Dr Alister Smith


Pronouns: He/him
  • Reader in Geotechnics
  • Programme Director for Civil Engineering (BEng and MEng)

Research and expertise

I am a Chartered Civil Engineer specialising in geotechnical engineering.

My research addresses the grand challenge of stewardship of ageing infrastructure, from developing intelligent sensing technologies for early warning of deterioration and failure, to forecasting the impacts of climate change on the long-term hydromechanical performance of geotechnical assets. 

I established the Listening to Infrastructure (L2I) research programme to develop acoustic emission (AE) monitoring for geotechnical engineering, which has been supported by a series of personal funding and fellowship awards including an EPSRC Postdoctoral Fellowship (EP/P012493/1) and Philip Leverhulme Prize in Engineering (PLP-2019-017). 

I was a Co-Inventor of the Slope ALARMS and Community Slope SAFE AE landslide early warning systems, which have been commercialised by RST Instruments Ltd (Geo Acoustic Aware). I co-authored a REF2021 Impact Case Study based on this work.

I am a Co-Investigator of the EPSRC Programme Grant (EP/R034575/1), ACHILLES, which is investigating the impacts of weather-driven deterioration and climate change on infrastructure cutting and embankment slopes. I lead one of four ACHILLES research themes, Simulation & Modelling. I am also Co-Principal-Investigator and Deputy Director of the National Engineered Slope Simulator Facility at Loughborough University, which has been supported by a grant from The Wolfson Foundation. 

I have received numerous prizes for my research and innovation activities, including the Philip Leverhulme Prize in Engineering, Worshipful Company of Engineers’ Hawley Award for Engineering Innovation, ICE Thomas Telford Premium (twice) and Professor Dearman Young Author of the Year Award. 

I welcome enquires from candidates who wish to study for a PhD in my areas of research interest.

Current research activity:

Recently completed research projects:

  • Listening to Infrastructure (EPSRC Fellowship EP/P012493/1), https://www.lboro.ac.uk/enterprise/talking-infrastructure
  • Slope ALARMS and Community Slope SAFE, www.slopealarms.com
  • EPSRC Doctoral Prize Fellowship, 2015-2017


Geotechnical Engineering, Soil Mechanics, Soil-Structure Interaction, Physical and Numerical Modelling, Slope Stability, Instrumentation and Monitoring, Smart Infrastructure, Acoustic Emission.

