Prestigious honour for UON Laureate Professor

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The University of Newcastle is delighted to announce geotechnical engineer Laureate Professor Scott Sloan has been elected to The Royal Society, a fellowship of the world's most eminent scientific minds. This scientific academy is the oldest in continuous existence and includes luminaries such as Sir Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein.

"I'm thrilled at the news," Professor Sloan said. "It's not that common for engineers to be elected as Fellows of the Royal Society."

Only four Australians are amongst the 47 new fellows and 10 new Foreign Members announced by the Royal Society in 2015: a psycholinguist, an animal geneticist, an earth scientist and Professor Scott Sloan – a geotechnical engineer.

The leading geotechnical researcher at the University of Newcastle is a pioneer of new methods that enable engineers to predict the collapse states of geostructures such as tunnels, dams, highways and foundations.  These methods have delivered a new tool for engineers to design cheaper and safer civil infrastructure across the globe.

Professor Sloan joins distinguished company including 80 Nobel Laureates among the 1600 Fellows of the Royal Society, since its inception in 1660.

"My election is a reflection of the quality of the research work in geotechnical engineering that has been achieved at the University of Newcastle over the past 30 years. The geotechnical team at Newcastle is a world-leader in its field and is home to a number of outstanding researchers of all ages," Professor Sloan said.

Professor Sloan studied for his BEng (Civil, Hons I) and MEngSci Degrees at Monash University, before winning a scholarship from Trinity College to undertake a PhD at the University of Cambridge in 1978. He later won a Rouse Ball Scholarship at Trinity College, which he held for one year. After three years as a WW Spooner Fellow at New College Oxford, he returned to Australia in 1984 to take up a lectureship in Civil Engineering at the University of Newcastle.

Professor Sloan was appointed Director of the 70-strong University of Newcastle Priority Research Centre for Geotechnical and Materials Modelling in 2007 and made a Laureate Professor in 2008. He is also the founding Director of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Geotechnical Science and Engineering which is headquartered at the University of Newcastle. The $24m centre includes some of the world's leading geotechnical researchers and is focused on the development of more cost-efficient design procedures for roads, railways, ports, tunnels, pipelines, mining operations, and offshore oil and gas facilities. This is being addressed through fundamental research which is based on advanced computational methods, physical modelling in centrifuges, and sophisticated laboratory and field testing.

A prolific researcher, Professor Sloan has published more than 340 refereed papers and delivered over 40 plenary, keynote and invited papers at conferences. He accumulates in excess of 600 Scopus citations per year which places him amongst the elite of geotechnical innovators and at the forefront of research in geomechanics.

The 2015 Royal Society fellows include strong representation of scientists in business and in industry.

President of The Royal Society, Sir Paul Nurse, said science and its application were at the core of so many aspects of our modern lives.

"From treating infectious diseases, to building safe bridges and tunnels, searching out life on other planets and even vacuuming our living rooms, science helps us understand ourselves better and it makes our lives better."

Professor Sloan said his election to the Royal Society, and the success of the Newcastle geotechnical centre in general, would not have been possible without the strong support of the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment as well as the University of Newcastle.

"The continued support of the University will be central to our success in the future, as the international competition for research talent in my field is intense."

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