This branch of engineering focuses on determining the mechanical properties and behavior of soil and rock for use as foundation and construction materials.  It is also equally applied to geohazard identification and mitigation.  GGE engineering faculty conduct research projects in this field in a wide variety of situations and locations.  Graduate students that focus on geomechanics often become employed in engineering consulting firms that deal with landslides, foundations, heavy construction, mining, petroleum, and dams.

Geological engineering faculty are conducting research at the Sanford Underground Research Laboratory (SURF) at the former Homestake Gold Mine in the northern Black Hills.  SURF is a global center for science and engineering focused on particle physics.  GGE faculty and students are actively working in support of lab development as well as potential expansion of non-physics research in the areas of geomechanics, geophysics, and hydrology.  

Geomechanics Research Areas

  • Geomechanics
    -- Rock stability assessments using LiDAR and photogrammetry
    -- Rock strength characterization
    -- Stress-strain response in fine-grained materials
    -- Fractures persistence and roughness characterization
    -- Slow ground motion
    -- Rock melting by induction heating
    -- Hydraulic stimulation in fractured reservoir
    -- Coupled thermal-hydro-mechanical-chemical behaviors in geomaterials
    -- Experimental rock deformation
  • Geophysics
    -- P & S wave velocities
    -- Magnetic susceptibilities in cores
    -- Seismic tomography
    -- Seismic network development
    -- Induced seismicity
  • Hydrology
    -- Water level measurements and microclimate
    -- Flow characterization and transient pressure analysis in core holes
    -- Aquifer system response to groundwater withdrawal

  • Underground storage and energy
    -- Salt cavern monitoring with InSAR and downhole sonar surveys
    -- Modeling salt cavern creep
    -- Storage of hydrocarbons and H2 in salt caverns
    -- EGS
    -- Injection and induced seismicity

Faculty Expertise

  • Kurt W. Katzenstein
    Geohazards, geomechanics, InSAR
  • Tim Masterlark 
    Underground storage and excavations, Salt caverns, Hydrofracking, Geothermal models and EGS, Monitoring with InSAR, Injection and induced seismicity
  • Larry D. Stetler
    Geological engineering, site characterization, 3D imaging, surface and ground water, drilling and reservoir engineering, geomechanics (
  • Kevin M. Ward
    Seismic imaging, Geophysical inverse problems, Broadband and nodal geophone deployments
  • Zhi Ye
    Geomechanics, Rock mechanics, Experimental rock deformation, Geothermal, Unconventional petroleum resources, Geological carbon storage, Induced seismicity


Research Focus Areas