Welcome to the Engineered Thermo-Active Geomaterials Research Laboratory






  • Douglas D. Cortes, Ph.D

  • Associate Professor
  • Civil Engineering Department
  • New Mexico State University
  • Past President ASCE NM-Section
  • 3035 S. Espina Street
  • Hernandez Hall Rm. 202
  • Las Cruces, NM 88003
  • P. (575) 646 6012
  • dcortes@nmsu.edu
  • Education:

  • Ph.D., Georgia Institute of Technology [2010]
  • M.S.C.E., Georgia Institute of Technology [2008]
  • B.S.C.E., Georgia Institute of Technology, Highest Honors [2006]



Ph.D. Students:

B.S. Students:

Young Scholars:


Former Students:

  • Ammar Ali, Ph.D., graduated 2018

  • Sheldon John, M.S., graduated 2018

  • Rodolfo Rascón de Lira, Ph.D., graduated 2018

  • Mark Breitnauer, M.S., graduated 2017

  • Sarah Garduno, M.S., graduated 2016

  • Rachelle Mason, M.S., graduated 2016

  • Ali Nasirian, Ph.D., graduated 2016

  • Louis Romero, M.S., graduated 2016

  • Allison Jenness, M.S., graduated 2014

  • Mark Ormand, M.S., graduated 2014

  • Sarah Williamson, M.S., graduated 2013


New Mexico State University (fall 2011 - present):

  • CE 357 - Soil Mechanics

  • CE 470 - Landfill Design

  • CE 479 - Pavement Analysis and Design

  • CE 506 - Advanced Soil Mechanics

  • CE 577 - Advanced Pavement Analysis and Design

  • CE 579 - Ground Improvement

  • CE 596 - Special Topics: Engineered Thermoactive Geomaterials

  • CE 508 - Advanced Soil Behavior


Georgia Institute of Technology (Spring 2010 - fall 2010):

  • COE 2001 - Engineering Statics

  • CEE 4405 - Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering (Laboratory)


Teaching Performance (Student Evaluations max = 4.0):

  • Undergraduate Courses: 3.39 [Department average: 3.31]

  • Graduate Courses: 3.46 [Department average: 3.28]


The focus of our research efforts lies in the development of creative solutions to geotechnical engineering challenges that stem from the characteristic performance levels of soils in their natural state.

In classical geotechnical engineering areas, performance is most often defined in terms of mechanical properties such as strength and stiffness. While soil improvement in these areas is already a mature field, modern sustainability challenges force us to revisit conventional methods used to engineer geomaterials. Through improved understanding of soil behavior, we work to optimize the use of available improvement methods that carry low sustainability ratings, while also identifying suitable sustainable alternatives. Our interest in classical problems is also driven by our desire to bridge the gap between the state of the art and the state of the practice.

In contemporary geo-challenges, performance is defined in a variety of forms and often involves intricate relationships between mechanical, thermal, hydraulic, and biological properties. Such modern challenges encompass coupled phenomena that create the need for engineered geomaterials capable of fulfilling multiple roles simultaneously. Our work in these areas is in many aspects pioneering in the field of geotechnical engineering, but borrows heavily from the vast available knowledge in physics, chemistry, and biology.


Active Research Topics:

  • Heat induced changes in soils with polymeric admixtures: recycled polymer bonding and dissolution protection coatings.

  • Reclaimed asphalt pavements (granular composites): revised characterization, resource recovery and management.

  • Geotechnical aspects of pavements: unconventional pavement structures with enhanced performance from unbound aggregate layers.

  • Soil-cement mechanistic mixture design: minimizing cement while maximizing performance.

  • Smart Backfills for geothermal borehole heat exchangers.

  • Bioinspired geosensors.


Sponsoring Agencies:




Refereed Journal Publications:

  1. 17. ηRomero, L., ηCortes, D. D., and , Valdes, J. R., 2018. “Experimental assessment of the heal-ability of a polymer bonded sand.” Construction and Building Materials, v 166, 30 March 2018, pp 610-617, doi.org/10.1016/j.conbuildmat.2018.01.184

  2. 16. ηRomero, L., ηMendoza, L. ηNasirian, A., ηCortes, D. D., and , Valdes, J. R., 2018. “A Thermal Direct Shear Device for Testing Polymer-Bonded Sands.” Geotechnical Testing Journal, v 41, n 3, pp 611-618, doi.org/10.1520/GTJ20160281

  3. 15. Miranda, L. V., Valdes, J. R., and ηCortes, D. D., 2017. “Solar bricks for lunar construction.” Construction and Building Materials, v 139, 15 May 2017, pp 241-246, doi.org/10.1016/j.conbuildmat.2017.02.029

  4. 14. Papadopoulos, E., ηCortes, D. D., and Santamarina, J. C., 2016. “In-situ assessment of the stress-dependent stiffness of unbound aggregate bases: application in inverted base pavements.” International Journal of Pavement Engineering, v 17, n 10, pp 870-877, doi.org/10.1080/10298436.2015.1022779

