Geotechnical Engineering Group

Department of Civil & Structural Engineering

Dr Elisabeth Bowman

Senior Lecturer
Elisabeth Bowman

+44 (0) 114 222 5747

Department of Civil and Structural Engineering
Sir Frederick Mappin Building
Mappin Street,
S1 3JD


Elisabeth Bowman is a graduate of the University of Cambridge and spent several years in consulting practice in between her studies in general (civil) engineering and geotechnical engineering. She received her PhD in 2002 for research on the mechanics of creep and ageing of freshly disturbed granular materials. She then spent a three year Royal Academy of Engineering postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Cambridge exploring the mechanics of large and catastrophic landslides via physical modelling. This led to her joining the academic staff at the University in Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, where she gained valuable field experience in investigating landslide and earthquake behaviour as well as continuing with experimental research and numerical modelling of slope stability / landslide mechanics. She returned to the UK and joined the University of Sheffield in May 2013.

Elisabeth’s research interests lie in understanding the micro-mechanisms of geomaterials undergoing deformation, leading observed macro-scale behaviour. This has led to her current research into the following topics:

  • Creep of granular soils leading to observed ageing effects (as exhibited as increases in strength with time of freshly deposited sands, as displacement pile “set up” in granular soils, and as an increased resistance of older deposits to seismically-induced liquefaction)
  • Mechanisms behind the extraordinary spreading of large and catastrophic rock avalanches
  • Mechanics of the motion of debris flows with a view to better modelling of their runout behaviour
  • Behaviour of granular flows within geotechnical centrifuge physical model experiments (influences of Coriolis and other induced effects)
  • Internal erosion of susceptible soils (such as glacial tills), which may lead to internal instability in embankment dams, levees and canals
  • Local deformation modes of model geosynthetic reinforced soil walls under seismic loading

Recent activities and achievements

  • Associate Editor for Canadian Geotechnical Journal (2013 - ) 
  • Editorial Panel Member for Proceedings of ICE – Geotechnical Engineering (2009 - 2012)
  • Secretary of International Society of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering Technical Committee (TC) 208: “Slope Stability in Engineering Practice” (2010 - )
  • Recipient of the 2013 Casimir Gzowski Medal, Canadian Society for Civil Engineering, for the paper “Physical models of rock avalanche spreading with dynamic fragmentation”
  • Recipient of a 2013 Telford Premium Prize, Institution of Civil Engineers, for the paper “Internal imaging of saturated granular free surface flows”


MA, Cambridge University
PhD, Cambridge University
CEng, Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, UK

Research project(s)

An EPSRC collaboration between Imperial College London and the University of Sheffield - SEEPAGE INDUCED GEOTECHNICAL INSTABILITY

This research will exploit recent developments in modelling and imaging technologies to improve understanding of the mechanisms that underlie deformations and failures caused by seepage induced soil instability. This research will improve understanding of internal instability by studying the fundamental particle scale mechanisms involved. Two research teams with complementary expertise...


(2017). Stability evaluation and prediction of the Dongla reactivated ancient landslide as well as emergency mitigation for the Dongla Bridge. Landslides, pp. 1-16. (Full Text), Abstract: © 2017 Springer-Verlag Berlin HeidelbergThe Dongla Bridge, Muli County, China, is a key access road between counties in Sichuan Province and the only traffic facility for an important 500-kV electricity substation which provides power to nearby counties. In June 2011, during the bridge construction...
(2017). Performance of PIV and PTV for granular flow measurements. Granular Matter, 19 (01-Feb), (Full Text).
(2016). Influences of strain rate and shear rate on the propagation of large scale rock avalanches. In Landslides and Engineered Slopes. Experience, Theory and Practice Proceedings of the 12th International Symposium on Landslides (Full Text).
(2015). Debris flows: Experiments and modelling. Comptes Rendus Physique, 16 (1), pp. 86-96, Abstract: © 2014 Académie des sciences.Debris flows and debris avalanches are complex, gravity-driven currents of rock, water and sediments that can be highly mobile. This combination of component materials leads to a rich morphology and unusual dynamics, exhibiting features of both granular materials and...
(2015). Physical and numerical modelling of dry granular flows under Coriolis conditions. Géotechnique, 65 (3), pp. 188-200, Abstract: © 2015 Emerald Group Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.In this paper, quantitative observations of dry granular flows subject to varying magnitude and direction of Coriolis acceleration are presented in order to assess the robustness of the Savage–Hutter shallow water approximation of granular...
(2015). Methods for the physical measurement of collisional particle flows. In IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science.
(2015). The influence of surcharging on deformation of 1g models of GRS walls under seismic excitation. In Proceedings of 6th International Conference on Earthquake Geotechnical Engineering (Full Text).