Research Highlights – Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) Geotechnical Group

Research High lights 

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)
Geotechnical Group

1. Introduction

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) was established in 1991.  The main campus is ideally located within the natural beauty of the Clear Water Bay peninsula in East Kowloon, Hong Kong (Fig. 1). The serenity of the setting creates the perfect environment for research. The HKUST has four major schools: Engineering, Science, Business and Management, and Humanities & Social Science. The total number of undergraduate students is about 9,500 and that of postgraduate students is about 4,300. The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is one of six engineering departments and the geotechnical group at HKUST is one of several research groups within the Department. The group comprises six professors and two research assistant professors.

HKUST 2005-2020 is a strategic plan set out by the university with becoming a world leader in environmental and sustainable development as one of its milestones.  The geotechnical group’s interests range from fundamental to applied research in broad areas: constitutive and numerical modelling of static and cyclic saturated and unsaturated soil behaviour at various temperatures; multi-phase flow in soil; mechanical behaviour of granular soil; physico-chemical soil behaviour of clayey soil; soil testing techniques; dynamic soil properties; wave-based characterization of geomaterials; development of innovative geomaterials; geo-energy issues including energy pile foundation and off-shore foundation engineering, geo-environmental problems such as innovative membrane-free landfill covers and green slope engineering; onshore soil-structure interaction involving piles, tunnels, and deep excavation; and the risk and reliability modelling of geotechnical performance.

The research is facilitated by the advanced HKUST geotechnical engineering laboratory as well as the state-of-the-art Geotechnical Centrifuge Facility (GCF) at HKUST, which is one-of-a-kind in Hong Kong.

This report first introduces the faculty members in the group and their respective research interests. The GCF and other state-of-the-art equipment used in their research are then presented. Some of their major research projects are then highlighted to showcase the holistic research approach the group encourages. Finally, social activities and recent conferences hosted by the group are described.

More information about the group can be found at:


 HKUST campus

2. Faculty

Prof. Charles W.W. Ng, Chair Professor

KUST_2Professor Charles W.W. Ng is an Associate Vice-President for Research and Graduate Studies and a Chair Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He was an Overseas Fellow from the Churchill College, Cambridge University, in 2005 and Changjiang Chair Professor in Geotechnical Engineering in 2010. He is Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers (FICE), the American Society of Civil Engineers (FASCE), and the Hong Kong Academy of Engineering Sciences.

Professor Ng is the President of the Hong Kong Geotechnical Society. He served on the board of the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE) from 2010 to 2013.  Currently he chairs the board-level Awards Committee and has been the Editor-in-Chief of the ISSMGE Bulletin since 2014. Professor Ng is an Associate Editor of the Canadian Geotechnical Journal and has served on many other editorial boards.

Professor Ng has been leading three large-scale inter-disciplinary research projects: (i) Understanding debris flow mechanisms and mitigating risks for a sustainable Hong Kong; (ii) Green slope engineering: bioengineered, live cover systems for man-made fill slopes and landfill capillary barriers in Hong Kong, and (iii) Green slope engineering. He organised the inaugural International Conference on Geo-Energy and Geo-Environment in 2015 (GeGe2015) at HKUST. The second “GeGe” conference will be held in 2017 at Zhejiang University, China and the third in 2019 at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland. Selected papers are published in three refereed journals.

Professor Ng has solely supervised and graduated more than 30 PhD and 35 MPhil students. his current research students come from 16 different countries (see Fig. 2). He has published some 230 SCI articles in reputable international journals and delivered many keynotes, general reports and state-of-the-art reports in five continents. He is the main author of two reference books (i) Soil-structure Engineering of Deep Foundations, Excavations and Tunnels and (ii) Advanced Unsaturated Soil Mechanics and Engineering. He is also the lead editor of two major conference proceedings the 6th International Conference on Physical Modelling in Geotechnics in 2006 and the 6th International Symposium on Geotechnical Aspects of Underground Construction in Soft Ground in 2009 (see Fig. 3).  In recent years he has placed a stronger focus on geo-energy and geo-environmental research to address sustainability concerns in the field of geotechnics.  His current research areas include bioengineered slopes and live cover systems; fundamental investigations into sustainable and preventive measures for municipal solid waste landfills; sustainable mitigation measures against debris flows; energy pile studies; climate change impact on unsaturated soil; fundamental investigations on lateritic soil behaviour; and off-shore studies including methane hydrate-bearing sediments, pipelines and foundations for energy structures (i.e. wind turbine foundations).