Sai Vanapalli


Sai Vanapalli

Ph.D. (Saskachewan)
M.Tech. (Kakatiya, India)

Room: CBY A-112
Office: 613 562-5800 ext. 6638
Work E-mail:


Dr. Vanapalli received his Ph.D. from the University of Saskatchewan in 1994. Since then, he has been actively involved with research activities related to mechanics of unsaturated soils.

Presently, Dr. Vanapalli is Professor and Chair of the Department of Civil Engineering, University of Ottawa. He is passionate about developing simple procedures that are consistent with the established practice protocols of conventional geotechnical engineering, which involve the mechanics of saturated soils. Such techniques would encourage practicing engineers to implement the mechanics of unsaturated soils into engineering practices.

During the past 5 years, his research focus has been to develop simple techniques for designing foundations and to estimate foundation settlements in unsaturated soils. More recently, he has been developing simple techniques to estimate and model the 1-D heave in expansive soils.

Dr. Vanapalli has been an author and co-author of over 125 research publications in peer- reviewed journals, refereed conferences and other conferences, including one book chapter, four keynote papers, and two state-of-the-art reports for international unsaturated soil conferences. He has supervised 16 graduate students, 25 undergraduate students, and 3 postdoctoral fellows. Presently, he is supervising 10 graduate students of which four are working toward their PhDs.

He is enthusiastic about teaching his undergraduate and graduate students, in particular, about the basic concepts of the mechanics of unsaturated soils and their implementation to solve numerous practical problems. He organized six student conferences from 2005, offering guidance and supervision to the students on research related to the mechanics of unsaturated soils.

Dr. Vanapalli has been an active participant and organizer of several national and international geotechnical conferences. He was Co-Chair for the Diamond Jubilee Canadian Geotechnical Conference held in Ottawa, Canada, 2007 and Co-Chair of the 12 IACMAG, Goa, India, 2008. He is Advisor for the 14th Pan-Am Conference and the 64th Canadian Geotechnical Conference, Toronto, 2011. He was invited to deliver 4 keynote or plenary addresses for international conferences. More recently, he was invited to address the 5th International Conference on Unsaturated Soils, Barcelona, Spain, September 2011 as a panel member to present and discuss the applications of unsaturated mechanics in engineering practice.

He also received the Stermac Award for his outstanding contributions to the Canadian Geotechnical Society in 2010.

Dr. Vanapalli has reviewed publications for several technical journals, including Geotechnique, Canadian Geotechnical Journal, Journal of Geotechnical and Geo-environmental Engineering, American Society of Testing Materials, Soil Science Society of America, Transportation Research Board and many others. He has also served as guest editor for special issues on Unsaturated Soils for Geotechnical and Geological Engineering Journal and the Advances in Instrumentation and Monitoring in Geotechnical Engineering for Journal of Advances in Civil Engineering.

Dr. Vanapalli was nominated by the Department of Civil Engineering and the Faculty of Engineering, University of Ottawa for the Ontario Council of Universities Faculty Association the (OCUFA) Teaching Excellence Award (2007); the University of Ottawa Award for Excellence in Teaching (2006); the John V. Marsh Teaching Excellence Award by the Department of Civil Engineering (2006), and he received a Dean's commendation for outstanding teaching evaluations for numerous occasions.

In addition, 12 of Dr. Vanapalli's students received national honours from the Canadian Geotechnical Society for best undergraduate (individual and group thesis) and graduate student papers. Several of his graduate students also received prestigious awards and scholarships and are well placed in academia and industry.
Dr. Vanapalli is a member of many societies, including the Canadian Geotechnical Society, American Society of Civil Engineers, Professional Engineers of Ontario, and the International Society of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, which is responsible for promoting cooperation and exchange of knowledge in the field of unsaturated soils.

Equipment Facilities:
Dr. Vanapalli has developed a state-of-the-art laboratory at the University of Ottawa to conduct various tests to determine the mechanical properties of unsaturated soils. Some of the equipment that was indigenously developed in his laboratory, under his supervision, includes the modified ring shear test, modified null-pressure plate apparatus, permeability equipment, soil-nail pullout testing equipment, modified swelling pressure equipment, University of Ottawa Bearing Capacity Equipment (UOBCE) for coarse- and fine-grained soils.
In addition, he acquired a grant from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation; Leader's Opportunity Fund (CFI-LOF) and has purchased state-of-the-art equipment for determining the mechanical behaviour of unsaturated soil samples under static and dynamic loading conditions. This equipment is specially designed to address some special research needs, which can be extended for developing some of the innovative research tools discussed in the research proposal. With the CFI-LOF infrastructure along with the existing infrastructure for unsaturated soil testing, the University of Ottawa Geotechnical Laboratory is considered to be one of the best unsaturated soils laboratories in Canada.

Fields of Interest

  • Geotechnical Engineering
  • Unsaturated Soil Technology
  • Geo-environmental Engineering Studies (Soil liners and soil covers)
  • Pavement Design
  • Freeze-Thaw and Wetting-Drying behaviour of compacted soils
  • Critical State Soil Mechanics
Back to top