Imperial College London


Faculty of EngineeringDepartment of Earth Science & Engineering

Reader in Geomechanics



+44 (0)20 7594 7327j.p.latham Website




4.97Royal School of MinesSouth Kensington Campus





Dr John-Paul Latham has a PhD in Structural Geology from Imperial College. Soon after moving to Queen Mary University he became Director of the MSc in Geomaterials. He returned to Imperial in 1999 and is Reader in Geomechanics in the Earth Science and Engineering Department.

His main research interests are in structural geology, coastal engineering, rock mechanics, engineering geology and geomechanics. For two decades, he has championed the use of discontinuum solid numerical models based on the combined finite-discrete element method (FEMDEM or FDEM). The modelling platform which was started by Latham and Munjiza’s EPSRC project, ‘VGW’ or Virtual Geoscience Workbench, from 2004-2009, was re-launched in 2016 as Solidity. The fracture propagation, fragmentation and fracture networks together with multi-body handling has now been extended to rock microstructures and two-way fluid coupling, unlocking applications in Geological, Coastal and Energy Engineering. He has been Principal Investigator lead on eight EPSRC UK research council grants, as well as NERC UK, several Industry, and two EU projects. Working with advanced virtual experimentation tools has facilitated involvement in several multi-disciplinary projects. Examples of keynote talks include “Components in an understanding of rock blasting” and, “How do rubble breakwaters survive wave attack? Challenges for a FEMDEM/CFD model solution”.


Research effort is currently focussed on bringing new numerical tools to bear on gaps in understanding to achieve the necessary energy transition. First, problems associated with the fractured subsurface - for Geological disposal of radioactive waste and for geothermal energy development. Second, problems of multibody particulate systems - for natural granular matter, coastal structures, and industrial technologies such as catalysts.

The Open Source tools and their applications were recently highlighted with the launch of the Solidity website for the application of Discontinuum Modelling to fracture, fragmentation and granular processes. The solids modelling tools have been coupled with fluids and thermal fields by code developer colleagues in AMCG.  The solid-fluid coupled simulations have produced remarkable realism in a number of complex fracturing and particulate processes. 

Specific areas of research include:

  • Modelling of rock destruction during drilling and water-jetting (ESE-Seminar)
  • Generic discontinuum modelling capability: fracture, fragmentation/blasting, granular and solid-fluid coupled process modelling.
  • Fracture networks, hydro-geomechanical coupling and flow in reservoirs 
  • Stability of rubble-mound breakwaters and coastal structures 
  • Effect of particle shape on packing


  • Reader in Geomechanics, 2016-Date
  • Senior Lecturer, Imperial College  2003-2016
  • Quarry Industry Lecturer, Imperial College  1999-2003
  • Lecturer & Director of MSc in Geomaterials, Queen Mary London University  1994-1999
  • Lecturer in Geomaterials, Queen Mary London University  1990-1994
  • Research Fellow, Queen Mary London University  1984-1990
  • PhD Structural Geology, Imperial College  1983
  • MSc Structural Geology & Rock Mechanics, Imperial College  1977
  • BSc Geology, Bristol University  1975

Recent Measures of Esteem

  • Associate Editor - International Journal of Coastal and Offshore Science and Engineering
  • Keynote Address: Twente, The Netherlands, 2019.
  • Keynote Address: Dalian, China 2016.
  • ROCK MECHANICS PRIZE, 2015. At the 49th US Rock Mechanics / Geomechanics Symposium in San Francisco 2015, 28 June-1 July, I was awarded the annual prize for best Rock Mechanics Research by the American Rock Mechanics Association (ARMA), at a conference attended by ~500 delegates
  • Keynote Address: Golden Colorado Aug 2013.
  • Scientific Committee Member: International Conference on Coastal Structures
  • Scientific Committee Member: International Conference on Discrete Element Methods
  • Invited Presentations: Italy 2017, Sweden 2016, Switzerland 2016, China 2016, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011; France 2009; Japan 2010; Canada 2012.
  • 2007 Lead author, 240-page chapter on materials in the CIRIA/CUR/CETMEF Rock Manual

Numerical Simulation Results

Launched the Solidity project website June 2016

Launched the VGeST website in Jan 2010 to showcase numerical modelling of discontinuous solids (~6,300 downloads)

