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Takkie Mutsvairo

Research Postgraduate – Geotechnical and Environmental Engineering Node

Research Postgraduate – Geotechnical and Environmental Engineering Node in the Department of Engineering


Takudzwa is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Engineering (Geotechnical Engineering). She was awarded a Msci in Geosciences from Durham University in 2014 and started a career in Geotechnical Engineering before coming back to Durham University. She worked in the geotechnical site investigation industry and geotechnical laboratory testing. 

Research Project

Railways and highways play an important role within the United Kingdom’s transport network. Given the high dependency on railways and highways, the durability and performance of associated infrastructure, slopes, and embankments is of importance. Furthermore, delays and hindrance of use due to instability and failure can result in safety concerns and financial loss. Thus, understanding the cause of deterioration and failure of infrastructure will aid in building more effective and durable rail and road infrastructure in the future.
The effects of weather-driven processes on unsaturated soils has become an important research topic with strong links between earthwork failures and rainfall being observed in the field. Given the forecasted increase in extreme weather due to climate change; the effect of climate-induced processes on soil water retention behaviour is an area in need of further research as cyclical wetting and drying of soils can lead to mechanical degradation of soils (i.e causing a reduction in shear strength and tensile strength). In addition, volumetric changes associated with wetting and drying can lead to significant soil fabric deterioration. As a consequence of wetting and drying cycles, soil fabric deterioration is not well understood and will be looked at further within this research project.
This project aims to further explore the hydro-mechanical behaviour of soils through experimental, constitutive, and numerical modelling. More specifically, the project objective is to develop a constitutive model able to represent the mechanical degradation and soil fabric deterioration observed in the field and laboratory experiments. Numerical integration of this advanced constitutive model will facilitate its subsequent implementation into a finite element program to improve current knowledge and forecasting ability of the performance and durability of existing earthworks which will lead to safer geotechnical designs minimising geotechnical failures.