14 October 2007

The University of Queensland has announced a $1.5 million partnership with Golder Associates Pty Ltd to address skills shortages and research needs in the growing field of geotechnical engineering.

The five-year partnership with Golder Associates, a leading international ground engineering and environmental services consultancy, will increase the number of UQ graduates specialising in geotechnical engineering and promote applied research in geomechanics to meet industry needs.

The partnership will see the appointment of Professor David Williams to the Golder Chair in Geomechanics, and the creation of a new Golder Geomechanics Centre.

Geomechanics is the study of the behaviour of soil and rock that underpins the branch of engineering known as geotechnical engineering, which is vital to the design and delivery of civil infrastructure and mining development. It combines the disciplines of soil mechanics, rock mechanics and engineering geology.

Professor Williams, who has a long-established research and teaching career at UQ, will take on the role of Director of the Centre, which will conduct undergraduate teaching and cutting-edge research in the geomechanics field.

Executive Dean of UQ’s Faculty of Engineering, Physical Sciences and Architecture Professor Stephen Walker welcomed the partnership and said it would ensure quality outcomes for both organisations and industry in general.

“The UQ-Golder partnership will greatly expand the University’s capacity to provide industry with graduates specialising in geomechanics, and research outcomes that will in turn support the unprecedented level of development at the local, national and international scales,” Professor Walker said.

Engineers with geomechanics knowledge will play an ever-increasing role as growing populations force new development onto less stable ground such as low-lying, soft estuarine deposits, onto challenging topographies, and beneath cities in the form of transportation tunnels and underground space.

As mining activity continues to expand, engineers skilled in geomechanics will be required to meet the challenges of ever-deeper open pits and underground operations, in high stress environments, and the management of escalating mining and processing wastes and mine site rehabilitation.

Managing Director of Golder Associates, Mr Darren Watt, said that it was up to industry and consultancies to take the initiative to increase the number of graduates specialising in geomechanics and promote research to the levels needed in today's economy.

“As a leading provider of geotechnical engineering, the future of our business depends on attracting graduates with a strong interest in geotechnical engineering and a good understanding of the fundamentals of geomechanics,” Mr Watt said.

“Through funding the Centre and via active participation in undergraduate teaching and research, we hope to assist the University to build a centre that is recognised for its excellence in geomechanics teaching and research,” he said.

Professor Williams said that his appointment was a fantastic opportunity and a privilege, and that he looked forward to providing academic leadership in geomechanics teaching, research and service.

“This will give me an opportunity to make a difference and give something back in the growing area of geomechanics,” Professor Williams said.

The UQ-Golder initiative will provide for additional academic and post-doctoral appointments, broadening the University’s geomechanics capability, as well as undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships.

The new Golder Geomechanics Centre will work closely with existing geomechanics academics within Mining Engineering and Earth Sciences and within the Sustainable Minerals Institute at the University.

Media: Further information:
UQ: Professor David Williams, Ph: (07) 3365 3642 or email d.williams@uq.edu.au or Kim Jensen, School of Engineering, Ph: (07) 3346 9976 or email k.jensen@uq.edu.au.

Golder: Scott Fidler, Principal, Ph: (07) 3721 5400 or email or Sally Wilkes, National Communications Coordinator, Ph: (07) 3721 5404 or email: swilkes@golder.com.au.