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Scott Michael Olson

Profile picture for Scott Michael Olson

Contact Information

2230d Newmark Civil Engineering Bldg
205 N. Mathews
Urbana Illinois 61801


Scott M. Olson holds a B.S. (University of Illinois 1993), M.S. (University of Illinois 1995), and Ph.D. (University of Illinois 2001), all in civil engineering. From 1995 through 1997, Scott worked in private practice for Woodward-Clyde Consultants. After completing his Ph.D., Dr. Olson returned to private practice with URS Corporation and also taught geotechnical earthquake engineering courses at the University of Missouri-Rolla. He joined the faculty of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois in August 2004, and holds a 0% appointment in the Department of Geology.

Dr. Olson teaches several courses in geotechnical engineering: an undergraduate introduction to geotechnical engineering course (CEE 380), a mixed undergraduate and graduate course in applied soil mechanics (CEE 484), and three graduate courses on excavations and support systems (CEE 580), rock mechanics (CEE 586), and geotechnical field measurements (CEE 590).

Dr. Olson is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, Canadian Geotechnical Society, the North American Geosynthetics Society, the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, and the Seismological Society of America. Dr. Olson previously was a member of the governor-appointed Missouri Seismic Safety Commission, and has served on numerous review panels for the National Science Foundation, National Cooperative Highway Research Program, and the U.S. Geological Survey. He is a licensed professional engineer and continues to participate in consulting projects with industry.

Dr. Olson has received several honors and awards for his research, practice-related, and teaching accomplishments. In 2003, the Canadian Geotechnical Society awarded him the R.M. Quigley Award for the best paper in the 2002 Canadian Geotechnical Journal. In 2004, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) awarded him the Arthur Casagrande Award for his work on the residual strength of liquefied soils. The Casagrande Award was established to provide professional development opportunities for outstanding, young (under 35) practitioners, researchers, and teachers of geotechnical engineering. Dr. Olson was the first practitioner to receive this award. And, in 2012, Prof. Olson received the Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize from ASCE.

Research Interests

Dr. Olson's research interests include: geohazard identification and assessment, liquefaction engineering and mitigation, laboratory testing, paleoseismology and paleoliquefaction, ground response analysis, static and seismic slope stability, insitu testing, instrumentation, behavior of tailings materials, soil/structure interaction of bridge foundations.


  • Liquefaction engineering and mitigation
  • Laboratory and centrifuge testing
  • Geohazard identification and assessment
  • Behavior of tailings materials
  • Ground response analysis
  • Paleoseismology and paleoliquefaction
  • Insitu testing
  • Geotechnical instrumentation
  • Static and seismic slope stability
  • Soil/structure interaction of bridge foundations


  • Doctor of Philosophy, Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2001
  • Master of Science, Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1995
  • Bachelor of Science, Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1993

Additional Campus Affiliations

Associate Head & Director of Graduate Studies, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Department Affiliate, Geology

Honors & Awards


  • CEE Excellence Award in Undergraduate Advising and Mentoring (2017)
  • College of Engineering Outstanding Advisors List (2014)
  • CEE Undergraduate Advising and Mentoring Award (2011)
  • Frontiers of Engineering Education Participant (2010)
  • ASCE Outstanding Instructor Award (2009)
  • Collins Award for Innovative Teaching (2009)
  • Incomplete List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by their Students (Spring 2005,Fall 2005,Spring 2006,Fall 2006,Spring 2007,Fall 2007,Spring 2008,Spring 2009,Fall 2009,Spring 2010,Spring 2011,Fall 2011,Spring 2012,Fall 2012,Spring 2013,Fall 2013,Spring 2014,Fall 2014,Spring 2015,Fall 2015,Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018)
  • Outstanding Teaching Commendation Award (2005)


  • Walter L. Huber Research Prize (2012)
  • National Science Foundation Early Career (CAREER) Award (2009)
  • Arthur Casagrande Professional Development Award (2004)
  • R.M. Quigley Award (2003)

Recent Publications

Bhaumik, L., Rutherford, C. J., Olson, S. M., Hashash, Y. M. A., Numanoglu, O. A., Cerna-Diaz, A. A., & Weaver, T. (2023). A Multidirectional Cyclic Direct Simple Shear Device for Characterizing Dynamic Soil Behavior. Geotechnical Testing Journal, 46(2).

Numanoglu, O. A., Hashash, Y. M. A., Olson, S. M., Cerna-Diaz, A., Rutherford, C. J., Bhaumik, L., Centella R, D. M., & Weaver, T. (2023). A simplified three-dimensional constitutive model for seismic modeling of dense sands. Soil Dynamics and Earthquake Engineering, 167, Article 107794.

Chen, J., & Olson, S. M. (2022). Closure to "SHANSEP-Based Interpretation of Overconsolidation Effect on Monotonic Shearing Resistance of Contractive Nonplastic Soils" by Jiarui Chen and Scott M. Olson. Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, 148(9), Article 07022026.

Chen, J., & Olson, S. M. (2022). Effect of Overconsolidation on Cyclic Resistance of Soils. Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, 148(11), Article 04022087.

Chen, J., Olson, S. M., Banerjee, S., Dewoolkar, M. M., & Dubief, Y. (2022). Water content of moist-tamped nonplastic specimens for constant-volume direct simple shear testing. Geotechnical Testing Journal, 45(2).

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