Feature Stories

Advancing Geosynthetic Technology; Professor Zornberg Discusses His Work

Jorge Zornberg standing with graduate students in lab

Zornberg (center) and several of his graduate students stand in front of geogrids and geonets in their lab.

Jorge Zornberg has dedicated over 25 years to the advancement of geosynthetics through his professional practice as a design engineer, a professor, a researcher, and now as president of the International Geosynthetics Society (IGS), a non-profit organization founded in 1983.

“Geosynthetics are planar products manufactured from polymeric materials,” explains Zornberg,“which are used with soil or rock in engineering projects.” The result is high-performance materials that can last for centuries and can be used to construct roads, airfields, railroads, embankments, retaining structures, reservoirs, canals, dams, and landfill liners and covers; they are also used in mining, aquaculture, and agriculture. In short, geosynthetics have become indispensible to civil engineering.

"Elected IGS president in 2010, he leads a group of five officers and a council of 24 individuals who represent more than 2,900 individual and corporate members around the world—all involved in the design, manufacture, sale, use, testing, teaching, and/or researching of geotextiles, geomembranes, and related products/technologies.

“The core purpose of the IGS is to provide the understanding and promote the appropriate use of geosynthetic technology throughout the world,” says Zornberg. “We are not promoting the use of geosynthetics for the sake of it. We are promoting its ‘appropriate’ use because this will lead to enhanced performance of engineering projects.“ His term will end in 2014, and until then he will continue to improve communication within the organization and with sister international societies (such as the ISSMGE). “I believe that a focused effort on communications will lead to a majorexpansion of the benefits derived from our society’s wealth of knowledge,” says Zornberg.

He earned his B.S. from the National University of Cordoba in Argentina, his M.S. from the PUC of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, and his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. In recognition of his scientific contributions, Zornberg has won many prestigious awards, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), awarded by President George W. Bush in 2002.

In 2003, he joined UT CAEE, where he teaches undergraduate courses on geotechnical engineering, graduate courses on Earth Retaining Structures and Geoenvironmental Engineering, and researches geosynthetics and environmental geotechnics, soil reinforcement, earth retaining and waste containment structures, and numerical and physical modeling of geotechnical and geoenvironmental systems.