Professor Neil Dixon BSc PhD FGS
Professor of Geotechnical Engineering
Research Challenge Leader: Changing Environments and Infrastructure
Geotechnics Group Leader
Professor Dixon graduated from Hatfield Polytechnic in 1982 with a degree in Civil Engineering. He carried out research in Soil Mechanics at Kingston Polytechnic, and was awarded a PhD in 1987 for an investigation of 'The Mechanics of Coastal Landslides in London Clay at Warden Point, Isle of Sheppey'. This was followed by a three year period working for Travers Morgan Consulting Engineers. This included two years as a Senior Assistant Resident Engineer on the A55 Immersed Tube Conwy Crossing, with responsibility for assessing slope stability and interpretation of extensive geotechnical instrumentation, and a period as a Geotechnical Engineer responsible for all aspects of ground investigations, and design of power station foundations. Consultancy activities have been continued to the present day, and include landfill engineering issues, slope stability assessment, specialist laboratory testing and providing expert witness evidence.
Following the period in industry, Professor Dixon joined Nottingham Trent University in 1989 as a Senior Lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering, and subsequently held the positions of Principal Lecturer and then Reader in Geotechnical Engineering. Over a period of ten years, research interests were extended from the initial area of slope stability, to include geotechnical engineering of landfills and waste mechanics. In October 1999 Professor Dixon joined the Department of Civil and Building Engineering at Loughborough University as Senior Lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering and leader of the Geotechnics Group. He became Professor of Geotechnical Engineering in June 2007, Associate Dean Enterprise for the School of Civil and Building Engineering in June 2011 and University Research Challenge Leader for Changing Environments and Infrastructure in January 2014.
Professor Dixon has over 30 years of experience working on funded projects, publishing referred papers and collaborating with industryin the areas of slope failure mechanisms, pore water pressure regimes in slopes, in situ measurement of soil/waste properties, slope stability assessment, instrumentation development, slope process modelling, landfill barrier design guidance and impacts of climate change studies. He has managed £5 million of research grants, mainly from EPSRC, has supervised 22 doctoral students to completion and has 150+ publications.
Broad interests and expertise
Professor Dixon has taught undergraduate courses on all aspects of geotechnical engineering. He has particular interests in the use of geosynthetic materials in construction and the field performance of soil/structure systems.
- Fellow of the Geological Society of London
- Graduate Member of The Institution of Civil Engineers
- Member, British Geotechnical Association
- Member, International Geosynthetics Society (Vice-chairman of UK Chapter)
- Member, International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical
Slope ALARMS won The Engineer Magazine's Technology and Innovation Award 2011 in Civil Engineering
Slope ALARMS acoustic landslide monitoring sensor development was voted best Commercialisation Project in the Loughborough University Enterprise Awards 2010
Professor Dixon and his co-authors were awarded The Institution of Civil Engineers 2005 Reed and Mallik Medal for best paper covering construction aspects of a civil engineering project. [Dixon, N., Ng'ambi, S. and Jones, D.R.V. (2004). Structural performance of a steep slope landfill lining system. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Geotechnical Engineering, 157, 115-125.]
Professor Dixon and his co-authors were awarded Best Geosynthetics International Paper 2006. [Dixon, N., Jones, D.R.V. and Fowmes, G.J. (2006). Interface shear strength variability and its use in reliability-based landfill stability analysis. Geosynthetics International, 13, 1, 1-14.]
Research is being carried out in two main areas:
- Slope instability, including the development of Slope ALARMS acoustic emission early warning instrumentation (www.slopealarms.com), landslide failure mechanisms, use of historical aerial photographs for landslide assessment and impact of forecast climate change on slope stability; and
- Geotechnical engineering of waste containment facilities, including the stability and integrity of lining systems, interface shear behaviour of geosynthetic/soil systems and mechanical properties of municipal solid waste.
Other research interests include: lime stabilisation of UK soils, improved sustainability of construction using geosynthetics, design consideration for geocomposite drains, performance of synthetic sports surfaces and leak detection and location in plastic pipes.
- Infrastructure Slopes: Sustainability Management and Resilience Assessment (iSMART)
Professor Dixon leads Loughborough University’s contribution to this multi-partner EPSRC funded project (http://www.ismartproject.org). The UK’s transport infrastructure is one of the most heavily used in the world. The performance of these networks is critically dependent on the performance of cutting and embankment slopes which make up £20B of the £60B asset value of major highway infrastructure alone. Many of these slopes are old and suffering high incidents of instability (increasing with time). The vision of the project team is to create a visualised model of transient water movement in infrastructure slopes under a range of current and future environmental scenarios, based on a fundamental understanding of earthwork material and system behaviour, which can be used to create a more reliable, cost effective, safer and more sustainable transport system. This project unites researchers at the Universities of Newcastle, Southampton, Queen’s Belfast, Durham, Bath and Loughborough plus the British Geological Survey and coalesce their field, laboratory and computing facilities; with a large cohort of PhD students and experienced stakeholder community. We are undertaking world leading science to create a long-term legacy.
