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Luc Thorel Director of Research at Ifsttar

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Luc Thorel obtained his Engineering Degree in Geotechnics and Geophysics in 1987, a diploma delivered by Polytech’Paris, Pierre & Marie Curie University. He received his PhD in geotechnical engineering, delivered by Ecole des Ponts ParisTech in 1994 for research on Plasticity and damage of ductile rocks : application to rocksalt . He was research engineer successively both in Lausanne Swiss Federal Institute (1988-1990), working on  frost behaviour of soils, and in Ecole Polytechnique (1994-1996), working on  mechanical behaviour of clays in the framework of underground storage. In 1996 he moved to Nantes Centre of the French Institute of Science and Technology for Transport, Development and Networks (IFSTTAR, formerly French Public Work Institute - LCPC) to work on physical modelling as a researcher in the Geotechnical Centrifuge team. In 1999 he was appointed as the head of the LCPC’s Physical Modelling in Geotechnics group. In 2010 he passed the Accreditation to supervise Research in Civil Engineering & Geotechnics, delivered by Nantes University and became Director of Research in IFSTTAR-LCPC. In 2013 he was appointed as the Director of the Geomaterials and Modelling in Geotechnics Laboratory, in IFSTTAR’s Nantes centre.


He was elected member of the technical committee of the French Society of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering in 2006, and became vice-president between 2009 and 2012. In 2012, he was elected member of the Conseil of the CFMS and became vice-president in 2016. Since 2010, he represents the French Geotechnical Society in the International Technical Committee “Physical Modelling in Geotechnics” TC104. He is also member, since 2014, of the editorial board of the Int. Journal Physical Modelling in Geotechnics.


Luc Thorel's current research explores themes concerned with physical modelling in geotechnics, particularly with the geotechnical centrifuge. He is working mainly on soil-structure interactions under complex loading, such as soil reinforcement, deep and shallow foundations but also on water migration in soil (including soil-atmosphere interactions or erosion) or vibration mitigation. The ongoing challenge for each of these topics is to observe and understand the phenomena, and also to obtain appropriate experimental data to be compared to numerical or theoretical models.


He has published 56 publications in journals, 138 communications in conferences, 75 research reports for industry. He co-supervised 14 Ph.D students, and was member of 30 PhD jury, including 12 times as a reporter. He has been regularly asked for reviewing papers for the main geotechnical engineering journals.

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