The Group

Principal Investigator


Prof. Jim Hambleton

Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Originally from rural Wisconsin, I was educated at the University of Minnesota, where I completed B.C.E., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Civil Engineering.  My involvement in research started at a young age with an appointment as an Undergraduate Research Assistant in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota.  Between my undergraduate and graduate studies, I also completed an internship at Barr Engineering Company in Minneapolis.  After being awarded my Ph.D. in 2010, I joined the Centre for Geotechnical and Materials Modelling at the University of Newcastle, Australia, first as a Post-doctoral Research Associate (Lecturer) and then as a Research Academic (Senior Lecturer).  In the latter role, I was a member of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Geotechnical Science and Engineering (CGSE), a joint initiative between The University of Newcastle, The University of Western Australia, the University of Wollongong, and various industry partners.  I joined the Faculty in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northwestern University in October 2016.

Other sites:

Google Scholars Profile

Curriculum Vitae


Twitter: @jimhambleton

Post-doctoral Fellows


Dr. Zhenhao Shi

Post-doctoral Fellow

I am a Post-doctoral Research Fellow at Northwestern University, where I also obtained my Ph.D. degree.  Prior to coming to the U.S., I received my M.S. degree in Geotechnical Engineering and B.S. degree in Civil Engineering at Tongji University.  Centered on numerical methods for geomechanics, my research interests are composed of two very different but interrelated branches.  The first one is to replicate the fundamental behavior of geomaterials by constitutive models and numerical simulations such as the finite element and discrete element methods.  A particular focus along this branch lies on understanding and modeling the degradation of geomaterials under repeated multiphysics disturbances characterized by variable rates. In contrast to the first branch, the second is dedicated to simplified modeling approaches aimed at achieving computational efficiency, i.e., a highly desired feature for industrial practices.  In consultation with Professor Hambleton at Northwestern, I have started a project in which limit analysis is sequentially used to incrementally model large plastic deformations of geomaterials observed in soil-structure and soil-machine interactions.


Graduate Students


Ms. Zhefei Jin

PhD Student

I am a Ph.D. student in Geotechnical Engineering, and I began my Ph.D. from Winter Quarter of 2017.  My current research is about the optimization of earthmoving process in granular material. In the first year of my Ph.D. study, I finished several projects: (1) refined a model simulating the ploughing/cutting processes in sand by incorporating a shear band with finite thickness and a more sophisticated material law; (2) set up a new geotechnical test facility which utilizes a six-axis robot for actuation, and benchmarked its usage by exploring the problem of a strip surface footing subjected to combined loading; (3) designed, built, and tested a fluidized bed, which is a new facility used in efficiently making granular material samples with various densities.



Mr. Ting Lu

MS Student

I am an M.S. student in Prof. James Hambleton’s research group. I started studying at Northwestern University from the Fall of 2016.  Before joining Northwestern, I completed internships in real estate management and metro stations design in Shanghai.  My current research focuses on the numerical simulation of soil-plate interaction and modeling granular material.  After I graduate from Northwestern, I plan to continue studying within a similar research field as a Ph.D. student in a high-level university.  When I am not studying, I spend a lot of time enjoying music, including rock and classical music.  I also like to play the harmonica, Irish whistle, and a little bit of guitar. When I have a chance to travel, having a road trip with several friends would be my best choice.


Mr. Mircea Mihalache

MS Student

Ms. Anastasia Nally

PhD Student

I am a PhD student in the field of Geotechnical Engineering. I began my PhD studies at Northwestern University in the Fall of 2017. My current areas of research are related to soil-machine interaction an methods of in situ soil testing. Prior to attending Northwestern, I completed a Bachelor of Civil Engineering (First Class Honors) at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Whilst completing my undergraduate degree, and in the time between my degrees, I worked as a Project Engineer for Fusion Civil, a civil construction company based in Australia. In this role I was responsible for project scheduling, cost control and quality assurance. Although I have not ruled out a career in academia, following the completion of my PhD, my current aspiration is to work in the private research sector. I hope to work in newly emerging fields of geotechnical engineering and incorporate multi-disciplinary engineering technologies.


Undergraduate Students


Mr. Olisaeloka Anazonwu

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Mr. Sam Asa

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Mr. Keith Languet

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Mr. Kenneth Xuan

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Visiting Scholars


Mr. Nima Goudarzi

Visiting PhD Student, Illinois Institute of Technology

About to finish my degree in Geotechnical Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology, I am currently a visiting Ph.D. student at NU who joined the Hambleton Research Group in June 2017. My research focuses on expanding and optimizing Discrete Element Method (DEM) at meso- and macro-level analysis in newly emerging geotechnical disciplines like soil-structure and soil-machine interaction. I am doing this through implementing new contact laws as well as employing reduced order modelling techniques (ROM) for speeding up time intensive simulations. I earned my MS degree in Geotechnical Engineering from Khaje Nasir Toosi University of Technology (KNTU), IRAN where I completed my thesis on evaluating static and seismic bearing capacity of jointed rock foundations using FEM in the framework of a case study. Upon the completion of my Ph.D., I aim to work as a postdoctoral fellow under Professor Hambleton in areas of soil-structure and soil-machine interaction to enhance my scientific accreditation in modern geotechnical engineering as well as to prepare scholarly works essential to my success in the increasingly competitive academic job market.

Mr. Junyue Tang

Visiting Pre-doctoral Fellow, Harbin Institute of Technology

I am now a Ph.D. visiting scholar from HIT.  My majors and interest span civil, mechanical, and aerospace engineering, and I have participated in many practical engineering and scientific projects during my time as a graduate student.  In this way, I can say that I am a multi-functional man in the area of geotechnical engineering.  My aim is to enhance the understanding of soil-machine interaction, especially in spiral rotary cutting and removal actions, by both theoretical calculation and experimental verification.

ORCID: 0000-0002-8825-3453