Professor Paul Hallett

Professor Paul Hallett

Chair in School of Biological Sciences

Professor Paul Hallett
Professor Paul Hallett

Contact Details

work +44 (0)1224 272264
fax +44 (0)1224 272703
The University of Aberdeen Room 2.23, Cruickshank Building, School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen Aberdeen, AB24 3UU


Previous Employment

2011  -  2013

Head of Sustainable Production Theme, The James Hutton Institute

2008  -  2011

Head of Plant-Soil Interface Group, Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI)

1997  -  2008

Research Scientist, SCRI

1995  -  1997

Postdoctoral Scientist, Silsoe Research Institute, Silsoe, UK


BSc Agriculture, University of Guelph (1992)

PhD Chemical Engineering, University of Birmingham (1996)


Research Interests

I am a Soil Physicist working on solutions to food and environmental security, mainly focussed on the interactions between plants, microorganisms and the physical behaviour of soil. My work spans from understanding the fundamental processes driving changes in soil physical properties by biology, through to applied research examining soil degradation and the underlying causes.  Recent and current projects study the capacity of different plant root traits to physically engineer soil, crop selection impact on hydrological cycling in southern China, the use of vegetation to mechanically stabilise engineered slopes, soil physical impacts on nitrogen fertiliser use efficiency in Brazil and the better use of organic resources in Ethiopia to improve soils and their capacity to produce food. This research is funded by a number of research councils.

Current Research

My current research has four main areas: (1) engineering of the soil physical environment by plant roots, (2) impact of soil physical conditions on microbial processes, pollutant transport and root growth, (3) biophysical resilience of soil to stresses and (4) management of soil physical conditions for crop productivity.  It is underpinned by a cross-disciplinary team of staff and collaborators that includes plant scientists, soil biologists, geotechnical engineers, chemists and hydrologists.  The research uses a range of approaches including micron scale non-invasive imaging up to larger scale critical zone observatories.

Research Group


Annette Raffan - Soil Physics Research Technician

XRay CT Manager

Dr Stewart Chalmers

Postdoctoral Scientists

Dr Maria Marin - BBSRC project 'Rhizosphere by design'

Dr Mike Ogden - BBSRC project 'Rhizosphere by design'

Research Students

Luke Harrold, The interactions of plant, microbial and physico-chemical controls on carbon and nutrient cycling in the rhizosphere. 2019-2022. Co-supervised by Dr. Eric Paterson and Dr. Barry Thornton (JHI), Dr. Gareth Norton and Dr Ashish Malik.

Md. Dhin Islam, Effects of soil physical conditions and alternate wetting and drying on the performance of rice. 2019-2022. Co-supervised by Prof. Adam Price.

Catriona Willoughby, Designing Crop Rotations that are For for the Future. 2019-2022.  Principal Supervisor - Prof. Christine Watson (SRUC).  Co-supervised by Dr Kairsty Topp, Dr Robin Walker, Dr Alex Hilton and Prof. Graeme Paton.

Alysha Knight, The roots of soil and food security. 2018-2022. Co-supervised by Dr. Tim George (JHI) and Dr. Gareth Norton.

Yang Gao, Modelling and measuring soil organic carbon under different tillage practices in agricultural soils of the UK. 2017-2020. Principal Supervisor – Prof. Pete Smith

Licida Giuliani  - Does the Casparian strip influence plant root biomechanics? 2014-2020. Co-supervised by Dr. Kenneth Loades (JHI) and Dr. Gordon McDougall (JHI)

Rong Qu - Soil carbon cycling as affected by aggregate structure collapse and reformation.  Co-supervised by Prof. J. Smith. 2015-2020. Elphinstone Scholarship.

Tom Inglis - Soil biophysical heterogeneity impacts on the transport and fate of pesticides. (Registered at Robert Gordon University). 2015-2018.  Principal Supervisor - Dr. Zulin Zhang (JHI).  Co-supervisors - Dr Kyari Yates (RGU) and Dr Mads Troldbord (JHI)


Mohsin Raza, Development of green value chemicals from renewable sources and their physical properties. 2017-2020. Principal Supervisor -  Dr Waheed Afzal (School of Engineering)

Mike Ogden - Habitat engineering by ectomycorrhizal fungi. 2013-2019. Co-supervised by Prof. D. Johnson.

Taupik Rahman, Influence of soil physical structure on nutrient capture by plants. 2018-2019 (MSc by Research)

Ewan Oleghe - Physical priming of rhizosphere soil. Co-supervised by Prof. Liz Baggs. 2015-2018.

Anastasia Fountouli - Are pH driven shifts to soil physical structure caused by chemical or biological process? 2013-2017. Co-supervised by Prof. Graeme Paton, Prof. Christine Watson (SRUC) and Dr Robin Walker (SRUC).

Xin Shu - Sustainability of nutrient cycling processes associated with arable land management (U. Aberdeen and SRUC). 2014-2017. Principal Supervisor - Prof. Bryan Griffiths (SRUC)

Purnomo Sidi - The suitability of Eichomia cressipes as loss circultion material on oil and gas drilling industry. 2013-2017. Principal Supervisor - Dr. Waheed Afzal (School of Engineering). Funded by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, Republic of Indonesia.