Invited Lectures and Presentations

  • Keynote Address: International Conference on Discrete Element Modelling, Colorado School of Mines, Aug 5th 2013. "How do rubble breakwaters survive wave attack? Challenges for a FEMDEM/CFD model solution"
  • Invited Talk: Baird Associates, Ottawa, Canada. 14th Sept 2012. FEMDEM/Fluidity Developments and Future Opportunities presented to company staff.
  • Invited Talk: Wuhan University, China: Fluid-solid coupling research projects and MoU between Imperial and Wuhan University: 6-10th Dec 2011. Main talk: Steep Rock Slope Collapse - Wave Generation - Wave Propagation - Dam Breaching in Reservoir Lakes: Modelling with Fluidity and FEMDEM.
  • Invited Talks: given in China on FEMDEM modelling presented between 6-10th Dec 2010: Atmospheric Physics Research Institute, Beijing, Wuhan University, Chongqing University of Technology. The Wuhan talk contributed significantly to Wuhan/Imperial collaboration and final signing of an MoU by Professor Mary Ritter (ICL) and Prof Chuangbin Zhou (WU) on 4th April 2011.
  • Invited Talk: UK - Japan Core to Core programme Nuclear Workshop hosted by Professor Hiroshi Takahashi, Dept of Nuclear Engineering, Tokyo University AMCG, 26th Oct 2009. Developments in FEMDEM modelling. Also invited to The British Embassy in Tokyo (nuclear collaborations with JAEA and coastal collaborations with Port, Airport Research Institute, PARI, Japan''s National Laboratory).
  • Invited Talks: International Symposium/RCUK-China Summer School on Discrete Element Methods and Numerical Modelling of Discontinuum Mechanics, Beijing, 24-30 Sept 2008. (i) The Virtual Geoscience Workbench, VGW: Open Source Tools for Discontinuous Systems.  Proceedings, Beijing DEM''08. Ed S.H. Li, Y.T. Feng. p 113-121. (ii) Development of a modelling approach for large granular media used in coastal applications. Proceedings, Beijing DEM''08. Ed S.H. Li, Y.T. Feng. p 122-130.
  • Invited Talk: China-United Kingdom Joint International Geohazard Research Forum, Chengdu, China. 3-9 June 2007. Developments in discrete element modelling of landslides
  • Invited Talk: at Theme Workshop: Discrete-element modelling: methods and applications in the environmental sciences, held at Cambridge University on 23-24 April 2003. The modelling of particle systems with real shapes. The series of papers was later published in a special volume of The Royal Society.
  • Keynote Lecture: Components in an understanding of rock blasting. 6th International Symposium for Rock Fragmentation by Blasting, Johannesburg.1999. Published in Fragblast Journal.

Other Significant Activities

  1. 2004-2009 "VGW - A Virtual Geoscience Workbench for Particulate Systems", is an £810,000 five year research project funded by EPSRC. Dr Latham is the PI for the team working in DESE at IC with a grant worth £470,000 plus in-kind industrial support. A further £340,000 went to our collaborators at Queen Mary London University.
  2. International expert on evaluation, specification and use of rock in construction of coastal and hydraulic engineering works. Invited to be lead author on the extensive (240 page) chapter on materials in the CIRIA/CUR/CETMEF Rock Manual published in July 2007 (see .) It is a state of the art international collaboration between UK, France and Holland, employing national steering groups and international reviewers and is being used throughout the world by practicing hydraulic engineers.
  3. From 1995-2007, has been principal UK expert and secretary of the Armourstone Working Group of the Aggregates Committee, CEN TC154 WG1, that is developing and upgrading product standards to respond to the European Construction Products Directive.
  4. Scientific Committee Member, since 2000, of the International Conference on Coastal Structures, held every 4 years.
  5. International Discrete Element Modelling Conferences in 2007 and 2008, Session Chair.
  6. Invited Engineering Geology Technical Site Visit to China''s Pupugou Hydroelectric Power Station, Yalu Highway and the fault belt of Anning River, Sechuan Province, June 2007.

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Latham J-P, Xiang J, Chen B, et al., 2020, Grain-scale failure mechanism of porous sandstone: an experimental and numerical FDEM study of the Brazilian tensile strength test using CT-scan microstructure, International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences, Vol:132, ISSN:0020-7624, Pages:1-17

Latham J-P, Anastasaki E, Xiang J, 2013, New modelling and analysis methods for concrete armour unit systems using FEMDEM, Coastal Engineering, Vol:77, Pages:151-166

Viré A, Xiang J, Milthaler F, et al., 2012, Modelling of fluid–solid interactions using an adaptive mesh fluid model coupled with a combined finite–discrete element model, Ocean Dynamics

Latham JP, Xiang J, Belayneh M, et al., 2012, Modelling stress-dependent permeability in fractured rock including effects of propagating and bending fractures, International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences, Vol:57, Pages:100-112

Viré A, Xiang J, Milthaler F, et al., 2012, Modelling of fluid-solid interactions using an adaptive-mesh fluid model coupled with a combined finite-discrete element model, Ocean Dynamics, Vol:62, Pages:1487-1501

Xiang J, Munjiza A, Latham J-P, 2009, Finite strain, finite rotation quadratic tetrahedral element for the combined finite-discrete element method, International Journal for Numerical Methods in Engineering, Vol:79, Pages:946-978

Garcia X, Lateef A, Blunt M, et al., 2009, Numerical study of the effects of particle shape and polydispersity on permeability, Physics Review E, Vol:80

Guises R, Xiang J, Munjiza A, et al., 2009, Granular packing: Numerical Simulation and Characterization of the Effect of Particle Shape, Granular Matter, Vol:11, Pages:281-292

More Publications