Michael Crisp

Michael Crisp

Higher Degree by Research Candidate

School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering

Faculty of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences

Michael is a graduate engineer, having completed his Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Civil and Structural) at the University of Adelaide in 2015. He undertook his honours research project in hydrology. Subsequently, he commenced a PhD in geotechnical engineering at the University of Adelaide in 2016.

Michael is a geotechnical engineer by nature, taking part in various committees related to the field, as well as tutoring an array of subjects involving geotechnical work and related skills. His primary areas of interest are site investigation optimization, and reliability-based design, both related to the spatial variability of soils.


Michael conducted his honours research in the field of hydrology, working to improve the assessment and calibration of rainfall-runoff models through metrics that reflect the physical processes represented within a model. This is opposed to generic 'goodness of fit' metrics commonly used in practice. The work produced and validated a new series of metrics representing high and low catchment flows, flow losses, rainfall seasonality, and ground water. Each is normalized for values to range between 0-1, where the values that can be directly interpreted for physical meaning. These metrics have actively demonstrated key limitations in various models. Furthermore, the metrics were used for catchment classification for over 200 catchments around Australia, whereby catchments with similar metric values are grouped together. The classification was deemed successful in that it was consistent with other classifications, with the advantage that the only information required is a history of daily rainfall and runoff data, as opposed to more complicated climatic data other classification systems utilize. The metrics were subsequently able to recommend different models and different model calibration schemes to different catchment groups in order to maximize model performance within each group. This leads to better water management, including allocation, design of infrastructure, and flood risk analysis.

Geotechnical Engineering

Subsequently, his research involves the field of geotechnical engineering, in which he is conducting his PhD. Michael's topic is regarding site investigation optimization; determining the optimal site investigation scope and configuration to result in the lowest risk and cost for a given project. This work is motivated by there currently being no guideline to recommend optimal investigations. While many standards state a minimum degree of sampling, this is not the case for all, and a minimum does not reflect the different types of soil profile complexity, building and foundation types, or the desired degree of certainty. In practice, very few resources are invested in site investigations, with the minimum often employed, and this often results in long project delays as previously-unknown problems are encountered, or cost-overruns due change orders, over-design, repairs from foundation failure. Recent studies suggest this cost overrun is in the order of millions of dollars per company annually. 

The analysis is conducted by generating a virtual random soil profile. Subsequently, virtual site investigations can be conducted, with associated foundations designed. Because the soil profile is known in full, it is possible to determine both the true optimal foundation, as well as the performance of the foundations designed by the site investigations. It is then a matter of finding which site investigation yields the best performance (either lowest cost, or risk), and recommending that as the optimal for practicing engineers. As soils are complex, a single soil profile is insufficient, so the process is repeated with many hundreds of random soils in a Monte Carlo framework, yielding probabilistic results. Therefore, the probability of failure can be determined directly, and the cost can also be calculated by determining the individual costs of the site investigation, foundation, structure, and repair costs of any failure that occurs. 

Michael's primary contribution to the research is the inclusion of multiple-layer soil profiles, bringing a layer generation algorithm that mimics the processes of erosion and deposition. He has also significantly optimized the finite element software so that the computational time is reduced by many orders of magnitude. Finally, though a combination of scaling and interpolation techniques, he has generalized the interpretation of results to extend to buildings with different numbers of footings, number of floors, plan size, shape, and safety factor, where these factors were fixed for each analysis in previous work. The result of this work will be the determination of relationships between site investigation scope and foundation performance and cost that will be included in geotechnical standards in the form of graphs or equations. 


  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2015 - 2016 Undergraduate Engineer Engtest
    2011 - 2016 Badminton Coach St Peters College
  • Awards and Achievements

    Date Type Title Institution Name Country Amount
    2016 Scholarship Australian Postgraduate Award The University of Adelaide Australia
    2016 Research Award Ingenuity People's Choice Award The University of Adelaide Australia
    2016 Nomination Arvi Parbo Award The University of Adelaide
    2015 Research Award Robin Memorial Prize The University of Adelaide Australia
  • Language Competencies

    Language Competency
    French Can read, speak and understand spoken
  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    2016 University of Adelaide, Adelaide Australia PhD in Engineering
    2012 - 2015 University of Adelaide, Adelaide Australia Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)(Civil & Structural)
  • Certifications

    Date Title Institution name Country
    2017 HLTAID001 - Provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation St John Ambulance
    2017 HLTAID002 - Provide basic emergency life support St John Ambulance
    2017 HLTAID003 - Provide first aid St John Ambulance
  • Research Interests


Tutoring information
Course Title Years Institution Course Level Code URL
Engineering Mechanics - Statics 2017-Present University of Adelaide Level 2 Undergraduate C&ENVENG 1010 http://www.adelaide.edu.au/course-outlines/103963/1/sem-1/
Structural Mechanics III 2016 University of Adelaide Level 3 Undergraduate C&ENVENG 3001 http://www.adelaide.edu.au/course-outlines/003718/1/sem-1/
Engineering, Modelling and Analysis I 2016 University of Adelaide Level 1 Undergraduate C&ENVENG 1012 http://www.adelaide.edu.au/course-outlines/103982/1/sem-2/
Engineering Modelling and Analysis II 2012-2014,2017 University of Adelaide Level 2 Undergraduate C&ENVENG 2070 http://www.adelaide.edu.au/course-outlines/104399/1/sem-2/
Geotechnical Engineering Design III 2017 University of Adelaide Level 3 Undergraduate C&ENVENG 3012 http://www.adelaide.edu.au/course-outlines/003127/1/sem-2/

Practical Demonstration

Demonstration information
Course Title Years Institution Course Level Code URL
Geotechnical Engineering Design II 2016-Present University of Adelaide Level 2 Undergraduate C&ENVENG 2069


Geotechnical Engineering Design III 2016-Present University of Adelaide Level 3 Undergraduate C&ENVENG 3012 http://www.adelaide.edu.au/course-outlines/003127/1/sem-2/
  • Committee Memberships

    Date Role Committee Institution Country
    2017 - ongoing Member Australian Geomechanics Society, SA Chapter Australian Geomechanics Society Australia
    2017 - ongoing Member Postgraduate Liason Committee Geotechnical Postgraduate Representative Australia
    2015 - 2016 Treasurer Adelaide University Civil Engineering Society The University of Adelaide Australia
    2013 - ongoing Secretary SPOC Badminton Club St Peters Old Collegians Australia

Connect With Me
External Profiles