Marianne Kuntz – Does soil organic matter, matter? (U. Aberdeen and SRUC). 2013-2016. Principal Supervisor – Prof. Liz Baggs

Research Grants

Recent Grants

NERC/NSF: SitS NSF-UKRI: Wireless In-Situ Soil Sensing Network for Future Sustainable Agriculture. NE/T011068/1. Natural Environment Research Council/National Science Foundation USA. D. Young (Utah, PI), E. Yeatmans (Imperial), G. Norton (Aberdeen) and other partners, 2019-2021, £1500k - Co-PI

ESRC: Reducing land degradation and carbon loss from Ethiopia's soils to strengthen livelihoods and resilience (RALENTIR). ES/T003073/1. Economic and Social Research Council. E. Phimister (Aberdeen, PI), J. Smith (Aberdeen),W. Mekuria (IWMU), T. Tefera (U. Hawassa), A. Byg (The James Hutton Institute, G. Edo (Southern Agricultural Research Institute, Hawassa), A. Fischer (SLU) and others, 2019-2022, £921k - CoI

NERC: MIDST-CZ: Maximising Impact by Decision Support Tools for sustainable soil and water through UK-China Critical Zone science. NE/S009167/1. Natural Environment Research Council/Newton Fund.  56 partners in the UK and China, 2019-2021, £1097k - PI

BBSRC: NUCLEUS: a virtual joint centre to deliver enhanced Nitrogen Use effiCiency via an integrated SoiL-plant systEms approach for the Uk & BraSil. BB/N013204/1. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)/Newton Fund. with S. Mooney (Nottingham, PI), Bangor, Rothamsted and 7 Brazilian partners, 2016-2019, £2241k - CoI

ESRC: Improving Organic Resource use in rural Ethiopia (IPORE). ES/P002501/1. ESRC/NEXUS. with E. Phimister (Aberdeen, PI), J. Smith (Aberdeen), A. Fekadu (S. Nations, Ethiopia), W. Bori (IWMI, Ethiopia), T. Tefera (Hawassa, Ethiopia), G. Yakub (SARI, Ethiopia) and A. Fekadu (SARI, Ethiopia), 2016-2018, £166k - CoI

NERC: Building Resilience in Ethiopia's Awassa region to Drought (BREAD. NERC El Nino. NE/P004830/1. with J. Smith (Aberdeen, PI), E. Phimister (Aberdeen), A. Byg (JHI), M. Rivington (JHI), H. Black (JHI), T. Tefera (Hawassa, Ethiopia) and A. Fischer (JHI), 2016-2018, £297k - CoI

NERC: Red Soil CZ: From natural to anthropogenic evolution of Red Soil and its impact on ecosystem function in the Critical Zone.  NE/N007611/1. J. Smith (SBS Aberdeen) and J. Geris (Geosciences Aberdeen), and M. Hodson (York).  In collaboration with the Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 2016-2019, £800k - PI

BBSRC: Rhizosphere by design: breeding to select root traits that physically manipulate soil. BB/L026058/1. T. Roose and I. Sinclair (Southampton), G. Bengough (Dundee) and T. George (JHI), 2014-18, £1363k - PI

EPSRC: Rooting for sustainable performance. EP/M019713G. Bengough (Dundee, PI), J. Knappett, D. Muir Wood, J. Smethurst (Southampton), T. Roose, I. Sinclar, W. Powrie. 2015-2019. £1578k - CoI

NERC: Multi-Vis: A high resolution large scale X-Ray CT Scanner to build a multi-scale environmental science focussed facility in northern UK. Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Strategic Environmental Science Capital Call, with Dubravka Pokrajac. 2015. £350k - PI

ESRC: Network of Organic Resource use in rural Africa (NORA). Nexus research partnership programme  Networking Grant. E. Phimister (PI), J. Smith, B. Balana (IWMI, Ghana), A. Fekadu (SARI, Ethiopia), A. Fischer (JHI), H. Homans, P. Smith, T. Tefera (U. Hawassa, Ethiopia). £20k - CoI

CREW (Scottish Government). Effect of soil structure and field drainage on water quality and flood risk.  Allan Lilly and Nikki Baggaley (JHI), Bruce Ball (SRUC) and Bill Crookes (SAC Consulting). £140k - PI

AHDB - Potato Council - Platforms to test and demonstrate sustainable soil management: integration of major UK field experiments, Potato Council, with B. McKenzie (PI), T. George (JHI), Mark Stalham and David Firman (CUF), 2012-2016, £210k, Co-I

AHDB - HGCA - Platforms to test and demonstrate sustainable soil management: integration of major UK field experiments, HGCA, with B. McKenzie, T. George, T. Valentine, and A. Newton (JHI) and Ron Stobart (NIAB), 2012-2016, £644k  – PI transferred to BM on move to U. Aberdeen


Teaching Responsibilities

Course Coordinator - MSc Soil Science

EV3001/SS5008 - Global Soil Geography (Course Coordinator)

PL3309/SS5305 - Soils for Food Security (Course Co-Coordinator)

BI1509 - Ecology and Environmental Sciences (Laboratory Tutorials)

BI25P4 - Plants, People, and the Environment (Lecture)

Further Info

External Responsibilities

NERC Peer Review College, Core Panel Member

Technical Editor, SOIL

Associate Editor, European Journal of Soil Science

Co-Editor, Journal of Hydrology and Hydromechanics

Admin Responsibilities

Postgraduate Research Coordinator, School of Biological Sciences

Member of Senate

MSc Soil Science, Course Coordinator