Dr Nicole Metje PhD, Dipl.-Ing, MCInstCES, MASCE, FHEA

Dr Nicole Metje

Department of Civil Engineering
Reader in Infrastructure Monitoring

Contact details

+44 (0) 121 414 4182
+44 (0) 121 414 3675
School of Civil Engineering
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Nicole Metje is the Head of the Power and Infrastructure Research Group within the School of Engineering and the Deputy Director for Sensors of the UKCRIC National Buried Infrastructure Facility at Birmingham. Nicole is an invited member of the EPSRC Early Career Engineering Forum and a member of EPSRC’s Peer Review College.

Nicole is an active researcher and educator with a research portfolio comprising the development and application of sensors for buried infrastructure assessment and monitoring while considering future resilience. She is a work package leader for the Birmingham led Quantum Technologies (QT) Hub for Sensors and Metrology focusing on the application of QT gravity sensors for civil engineering problems such as buried pipes, capped mine shafts and sinkholes.

Nicole has published 31 journal papers as well as over 30 refereed conference papers in the field of geotechnical engineering, infrastructure monitoring, sensor development and coastal engineering. She is the co-author of a book introducing tunnel construction aimed at MSc and MEng students or earlier career engineers.

Her national and international reputation is evidenced by invited memberships to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) utility standards committee, the US Transportation Research Board committee on utilities, BSI’s PAS128 steering committee for the development of the Specification for underground utility detection, verification and location, Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Municipal Expert and Geospatial Expert Panels, the ICE’s Municipal Engineer proceedings editorial board, the UK’s Utility Strike Avoidance Group and the UK’s Utility Detection and Mapping Group. Nicole regularly presents nationally to and on behalf of industry (e.g. Transport for London’s Mock Utility Strike Trial) and internationally on the development and application of sensors for buried assets.

Dr Nicole Metje discusses the University of Birmingham's research into gravity sensors


  • Member of the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors, 2015
  • Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, 2015
  • Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy, 2009
  • PhD Civil Engineering, University of Birmingham, 2001
  • Dipl.-Ing. Civil Engineering (Bauingenieurwesen), Hannover University, Germany, 1998


Nicole Metje qualified with a Dipl. Ing. in Civil Engineering from Hannover University, Germany in 1998 with the focus on fluid mechanics and tunnelling. She went on to study for a PhD in Sediment Suspension under Water Waves at the University of Birmingham, before joining the School of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering as a Research Fellow in 2001. After 6 months, she joined the School of Civil Engineering as a Senior Research Fellow on a three year project to conduct research into optical fibre sensing technologies to determine the deformations of existing tunnels.

On the basis of her experience, Nicole was appointed as The Senior Postdoctoral Research Fellow in 2005 to co-ordinate the research activities of four discrete projects and a network funded research grant entitled Mapping the Underworld (MTU).

In 2007 Nicole was awarded a prestigious Birmingham Research Fellowship which transferred into the lectureship in geotechnical engineering in 2010. Since 2011 Nicole is a Senior Lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering.

Nicole has a large research portfolio including the following projects both past and present:

•             Mapping the Underworld

•             Assessing the Underworld

•             Gravity Gradient – Technology and Opportunities Programme

•             Quantum Technology (QT) Hub in Sensors and Metrology

•             SIGMA – Study of Industrial Gravity Measurement Applications

•             Smart Leakage Detection Pipes

•             Balancing the impact of City Infrastructure Engineering on Natural systems using Robots

•             iBuild - Infrastructure Business models, valuation and Innovation for Local Delivery

•             Understanding and improving crop soil interactions to reduce root lodging in wheat and oilseed rape

•             DART - Detection of Archaeological Residues using remote sensing Technologies


I am a multi-disciplinary teacher with a broad teaching portfolio at undergraduate and postgraduate levels to engineering students.

