Technological Sciences: Dr in Civil Engineer
Date of admittance: 17/03/2005
Medal: Nº 33
Admission Speech: Geotecnia: Una ciencia para el comportamiento del terreno
Antonio Gens obtained his degree of Ingeniero de Caminos, Canales y Puertos (Civil Engineering) in 1972 at the Technical University of Madrid and a M.Sc. degree in Soil Mechanics, with Mark of Distinction, at Imperial College, London, in 1973. After some years working in industry, he returned to Imperial College where he was awarded a Ph.D. in 1982. His supervisors were Professors A.W. Bishop and P.R. Vaughan. Since 1983, he has been a member of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (formerly Geotechnical Engineering and Geosciences) of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (Technical University of Catalonia, UPC) in Barcelona where he was appointed full Professor in 1987. He has been Secretary and Deputy Director of the E.T.S. de Ingenieros de Caminos C. y P. (Civil Engineering School) of Barcelona, Head of the Department of Geotechnical Engineering and Geosciences, Vice-president of the Council of Departments and member of the Consell de Govern (Governing Council) of the University.
Antonio Gens has been involved in geotechnical research, consulting and teaching for over 35 years. His research interests have notably included unsaturated soils, soft clays and the development of coupled multi-physics analysis in which he has made seminal contributions. He has also made significant contributions in the areas of laboratory testing, field measurements and backanalysis, constitutive and numerical modelling, in situ characterization of soils, soil freezing and ground improvement, slope stability, tailing dams, tunnelling and nuclear waste disposal. This work has been supported by over 50 research grants from the regional and national research councils as well as from the European Commission and private industry. As a result, he has authored or co-authored more than 400 papers published in refereed Journals and International Conferences. He has also published 15 book Chapters and has co-edited 12 books and Special Journal issues. He is a frequent participant in national and international Conferences and Workshops where he is in high demand as a lecturer; he has delivered over 80 Keynote Lectures, General Reports and Specially Invited Lectures. He has been academic visitor at MIT (USA), University of Newcastle (Australia) and Imperial College (UK). He has also lectured widely to Academic and Professional Organizations in all five continents.
He has consulted widely at home and abroad in a wide variety of geotechnical projects involving tunnelling, deep excavations, embankments on soft ground, harbour quays and breakwaters, embankment and concrete dams, tailing dams, power stations, airports, radioactive waste repositories, large-scale scientific facilities, deep and shallow foundations (onshore and offshore), ground improvement, preloading., slope stability, underpinning of structures and site investigations. He was a member of the Experts Committee for the investigation of the failure of Nicoll Highway (Singapore) and of the Experts Committee for the long-term waste management in the uranium factory of Comurhex-Malvési (France). He is a member of the Design Review Board for the Bisri Dam project in Lebanon and recently he served in the Technical Expert Panel for the review of the risks and control measures of tunnelling works for the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore. He served as a court-appointed expert for the failure of the Aznalcóllar tailings dam. He has been a member of the UNESCO-sponsored Experts Committee to monitor the construction of a tunnel in the vicinity of the Sagrada Familia church and other UNESCO-listed buildings in Barcelona and he is a member of the Council of Assessors for Tunnelling and other Special Projects of the Government of Catalonia, a statutory body that reviews design and construction of civil engineering works of special significance. He has acted as independent geotechnical expert in the International Arbitration cases of the Al Faw Harbour (Iraq) and the Muscat International Airport (Oman). He has also worked in a number of projects related to Deep Geological disposal of High-Level Nuclear Waste financed by the European Commission and National Agencies. In this area of work, he is the chair of the Engineered Barrier Systems (EBS) Task Force, coordinated by the Swedish Agency SKB, and a Task Leader in the international collaborative project DECOVALEX, coordinated by the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (US).
Since his appointment to the Faculty of the Civil Engineering School of Barcelona he has taught continuously a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate geotechnical courses. He is the supervisor of 25 (past and ongoing) Ph.D. theses; a number of his doctoral students have now taken up academic positions in Europe and America. In addition, he has been invited to teach research and professional courses in a number of countries such as France, UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Hong Kong, India, USA, Colombia, Mexico, Chile, Australia and New Zealand. He has also performed the role of External Examiner for undergraduate courses and has been an examiner for Ph.D. degrees in more than 20 universities in 10 different countries. In 2016, he received the UPC’s Award for Quality in University Teaching.
