Dr Katherine Dobson

Senior Lecturer

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Personal statement

I joined Strathclyde in 2019 as a Chancellor’s Fellow in Energy, and hold a joint appointment as a lecturer in both Civil & Environmental Engineering and Chemical and process Engineering. I am a geologist by background, but my research routinely bridges disciplines. Having spent time in Geoscience, Materials Science and Engineering departments, I regularly bring methods across traditional subject and area boundaries, especially at the interfaces between geology, materials science, environmental science and engineering. My main research interests lie in understanding the behaviour and evolution of both natural and man-made materials. More specifically it is questions about how the microstructure of a material evolves through time, and therefore changes the properties and behaviour of the larger system that underpins most of my work. To do this, I use x-ray computed tomography to see inside materials and objects and quantify their internal structures, and a range of experimental and analytical methods to observe the physical, chemical and biological changes within the sample overtime.


Time resolved in situ X-ray tomographic microscopy unraveling dynamic processes in geologic systems
Marone Federica, Schlepütz Christian M, Marti Sina, Fusseis Florian, Velásquez-Parra Andrés, Griffa Michele, Jiménez-Martínez Joaquín, Dobson Katherine J, Stampanoni Marco
Frontiers in Earth Sciences Vol 7 (2020)
Vesicle shrinkage in hydrous phonolitic melt during cooling
Allabar A, Dobson K J, Bauer C C, Nowak M
Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology Vol 175 (2020)
Experimental simulation of burial diagenesis and subsequent 2D-3D characterization of sandstone reservoir quality
Charlaftis Dimitrios, Dobson Katherine J, Jones Stuart J, Lakshtanov Dmitry, Crouch Jonathan, Cook Jennie
Frontiers in Earth Science Vol 10 (2022)
Damage accumulation during high temperature fatigue of Ti/SiCf metal matrix composites under different stress amplitudes
Wang Ying, Xu Xu, Zhao Wenxia, Li Nan, McDonald Samuel A, Chai Yuan, Atkinson Michael, Dobson Katherine J, Michalik Stefan, Fan Yingwei, Withers Philip J, Zhou Xiaorong, Burnett Timothy L
Acta Materialia Vol 213 (2021)
A model for permeability evolution during volcanic welding
Wadsworth Fabian B, Vasseur Jérémie, Llewellin Edward W, Brown Richard J, Tuffen Hugh, Gardner James E, Kendrick Jackie E, Lavallée Yan, Dobson Katherine J, Heap Michael J, Dingwell Donald B, Hess Kai-Uwe, Schauroth Jenny, von Aulock Felix W, Kushnir Alexandra RL, Marone Federica
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research Vol 409 (2021)
Quantifying microstructural evolution in moving magma
Dobson Katherine J, Allabar Anja, Bretagne Eloise, Coumans Jason, Cassidy Mike, Cimarelli Corrado, Coats Rebecca, Connolley Thomas, Courtois Loic, Dingwell Donald B, Di Genova Danilo, Fernando Benjamin, Fife Julie L, Fyfe Frey, Gehne Stephan, Jones Thomas, Kendrick Jackie E, Kinvig Helen, Kolzenburg Stephan, Lavallée Yan, Liu Emma, Llewellin Edward W, Madden-Nadeau Amber, Madi Kamel, Marone Federica, Morgan Ceryth, Oppenheimer Julie, Ploszajski Anna, Reid Gavin, Schauroth Jenny, Schlepütz Christian M, Sellick Catriona, Vasseur Jérémie, von Aulock Felix W, Wadsworth Fabian B, Wiesmaier Sebastian, Wanelik Kaz
Frontiers in Earth Science Vol 8 (2020)

More publications

Research interests

I apply x-ray tomography to investigate the textures within natural and man-made materials. The method is non destructive, and can be applied to a wide range of samples and sample sizes, and can be used on samples as they are heated, cooled, compressed, stretched, twisted, stirred or inundated by a range of different fluids.

My work focusses on the latest state-of-the-art 3D and real time 4D imaging techniques. In 4D studies, the ability to inside the sample as it undergoes a change allows us to collect a "movie", where each frame is a full 3D x-ray tomography image. In my own core research, the individual 3D images of the movie are each collected in under a second. For other studies it is enough to image every few seconds, few hours, or even every few months depending on the rate and magnitude of change you wish to observe. This allows me to track the location and interactions between particles or between bubbles, to quantify fracture propagation, to capture dissolution or precipitation as it occurs, to observe fluids passing through pore throats, or corrosion, or sintering, or root growth. The opportunities are almost endless.

Current research projects include:

  • Multi-phase flows and rheology in complex and concentrated fluids (NERC-IRF)
  • Understanding pore scale controls on slope stability to improve embankment and cutting resilience to climate change (ACHILLES)
  • Diffusion and bubble growth in silicate melts
  • In situ deformation of composite materials
  • Damage zone development
  • Continuous manufactuing
  • Sustainable resource management
  • Environmental management and remediation
  • Sintering and densification processes
  • Permeability evolution in the subsurface
  • Subsurface fluid flow and fluid-rock interactions
  • Pore scale processes
  • Soil mechanics
  • The physical-chemical-biological interactions that control soil fertility


PhD projects Available for 2021 start

I am happy to accept PhD students on projects starting in 2021.  Please follow the links or contact me to find out more information about any of the projects below.  If you are interested in working in another of the areas listed above, please contact me to discuss your project ideas.