Recent publications

  • Wang H, Barone G and Smith A (2023) Current and future role of data fusion and machine learning in infrastructure health monitoring. Structure and Infrastructure Engineering - Maintenance, Management, Life-Cycle Design and Performance, 10.1080/15732479.2023.2165118. Access link
  • Li S and Smith A (2022) Relationship between acoustic emission and energy dissipation: a DEM study of soil-structure interaction. Acta Geotechnica, 10.1007/s11440-022-01753-9. Access link
  • Dixon N, Smith A and Pietz M (2022) A community-operated landslide early warning approach: Myanmar case study. Geoenvironmental Disasters, 9(1), 1-1510.1186/s40677-022-00220-7. Access link
  • Smith A, Barone G, Wackrow R and Stanley R (2022) Interpretation of uplift pipeline-soil interaction behaviour using acoustic emission measurements. Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 10.1139/cgj-2021-0468. Access link
  • Deng L, Smith A, Dixon N and Yuan H (2021) Machine learning prediction of landslide deformation behaviour using acoustic emission and rainfall measurements. Engineering Geology, 10.1016/j.enggeo.2021.106315 Access link
  • Deng L, Smith A, Dixon N and Yuan H (2021) Automatic classification of landslide kinematics using acoustic emission measurements and machine learning. Landslides, 1-16. 10.1007/s10346-021-01676-8 Access link
  • Smith A and Dixon N (2020) Listening for deterioration and failure: Towards smart geotechnical infrastructure. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers: Smart Infrastructure and Construction, 10.1680/jsmic.19.00019. Access link
  • Smith A, Heather-Smith H, Dixon N, Flint JA and Pennie D (2020) Acoustic emission generated by granular soil-steel structure interaction. Géotechnique Letters, 10(2), 119-127. Access link
  • Smith A, Moore ID and Dixon N (2019) Acoustic Emission Sensing of Pipe-Soil Interaction: Full-scale Pipelines Subjected to Differential Ground Movements. Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering. 10.1061/(ASCE)GT.1943-5606.0002185. Access link
  • Smith A and Dixon N (2019) Acoustic emission generated by glass beads in compression and shearing. Granular Matter, 10.1007/s10035-019-0944-0. Access link
  • Smith A and Dixon N (2019) Acoustic emission behaviour of dense sands. Géotechnique, 10.1680/jgeot.18.P.209 Access link
  • Dixon N, Smith A, Flint JA, Khanna R, Clark B and Andjelkovic M (2018) An acoustic emission landslide early warning system for communities in low-income and middle-income countries. Landslides 15:1631–1644 Access link
  • Berg N, Smith A, Russell S, Dixon N, Proudfoot D and Take A (2018) Correlation of acoustic emissions with patterns of movement in an extremely slow-moving landslide at Peace River, Alberta, Canada. Canadian Geotechnical Journal55(10): 1475-1488 Access link
  • Smethurst JA, Smith A, Uhlemann S, Wooff C, Chambers J, Hughes P, Lenart S, Springman SM, Lofroth H and Hughes D (2017) Current and future role of instrumentation and monitoring in the performance of transport infrastructure slopes. Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology 50(3): 271-286 Access link
  • Smith A, Dixon N, Moore R and Meldrum P (2017) Acoustic emission monitoring of coastal slopes in NE England, UK. Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology 50(3): 239-244 Access link
  • Smith A, Dixon N and Fowmes G (2017) Early detection of first-time slope failures using acoustic emission measurements: large-scale physical modelling. Géotechnique 67(2): 138-152 Access link
  • Uhlemann S, Chambers J, Wilkinson P, Maurer H, Merritt A, Meldrum P, Kuras O, Gunn D, Smith A and Dijkstra T (2017) Four-dimensional imaging of moisture dynamics during landslide reactivation. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface 122: 398–418 Access link
  • Smith A, Dixon N and Fowmes G (2016) Monitoring buried pipe deformation using acoustic emission: quantification of attenuation. International Journal of Geotechnical Engineering 11(4): 418-430 Access link
  • Wilkinson P, Chambers J, Uhlemann S, Meldrum P, Smith A, Dixon N and Loke MH (2016) Reconstruction of landslide movements by inversion of 4D electrical resistivity tomography monitoring data. Geophysical Research Letters 43 (3), 1166-1174 Access link
  • Uhlemann S, Smith A, Chambers J, Dixon N, Meldrum P, Dijkstra T, Haslam E, Merritt A and Gunn D (2016)Assessment of ground-based monitoring techniques applied to landslide investigations. Geomorphology 253(1): 438-451 Access link
  • Dixon N, Smith A, Spriggs MP, Ridley A, Meldrum P and Haslam E (2015) Stability monitoring of a rail slope using acoustic emission. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers: Geotechnical Engineering 168(5): 373-384 Access link
  • Dixon N, Spriggs MP, Smith A, Meldrum P and Haslam E (2015) Quantification of reactivated landslide behaviour using acoustic emission monitoring. Landslides 12(3): 549-560 Access link
  • Smith A and Dixon N (2015) Quantification of landslide velocity from active waveguide-generated acoustic emission. Canadian Geotechnical Journal 52(4): 413-425 Access link
  • Smith A, Dixon N, Meldrum P, Haslam E and Chambers J (2014) Acoustic emission monitoring of a soil slope: Comparisons with continuous deformation measurements. Géotechnique Letters 4(4): 255-261 Access link
  • Smith A, Dixon N, Meldrum P and Haslam E (2014) Inclinometer casings retrofitted with acoustic real-time monitoring systems. Ground Engineering 10: 24-29 Access link


I contribute to learning and teaching activities across the School’s programmes. This has previously included modules on Mechanics of Materials, Structural Analysis and Mechanics, and Surveying. I currently teach Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering topics to undergraduate students and supervise research dissertation projects.


