2015.


There are three inter-linked activities:

Material Behaviour

This activity focuses on the mechanical behaviour of soils at the small scale. In particular, it recognises the special challenges that exist due to soils comprising multiple coupled phases: that is, a solid phase and a pore fluid that may itself comprise multiple liquid and gaseous components. It also recognises the nonlinear, time-dependent and irreversible nature of soil deformations. Topics investigated

  • Constitutive modelling
  • Unsaturated soils
  • Bio-thermo-hydro-mechanical-chemo coupling
  • Creep, strain localisation and liquefaction

Risk and Variability

This activity focuses on the fact that soils, rocks and other geo-materials are heterogeneous materials. This influences material and contained fluid response, and it influences the performance of geotechnical structures. Moreover, the presence of heterogeneity means that we are never quite sure what we have in the ground: this leads to uncertainty in design and the need for probabilistic methods of analysis. Topics investigated include:

  • Statistical characterisation of heterogeneity
  • Modelling of heterogeneity using random fields
  • Stochastic analysis, Monte Carlo and approximate methods
  • Reliability and risk

Numerical Methods

This activity is concerned with the numerical analysis of practical problems in geo-engineering, using finite elements and appropriate constitutive models and, where reasonable, accounting for material heterogeneity and uncertainty. Above all, this activity recognises that most problems in geo-engineering are "large," that is: they are often physically large; they are generally three-dimensional; and they often involve localised zones of deformation, pore pressure or pollutant concentration requiring detailed numerical attention. There is therefore a need for advanced numerical and computational methods. Topics investigated include:

  • High Performance Computing
  • Adaptive mesh refinement
  • 3D finite element and stochastic modelling

Michael Hicks

Section Head Geo-Engineering / Professor of Soil Mechanics

Publications: Pure