Mike Gomez is an Assistant Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Washington. Mike joined UW in March 2017 after completing his Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis. His research focuses on leveraging natural chemical and biological processes in soils to develop sustainable bio-mediated geotechnical ground improvement technologies, which address environmental challenges related to population growth, climate change, and material and energy demands. In particular, Mike’s research has focused on the strengthening of loose and weak soils through a bio-mediated calcite precipitation process known as Microbially Induced Calcite Precipitation (MICP). The process has shown the ability to mitigate infrastructure damage related to earthquake-induced soil liquefaction, immobilize divalent groundwater contaminants, and prevent soil erosion among other potential applications. Mike’s additional research interests include soil characterization and laboratory testing, in-situ testing, naturally cemented and aged geomaterials, clay surface chemistry, non-invasive measurements for site characterization and subsurface reaction monitoring, and reactive transport, among other topics.
- Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Davis, 2017
- M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Davis, 2013
- B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Davis, 2011
- National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) Award, 2021
- Exception Peer Reviewer, 2020, Journal of Geotechnical and Geological Engineering
- Faculty Appreciation for Career Education & Training (FACET) Award, 2020, UW COE
- Zuhair A. Munir Best College of Engineering Dissertation Honorable Mention, 2018, UC Davis
- Outstanding Outreach Volunteer Award, 2016, NSF Center for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics
- Institution of Civil Engineers Telford Premium Journal Prize – Ground Improvement, 2016
- I.M. Idriss Award for Excellence in Geotechnical Engineering, 2014
- Fugro West Graduate Fellowship, 2013
- USDA Forest Service Certificate of Merit, Deschutes National Forest, 2011
- Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) The First Tee Achiever of the Year Award, 2004
Professional Societies and Other Service
- Editorial Board Member for Canadian Geotechnical Journal (January 2020 – Present)
- Canadian Geotechnical Society (2019 – Present)
- Clay Minerals Society (2019 – Present)
- International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (2019 – Present)
- American Geophysical Union (AGU) (2018 – Present)
- International Society of Porous Media (2018 – Present)
- United States Society on Dams (2016 – Present),
- Center for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics (2015 – Present)
- ASCE Geo-Institute (2014 – Present)
- Editorial Board Member for Canadian Geotechnical Journal (January 2020)
- Co-chair of the “Biopolymers” Technical Session for GeoCongress 2019 (March 2019).
- Co-organizer of the “Applications of Biochemical Modification of Porous Media” mini-symposium for International Society for Porous Media (Interpore) 10th Annual Conference (May 2018)
- Member of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Geo-Institute “Soil Properties and Modeling” Technical Committee (2017 to Present)
Active Research Projects
NSF ECI Award #1824647: “Investigating the Life Cycle Performance of Bio-cementation Soil Improvement: Synthesis, Degradation, and Repair” (https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1824647)
Abstract: Geotechnical ground improvement technologies have traditionally relied upon the use of high mechanical energy and energy-intensive materials to improve soil engineering properties. Recently, the emerging field of bio-mediated soil improvement has shown the transformative potential of natural chemical and biological processes to improve weak, problematic soils with reductions in detrimental environmental and societal impacts. Microbially Induced Calcite Precipitation (MICP), or bio-cementation, is one such technology that uses the biologically-mediated precipitation of calcium carbonate to improve soil engineering properties. Despite significant advances, limited understanding of the factors that control bio-cementation material properties, the processes by which bio-cemented soils may degrade over time, and the methods by which damaged bio-cemented soils can be detected and repaired, has restricted our ability to evaluate the long-term resilience of MICP, quantify process environmental impacts, and understand the implications of treatment and site conditions on material engineering performance. This project will address critical gaps remaining in our understanding of the life cycle performance of bio-cementation soil improvement related to material synthesis, degradation, and repair through integrated geochemical and geotechnical experiments and numerical modeling. This research will improve the resiliency of dependent civil infrastructure systems and mitigate potential economic, life, and property losses resulting from failure of bio-cemented and similar cemented/aged geomaterials. Decreased uncertainty in material long-term performance is expected to increase adoption of bio-mediated ground improvement alternatives in engineering practice thereby reducing material and energy consumption, detrimental environmental impacts, and improving public health. Increased participation of under-represented minority (URM) and women students in research activities will develop a diverse cohort of students with multidisciplinary expertise, therefore enabling continued development of the biogeotechnics field in academia and engineering practice. Outreach activities will focus on engaging middle and high school students through hands-on