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It's incredible to think that a whole year has passed since our last alumni newsletter, and I can report that it has once again been a challenging year. 


Both academic and professional services colleagues in the Department have worked tirelessly to get us to this point in the year. That means, off the back of having moved all of our teaching and examinations online last year, having to do the same again, except this time swapping between face-to-face, virtual, and back again as we cycled through national restrictions. It has undoubtedly been incredibly tough for our students, but I much again commend the dedication and hard-working staff in the Department.

But all of this hard work has paid off! In July, we held our first hybrid graduation ceremony featuring staff and students both on-campus and virtually – a real success. In addition to this we welcome a new Head of School, Professor Clive Roberts (who you'll hear from below), who takes the School's helm as we move into a brand new building, built in part by one of our alumni (watch out for the official opening of the building soon). We will also shortly open the National Buried Infrastructure Facility – a world-class laboratory.  

On the staff front, I'm delighted to report that several civil staff have successfully applied for promotion this year, including Dr David Soper (Senior Lecturer), Dr Michael Burrow (Reader in Infrastructure Asset Management), and Dr Sakdirat Kaewunruen (Reader in Railway and Civil Engineering). We were also sad to see the retirement of Dr Gurmel Gahtaora (who finished on a high being awarded the Les Nichol Award by the Midland Geotechnical Society) and Profs Felix Schmid and Anson Jack. We wish them all the very best in retirement.

Our successes are once again the result of the resilience, dedication and tenacity of our staff, students, and our most recent graduates and newest members of our alumni community. With new facilities, staff, and students, it should be an exciting year to come.

I wish you and your families a very safe and all the very best for the coming year, and I do hope you enjoy reading this newsletter.

With very best wishes,

Professor Karl Dearn
Head of the Departments of Civil and Mechanical Engineering


clive roberts-900px

I am delighted to introduce myself to you as Head of the School of Engineering, succeeding Mark Sterling. I took up the position on 1 January 2020, but this is the first time I have had the opportunity to formally introduce myself to you.

I’ve worked at Birmingham since September 1997. I started my research career at Birmingham as a Research Assistant working on condition monitoring of railway systems in the then School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, having previously worked as a Software Engineer at Lucas Aerospace. I was promoted to be a Lecturer in 2001, Senior Research Fellow in 2007, Professor in 2009 and I became Head of the School of Engineering in January 2020. I lead our railway activity in the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE), which is the largest group of its kind in Europe with over 180 researchers. I also lead the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN,, a £92M initiative to help accelerate the take up of research in the rail sector.  I sit on various committees in the UK and internationally, including the UK Rail Industry Technical Leadership Group, the Advisory Board for the National Railway Museum, the Institution of Railway Signalling Engineers’ Council, and the Technical Advisory Panel to the Board of SMRT in Singapore.      

I was delighted to be asked to take on the leadership of the School. It is an exciting time for the School as we move into the new School of Engineering Building, open the UKRRIN Building on campus, as well as the National Buried Infrastructure Facility. The School continues to grow, and in 2021 we will exceed 2,000 students studying in the School.  We are currently recruiting new lecturers and professors within the School to support this growth.

Our core areas of research continue to grow, but we have also seen new areas of activity such as work in space weatherhydrogen propulsion systems for trains and the use of quantum technology for a range of applications from radar to positioning of vehicles.

As well as the successes of our staff and students, I must add a big thank you to the contribution that the School’s alumni have made over the last academic year. Contributions have included providing guest lectures, sitting on advisory boards, supporting final year projects, mentoring students, and especially speaking virtually with our students this past year. Thank you, you've made a real impact here! If you'd like to get involved too, please get in touch with our Alumni Relations Manager, Grace Surman on

With very best wishes,

Clive Roberts
Head of School of Engineering
Professor of Railway Systems

Read the 2021 Civil Engineering Alumni Newsletter here.