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Professor in the Department of EngineeringE213a (Christopherson)+44 (0) 191 33 42516


Will Coombs is a Professor in the Department of Engineering. He graduated in Civil Engineering with a first class MEng honors degree from Durham University in 2008. Following his undergraduate studies, Will began a PhD at Durham University within the School of Engineering and Computing Sciences. He successfully completed in 2011. The research conducted during this time concentrated on the theoretical development and numerical implementation of finite deformation constitutive models for pressure-sensitive particulate geomaterials.

Will's research remains in the area of computational mechanics, focused on: (i) material (or constitutive) models with a specific focus on elasto-plasticity, (ii) finite-deformation mechanics, (iii) non-linear finite-elements, (iv) non-mesh-based numerical methods, (v) material point methods and (vi) fracture. 


In more detail, Will's primary research interest surrounds inelastic constitutive modelling of geomaterials subjected to finite deformations. Included within this is the theoretical development and numerical implementation of a range of material constitutive models, from simple, rapid and robust isotropic models to complex anisotropic material behaviour frameworks. His research continues on the development on constitutive models for a variety of engineering materials, including complex particulate behaviour. One aim in this area is relating the observed material behaviour to tangible and measurable material properties and fabric constituents whilst respecting the fundamental laws of thermodynamics.

In addition to research on constitutive modelling, Will has developed a series of cutting-edge, compact and freely available Finite Element Method and Material Point Method codes for problems involving large deformation and material failure (elasto-plasticity). These codes form a lauchpad to test out research ideas, especially for research students, and provide ideal environments for new collaborations. 

Recently Will's research has focused on applications in offshore geotechnical engineering related to offshore wind energy, such as foundation solutions and issues related to cable installation. The adopted computational tool for these investigations is the Material Point Method (MPM) that is ideally suited to model problems involving large deformation and material failure. Durham's research group has positioned itself as a leader in implicit MPMs and has solved several issues related to application of boundary conditions, avoiding spurious issues such as volumetric locking and appropriate ways to formulate MPM equilibrium equations. 



Will currently teaches in the following areas: finite-element method, non-linear mechanics (large deformation mechanics and plasticity), contact mechanics and aircraft structures. In the past he has also taught courses on plasticity for metal forming, structural analysis, land surveying and Critical State soil mechanics as well as coursework in the areas of finite-element analysis, plasticity, contact and geometric non-linearity. 

Research interests

  • elasto-plasticity
  • finite deformation mechanics
  • finite-elements (continuous and discontinuous Galerkin)
  • fracture prediction
  • geomaterials
  • hyperplasticity
  • material point method
  • stress integration
  • offshore geotechnics


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