  • Pore-Scale Imaging of Cross Fault Flow in High Porosity Sandstones using High Pressure-Temperature Fluid Tomography

Please contact me for further information
No funding in place, but scholarship opportunities are still available for 2021 start.

  • Microstructural controls on the rheology of complex fluids

Please contact me for further information
No funding in place, but scholarship opportunities are still available for 2021 start.

  • From micro- to macro- understanding how pore-scale behaviours control slope stability in embankments and cuttings

Please contact me for further information
No funding in place, but scholarship opportunities are still available for 2021 start.


Current PhD Students

  • Rory Brittain University of Strathclyde, Civil & Environmental Engineering.

Geosciences towards Net Zero

  • Phil Salter University of Strathclyde, Civil & Environmental Engineering.

Geosciences towards Net Zero

  • Andrea Kozlowski University of Strathclyde, Civil & Environmental Engineering.

Nuclear Disposal

  • Izabella Otalega University of Strathclyde, Civil & Environmental Engineering.

Oil and Gas

  • Tariro Gwandu Durham University,Enineering

Soil Mechanics, Sustainability

  • Eloise Bretagne Durham University, Earth Sciences

Magmatism, Complex fluids

  • Catriona Sellick Durham University, Earth Sciences

Enhanced Oil Recovery

  • Bridie Davies University of East Anglia, Enviornmental Sciences

Volcanism, Hazard

  • Nikos Apeiranthitis University of Durham, Earth Sciences

Enhanced Oil Recovery

Professional activities

EURO-Conference on Rock Physics & Geomechanics
EURO-Conference on Rock Physics & Geomechanics
Member of programme committee
An introduction to the GeoX Suite
ESRF - The European Synchrotron (External organisation)
X-ray tomography image analysis for engineers and geoscientists
I'm a Scientist, Get me out of here!

More professional activities


The GeoX Suite: Environmental cells for NERC research usin in situ imaging
Dobson, Kate (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2019 - 31-Jan-2020
Hamilton, Andrea (Principal Investigator) Bots, Pieter (Co-investigator) Dobson, Kate (Co-investigator) Edwards, Paul (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2021 - 30-Jan-2025
Hamilton, Andrea (Principal Investigator) Bots, Pieter (Co-investigator) Dobson, Kate (Co-investigator) Edwards, Paul (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2021 - 30-Jan-2025
Doctoral Training Partnership 2020-2021 University of Strathclyde | Brittain, Rory
Dobson, Kate (Principal Investigator) El Mountassir, Grainne (Co-investigator) Pytharouli, Stella (Co-investigator) Brittain, Rory (Research Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2021 - 01-Jan-2024
The GeoX Suite: Environmental cells for NERC research using in situ imaging
Dobson, Kate (Principal Investigator)
Improving our understanding the natural world; how it has evolved, how it continues to evolve, and how it responds to human impacts and climate change are the main goals of all earth and environmental researchers. This work allows improvements in global stewardship, hazard mitigation, and more sustainable resource management. In recent years the development of very powerful x-ray imaging techniques allows us to see inside our samples without destroying them; meaning we understand the internal structures of rocks, soils, ice, plants, animals and man-made materials better than ever before.

However, the most cutting edge systems allow us to collect images in just fractions of a second and allow us to put experimental equipment inside the imaging equipment. This means that with the right experimental equipment we could improve our understanding of the processes themselves: by watching them happen. Imaging our geological samples under the relevant geological conditions could help us answer some of the outstanding challenges in earth and environmental research: working at high temperatures we could capture how bubbles drive volcanic eruptions; using pressurised fluid cells we could look at how corals adapt to changing ocean conditions; by imaging while we compress rocks under very high loads we could improve our understanding of fracture propagation during earthquakes; by working at low temperatures we could identify the processes controlling glacier movement or greenhouse gas release from melting permafrost, by imaging soil during wetting and drying we can understand how structure controls nutrient supply and drought resistance in plants; and if we combine pressure and temperature and deformation we can investigate how best to identify, extract and manage critical subsurface resources such as oil, gas, water, metals, minerals, and heat.

The GeoX suite of experimental apparatus does just that; allowing earth and environmental researchers to gain new insight and understanding into how the planet works. The equipment is also suitable for other applications.

Furnaces: single and dual zone clam-shell style furnaces capable of heating samples from room temperature to 1250C during x-ray imaging. Furnaces can be mounted on some deformation cells.

Uniaxial Deformation: 2 x 5kN uniaxial tension-compression deformation cells which allow deformation while imaging, at temperature (-20C to 180C) and/or under fluid saturated conditions

Triaxial deformation: A small volume triaxial cell capable of taking geological samples to reservoir pressures and temperatures

Flow: A set of pumps and associated cell components to allow in situ observation of flow in porous media. Can be coupled to thermal control and load cells.
From fines migration to filter cake formation and back again: state-of-the-art in situ observation to understand pore scale processes
Dobson, Kate (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2020 - 31-Jan-2024

More projects


Civil and Environmental Engineering
James Weir Building

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