A celebration of Imperial geotechnics spanning six decades of researchers and staff

By Pishun Tantivangphaisal, Research Postgraduate, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

On 12th March we welcomed six decades of researchers and staff from the Imperial Geotechnics back to the Civil Engineering department building. With over 100 sign-ups, this highly anticipated event welcomed researchers spanning graduates from the 1970s all the way to current PhD students, post-doctoral researchers, administrative, technical, teaching and research staff. With a long legacy of pioneering research in the section, we felt it was important to maintain and foster links between current researchers with the giants on whose shoulders we now stand.

We showcased on-going research through poster presentations, caught up with our recently graduated friends and established new links with our distinguished alumni, many of whom now hold prominent positions in industry and academia. We also took the opportunity to celebrate the latest achievements in the section, most notably Prof. Zdravkovic as the 62nd Rankine Lecturer.

Figure 1 Imperial College Geotechnics reunion

We welcomed our alumni guests into the Mezzanine lab at 6pm after an afternoon cleaning, clearing and setting up the event space. On arrival, we asked everyone to place a pin on a map of the world (geological, of course) so we could highlight the geographical diversity of the section’s current and former members. We were all pleasantly surprised by how far some have travelled to attend the reunion (and of course the annual Rankine lecture on the next day), with strong showings from Europe, East Asia, and Latin America.

Fourteen research posters, showcasing the forefront of the section’s current research, were pinned up along one wall of the room. These attracted plenty of attention and prompted a host of discussion topics amongst current researchers as well as former members of the section. As many hails from technical roles in industry and academia, soil mechanics and engineering geology are highly relevant disciplines in their day-to-day work which resulted in a healthy cross-pollination of ideas.

Enabled by the support from the Graduate School, a catered fork buffet and a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks were enjoyed by all in attendance soon after. We (the PhD students) did have to do a few rounds of washing wine glasses (before the event and the morning after!), as budget constraints meant we had to be resourceful with the drinks provision. However, with help from our brilliant technical and administrative staff Prash, Jess, Luke and Piotr, the hard work all paid off in the end with many sending us messages of gratitude after the event.

We rounded off the evening with a presentation of gifts for Prof. Lidija Zdravkovic who had been invited to deliver the 62nd Rankine Lecture the following day. This is the preeminent technical lecture in the geotechnical engineering field, and she follows a long tradition of members of Rankine Lecturers from Imperial College.

Figure 2 Geographic diversity of some of our alumni and current research group

This event brought the whole research section together and provided what felt like a family reunion for many former members of the section! Anecdotes from many former doctoral journeys were fondly reminisced upon over the evening, despite the ample sweat and tears shared with colleagues from years past. For us as the current cohort of researchers, the event was not only an opportunity to showcase our work but also highlighted the myriad possibilities in our own future careers and trajectories.

The Graduate School’s Research Community Fund helped to cover a portion of the costs associated with the research posters and catering. We also received generous funding from the section which enabled us to host such an enjoyable and fruitful evening of discussion and networking.

Figure 3 Happy faces in front of snippets of the geotechnics section’s current research