John O'Donovan

John attended Imperial College London from 2009 to 2013 where he completed a PhD in Geotechnical Engineering.

 "My PhD was on tJohn O'Donovanhe use of discrete element methods to investigation the small-strain stiffness of soil using wave propagation methods.  My research was in partnership with the University of Bristol who completed laboratory experiments using wave propagation methods to measure small-strain stiffness.  The numerical work in the PhD was very technical but gave me a lot of confidence in modelling soil-structure interaction and I developed a strong background in mechanics which has helped in numerous ways since graduation, particularly in the design of heavily loaded foundations with tight movement criteria.  I became particularly interested in applying the principles of small-strain soil mechanics to practical problems such as foundation and basement design.

 Following completion of my PhD I spent a number of years working with BuroHappold Engineering as a geotechnical engineer on the company’s Middle East portfolio.  This included a 550m tall tower in Dubai, the National Bank of Oman and the King Abdullah Financial District Metro Station.  I was inspired by the challenging structures that BuroHappold delivered.  I had the opportunity to travel to construction sites in the region and completed a number of longer visits to Saudi Arabia and the UAE to help in the delivery of these projects.  I also worked on the Battersea Power Station redevelopment and a number of projects in the Olympic Park redevelopment.  I would credit the practical experience gained during this time with helping to round out my engineering experience.  I was able to use the numerical modelling experience I had gained during my PhD to calibrate a small-strain stiffness model for the Battersea project.

 In April 2016 I became the Head of the Structures Group at Gavin & Doherty Geosolutions in Dublin.  This group concentrates on design work in urban centres such as Dublin and London and primarily consists of basement design, ground movement assessment and geoenvironmental reviews of brownfield sites.  I work closely with manufacturers, contractors and developers to design solutions that maximise the underground space available in sites with tight constraints.  Our team uses a combination of practical experience, empirical approaches and advanced numerical modelling to reduce the risk associated with groundworks in cities.  Particular highlights have been to be involved in the Thames Tideway project, the National Children’s Hospital in Dublin and the redevelopment of Victoria Square in Woking.  We are frequently consulted on complex problems where the research experience I gained in Imperial helps me to develop solutions.  In 2017 I was shortlisted as a Rising Star finalist at the Ground Engineering Awards.

 My experience with the lecturers of the Geotechnical Section in Imperial for inspired me to get involved in mentoring and in industry committees.  As such, I am a chartered member of the Institution of Civil Engineers and a fellow of the British Geological Society.  I serve on the CPD committee with Gavin & Doherty Geosolutions and on the ICE’s Republic of Ireland committee.  I am very grateful to all the friends and colleagues I made at Imperial, both for their support and for their friendship, both during the PhD and since graduation."