Current Teaching:
• Flooding and Water Resource Management (MSc/MEng, 2015 – to date)
• Introduction to Underground Construction (MSc/MEng, 2011 – to date)
• Small Group Teaching (1st year, 2011 – to date)
• MEng Individual Research Projects (2008 – to date)
• MSc Research Projects (2012 – to date)
• Foundation Year Civil Engineering Laboratories (2011 – to date)

Past Teaching:
• Groundwater (MSc, 2013-2014)
• Pipe Network Analysis (MSc, 2012 – 2014)
• Guided Study (3rd Year BEng, 2011 – 2014)
• Industrial Research Projects (MSc, 2011 – 2013)
• Introductory Maths & Data Handling (FY, 2010 – 2012)
• River Basin Management (3rd Year BEng/MEng, 2006 – 2012)
• Engineering Studies (FY, 2006 – 2010)
• Fluid Flow, Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer (1st Year, 2005 – 2006)
• Mathematics for Technology (Suite of Technologies Programme, 2003 – 2006)

Postgraduate supervision

Currently, Nicole supervises the following research projects:

  • Effects of archaeological residues on geotechnical soil properties (PhD, 2010 – 2016).
  • Using field data and numerical modelling to design cross-passage connection in tunnelling (part-time PhD, 2013 – 2019)
  • RF transmission through soil – development of a new model (MPhil, 2014 – 2016)
  • Acoustic signal transmission along a buried pipe (PhD, 2014 – 2017)
  • Sustainability Costing Model of Street Works (PhD, 2014 – 2017)
  • Fatigue of grouted connections on monopile offshore wind turbines (2014 – 2017)
  • Understanding and improving crop soil interactions to reduce root lodging in wheat and oilseed rape (2015 – 2018)
  • Resource Urban Subsurface (PhD with UCL, 2015 – 2018)

Nicole has supervised the following eight postdoctoral research students to completion:

  • Andrew Thomas: Measurement of electromagnetic signal velocities in saturated fine-grained soils (PhD, 2005 – 2010)
  • Anna Kolonko: Investigation into the mechanical performance of pipe grade HDPE with included silicon chips as a basis for future sensors (PhD, 2007 – 2012)
  • Russell Hayes: Development of a sustainability assessment methodology for UK streetworks projects (PhD, 2008 – 2012)
  • Giulio Curioni: Investigating the seasonal variability of electromagnetic soil properties using field monitoring data from Time-Domain Reflectometry probes (PhD, 2009 – 2012)
  • Nastaran Shirgiri: Correlation between geotechnical and geophysical properties of soil (2010 – 2013, MPhil)
  • Daniel Boddice: Changing geophysical contrast between archaeological features and surrounding soil (PhD, 2010 – 2015)
  • Robert Walton: Indirect conversion radioisotopic battery for buried asset condition monitoring (PhD, 2010 – 2013)
  • Ali Sadeghioon: Communication and data management in the underground utility environment (PhD, 2010 – 2015)

In general, Nicole is interested in supervising doctoral research students in the following areas:

  • Impacts of different soils on geophysical sensing technologies when locating buried utilities or archaeology
  • Use of underground space – how can we make the underground space resilient and sustainable for the future and identify novel ways of using the space
  • Novel sensing technologies for infrastructure monitoring (pipes, tunnels etc), such as Smart Pipes technology

If you are interested in studying any of these subject areas please contact Nicole on the contact details above, or for any general doctoral research inquiries, please e-mail civil-research@contacts.bham.ac.uk or call +44 (0)121 414 4160.


Nicole has research interests which encompass the buried infrastructure monitoring in two main streams: (i) Understanding the ground and (ii) Development of Sensors & Applications.

(i) Understanding geophysical soil properties

Work has focussed on the conductivity and permittivity properties of soils (geophysical properties) and relating these to geotechnical soil properties. With a better understanding of the geophysical soil properties and their long term changes due to seasonal variations, it will be possible to fine-tune sensors, choose the most appropriate signal frequency and model the soil (PhD students Thomas, Curioni, Boddice, MPhil student Abdorahimi). Included in this work is the development of long-term monitoring stations based on time domain reflectometry probes (TDR) both on campus as well as in remote field locations.

Included in this work is the link of the fundamental geotechnical, geophysical and environmental conditions to the detectability of archaeological features such as ditches and post holes to advance the level of advice available on the most appropriate time for aerial prospection (PhD student Pring). The work has the potential to change the approach taken by archaeologist as to-date no research has been conducted in the underlying soil properties and conditions providing contrast between the archaeological feature and the surrounding soil matrix and the resulting crop marks.