Professor Gens’ contributions to the advancement of the field of soil mechanics and geotechnical engineering have been recognized in a variety of ways. In 2005 he was made a member of the Reial Acadèmia Europea de Doctors – Barcelona 1914. In 2011, he was elected a Fellow of the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering and in March 2014 he was made Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Grenoble (France). In 2014 he also received the Honour Medal of the Colegio de Ingenieros de Caminos (Institution of Civil Engineers) of Spain and, in 2015, the Narcís Monturiol Medal from the Government of Catalonia (Generalitat de Catalunya) and the Mont Terri International Consortium Award (Switzerland), for outstanding contributions. In 2017, he received the Kevin Nash Gold Medal, the highest distinction of the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE). In 2007, he presented the 47th Rankine Lecture in London with the title: “Soil-environment interactions in Geotechnical Engineering”.
In addition, he was awarded the José Torán Prize by the Spanish Committee on Large Dams in 1995, the Chandra Desai Medal by the International Association for Computer Methods and Advances in Geomechanics (IACMAG) in 2001, the Case History Award by the American Rock Mechanics Association in 2006 and the R.M. Quigley Award (first prize) by the Canadian Geotechnical Society in 2009. He has been awarded, by the UK’s Institution of Civil Engineers, the Telford Medal, their highest distinction, twice, in 1994 and in 2007, the George Stephenson Medal, also twice, in 2008 and 2012 and the Geotechnical Research Medal in 2014. In 1998 he delivered the British Geotechnical Society Touring Lecture, in 2000 the 8th Prague Geotechnical Lecture, in 2008 the Golders Associates Distinguished Lecture in Canada, in 2013 the Coulomb Lecture in Paris and the Šuklje Lecture in Slovenia, in 2014 the First Geoffrey Blight Lecture instituted by the ISSMGE Technical Committee on Unsaturated Soils. In 2016 he delivered the Cross Canada Lecture Tour invited by the Canadian Geotechnical Society.
Antonio Gens has been always closely involved with the national and international scientific and technical community. He serves in the Editorial Board of 8 international geotechnical Journals and he was a member of the Géotechnique Advisory Board. He has been a member of the Organizing, Scientific, Advisory or Programme Committees of more than 50 International meetings in which he has been Discussion leader or General Reporter on several occasions. He was member of the Board of Directors of the European Network of Laboratories ALERT: Geomechanics (1993-2010) and, from 2002, he is a member of the Executive Committee of the UNESCO-sponsored International Centre for Numerical Methods in Engineering (CIMNE). He was part of the Evolution Group 9 of the Eurocode, reviewing issues associated with water pressures. He was a member of the Peer Review College of the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Adviser to the UK’s 2001 Research Assessment Exercise and a member of Advisory Committee of the Instituto Geólogico y Minero (Geological Survey) of Spain. He also serves in the IACMAG Board and he has acted as referee for a large number of research grant bodies, in academic appointments and promotions as well as for research prizes.
His involvement with the international geotechnical community has been particularly close. He is a member of the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE) since 1981. ISSMGE is the main scientific and technical association in the field gathering about 20,000 members from 90 different countries. He is also a member of the sister societies of Rock Mechanics and of Engineering Geology. He is or has been a member of 9 ISSMGE’s Technical Committees. Since 2006, he serves in the Governing Council of the Spanish Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering and he is also a member of the British Geotechnical Association and of the Southeast Asian Geotechnical Society. He was General co-Reporter in the 9th European Conference in Dublin (1987) and in the 11th European Conference in Copenhagen (1995) and he delivered two special plenary lectures in the 13th European Conference in Prague (2003): “The role of Geotechnical engineering in nuclear energy utilisation” and in the 15th European Conference in Athens (2011): “On the hydromechanical behaviour of argillaceous hard soils-weak rocks”.
He was elected Vice-President for Europe of the ISSMGE for the period 2013-2017 by the 36 European National Societies affiliated to ISSMGE.