The more we understand about landslides, the more questions we have. We now know that we can't describe a landslide as being made up of a uniform material, because it very quickly segregates, so we need to understand the properties of all of the constituents that make up the landslide, and how they interact. The same thing applies when we make pharmaceutical tablets - the active ingredient, which is usually very small, can easily separate from the rest of the powders, so if we treated all this material the same way we would end up with tablets of varying concentration.
I develop a suite of mathematical and numerical models of landslides, avalanches and other granular media, such as pharmaceutical powders, so we can make sense of what's going on. Then we can make predictions about what will happen in the real world.
Granular materials are one of the most common materials we deal with, yet strangely we know very little about them. They exhibit such rich behaviours that describing them comprehensively is no mean feat.
My research focuses on granular materials where the constituent grains are of different sizes - such as landslides with boulders in them. Lots of interesting things happen in these cases: crushing, mixing, segregation, melting, agglomeration and so on. Describing all of these things in one coherent framework is my current goal.
This will then assist us to design structures that can protect people against landslides and avalanches, for example. It will also have applications in other areas such as block cave mining, bulk material transport, industrial milling operations, coffee grinding and fibre-reinforced concrete mixing.
Having completed my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the University of Sydney, I returned as a staff member in 2015. The research group I work with here is truly a team of world-leading pioneers in granular mechanics, geomechanics and a host of related fields. It is a privilege to work with such motivated, inspiring and positive researchers.