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Ian Johnston

science & technology
physical sciences
engineering, geological
geosciences, multidisciplinary
Ian Johnston's Profile Picture

Ian Johnston

Primary Interest
Geotechnical Engineering
Ian Johnston's Profile Picture

Ian Johnston


Professor Johnston obtained a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1968 and a Ph.D. in 1972 from the University of Southampton (UK). After 3 years in industry, he joined Monash University where he was a lecturer, senior lecturer and associate professor.

In 1993, he was appointed Professor and Dean of Engineering at Victoria University of Technology. In February 1998, he returned to full time consulting with Coffey Geotechnics where he was a Senior Principal. He joined the University of Melbourne in May 2009 as Professor of Geotechnical Engineering.
Although Professor Johnston’s consulting and research interests have covered a wide range of topics, he is probably best known for his work on soft, weak and weathered rock in civil and mining engineering. He has made many presentations on this general subject and others at local, national and international conferences. He has published over 120 technical papers including about 60 in refereed international journals. He has undertaken substantial consulting work on many projects in Australia and overseas both as an academic and as a consultant. He has also had considerable involvement with forensic geotechnical engineering and matters involving expert witness services for litigation and arbitration.
From 2012 to 2016 he was a member of the Technical Review Board which has a primary function to provide independent advice to assist the Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources and industry better manage ground control associated with mining in Victoria, in order to mitigate the risks this presents to public safety, environment, public infrastructure and security of power supply.
When he returned to a full-time academic position in 2009, Professor Johnston developed a strong interest in direct geothermal energy (or geoexchange) in which the ground relatively close to the surface is used as a source and sink for heat to heat and cool buildings. His research group developed several instrumented field test sites around Victoria to provide performance data for these systems. This data has led to more efficient and effective design methods for Victorian and Australian conditions.
At the end of 2015, Professor Johnston retired from the university although he maintains an active research interest through his appointment as an Honorary Professorial Fellow. He also continues to undertake consulting assignments.
He has been the recipient of several teaching and research awards including the E.H. Davis Memorial Award from the Australian Geomechanics Society in 1991 for "distinguished recent contributions to the theory and practice of geomechanics in Australia". He was also the recipient of the Australian Geomechanics Society’s highest award, the John Jaeger Memorial Award, in 2012 for “contributions of the highest order over a lifetime commitment to the geotechnical profession in Australia”. He has held offices in several learned societies, professional associations, educational boards, advisory panels and standards committees including the Founding Editor of Australian Geomechanics, Chairman of the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering Committee on Soft Rock and Vice President and Board Member for Australasia for the International Society for Rock Mechanics.
In January 2017, Professor Johnston was appointed an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AO) “For distinguished service to engineering, as an academic, researcher, practitioner and consultant, particularly in the fields of structural foundation engineering and geothermal energy”.


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Scholarly Works

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Honours, Awards and Fellowships


Officer of the Order of Australia


John Jaeger Memorial Award for contributions of the highest order over a lifetime commitment to the geotechnical profession in Australia

Australian Geomechanics Society


E.H. Davis Memorial Lecture for distinguished recent contributions to the theory and practice of geomechanics in Australia

Australian Geomechanics Society






Infrastructure Engineering


Institution of Engineers Australia


Australia Geomechanics Society


International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering


International Society for Rock Mechanics


International Association of Engineering Geologists




National Professional Engineers Register


Geotechnical Engineering

University of Southampton

Civil Engineering

University of Southampton