Engineers Australia

AGS NSW Research Award 2021

Vienti Hadsari, Yuxiao Li, Dr Ebrahim Alaei and Rakesh Sai Malisetty

As part of their ongoing support of academic institutions and students, the Sydney and Newcastle Chapters of the Australian Geomechanics Society are offering the prestigious AGS NSW Research Award for research in Geotechnical Engineering or Engineering Geology. The award aims to provide a forum for research students from NSW universities to showcase their research to the wider Geotechnical Community.

Important Dates

Closing Date for Submissions Extended to 14th May 2021
Selection of Three Finalists – 21st June 2021
Finalists Presentation – 14th July 2021


The award is open to:

  • Research students
  • Enrolled in any New South Wales university
  • Undertaking research in Geotechnical
  • Former PhD candidates already graduated within 18 months from this event date.
  • Engineering or Engineering Geology Candidates must be current research students (i.e. No Phd awarded at the time of the application) or have graduated within 18 months from the event date. Applicants must not have applied for the AGS YGP award in the current year. However, unsuccessful candidates who have previously applied for this award and remain to be current research students are eligible to reapply for the current Research Award.


The submission for the Award shall comprise a report, with a geotechnical engineering or engineering geology theme, of no more than 3,500 words, giving a broad summary of the research. The report shall cover the research questions and rationale, the scope of the thesis, the most important results, and conclusions. The submission must be detailed enough to convey the full impact and significance of the research and should be accompanied by selected tables and figures.

The student must be the sole author of the submitted report. The AGS may request supporting documentation from the candidate’s supervisor, and the supervisor’s details must be provided in the submission.

The finalists will be expected to provide a written paper (with any co-authors as appropriate), which complies with the editorial requirements of the Australian Geomechanics journal (obtainable from the Australian Geomechanics Society website). The written paper must be substantially new, unpublished material, and a statement of this must accompany the written paper.


The finalists will be required to give a special presentation of their work to members of the AGS Sydney Chapter in July. The presentations need to be targeted at the audience – geotechnical professionals working in industry. The AGS will pay the reasonable out of town transport and accommodation costs of finalists.

Evaluation of submissions

Written submissions will be assessed by a Review Panel. The Review Panel will select up to three finalists who will be invited to present their submissions at AGS technical meetings in Sydney. The winner will be selected by the Review Panel at the end of the second presentation on the basis of the selection criteria below.The decision of the Review Panel will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Review panel

The Review Panel will consist of:

  • Three senior academics from NSW universities;
  • Two AGS committee members from the Sydney Chapter; and
  • One AGS committee member from the Newcastle Chapter.

Selection criteria

  • Technical content 30%
  • Originality of content 15%
  • Industry relevance 20%
  • Clarity of written submission 10%
  • Clarity of verbal communication 25%


It is expected that written papers will be prepared by the finalists for publishing in Australian Geomechanics.

About the speakers

Vienti Hadsari

“The influence of wetting and drying on the pore size distribution, water retention, compressibility and liquefaction susceptibility of a silty sand”

I am Vienti Hadsari, a research student from Indonesia who studied PhD at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Australia. I chose to study in Australia because it is well-known for its academic excellence and advanced laboratory facilities – something crucial for my research.

Some questions like “Why soil respond differently under different environmental conditions?” and “How to know which soil is prone to collapse and which soil is resistant to collapse?” has brought me found my passion in geotechnical engineering, especially those related to microstructure and macro-behaviour of soil.

I believed that the macro-behaviour of a soil depends on its microstructure. Later, it is evidenced in my research that there is a linkage between compressibility parameter 𝜆 or 𝐶𝑐 and a feature in Soil Water Characteristic Curve (𝛽). Also, the adoption of the void ratio as the only parameter to infer soil compressibility may give misleading and counter-intuitive results. The research finding filled the gap in the literature and clarify some inconsistencies found when assessing soil’s macro-behaviour. The ultimate contribution of my research would be the identification of the most controlling parameter on soil’s macro behaviour which is independent of soil type, deposition method, or drying and wetting history. This would be beneficial for me in the future, either as an academic or a practitioner.

Yuxiao Li

“Evaluating the effectiveness of RDC”

I am Yuxiao Li from China and am a final-year PhD candidate from University of Sydney. I came to Australia as an international student in 2013 for university study and applied to be a PhD student after graduation. I majored in structural engineering for my bachelor’s degree but chose a project in geotechnical engineering afterwards as I wanted to experience something different.

Rolling dynamic compaction (RDC) has been widely applied in construction industry but there is a lack of engineering models to predict the soil behaviour under RDC. The particle movement beneath the soil surface and the effects of the initial density, moisture content and water table on the depths of influence have been studied in this project. However, further quantitative studies are still required considering some inaccuracy in the results obtained. The behaviour of different soil types should also be investigated.

This study would still benefit my career as it provides some guidance on the application of RDC in different soil conditions. Instead of working within the academia, I am planning to pursue a career in the consulting or contracting world. Again, I want to experience something different and want to apply what I learned within the past eight years to practical projects.

Dr Ebrahim AlaeiResearch associate at SciGEM group, The University of Sydney

“Comprehensively predictive five-parameter hydrodynamic model for crushable sand”

I hold a BSc in Civil Engineering and a MSc in Geotechnical Engineering from Power and Water University of Technology, Tehran, Iran in 2008 and 2011, respectively. Thanks to the significance of my MSc thesis, I gained two researcher grants to conduct studies on stability analysis of rockfill dams (by Iran Water Resource Management company) and stability and financial aspects of deep excavations (by Iran National Elites Foundation). I was fortunate to work for six years in designing, technical and construction aspects of geotechnical projects including embankment dams, soil stabilizations and deep excavations.
In 2017, I joined the SciGEM group at the University of Sydney as a PhD student to acquire knowledge on the latest developments in the research field of geotechnical engineering. This decision reflects another step to fulfill my long-term passion to become an academic working on both the practical and theoretical aspects of this field. My paper in the Journal of Mechanics and Physics of Solids (2021) illustrates the broad implication and potential application of my PhD work to geotechnical practice, as it introduced a comprehensively predictive model for sand material using only five parameters that most engineers would be already familiar with. My future AGS paper will further illustrate the predictive capabilities of this model, and help it make an impact.

Rakesh Sai Malisetty

“Behavior of railway ballast under moving train loads: Using Mathematical Approaches”

Rakesh Sai Malisetty is a young geotechnical engineer working as a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Technology, Sydney. He did his Bachelors of civil engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur in 2014, a prestigious engineering institute in India. He worked as a civil engineer in the Chennai underground metro project after which he pursued his PhD in railway geotechnics from the University of Wollongong (UOW), Australia. Rakesh has always been interested in the challenges posed by the heterogeneity of soil and rock to engineering applications and the risks associated with them. He has a strong appetite towards the challenges faced by road and railway infrastructure with strong application to future prospects of high speed and heavy haul trains. His PhD work was focussed on understanding the challenges of Rayleigh wave propagation in ballasted railway tracks and assessing the dynamic stability of railway ballast under fast moving trains. His innovative research has been published in top journals and international conferences, and has been awarded the Young Geotechnical Professional at the International Symposium on Geotechnics of Transportation Infrastructure (ISGTI), New Delhi in 2018. He is strongly motivated in expanding his horizon to underground structures and the application of non-destructive testing techniques to monitor the health of existing geotechnical structures.”

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