Director of The School of Engineering, Cardiff University
After graduating from University College, Geoenvironmental Swansea in 1972 with a First Class Honours degree and completing an MSc in Soil Mechanics at Imperial College, Hywel Thomas spent 4½ years with consulting engineers Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick and Partners. During this time he worked both in the design office and on site, leading to Chartered Engineer status (MICE) in 1977. In 1978 he returned to Swansea to read for a PhD, which he completed in 1980. Since then he has been an academic member of staff at Cardiff, firstly as a lecturer until 1990, then senior lecturer from 1990 to 1992 and Reader until 1995. He was then awarded a Personal Chair by the University of Wales, and has been a Professor since that date.
His research interests centre on the development of an improved understanding of the engineering behaviour of unsaturated soil. Attention has been focused on constitutive models that describe the complex response of such materials. New theoretical formulations of the problems under consideration have been proposed. Solutions have been obtained via modern computational techniques, with increasing use now being made of high performance parallel computing platforms to achieve this aim. In recognition of the advances made in this area, particularly in the context of the analysis of coupled thermo/mechanical/ hydraulic problems, he was awarded a higher Doctorate of the University of Wales, a DSc, in 1994.
During the course of his academic career at Cardiff, he has been awarded, in conjunction with co-workers, external research income of some £3.5M. This has been largely received from the European Commission and the UK Research Councils. In terms of output, he has produced to date, more than 170 technical papers and reports, together with a recently published John Wiley book. He is supported in this effort by a very active team of research workers, comprising lecturers, research fellows, associates, assistants and students. Currently the number of people in the group stands at 22.
Application of the research to industrial problems of relevance is of major importance and to this end he is heavily involved in a number of international, strategically important problems related to the disposal of high level nuclear waste. His group has produced software that is capable of analysing the performance of the engineered barrier being considered by a number of Authorities for backfilling and sealing the repositories. Research collaboration exists with organisations in Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Canada and Japan.
He has lectured extensively both at home and abroad on his research. Institutions that have invited him include the European Commission, McGill University (Montreal, Canada), the University of Manitoba (Canada), Technical University of Catalunya (Barcelona, Spain), the Czech Technical University (Prague), the Czech Academy of Sciences (Prague), the Indian Institute of Technology (Madras, India) and the Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore, India). He has also received a number of invitations to serve on the Advisory Committees of Conferences and deliver invited lectures at conferences and workshops.