Imperial College London


Faculty of EngineeringDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Professor of Particulate Soil Mechanics



+44 (0)20 7594 6117cath.osullivan Website




501Skempton BuildingSouth Kensington Campus






Prof. O'Sullivan has been a professor in the Geotechnics Section of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Imperial College since September 2017.  She joined the Dept. in 2004 as a lecturer, following a two-year period at University College Dublin. She completed her PhD studies at the University of California, Berkeley in 2002.

Catherine's  main research interest is in particulate soil mechanics.  Her research uses discrete element modelling (DEM) as well as experimental techniques including micro-computed tomography (μCT).  Catherine has been applying these techniques to look at fundamental sand behaviour, behaviour of reservoir sandstones, internal erosion and interpretation of laboratory tests.  Recognition for her research includes the 2015 Geotechnique lecture and the 2016 Shamsher Prakash Research Award.

Catherine is very happy to support prospective students who are interested in applying for scholarships for PhD research in the area of particulate soil behaviour.  A list of scholarships for studying at Imperial College  is here.  If you are interested please contact Catherine who can support you through the application process.  Catherine is also happy to discuss post-doctoral fellowship opportunities with interested researchers. 

Most of Catherine's students have had a background in civil engineering, but her group has included physicists, mathematicians and mechanical engineers.On two occasions her PhD students have nominated her for an Imperial College London Student Choice Supervision Award. The 2014 nomination video is here .  In 2021 Catherine was presented with an Imperial College London President’s Awards for Teaching Innovation.

Details of Catherine's book on Particulate Discrete Element Modelling  can be found at: Particulate DEM: A geomechanics perspective. A Japanese language edition of Catherine's book on Particulate Discrete Element Modelling has been translated by Kiichi Suzuki.

Catherine's publication list on Google Scholar can be found here.

Areas of Expertise:

 Discrete element modelling, laboratory validation of discrete element models, development of discrete element analysis tools, micromechanics of granular material response, micro-computed tomography, characterisation of granular materials.


Research Activities:


  • Catherine presented at the June 2022 Gordon Research Conference on Particulate Systems Across Scales: From Colloidal Science to Geophysics .  Her presentation slides are here.
  • Catherine's presentation at the April 2022 EMMC18 conference is available here.
  • Catherine's presentation at the March 2022 IRN Geomechanics workshop on modelling and measurement are available here.
  • Catherine presented some work on radiography and tomography in MATHEGRAM ATC2 in April 2021.  Slides are available here.
  • Catherine's  Granular Matter seminar in delivered in March 2021 can be viewed here. Slides are available here.
  • Catherine gave a presentation on wave propagation in granular materials at Georgia Institute of Technology on Feb 25 2020.  Slides are available here.
  • Catherine participated in a MATHEGRAM training event in Nov. 2019 at TU Graz.  Slides are available here.
  • Catherine delivered a key note entitled Particle Scale Modelling in Soil Mechanics: Stiffness, strength, and seepage at the Particles 2019 conferenceSlides are available here.
  • Catherine delivered a keynote entitled DEM, dams and dikes at the DEM8 conference in July 2019.  Slides are available here.
  • Catherine delivered her inaugural lecture on 20th of February 2019.  Slides from this lecture are available here.  You can watch the lecture via YouTube here.

Diversity and Equality

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Otsubo M, Kuwano R, O'Sullivan C, et al., 2022, Using geophysical data to quantify stress-transmission in gap-graded granular materials, Geotechnique, Vol:72, ISSN:0016-8505, Pages:565-582

Bandera S, Angioletti-Uberti S, Tangney P, et al., 2021, Coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations of clay compression, Computers and Geotechnics, Vol:138, ISSN:0266-352X, Pages:1-18

Liu D, O'Sullivan C, Carraro JAH, 2021, The influence of particle size distribution on the stress distribution in granular materials, Geotechnique, ISSN:0016-8505, Pages:1-37

Che H, O'Sullivan C, Sufian A, et al., 2021, A novel CFD-DEM coarse-graining method based on the Voronoi tessellation, Powder Technology, Vol:384, ISSN:0032-5910, Pages:479-493

Sufian A, Artigaut M, Shire T, et al., 2021, Influence of Fabric on Stress Distribution in Gap-Graded Soil, Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, Vol:147, ISSN:1090-0241

Liu D, O'Sullivan C, Harb Carraro JA, 2021, Influence of particle size distribution on the proportion of stress-transmitting particles and implications for measures of soil state, Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, Vol:147, ISSN:0733-9410, Pages:04020182-1-04020182-14

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