Prof. Susan A Bernal

Prof. Susan A Bernal


Susan is Professor of Structural Materials in the School of Civil Engineering at University of Leeds, and holds a prestigious EPSRC Early Career Fellowship in Multi-scale Engineering of Sustainable Concretes. Previously she was University Academic Fellow in Cementitious Materials at Leeds (2018-2019), and Research Fellow in Cements in the world leading NucleUS Immobilisation Science Laboratory in Department of Materials Science and Engineering at The University of Sheffield (2012-2018). During that period she also held a one year appointment (2015-2016) as Lecturer in Concrete Technology in the Civil and Structural Engineering Department of this University. Prior to this, she was a Postdoctoral fellow (2009-2010) with Professor Jørgen Skibsted in the iNANO Instrument Center for Solid-State NMR Spectroscopy, Chemistry Department at Aarhus University, Denmark, and she then undertook a Research Fellow position (2010-2012) focusing on durability assessment of alkali-activated concretes, with Professor Jannie van Deventer and Professor John Provis in the Chemical  Engineering Department at the University of Melbourne, Australia.


  • Recipient of the 2020 IOM3 Rosenhain Medal and Prize for distinguished achievements in any branch of materials science – read more here
  • Recipient of one of the Materials and Structures Outstanding Paper 2020 Awards – see paper here
  • Recipients of one of the 2018 ICE Advances in Cement Research Prize (Best paper in the journal) - see paper here
  • Recipient of one of the two 2016 RILEM Gustavo Colonnetti medals for outstanding scientific contributions to the field of construction materials and structures
  • Recipient of one of the 2016 Distinguished Graduate Awards, Faculty of Engineering, Universidad del Valle, Colombia, in recognition of outstanding scientific contributions promoting regional development.
  • Recipient of one of the Walter Mangold Trust Fund scholarship for studies in Australia, 2008. The programme provided funding for a 1-year occupational trainee position in The Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at The University of Melbourne, Australia.
  • Recipient of a COLCIENCIAS DEng Scholarship, 2005: Enhancement of Colombian Scientific Community through National Doctorate Programmes. (Fortalecimiento de la comunidad científica a través del programa de doctorados nacionales, Créditos condonables COLCIENCIAS).

Professional Activities

Commisions of trust

Research Projects

  • 2021 – 2024UKRI Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centre For Mineral-based Construction Materials. EPSRC grant (EP/V011820/1). U. Leeds investigators: L. Black, O. Iuorio, C. Velis & S.A. Bernal; in collaboration with colleagues from UCL, Loughborough U., Imperial College London, Lancaster U. & U. Sheffield. 
  • 2021 – 2023. Transforming Foundation Industries – A Network plus towards value by innovation. EPSRC / ISCF grant (EP/V026402/1). Investigator: I. Reaney (U. Sheffield, Director), S.A. Bernal (U. Leeds, Co-Director), W. Sampson (U. Manchester) and C. Preydell-Pearce (Swansea U.)
  • 2021 – 2022. Enhancing analytical capabilities in soils for low-carbon technologies. White Rose Collaboration Fund. Investigators U. Leeds: A. Marsh (PI), H. Freeman, A. Brown; V. Leadley; S.A. Bernal; U. Sheffield: B. Walkley (Co-PI), M. Stennett, N. Hyatt; U. York: M. Hodson (Co-PI), R. Mills. 
  • 2020 – 2022. WISE: Maximising waste resources utilisation in future infrastructure development. Royal Society – International Exchanges Cost Share (Argentina). UK Investigators: S.A. Bernal (UK-PI), L. Black, S. Adu-Amankwah, A. Marsh, J.P Gevaudan; Argentina Inverstigators: Y.A. Villagran-Zaccardi (Argentina PI), M.A. Sosa, C. Pico Cortes, L. Masselli
  • 2020 – 2023. CMMI-EPSRC RENACEM: Response to CO2 exposure of concrete with natural supplementary cementitious materials. NSF-EPSRC Lead Agency grant (EP/T008407/1 and 1903457). UK Investigators: S.A. Bernal (UK-PI), J.L. Provis, L. Black & P.A.M. Basheer; US Investigators: M. Juenger (US-PI) & L. Katz
  • 2019 - 2023. Design-for-manufacture of 3D concrete printed structural composites (DfM:3DCP). EPSRC grant (EP/S019650/1). Investigators: L. Susmel, R. de Borst, J.P. Provis & S.A. Bernal 
  • 2019 – 2021. NOVA-VIDA: Novel approach for vital infrastructure post-disaster. British Academy – Infrastructure for wellbeing grant. Investigators: O. Iuorio, M. Janoschka, R. Romano & S.A. Bernal
  • 2018 - 2023. Multicale engineering of alkali-activated concretes for sustainable infrastructure. EPSRC Early Career Fellowship (EP/R001642/1). Investigator: S.A Bernal
  • 2019 - 2021. PERFoRM. Passive layer failure mechanisms for steel embedded in alkali-activated slag materials. Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship. Investigators: J.P. Gevaudan (Fellow), S.A. Bernal & P.A.M. Basheer (Supervisors)
  • 2016 - 2019. Predicting long-term performance of cement disposal systems for radionuclide-loaded zeolite and titanate ion exchangers. EPSRC-MEXT grant within the scope of Phase 3 of the UK-Japan Civil Nuclear Research Programme (EP/P013171/1). Investigators: J.L. Provis, H. Kinoshita, S.A. Bernal.
  • 2016. REFURB. Resource futures for sustainable urbanisation. The University of Sheffield/ EPSRC GCRF (seeding fund). Investigators: S.A. Bernal, S. Marvin, M. Mayfield, D. Densley-Tingley, P. Styring, S. Schindler & A. While.
  • 2016-2019. Immobilisation of problematic wastes in geopolymer. Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) Bursary. Investigators: D. Geddes (PhD researcher), J.L. Provis & S.A. Bernal.
  • 2016. Novel lightweight plaques and panels based on geopolymer composites. The University of Sheffield IIKE funding. Knowledge exchange project in collaboration with Suministros de Colombia S.A (SUMICOL). Investigators: J.L. Provis, S.A. Bernal, M. Bach.
  • 2015. WASTECEM. Wastes as resources for producing eco-efficient cements. Newton Fund Fellowship (Brazil-UK), Royal Academy of Engineering. Investigators: J.L Provis, S.A. Bernal, E.D. Rodriguez & A.P. Kirchheim.
  • 2014-2017. Rational design of low-CO2 alkali-activated concretes for eco-efficiency and durability. EPSRC-NSFC grant for collaborative research between UK and China on Sustainable Materials for Infrastructure (EP/M003272/1). Investigators: J.L Provis, S.A. Bernal, M. Basheer, M. Soutsos, & S. Nanukuttan.
  • 2013. Bulk use of biomass and co-fired ash in novel binders. NERC catalyst grant (NE/K015680/1). Investigators: A. Heath, J.L. Provis, S.A. Bernal, H. Kinoshita, K.A. Paine, R.J. Ball, M.C. McManus.

