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 international leader in the development and application of sensors for buried infrastructure assessment and monitoring. She delivers demonstrable impact through industry and policy engagement –bringing international recognition. She leads a work package for the Birmingham led Quantum Technologies (QT) Hub for Sensors and Metrology, which focuses on the application of QT gravity sensors for civil engineering problems such as buried pipes, capped mine shafts and sinkholes. In parallel, Nicole works with industry on five Innovate UK funded projects to accelerate the development of QT gravity gradiometers, and develop market pull for different civil engineering applications such as railway assets, mine workings and leakage through earthworks.

Nicole’s research vision is to significantly advance our fundamental understanding of geophysical soil properties, coupled with the development of novel sensors and sensor applications to radically change the perception of the ground, and the buried infrastructure from a hazard to a resource and an opportunity.

Nicole has published 42 journal papers, as well as over 40 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 to MSc and MEng students or earlier career engineers.

Nicole is regularly invited to speak on behalf of industry with respect to underground space, utility detection and avoidance of utility strikes. 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 & PAS256 steering committees for utility detection and data sharing and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Municipal Expert and Geospatial Engineering Panels.

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


In 1998, Nicole qualified with a Dipl. Ing. in Civil Engineering from Hannover University in Germany 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 2016, Nicole is a Reader in Infrastructure Monitoring.

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


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

Current Teaching:

  • Introduction to Underground Construction (MSc/MEng, 2011 – to date)
  • MEng Individual Research Projects (2008 – to date)
  • MSc Research Projects (2012 – to date)

Past Teaching:

  • Flooding and Water Resource Management (MSc/MEng, 2015 – 2017) • Small Group Teaching (1st year, 2011 – 2017)
  • Foundation Year Civil Engineering Laboratories (2011 – 2016)
  • 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:

  • Multi-sensor approach: Can Quantum Technology gravity be combined with other (non QT) geophysical instrumentation to set constraints for gravity inversion (PhD, 2017-2020)
  • RF transmission through soil – development of a new model (MPhil, 2014 – 2017)
  • 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:

  • James Pring: Effects of archaeological residues on geotechnical soil properties (PhD, 2010 – 2016)
  • Ali Sadeghioon: Communication and data management in the underground utility environment (PhD, 2010 – 2015)
  • 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)
  • Nastaran Shirgiri: Correlation between geotechnical and geophysical properties of soil (2010 – 2013, MPhil)
  • Giulio Curioni: Investigating the seasonal variability of electromagnetic soil properties using field monitoring data from Time-Domain Reflectometry probes (PhD, 2009 – 2012)
  • Russell Hayes: Development of a sustainability assessment methodology for UK streetworks projects (PhD, 2008 – 2012)
  • Anna Kolonko: Investigation into the mechanical performance of pipe grade HDPE with included silicon chips as a basis for future sensors (PhD, 2007 – 2012)
  • Andrew Thomas: Measurement of electromagnetic signal velocities in saturated fine-grained soils (PhD, 2005 – 2010)

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

  • Use of geophysical sensors to look through the ground including quantum technology gravity sensors, their use on mobile platforms and combination with other sensing technologies;
  • 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) Infrastructure Monitoring.

(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, sensors can be fine-tuned, the most appropriate signal frequency chosen and models of the soil developed (PhD students Thomas, Curioni, Boddice, MPhil student Abdorahimi). This work includes the development of long-term monitoring stations based on time domain reflectometry probes (TDR), both on campus as well as in remote field locations.

This work also includes 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 will lead to changes in the approaches taken by archaeologists, with respect to aerial prospection, as to-date no research has been conducted in the underlying soil properties and conditions providing contrast between the archaeological feature, the surrounding soil matrix, and the resulting crop marks, thereby opening the potential of revealing more of our history.

(ii) Infrastructure Monitoring

Nicole leads research in the development of novel sensors, as well as novel applications for existing sensors. She is utilising a three-pronged approach to further this research: 1) focusing 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 (PhD students Kolonko, Walton, Sadeghioon, Farai), 2) applying QT gravimeters and gravity gradiometers in the field for the detection of relatively deep buried assets (mine shafts and voids), and the condition of the ground by developing optimum survey strategies, and influencing the design of the instruments (PhD student Roberts, Post-Docs Boddice, Holynski, Goncharenko) 3) developing novel processing techniques to extract the maximum information out of existing sensing technologies (Post-Doc Rebegea).

All Nicole’s research is multidisciplinary, illustrating that she has the necessary skills to lead and work as part of a successful team. This is highlighted in the list of publications which shows she has worked with a large number of individuals across a variety of subject disciplines. She has played a major role in writing the publications, and as such claim high levels of intellectual ownership. Nicola has pursued a research strategy which has enabled her to achieve autonomy without building a silo.

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 

von der Tann, L., Metje, N., Admiraal, H., Collins, B. (2017). The Hidden Role of the Subsurface for Urban Futures. ICE Proceedings Civil Engineering.

Hojjati, A., Jefferson, I., Metje, N., Rogers, C. (2017). Embedding sustainability criteria into pre-appraisal of utility projects for future cities. ICE Proceedings Urban Design and Planning.

Boddice, D., Metje, N., Tuckwell, G. (2017). Capability Assessment and Challenges for Quantum Technology Gravity Sensors for Near Surface Terrestrial Geophysical Surveying. Journal of Applied Geophysics, Vol. 146, pp. 149-159.

Sadeghioon, A., Chapman, D., Metje N., Anthony, C. (2017). A new approach to estimating the path loss in underground wireless sensor networks. Journal of Sens. Actuator Netw. 6(3), 18. doi:10.3390/jsan6030018.

Curioni, G., Chapman, D., Pring, L. Royal A., Metje, N. (2017). Extending TDR capability for measuring soil density and water content to field condition monitoring. Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering.

Boddice, D., Metje, N., Chapman, D. (2017). Unique Insight into the Seasonal Variability of Geophysical Properties of Field Soils: Practical Implications for Near Surface Investigations. Near Surface Geophysics, Vol. 15 (5), pp. 515-526.

Hinton, A., Perea-Ortiz, M., Winch, J., Briggs, J., Freer, S., Moustoukas, D., Powell-Gill, S., Squire, C., Lamb, A., Rammeloo, C., Stray, B., Voulazeris, G., Zhu, L., Kaushik, A., Lien Y-H., Niggebaum, A., Rodgers, A., Stabrawa, A., Boddice, D., Plant, S.R., Tuckwell, G.W., Metje, N., Bongs, K., Holynski, M. (2017). A portable magneto-optical trap with prospects for atom interferometry in civil engineering. Philosophical Transactions A Royal Society A375 (2099), 16p.

Curioni, G., Chapman, D.N., Metje, N. (2017). Seasonal variations measured by TDR and GPR on an anthropogenic sandy soil and the implications for utility detection. Journal of Applied Geophysics, 141, pp. 34-46.

Dou, Q., Wei, L., Magee, D., Atkins, P.R., Chapman, D.N., Curioni, G., Goddard, K.F., Hayati, F., Jenks, H., Metje, N., Muggleton, J., Pennock, S.R., Ruistighi, E., Swingler, S.G., Rogers, C.D.F., Cohn, A.G. (2016). 3D Buried Utility Location Using A Marching-Cross-Section Algorithm for Multi-Sensor Data Fusion. Sensors, 16 (11).

Tzivos, N.I., Hemida, H., Metje, N., Baniotopoulos, C. (2016). Grouted connections on offshore wind turbines: a review.Engineering and Computational Mechanics. Vol. 169, Issue 4, pp. 183-195.

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] 

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.

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.