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Our Research

The School has a strong research tradition. Major research directions include: structural engineering and design; environmental geotechnology, geotechnical engineering and materials; water resources, supply and hydrology; hydraulics and rivers; concrete materials; environmental engineering; project and construction management and development. 

PhD graduates of the past 5 years who are interested in Postdoctoral Fellowships in the various research areas of the School. Individuals can contact an academic in the relevant research discipline or the Head of School.

Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering


The Geotechnical Engineering Group focuses on improving our understanding of geo-materials in ways that are particularly relevant to our Southern African environment. The group relies on a number of research approaches to achieve these goals: laboratory experimentation, numerical modelling, critical literature surveys, and field measurements. Most of our laboratory research efforts are conducted in the Geoffrey Blight Geotechnical Laboratory which houses large (30 x 30 cm) and standard (10 x 10 cm) shear boxes, triaxial testing devices, oedometers, and Rowe-Barden consolidation cells. For our numerical modelling we rely on commercial finite difference software. Additionally, we regularly collaborate with industry to ensure that our research remains relevant to geotechnical practitioners. Topics of interest to our research group include: underground coal gasification, thermal effects on the mechanical properties of rocks, interpretation of Cone Penetration Tests, mechanical stability of tailings dams, and enhanced interpretation of soil index properties.



Technical Staff:

  • Mrs Tumelo Sithole
  • Mr Sammuel Mabote


Construction Materials


The Construction Materials Research Group is a dynamic entity that focuses on both fundamental and applied research in the field of concrete and cement-based materials using both numerical and empirical approaches. The primary objectives of the research group include to:

  • contribute towards development of technical expertise in the field of concrete and cement-based materials, including management of concrete infrastructure;
  • influence the development of national policies, and both national and international standards/codes/guidelines in the field of concrete and cement-based materials;
  • advance frontiers in the research and application of new and/or improved construction materials.

The group boasts of a diverse range of postgraduate students from various backgrounds – both national and international. We work closely with the concrete and cement industry in South Africa, and receive support from organizations such as The Concrete Institute (TCI), The National Research Foundation (NRF), and a number of cement and concrete production companies.

The research focus areas within this group are:

  • General engineering properties of cement-based materials
  • Alternative concrete-making materials (including recycled materials)
  • Sustainability, durability and service life prediction of concrete structures
  • Maintenance, repair and rehabilitation of concrete structures
  • Cement hydration in relation to macro-behaviour of concrete


 Technical Staff:

  • Mr Masindi Lambani (Ronny) - Snr Technician
  • Mr. Ronald Manameni (Lab assistant)


Structural Engineering

The structural engineering group consists of four lecturers, with vast theoretical and experimental experience.   Prof Alex Elvin has developed theoretical algorithms for numerical modelling, has extensive knowledge in the failure of structures and has developed instrumentation to monitor the health of buildings.   The majority of his research is in the field of steel structures.   Dr. Kuinian Li is an expert in structural dynamics and vibrations of structures.  Dr. Li has extensive experience in the dynamic testing of structures and has developed theoretical models for the isolation of vibration.   Dr. Bradley is an expert in shell structures, and has developed wind and temperature loading models, based on wind tunnel testing and monitoring of thermocouples on shell models, and full-scale shell structures.   He also has extensive experience in the use of sustainable building materials, such as cement stabilized earth bricks.   Prof Mitch Gohnert is also an expert in shell structures, and has developed thrust-line and membrane theories for specialized structural forms, such as catenary and parabolic shapes.  He is an author of a text book on shell structures, and has developed design criteria for the optimization of structural systems.  Prof Gohnert works primarily with reinforced concrete and masonry.      


 Technical Staff:

  • Mr Mutshutshu Nethononda - Snr Technician of Heavy Structure Lab
  • Mr. Masindi Lambini (Ronny) - Snr Technician of Light Structures Lab
  • Mr. Henrique Licotso- Assistant Technician of Heavy Structures Lab and Workshop
  • Mr. William Mainganye - Assistant Technician of Workshop
Sustainable Infrastructure, Water and Environment

Within the Sustainable Infrastructure and Environment group there are many subgroups that research over multi-disciplinary fields. 

Water Research Group

The Water Research Group (WRG) promotes the highest level of intellectual discourse, training and research on water and environmental issues from an integrated, multi-faceted and interdisciplinary approach to achieve equitable, efficient and sustainable use of water resources. The activities of the Group address directly the sustainable development goal (SDG) 6 – clean water and sanitation and 13 – climate action, and these make significant contribution to SDGs 1 and 2 – no poverty and zero hunger. These activities involve a combination of approaches that include experimentation in the hydraulics and environmental engineering laboratories in Hillman building, numerical modelling with a wide-range of software packages, and field investigations.  Some of the research activities carried out by the Group include hydraulic modelling, hydrological and water resource systems modelling, water resources planning and management, water distribution system optimization and water quality monitoring, sanitation, sustainable stormwater management, environmental sustainability, and drought and risk mitigation. The Group receives funding for its research activities from a variety of sources including the Water Research Commission (WRC), the National Research Foundation (NRF), the City of Johannesburg and Joburg Water.

Systems, Transportation and Hydroinformatics Group

Environmental Infrastructure Group

The Environmental Engineering Group is made up of academics who conduct research in a number of topical areas. The group has worked on and/or is currently working on projects aimed at assessing and managing biostability and biofilm growth in drinking water distribution systems, developing polymeric membrane systems for the removal of trace pharmaceuticals from wastewater, evaluating the efficiency of a novel photobioreactor design in supporting the growth of cyanobacteria, exploring sustainable approaches for the disposal of sludge from secondary wastewater treatment plants, understanding the drivers of, and  barriers to, the acceptance of alternative toilets in South Africa, using low-cost and micro-scale green infrastructure to manage surface water and stormwater runoff in informal settlements and exploring the utility of stabilised earth as a structural material.

The Group has a well-equipped analytical chemistry laboratory and a small molecular biology laboratory. These laboratories are managed by a professional chemist and are accessible to researchers and students from within and outside of the School.  



 Technical Staff:

  • Ms. Namhla Maqubela (Enviromental Lab technician)
  • Mr. Tinashe Mangere (Hydraulics lab and Head Lab technician)
  • Mr. Stephen Ndolvu (Hydraulics lab)