Research interests

Susan and her team research centres on novel cements and concretes, particularly focusing on waste management and valorisation, multi-scale infrastructure materials characterisation, durability assessment, and improving sustainability of novel cement and concrete technologies. Specifically Susan focuses on:

(i) Development, characterisation and exploitation of advanced and non-traditional cement and cement and concrete technologies, including:

  • Design of bespoke cements including geopolymers and alkali-activated materials for waste management and/or valorisation.
  • Determining the factors controlling phase assemblage evolution and stability of non-Portland cements, including application of thermodynamic modelling.
  • Mechanisms leading to structural modifications of Portland and non-Portland cements exposed to aggressive environments, emphasising chemical/physical binding of anions/cations and structural phase transformations.
  • Validation of testing methods for physicochemical characterisation of supplementary cementitious materials
  • Development and validation of standardised testing methods to determine performance of alkali-activated materials

(ii) Evaluation of fit-for-purpose cementitious wasteforms for immobilisation of nuclear wastes, including:

  • Chemical/physical binding mechanisms of radionuclides in cements with different chemistries
  • Phase assemblage evolution and stability of Portland and non-Portland based cementitious wasteforms
  • Effect of radiation in cementitious systems

Current team members

  • Rutendo Rusike (UG Laidlaw Scholar)
  • Madeline Rhiner (MSc)
  • Devika Nair (MSc)
  • Ivan Clarke (MSc ACT)
  • Juan Moreno (MSc ACT)
  • Thomas Dillon (MEng)
  • Gabriel Bowless (MEng)
  • Ryan McAlister (MEng)
  • Yuyan Huang (PhD researcher)
  • Thomas Hutchinson  (EPSRC CDT GREEN PhD researcher)
  • Moro Sabtiwu (EPSRC CASE PhD researcher – Highways England)
  • Zengliang Yue (PhD researcher)
  • Heng Song (PhD researcher, co-supervised by Dr. Gehan Selim)
  • Dr Alastair Marsh (Research Fellow in Alkali-Activated Materials)
  • Dr James Vigor (Research Fellow in Advanced Cementitious Materials Characterisation)
  • Dr Yuvaraj Dhandapani (Research Fellow in Durability of Cement and Concrete Materials)
  • Dr Juan Pablo Gevaudan (Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellow in Corrosion of Steel in Alkali-Activated Materials)

Former team members

  • 2019 – 20 - Luke Atkinson (MSc)
  • 2019 – 20 - Moosa Awad (MSc)
  • 2019 – 20 – Dr Tao Yang (Visiting Research Fellow)
  • 2019 – 20 - Xiaowen Zhang (Visiting PhD researcher)
  • 2018 – 19 - Kate Button (MEng)
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • Doctor in Engineering, emphasis in Materials Engineering (Cum Laude) Universidad del Valle, Colombia
  • Materials Engineer (Cum Laude), Universidad del Valle, Colombia

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, IOM3
  • Senior Member of International Union of Laboratories and Experts in Construction Materials, Systems and Structures, RILEM

Student education

  • CIVE5452 – Cement and Concrete Properties

Research groups and institutes

  • Materials and Structures

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>