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


Will Coombs is a Professor in Computational Mechanics in the Department of Engineering at Durham University, UK.  Will originally trained as a Civil Engineer before studying for a PhD in Computational Mechanics, focused on constitutive modelling of soils under large deformations, which he completed in 2011.  In the same year he was appointed as a Lecturer at Durham University.  Since that time, he has secured research funding exceeding £14M and published over 50 peer reviewed journal papers in areas such as: (i) constitutive modelling of soils, (ii) plasticity formulations, (iii) advanced finite element methods, (iv) imposition of boundary conditions, (v) meshless/meshfree methods, (vi) the material point method, (vii) topology optimization and (viii) computational fracture mechanics.  He is also committed to making his research as accessible as possible, including publishing research codes in a way that is accessible to early career researchers.  One example of this is the open-source AMPLE material point method code available here.



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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Supervision students