TERRE H2020-ITN Early Stage Researchers

The TERRE Project is based around the training of fifteen Early Stage Researchers through a Doctoral Training programme. Below you can find out about the TERRE ESRs and their PhD projects.

Roberta Dainese

University of Strathclyde and AMAP

Roberta DaineseRoberta’s research is concerned with the mechanism by which root architecture and root growth control the evolution of suction profile in the soil. The long term goal of her project is to discern the possibility of developing a green technology that “engineers” vegetation, i.e. for slope stabilization. This project is highly inter-disciplinary and will take advantage of the expertise of both partners, Strathclyde University (Glasgow, UK) and AMAP (Montpellier, France).

Riccardo Scarfone

University of Glasgow and Limit State Ltd.Riccardo SCARFONE

Riccardo’s project is titled “Experimental and numerical study of the suction-enhanced geotechnical design trough interface properties”. The project aims to investigate the use of physical interfaces or surface layers that inhibit liquid transfer but allow vapour transfer, thereby increasing suction in the ground in the long-term and reducing the risk of full saturation.

Alessia Cuccurullo

Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour and University of Durham

Alessia CuccurulloThe use of sustainable and energy-efficient construction materials is essential to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption worldwide. Raw earth construction materials, which are obtained from a mix of moist sand and clay subjected to a relativity high compaction pressures without any chemical binder, possess levels of strength and stiffness comparable to those of conventional cooked masonry bricks. Alessia’s project will aim to improve the mechanical characteristics of raw earth materials (in particular the durability in humid climates preserving the desired eco-friendly attributes) and investigate the hygro-thermal performances.

Elodie Coudert

University of Cassino and University of Strathclyde

Elodie Coudert Elodie’s doctoral research focuses on the study of the feasibility of soil stabilisation by alkaline activation. The potential development of soil stabilisation techniques using alkaline activation for geotechnical engineering purposes is very attractive since this technique could be an alternative to the ordinary use of Portland cement and lime. Alkali activated materials could particularly represent a viable sustainable alternative to usual soil stabilizers because of their low energy consumption and low CO2 emissions during synthesis.

Jacopo Zannin

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and NOBATEK

Jacopo ZanninShallow geothermal structures are foundations of typical civic structures where the structural role is coupled with the heating/cooling role of heat exchangers. Various geotechnical structures, such as piles, diaphragm walls, anchors, tunnel linings, can be thermally-activated. Jacopo’s work focuses on the geomechanical characterization and design of energy walls using a holistic approach, typically used for the construction of multi-floored underground basements, underground cark parks and shallow tunnels in urban environment.

Sravan Muguda Viswanath

University of Durham and Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour

The durability of earthen construction is usually enhanced using conventional stabilisers such as cement or lime, but these additions are associated with carbon cost. As an alternative, Sravan’s project aims to incorporate bio-stabilisation methods in developing earthen construction methods and will study its impact on mechanical and durability performance.

Ana Sofia Dias

University of Naples Federico II and INRA

Sofia DiasThe Italian region of Campania has witnessed a number of landslides induced by prolonged and intense rainfall events. These landslides are shallow and of great destructive power as past events have shown us (for example Sarno in 1998 and Nocera in 2004). The stability of these slopes is guaranteed by apparent cohesion (suction), which significantly decreases with the occurrence of rainfall. Mitigation solutions have been studied but environmentally friendly approaches are becoming more popular in recent years due to their low relative cost and for decreasing carbon emissions. The use of vegetation as a mitigation measure is common among ecologists but less work has been done in the perspective of geotechnical engineering. Indeed, water uptake by plants results in an increase of suction, which is a positive effect. However, that may not compensate for the increase of the soil hydraulic permeability and the changes in the water retention capacity of the soil permeated by roots. Ana Sofia’s work is to investigate the effect of the presence of vegetation on the groundwater flow taking into account the root distribution at a test site in Mount Faito (Lattari Mountains, Italy).