(ii) Development of Sensors & Applications

Nicole leads research in the development of novel sensors as well as novel applications for existing sensors. Particular focus is on the design of ultra-low power consuming sensors for real time monitoring for the use in hostile and difficult to access environments such as buried infrastructure. This research led to the development of a novel leakage detection sensor for water pipes with a power consumption of <1mW for a transmission every 6 hours (PhD students Kolonko, Walton, Sadeghioon). On the basis of this work I secured an InnovateUK/EPSRC funded grant to take the technology to industry and field test it on real networks. With low-cost solutions, it will be possible to completely revolutionise the way buried water pipes are managed and make asset management proactive rather than reactive. Most wireless sensor networks and surface down sensors such as Ground Penetrating Radar rely on electromagnetic wave (EM) signal transmission through the ground, which is affected by particle size as well as water content of the soil leading to short signal transmission in saturated clays (<1m). To overcome these limitations, I supervise work in the development of acoustic methods to transmit data through the ground (PhD student Farai). In addition, my research focusses on the use of novel sensors from the surface to see through the ground such as the QT-sensors.

Other activities

  • International member of the Transport Research Board (TRB), ABF70 Utility Committee
  • Member of the All Party Parliamentary Water Group, since 2010
  • International member of the ASCE Utility standards committee, since 2009
  • Member of the Institution of Civil Engineer’s Municipal Expert and Geospatial Engineering Panels
  • BSI Steering Committee Member for the development of PAS128
  • Member of the Utility Detection and Mapping Group
  • Member of the Utility Strike Avoidance Group’s Data and Reporting Working Group
  • Plagiarism Officer for Civil Engineering since 2013



Chapman D., Metje, N., Stärk, A. (2010). Introduction to Tunnel Construction. Applied Geotechnics Volume 3, Spon Press, ISBN 978-0-415-46842-8. 400 pages.

Selected Journal Papers

Metje, N., Ahmed, B., Crossland, S.M. (2015). Causes, Impacts and Costs of Strikes on Buried Utility Assets. ICE Municipal Engineer, Vol. 168, Issue 3, pp. 165-174.[NM1] 

Thring, L.M., Boddice, D., Metje, N., Curioni, G., Chapman, D.N., Pring, L. (2014). Factors affecting soil permittivity and proposals to obtain gravimetric water content from time domain reflectometry measurements. Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 51(11), pp. 1303-1317; 10.1139/cgj-2013-0313[NM2] .

Sadeghioon, A.M., Metje, N., Chapman, D.N., Anthony, C.J. (2014). SmartPipes: Smart Wireless Sensor Networks for Leak Detection in Water Pipelines. J. Sens. Actuator Netw., 3(1), 64-78; doi:10.3390/jsan3010064.[NM3] 

Walton, R., Anthony, C. Ward, M., Metje, N. Chapman, D.N. (2013). Radioisotopic battery and capacitor system for powering wireless sensor networks. Sensors and Actuators, pp. 405-412.

Kolonko A.M., Metje N., Chapman D.N. and Kukureka S.N. (2013). Impact of Millimeter-Size Silicon Microchips on the Mechanical Properties of Polymer Samples Tested under Flexural Bending, Long-Term Creep, and Impact Conditions. Journal of Pipeline Systems - Engineering and Practice, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 505-516.

Metje N., Kolonko A.M., Chapman D.N., Cheneler D. and Kukureka S.N. (2013): Methodology for the Preparation of Polymer Samples Containing Silicon Microchips for Mechanical Testing. Polymer-Plastics Technology and Engineering, 52:5, pp. 461-471.

Hayes, R., Metje, N., Chapman, D.N., Rogers C.D.F. (2012). Sustainability assessment of streetworks in the UK. ICE Municipal Engineer, Volume 165, Issue ME4, pp. 193-204.

Thompson, C.E.L., Williams, J.J., Metje, N., Coates, L.E., Pacheco, A. (2012).  Turbulence based measurements of wave friction under irregular waves on a gravel bed. Journal of Coastal Engineering (special issue), Vol 63, pp. 39-47.

Kolonko, A.M., Metje, N., Chapman, D.N., Kukureka, S.N. (2012). Tensile properties of polymer samples containing millimetre scale silicon microchips. Polymers & Polymer Composites, Vol. 20, No. 6, pp. 505-516.