  • Geotechnical Engineering modules on the civil engineering programmes; and
  • Supervision of dissertations on topics aligned to my research interests.


Current projects 

Recently completed projects

  • Intelligent system for alerting on the movement of masses - prevention of related natural disasters in Colombia (Bio Nano Consulting)
  • Slope ALARMS ‘Lite’: Protecting Vulnerable Global Communities (EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account)


I graduated from Loughborough University in 2012 with a first-class MEng degree in Civil Engineering. I then joined Coffey Geotechnics as a Graduate Geotechnical Engineer, where I was involved in the design and construction monitoring of several projects, before returning to Loughborough University to carry out research in Geotechnical Engineering.

I was awarded a PhD in 2015 for a thesis titled “Quantification of slope deformation behaviour using acoustic emission monitoring”. This was followed by an EPSRC Doctoral Prize Fellowship at Loughborough University between 2015 and 2017. I was awarded an EPSRC Postdoctoral Fellowship (Listening to Infrastructure,  EP/P012493/1) in 2017 and became a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Civil Engineering at Loughborough University, promoted to Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Civil Engineering in 2020, and subsequently Reader in Geotechnics in 2023.

Professional Affiliations

  • Chartered Civil Engineer and Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers (CEng MICE)
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Member of the British Geotechnical Association
  • Member of the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering


  • Thomas Telford Premium (Institution of Civil Engineers) - ICE: Smart Infrastructure & Construction best paper of the year, 2021
  • Philip Leverhulme Prize in Engineering (£100,000), 2019
  • Professor William R Dearman Young Author of the Year Award (QJEGH), 2017
  • Hawley Award (£5,000) for Engineering Innovation (Worshipful Company of Engineers), 2015
  • Thomas Telford Premium (Institution of Civil Engineers) - Géotechnique Letters best paper of the year, 2015
  • Best paper and presentation winner (British Geotechnical Association) – 13th Young Geotechnical Engineers Symposium, 2014
  • Institution of Civil Engineers Merit Award – Studies and Research Category winner, 2015
  • Institution of Civil Engineers Prize (£250) – Graduating top of the MEng Civil Engineering class, 2012
  • East Midlands Geotechnical Group Prize (£200) – Best geotechnical MEng research project, 2012
  • Teaching Stars Award – Large Class category (ABCE Awards), 2021
  • Early Career Achievement Award (ABCE Awards), 2019
  • Outstanding Research Project Award winner (LU Built Environment Awards), 2018
  • Research Paper of the Year - Highly Commended (LU Built Environment Awards), 2018
  • Loughborough University Enterprise Awards – Highly Commended (‘One to watch’ category), 2017

External activities

  • Peer Review, Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), 2022-present
  • Peer Review College, UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), 2021-present
  • Referee, The Leverhulme Trust, 2021-present
  • Peer Review College, UKRI, Future Leaders Fellowships, 2018-present 
  • Peer Review, United States Department of Agriculture Innovation Fund, 2019
  • Panel Member and Peer Review, NERC, Innovative Monitoring Approaches Call, 2017 
  • Editorial Board Member, Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology & Hydrogeology, 2017-2019
  • Expert Peer Review for 20 international journals

Key collaborators

My research and enterprise activities are conducted with a range of academic and stakeholder partners, including:

  • Universities: Alberta (Canada), Bath, Durham, Leeds, Newcastle, Queen’s (Canada), Southampton, Sains Malaysia
  • Government organisations: British Geological Survey and CNR-IRPI (Italy)
  • Technology companies: RST Instruments, Datalink Electronics and INGLAS (Germany)
  • Consultants: Geotechnical Observations, Jacobs, Thurber Engineering (Canada) and WSP-Parsons Brinckerhoff


Network Rail, OeBB (Austrian Railway), Alberta Transportation (Canada), Scarborough Borough Council, Monmouthshire County Council, Canadian Pacific Railway, Canadian National Railway, JKR (Malaysia), SlopeWatch community group (Malaysia), FHI 360 (USA) and Community Care for Emergency Response and Rehabilitation (Malaysia), Severn Trent Water