Dr Giovanna Biscontin

Photo of Dr Giovanna Biscontin

Laurea (Padova), M.S. (Berkeley), Ph.D (Berkeley)

Official Fellow
University Lecturer in Department of Engineering


I was born and raised in Padova, Italy, another town with an old university, where I also studied for my undergraduate degree in civil engineering. In 1994 I won a scholarship for an exchange with the University of California, Berkeley, where I spent the following academic year. I enjoyed the experience so much that I jumped at the opportunity of a doctorate at Berkeley, when I was offered the opportunity. I obtained both my Master of Science and PhD in geotechnical engineering at UC Berkeley. After graduation in 2001 I joined Texas A&M University as an assistant professor first and an associate professor after 2008. In 2013 I accepted a lecturer position in the Department of Engineering at Cambridge.

Teaching Interests

I am a dedicated teacher and I have received numerous awards, including the Excellence in Civil Engineering Education (ExCEEd) Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2006. At this time, I have supervised eight completed PhD theses and I am particularly proud that three of my former students are now academics at universities in the US and South Korea.


My research focuses on the response of soils to cyclic loading. In particular, I am interested in soft soils, especially offshore, and seismic conditions. My PhD studied the triggering mechanisms of submarine landslides due to earthquakes. I extended my work in this area thanks to a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), which allowed me to design and build a soil testing device with unique ability to apply multi-directional loading simulating more closely real field conditions. Submarine landslides are still an important area of research because they can be extremely large and can occur on very gentle slopes. Once they are triggered they can also cause tsunamis and pose a significant hazard for coastal communities. My research on marine deposits has extended to offshore foundations, both conventional and innovative, pipelines and risers. I am now completing a project on design of offshore wind tower foundations for NSF. I have also worked on problems on land, especially excavations and retaining walls, as well as wave propagation for seismic analysis and characterization of soil properties.

I enjoy collaborative work here in the UK and I also have ongoing research with colleagues in Italy, Japan and the US. I am also on the editorial board of scientific journals in my field in all three countries.