Lorenzo Rossi

INRA and University of Cassino

Lorenzo RossiIn natural engineering projects plants can serve numerous useful purposes, from stabilizing slopes to purifying water. One of these services can be recognized in carbon sequestration. Plants, through photosynthesis, absorb CO2 and use the carbon to synthesis sugars, transforming the sun energy in biomass and allowing life to flourish on our planet. The carbon is then moved from biomass to soil once the plant tissue dies. It can then be stored there for a long period of time, reducing the greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and fighting global warming. The aim of Lorenzo’s research is to quantify the amount of carbon stocked in embankments in the south of France and understand how to enhance this process by selecting proper soil (‘natural’ topsoil vs ‘mineral’ soil used in geo-engineering projects), the correct plant species and soil treatment (microbiological inoculation).

Abhijith Chandr Kamath

Delft University of Technology

Abhijith Kamath In deltas and lowlands, canals and waterways have important societal functions. The use of locally available biomaterials for embankments and sheet pile wall structures is of great importance for sustainable building policy. Wood is one of the main materials used in soft soil structures and is often locally available, but other living materials such as plants with their roots can be used as well. In Abhijith’s project, new earth retaining structures will be developed using a combination of civil engineered wood sheet pile wall structures in combination with plants such as ground covers and trees. The wood-based structures shall allow for higher and stronger retaining walls, profiled retaining walls and—especially promising—structures that combine retaining functions and earth strengthening functions with nature development. The use of long natural fibre-like materials such as lianas in combination with eco-reinforced geo-materials can be a key area in this research, allowing for both vertical and diagonal stabilisation techniques. Analysis of structural safety of embankments and service life aspects in the soil-water-air interface climate will also be an essential part of the research. Read more about Abhijith’s work.

Alessandro Fraccica


Alessandro FraccicaThe aim of Alessandro’s work is to define constitutive laws for soil-plants interface. Several aspects will be considered: root strength, forces transmitted during the plants growth, mechanical and hydraulic effects on soil, mechanical and hydraulic history of soil and possible coupling of biological effects.

Emmanuel Salifu

University of Strathclyde and University of Naples Federico II

Emmy_TERRE_siteEmmanuel’s research is a highly multi-disciplinary work involving microbiological laboratory techniques and geotechnical testing of soils and interfaces. He is concerned with the development of experimental methods for low carbon soil improvement by engineering the growth and characteristics of ‘bio-networks’ formed by suitable soil organisms on soil interfaces. The hydro-mechanical properties of the resulting engineered interfaces will also be investigated at the micro- and macroscale, for potential implementation within specific geotechnical applications.

Gianluca Speranza

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and NOBATEK

Gianluca SperanzaGianluca’s work is focused on the development of methods for carbon footprint assessment in geotechnical construction taking into account resource consumption and environmental effects. He will carry out technical, economic and environmental assessment applying Life Cycle analysis to geo-structures. Moreover, he will investigate the contribution of suction on geo-structures combining mechanical and environmental aspects. A tempting challenge will be the development of a tool for the optimization of environmental and technical performance of geotechnical technologies.

Raniero Beber

University of Strathclyde and Kempfert Geotechnik GmbH

Raniero BeberCoastal areas in the UK and countries such as Germany and the Netherlands are protected from flooding by sea dykes. Breach of these structures is one of the main causes of flood disasters.
Raniero’s research priority is to understand the mechanisms of breach initiation, that are the key to assessing sea dyke failure hazard. The long term goal of his project is to develop (nature-based and low-carbon) remedial measures for existing sea dykes, and to optimise the design of new sea dykes.

Pavlina Karagianni

CIMNE and Kempfert Geotechnik GmbH

Pavlina KaragianniPavlina’s research is focused on the development of a new Decision Support System for the sustainability assessment and design evaluation of geotechnical infrastructures and ground improvement techniques. The research is highly multi-disciplinary and involves four basic elements of decision-making for evaluate geotechnical infrastructures and techniques.