Welcome to ARC DECRA Fellow and ARC Early-Career Industry Fellow Dr Adnan Sufian

Dr Adnan SufianDr Adnan Sufian is an ARC DECRA Fellow and an ARC Early-Career Industry Fellow. He joined the Centre for Infrastructure, Engineering & Safety in the School of Civil & Environmental Engineering at UNSW Sydney as a Senior Lecturer in the field of Geotechnical Engineering in September 2023. 

Research Interests       

Adnan’s research interest is broadly in the area of multi-scale and multi-phase mechanics of granular materials. His research aims to develop tools and guidelines so that geotechnical engineers can better handle, manipulate and construct with granular materials, and this can lead to innovative solutions to geotechnical issues surrounding the development of urban infrastructure. He is also interested in understanding natural phenomena associated with granular geomaterials such as landscapes affected by erosion, mass movement of materials in landslides, and mitigating the spread of contaminants in subsurface flows. 

He focusses on the interaction of water with soil particles, where he uses a combination of theoretical, numerical and experimental tools to develop a fundamental understanding of these multi-scale and multi-phase interactions and applies this basic research within a geotechnical context. He has strong expertise in the development of novel, efficient and rigorous multi-scale computational modelling techniques, including the Discrete Element Method (DEM), Pore Network Models (PNM) and coupled Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD-DEM).

While he focuses on geotechnical applications, his research also has wider implications in the field of pharmaceutical, chemical processes, manufacturing, agriculture, and food processing. Research in the area of granular materials is naturally a multidisciplinary field and he is currently collaborating with physicists, mathematicians and engineers to uncover emergent phenomena from the collective behaviour of granular particles.

Career Journey

Adnan completed his BE (Civil Engineering) at UNSW Sydney. He was a recipient of the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority Scholarship for Civil Engineering, CVEN Elite Student Scholarship, and the PSM Geotechnical Discipline Prize. His Elite Student research looked at fibre reinforced soil with the findings presented at the Australia New Zealand Geomechanics Conference. His Honours thesis investigated fracturing in Gosford sandstone using X-ray CT and led to his first journal publication in the International Journal for Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences. Through his scholarship with the RTA (now TfNSW), he worked on major projects around Sydney including M7 Shared Pathway Remediation and Iron Cove Bridge Duplication. 

Adnan then joined SMEC Australia, a leading engineering consultancy, as a geotechnical engineer. He worked in both site-based and design roles on major infrastructure projects around NSW, including the Princes Highway Upgrades, Glenfield to Leppington Rail Line, Darlington Point Levee Upgrade, and Gosford Passing Loop. Adnan has maintained a close connection with SMEC, who are the industry partner supporting his ARC Early-Career Industry Fellowship. 

Following his industry experience, Adnan returned to UNSW to undertake a PhD, which he completed under the supervision of Prof Adrian Russell. During his PhD, he was a visiting scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston for one year. His PhD research explored how the macroscopic behaviour of granular soils could be described by the many interactions of individual particles and the resulting structure of the pore space. His research on pore space morphology resulted in the best paper award at the Australasian Conference of Computational Mechanics, and his findings relating the friction angle of soil to the arrangement of discrete particles was published in Geotechnique.

After completing his PhD, Adnan moved to London to take up a postdoctoral research associate position at Imperial College London. His research shifted to simulating fluid-particle interactions with a particular focus on internal erosion in embankment dams and flood levees, which has now become his major area of research and the subject of his fellowships. He also developed a keen interest in open-source software development, which he maintains in his current research. 

Following his stint in London, he returned to Australia to take up a Lecturer position at the University of Queensland, where he extended his internal erosion research, particularly with experimental and geophysical approaches, as well as with large-scale physical modelling. Adnan also has a passion for teaching, and as a lecturer he was involved in first-year and fourth-year design courses, and delivered the third-year geotechnical engineering course and the postgraduate dam engineering course at the University of Queensland. Adnan has a keen interest in blended learning and digital uplift of engineering education, which led to the development of an online edX course delivered to third-year undergraduate student. He was nominated as the most effective teacher for three consecutive years for this course from high achieving students.   

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