Research is required in order to better understand material behaviour (particularly the composite behaviour of soil, water, air and vegetation); slope system behaviour (particularly the effects of temporal and spatial variations of material properties) and the relationships with environmental effects and engineering performance. Furthermore, the integration of the material and slope behaviour with that of the behaviour of the infrastructure network as a whole has thus far not been possible. It is important for the sustainable management of infrastructure slopes (assessment, planning, repair, maintenance and adaptation) to have models that can assess the likely engineering performance of infrastructure slopes, both now and in the future. A better understanding of the interactions between earthworks, vegetation and climate is required to formulate robust guidance on which maintenance approaches should be adopted and how they should be applied. iSMART will use a combination of field measurements, lab testing and development of conceptual and numerical models to investigate the uncertainties and knowledge gaps enumerated above and to visualise the complex interactions taking place over time and space. This knowledge will help the managers of the UK's transport infrastructure to identify problem sites, plan and prioritise maintenance activity, and develop assessment and adaptation strategies to ensure future safety and resilience of geotechnical transport infrastructure.
Previous research projects
- Future Resilient Transport Networks (FUTURENET)
Professor Dixon was the Principle Investigator for Loughborough University's contribution to the multi-partner, multi-disciplinary FUTURENET research project funded through its Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change (ARCC) programme (http://www.arcc-network.org.uk/project-summaries/futurenet/). Transport network security is increasingly under threat from climate change. Identification and protection of all vulnerable infrastructure assets is not a realistic response. FUTURENET aimed to assess security in terms of a network’s resilience. To facilitate this, a network resilience assessment methodology was developed. It considers changes in climate and weather anticipated for 2050, and assesses the impact of these on the principal modes of transport (road, rail and air). FUTURENET created a generic methodology that might be applied to any transport network. It involved a number of research strands including investigations of: the influence that climate change will have on travel demand and travel behavior; modelling of transport failure modes and associated triggers and thresholds; generation and application of climate and weather events to networks; development of the network resilience assessment methodology; and the application of systems engineering techniques to methodology development.
- Climate Impact Forecasting for Slopes (CLIFFS)
This is EPSRC-funded network based at Loughborough University was designed to bring together academics, R&D agencies, stakeholders, consultants and climate specialists to improve forecasting of slope instability in the context of progressive climate change. Project website address: http://cliffs.lboro.ac.uk . This network is being used to help disseminate outputs of the EPSRC iSMARTproject.
Linked to CLIFFS was an EPSRC funded project Biological and Engineering Impacts of Climate on Slopes – Learning from Full-scale (BIONICS-LEARN) to highlight research currently in progress in the UK for a world-wide audience and to share best practice and ideas so that the work can be extended to a global scale.
- Editorial Board, Geotextiles and Geomembranes
- Editorial Board, Geosynthetics International
- Member of EPSRC College of Peer Reviewers
- Elected member of Council for the International Geosynthetics Society (2006 - present day)
- Committee member, International Geosynthetics Society, UK Chapter (2001 - present day)
- External Examiner, Salford University (2001 - 2005)
- External Examiner, Coventry University (2006 - 2010)
- External Examiner, Imperial Cillege London (2008 -2012)
- External Examiner, Newcastle University (2010 0 present day)
- Chairman of Technical Committee, European Geosynthetics Conference (EuroGeo 4), Edinburgh 2008
- Expert Panel Member, Canada Foundation for Innovation - Outcome Measurement Study, Queen's University, Ontario, Canada, January 2010
- Sia, A.H.I. and Dixon, N. (2008). Deterministic and reliability-based design: Veneer cover soil stability. Geosynthetics International, 15, 1, 1-13.
- Dixon, N., Langer, U. and Gotteland, P. (2008). Classification and mechanical behaviour relationships for municipal solid waste: Study using synthetic wastes. ASCE Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, 134, 1 79-90.
- Sia, A.I. & Dixon, N. (2012). Numerical modelling of landfill lining system-waste interaction: Implications of parameter variability. Geosynthetics International, 19, 5, 1-16.
- Zamara K.A., Dixon, N., Jones, D.R.V., Fowmes, G., (2012). Monitoring of a landfill side slope lining system: Instrument selection, installation and performance. Geotextiles and Geomembranes 35 (2012) pp. 1-13.