demonstrations and exhibits at events including the University of Washington Engineering Discovery Days and partnerships with local K-12 schools and the Pacific Science Center. Over 500 K-12 students will be exposed annually to STEM concepts from engineering, geology, material science, chemistry, and microbiology to inspire a new generation of multidisciplinary engineers. This research program will leverage batch and 1D-transport geochemical experiments, triaxial and soil column geotechnical laboratory tests, reactive transport numerical modeling, and advanced chemical, biological, and material analyses to: (1) investigate the effect of biogeochemical conditions during mineral synthesis on the properties of bio-cementation controlling long-term chemical and mechanical resilience, (2) assess the chemical permanence of bio-cementation including mineral solubility and dissolution kinetics, (3) examine the effects of chemically and mechanically-induced damage on the performance of bio-cemented soils including evolution of engineering properties, damage patterns, and degradation monitoring methods, and (4) develop techniques which can protect and heal damaged bio-cemented soils while minimizing energy and material usage. To achieve these research objectives, three integrated research tasks will be completed. First, a series of batch reactor experiments will be performed to understand relationships between biogeochemical reaction conditions during precipitation, bio-cementation formation, and precipitate material properties. Second, a series of geochemical and geotechnical laboratory experiments will be completed to characterize the solubility and dissolution behavior of bio-cementation as a function of precipitate properties and subsurface environmental conditions. Obtained results will inform the development of a dissolution kinetic framework specific to bio-cementation for prediction of material in-situ permanence. Lastly, geotechnical and geophysical investigations will be performed to identify non-destructive approaches for detection of cementation degradation, develop novel repair techniques, and explore the effect of bio-cementation degradation and repair on the engineering behavior of bio-cemented soils including changes in material stress-dilatancy, modulus degradation, elastic and post-yielding response, critical-state and peak shear strength, and pore pressure and strain accumulation.
NSF ECI Award #2045058: “CAREER: Mollusk and Arthropod-inspired Bio-Cemented Composites for Sustainable, Resilient, and Multifunctional Ground Improvement” (https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=2045058)
Abstract: This Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award will explore the potential for incorporating bio-inspired principles from natural composites found in mollusks and arthropods with existing bio-cementation soil improvement to yield multifunctional, resilient, and sustainable bio-cemented composites for the improvement of weak and problematic soils. While bio-cementation has been shown to dramatically improve soil engineering behaviors, the presence of cementation can also result in some potentially unfavorable responses including rapid strength and stiffness losses. This project will draw inspiration from the structure and mechanisms associated with mechanically superior biogenic composites to modify existing bio-cementation and further enhance soil engineering behaviors to provide transformative benefits with respect to the environmental sustainability, economic efficacy, long-term resilience, and multifunctionality of geotechnical soil improvement and reliant civil infrastructure. Project education and outreach activities will address critical deficiencies in the pipeline of underrepresented minority students towards STEM-based higher education by: (1) increasing the awareness of underrepresented minority students of STEM fields, higher education, and careers through outreach at various venues including the Seattle Aquarium, (2) improving the recruitment of underrepresented minority students to STEM-based higher education through modules, mobile outreach toolkits, an academy for K-12 teachers, and implementation of content in classrooms, and (3) enhancing underrepresented minority student retention in STEM through research experiences, integration with support programs, and incorporation of project outcomes in curricula. Over 600 K-12 and community college students will be engaged annually from remote and diverse student populations. Project research will leverage small-scale biogeochemical experiments, reactive transport numerical modeling, triaxial and resonant column geotechnical laboratory tests, and advanced chemical, biological, and material analyses to: (1) explore the potential of bio-inspired principles to be translated to bio-cemented soils to achieve bio-cemented composites with enhanced fracture toughness, ductility, and strength, (2) investigate the engineering behaviors of bio-cemented composite treated soils including (a) pre-yielding, post-yielding, and critical state behaviors, (b) low-strain dynamic properties, and (c) liquefaction behaviors, (3) examine the ability of bio-cemented composites to provide new functionalities including contaminant removal and thermal and hydraulic enhancements, and (4) explore the resilience of bio-cemented composites to biogeochemical and mechanical stressors and the environmental and economic efficacy of composites relative to existing technologies. The project will advance the emerging field of bio-mediated soil improvement by leveraging novel bio-mediated processes and bio-inspired principles to develop new materials for geotechnical ground improvement that can improve the resiliency, sustainability, and multifunctionality of civil infrastructure.