  5. 13. ηRascon, R., ηCortes, D. D., and Pasten, C., 2015. “Reclaimed asphalt binder aging and its implications in the management of RAP stockpiles” Construction and Building Materials, v 101, Part 1, pp 611-616, doi:10.1016/j.conbuildmat.2015.10.125

  6. 12. Garcia, N. F., Valdes, J. R., and ηCortes, D. D., 2015. “Strength characteristics of polymer-bonded sands” Géotechnique Letters, v 5, n July-September, pp 212-216, doi.org/10.1680/jgele.15.00089

  7. 11. Pasten, C., Garcia, M., and ηCortes, D. D., 2015. “Physical and numerical modelling of the thermally induced wedging mechanism” Géotechnique Letters, v 5, n July-September, pp 186-190, doi.org/10.1680/jgele.15.00072

  8. 10. ηNasirian, A., ηCortes, D. D., and Dai, S., 2015. “The physical nature of thermal conduction in dry granular media.” Géotechnique Letters, v 5, n January-March, pp 1-5, doi.org/10.1680/geolett.14.00073

  9. 9. ηWilliamson, S., and ηCortes, D. D., 2014. “Dimensional analysis of soil–cement mixture performance.” Géotechnique Letters, v 4, n January-March, pp 33-38, doi:10.1680/geolett.13.00082

  10. 8. ηCortes, D. D., Santamarina, J. C., 2013. “The LaGrange Case History: Inverted Pavement System Characterization and Preliminary Numerical Analyses.” International Journal of Pavement Engineering, v 14, n 5, pp 463-471, doi:10.1080/10298436.2012.742192.

  11. 7. ηCortes, D. D., Shin, H., Santamarina, J. C., 2012. “Numerical Simulation of Inverted Pavement Systems.” Journal of Transportation Engineering, v 138, n 12, pp 1507-1519, doi:10.1061/(ASCE)TE.1943-5436.0000472.

  12. 6. ηCortes, D. D., Santamarina, J. C., Jugo, A., 2012. “Pavimentos Flexibles con Rigidez Invertida: Caracterización Experimental y Modelación Numérica.” Revista Internacional de Desastres Naturales, Accidentes e Infraestructura Civil, v 12, n 1, pp 136-143.

  13. 5. Fragaszy, R. J., Santamarina, J. C., Amekudzi, A. A., Assimaki, D., Bachus, R., Burns, S. E., Cha, M.-S., Cho, G.-C., ηCortes, D. D., 2011.“Sustainable Development and Energy Geotechnology – Potential Roles for Geotechnical Engineering.” KSCE Journal of Civil Engineering, v 15, n 4, pp 611-621, doi: 10.1007/s12205-011-0102-7.

  14. 4. ηCortes, D. D., A. I. Martin, T. S. Yun, F. M. Francisca, J. C. Santamarina, and C. Ruppel, 2009. “Thermal Conductivity of Hydrate-Bearing Sediments.” Journal of Geophysical Research, 114, B11103, doi:10.1029/2008JB006235.

  15. 3. Waite, W.F., Santamarina, J.C., ηCortes, D. D., Dugan, B., Espinoza, D.N., Germaine, J., Jang, J., Jung, J., Kneafsey, T., Shin, H.S., Soga, K., Winters, W., Yun T.S., 2009. “Physical Properties of Hydrate-Bearing Sediments.” Reviews of Geophysics, 47, RG4003, doi:10.1029/2008RG000279.

  16. 2. ηCortes, D. D., Kim, H. K., Palomino, A. M., and Santamarina, J. C., 2008. “Rheological and Mechanical Properties of Mortars Prepared with Natural and Manufactured Sands.” Cement and Concrete Research, v 38, n 10, pp 1142-1147. doi:10.1016/j.cemconres.2008.03.020.

  17. 1. Kim, H. K., ηCortes, D. D., and Santamarina, J. C., 2007. “Flow Test: Particle-Level and Macroscale Analyses.” ACI Materials Journal, v 104, n 3, pp 323-327.

  18. Names in bold denote current and former ηGRL members.


Conference Proceedings (peer-reviewed):

  1. 3. Cortes, D D., Nasirian, A. and Dai, S., 2018.  "Smart Ground-Source Borehole Heat Exchanger Backfills: A Numerical Study." International Symposium on Energy Geotechnics, Lausanne, Switzerland. Sep. 25-28. pp. 27-34, doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-99670-7_4.

  2. 2. Valdes, J. R., Cortes, D. D., 2014. “Heat-Induced Bonding of Sands.” GeoCongress 2014: Geo-Characterization and Modeling for Sustainability. Atlanta, GA. Feb 23-26. Technical Paper, pp 3721-3733, doi: 10.1061/9780784413272.361.

  3. 1. Cortes, D. D., Santamarina, J. C., 2012. “Engineered Soils: Thermal Conductivity.” Proceedings of the 2012 World Congress on Advances in Civil, Environmental, and Materials Research. Seoul, South Korea. Aug 26-30. Technical Paper, pp 2482-2492.