The Importance of Quantification in Engineering Geology

This past week I had the pleasure of attending two lectures by the 2010 Jahns Distinguished Lecturer Dr. Paul Marinos, Professor of Engineering Geology in the School of Civil Engineering at the National Technical University of Athens (Greece).  Dr. Marinos is the second international recipient of this honor (Dr. John Clague of Canada was the first international recipient in 2008).  He has an outstanding career in the field including work in both academia and consulting as well as membership in many national and international organizations including AEG, GSA, and the Geological Society of Greece, some of which he has held officer positions including president.  Dr. Marinos has also authored or co-authored over 300 papers and given lectures at over 40 conferences or special events.  Indeed, Dr. Paul Marinos has far surpassed the title of “expert” in the field of Engineering Geology.

My first introduction to Dr. Marinos’ was at his lecture in Pittsburgh, PA at Foster’s Plaza on January 25, 2010.  The Kent State student chapter of the AEG, to which I am a member, had driven the two hours from Kent to attend.  Having arrived just in time for dinner, we were unable to meet face to face until after his lecture: “Rock mass characterization; a vehicle to translate Geology into the design of Engineering Structures.”  While the title may not seem too technical, let me assure you, the lecture was very detail oriented and yet captivating the entire time.  Much of Dr. Marinos’ talk focused on the application of something called Geologic Strength Index (GSI) to tunnel design.  As Dr. Marinos quoted in his talk “Geology can not be quantified”.  However, when designing engineering structures the integrity of which depends on the surrounding geology (building and bridge foundation, dams, and tunnels), it is necessary to develop a quantifiable method of analysis.  This is where GSI, as well as other rock mass classification systems come in.  The GSI largely takes qualitative data and assigns numerical values which may be applied in most any situations, giving the GSI classification system tremendous value in the field of engineering geology.  Having learned about GSI in the Rock Slope Stability course, it was interesting to hear it explained in further detail from someone who has written papers on the subject.

Due to time constraints and the fact that it was very late by the time the lecture was over (and I had a two hour drive home to look forward to), I decided to forgo anything more than a simple handshake and hello with Dr. Marinos prior to departing.  In most situations, I would have made a point to give a good impression of myself instead of such a short introduction, however, Dr. Marinos would be giving another lecture in Kent the next day and, as usual, I would accompany him to lunch.

Dr. Marinos’ talk at Kent State University (“Geological Constraints and Geotechnical Issues in Mechanized Tunneling”) was again centered on tunneling.  This time he did not elaborate on GSI, but instead how the decision of different types of tunnel boring machine (TBM) was made based on the geology to be encountered beyond the face of the tunnel.  A very interesting talk on how geology is used in real-life applications.

Prior to this talk we visited the Schwebel Garden Room, a restaurant located in the KSU Student Center, for lunch with Dr. Marinos.  In attendance were myself, Dr. Marinos and his wife, Dr. Abdul Shakoor, and five other geology students from the undergraduate to PhD level.  We talked about the previous night’s talk in Pittsburgh, how we all became interested in geology, the American system of education vs. the European system, and the many subjects we are all studying.  That evening, Dr. Shakoor invited everyone to his house for dinner in honor of Dr. Marinos.  Good times were had by all.  Kent State professors and students spoke of their trips to Greece and Dr. Paul Marinos recalled his trip to Tierra del Fuego where he stayed in the same dormitory as a geologist named Marinos Paul.  Dr. Shakoor’s wife made an excellent dinner and it was a privilege to enjoy it with Dr. Marinos and his wife.

I thank you, Dr. Marinos for visiting Kent State University and wish you luck as you continue your lecture circuit in the United States.  I look forward to seeing you at the 2010 AEG Conference in Charleston, SC this September.

Dr. Paul Marinos, sitting on couch next to his wife, is surrounded by Kent State University faculty and students. (Click image for larger version)


This Friday (February 5), The Kent State University Department of Geology will be hosting Dr. Silvio Casadio from the Univ. Nacional de La Pampa, Argentina.  A synopsis of Dr. Casadio’s talk will be posted next week.

February 5, 2010

Room 234 McGilvrey Hall


(Click here for a schedule of upcoming/past colloquium speakers)


One response to “The Importance of Quantification in Engineering Geology

  1. Really terrific post. Theoretically I could write something like this too, but taking the time and effort to make a good article is a lot of effort…but what can I say….I’m a procrastinater. Good read though.

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