Curioni, G., Chapman, D.N., Metje N., Foo, K.Y., Cross, J.D. (2012). Construction and calibration of a field TDR monitoring station. Journal of Near-surface geophysics. 10, pp. 249-261. doi:10.3997/1873-0604.2011042.

Rogers, C.D.F., Hao, T., Costello, S.B., Burrow, M.P.N., Metje, N., Chapman, D.N., Parker, J., Armitage, R.J., Anspach, J.H., Muggleton, J.M., Foo, K.Y., Wang, P., Pennock, S.R., Atkins, P.R., Swingler, S.G., Cohn, A.G., Goddard, K., Lewin, P.L., Orlando, G., Redfern, M.A., Royal, A.C.D., Saul, A.J. (2012). Condition assessment of the surface and buried infrastructure – A proposal for integration. Tunnelling and Underground Space Technology 28, pp. 202-211.

Hao, T., Rogers, C.D.F., Metje, N., Chapman, D.N., Muggleton, J.M., Foo, K.Y., Wang, P., Pennock, S.R., Atkins, P.R., Swingler, S.G., Parker, J., Costello, S.B., Burrow, M.P.N., Anspach, J.H., Armitage, R.J., Cohn, A.G., Goddard, K., Lewin, P.L., Orlando, G., Redfern, M.A., Royal, A.C.D., Saul, A.J. (2012). Condition assessment of the buried utility service infrastructure. Tunnelling and Underground Space Technology 28, pp. 331-344.

Metje, N., Chapman, D.N., Walton R., Sadeghioon, A.M., Ward. M. (2012). Real time condition monitoring of buried pipes. Tunnelling and Underground Space Technology28, pp. 315-320.

Metje, N., Chapman, D.N., Cheneler, D., Ward, M., Thomas, A.M. (2011). Smart Pipes—Instrumented Water Pipes, Can This Be Made a Reality? Sensors 2011, Special Issue: Collaborative Sensors, 11. pp. 7455 – 7475, doi:10.3390/s110807455.[NM4] 

Metje, N., Chapman, D.N., Rogers, C.D.F., Bongs, K. (2011). Seeing through the Ground: The Potential of Gravity Gradient as a Complementary Technology. Advances in Civil Engineering, Vol. 2011, doi:10.1155/2011/903758 (9 pages).

Royal, A.C.D., Atkins P.R., Brennan, M.J., Chapman, D.N., Chen, H., Cohn, A.G., Foo, K.Y., Goddard, K., Hayes, R., Hao, T., Lewin, P.L., Metje, N., Muggleton, J.M., Naji, A., Orlando, G., Pennock, S.R.,Redfern, M.A., Saul, A.J., Swingler, S.G., Wang, P., Rogers C.D.F. (2011).  Site Assessment of Multiple-Sensor Approaches for Buried Utility Detection. International Journal of Geophysics. Volume 2011. doi:10.1155/2011/496123 (19 pages).

Thomas, A.M., Chapman, D.N., Rogers, C.D.F, Metje, N. (2010).  Electromagnetic Properties of the Ground: Part II – Properties of Two Selected Fine-Grained Soils. Tunnelling and Underground Space Technology, Vol. 25, No. 6, doi:10.1016/j.tust.2009.12.003, pp. 723 – 730.

Thomas, A.M., Chapman, D.N., Rogers, C.D.F., Metje, N. (2010).  Electromagnetic Properties of the Ground: Part I – Fine-Grained Soils at the Liquid Limit. Tunnelling and Underground Space Technology, Vol. 25, No. 6, doi:10.1016/j.tust.2009.12.002, pp. 714-722.

Thomas, A.M., Rogers, C.D.F., Chapman, D.N., Metje, N., Castle, J. (2009).  Stakeholder Needs for Ground Penetrating Radar Utility Location. Journal of Applied Geophysics, Vol. 67, pp. 345-351.

Metje, N., Sterling, M, Baker, C.J. (2008). Pedestrian comfort using clothing values and body temperatures. Journal of Wind Engineering & Industrial Aerodynamic, Vol. 96, pp. 412 – 435.

Metje, N., Little, G.H., Kamtekar, A.G., Chapman, D.N. (2008). Finding displacements from measured strains in beams and framed structures. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Engineering and Computational Mechanics, Vol. 161, Issue EM4, pp. 157 – 167.