Geoenvironmental Research Centre

The University's Geoenvironmental Research Centre is a pioneer in the field of geoenvironmental engineering. It was awarded one of the Queen's Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education in 2013.

Led by Professor Hywel Thomas, the Centre was established in 1996 and aimed to respond to real issues that were affecting the lives of people around the world - land-based environmental problems such as pollution and groundwater contamination.

It merged the traditional disciplines of environmental and geotechnical engineering and adopted an approach unique for the time which involved stakeholders from many disciplines to develop holistic solutions to these major global issues.

Over the last 17 years the Centre's staff have worked in some of the world's most hazardous environments and on some of its most controversial issues. In Africa, staff helped identify and manage land contaminated by persistent organic pollutants while in the Bay of Bengal, the Centre's research helped inform solutions to the worst case of mass poisoning in the world.

Committed to industry

Here in Wales, the Centre's work has helped develop a new and innovative fibre grass seed mulching product; shown how construction and blast furnace slag waste could be reused in earthworks construction; and developed a new technique to convert industrial wastes into cement substitutes, among other successes.

In Europe the Centre has pioneered a 'best practice manual' for the sustainable development of land previously used for industrial or commercial purposes. The manual and methodology has been used to redevelop the former Sosnowiec coal mine in Poland – an Industrial and Technological Park has been launched on this site; and in Stuttgart to identify and discuss sustainable objectives in redeveloping the site around the Bad Cannstatt goods station.

The Centre’s work has had truly global impact, helping safeguard human health and regenerate the environment. It has been vital in tackling the legacy of past industrial activity in Wales, Europe and around the world. Its pioneering work is also shaping our future by providing new solutions to waste and energy sources.

Professor Colin Riordan, Vice-Chancellor

Team members

Today the Centre consists of:

  • two senior lecturers
  • two lecturers
  • two research fellows
  • one project manager
  • six research associates
  • eight research assistants
  • 19 PhD students. 

Its Director is Professor Hywel Thomas FREng FRS FLSW MAE, the University's Pro Vice-Chancellor, International and Engagement who founded the Centre in 1996 and has led it ever since.

Awards and recognition

In recognition of its major research advances, the Centre's work has been endorsed globally. This includes being:

  • named a Centre of Excellence/Expertise by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - the only Centre in the UK to have this status
  • awarded a Chair in the Development of a Sustainable Geoenvironment by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)
  • recognised by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) as an official research partner, in relation to its work on persistent organic pollutants.