Professor Paul Hallett

Professor Paul Hallett
Professor Paul Hallett
Professor Paul Hallett

F.I. Soil Sci.

Chair in Soil Physics

Accepting PhDs

Email Address
Telephone Number
+44 (0)1224 272264
Office Address

Room 2.23, Cruickshank Building, School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen Aberdeen, AB24 3UU

School of Biological Sciences


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)

Memberships and Affiliations

Internal Memberships

Postgraduate Research Coordinator, School of Biological Sciences

Member of Senate

MSc Soil Science, Course Tutor


External Memberships

NERC Peer Review College, Core Panel Member

Technical Editor, SOIL

Associate Editor, European Journal of Soil Science

Co-Editor, Journal of Hydrology and Hydromechanics

Latest Publications

View My Publications


Research Overview

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.

Research Areas

Accepting PhDs

I am currently accepting PhDs in Biological and Environmental Sciences.

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss your research ideas further.

Email Me

Biological and Environmental Sciences

Accepting PhDs

Research Specialisms

  • Soil Science
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Agriculture
  • Sustainable Agriculture and Landscape Development
  • Biophysical Science

Our research specialisms are based on the Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS) which is HESA open data, published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.

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


Jaime Buckingham - Soil Physics Research Technician

XRay CT Manager

Dr Stewart Chalmers

Postdoctoral Scientists

Dr Maria Marin - NERC Signals in the Soil

Dr Nasrollah Sepehrnia - MSCA Experienced Researcher - TRAMPAS



Past Research

Postdoctoral Alumni


Dr Fiona Fraser, RESAS Soil Resilience

Dr Muhammad Naveed, BBSRC Rhizosphere by Design

Dr Joe Oyesiku-Blakemore, NERC MIDST

Dr Hu Zhou, NERC RedSoilCZO


PhD Alumni (current students at bottom of page)

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

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


My current supervision areas are: Biological and Environmental Sciences.

A team of PhD students in the Soil Biophysics Group explores a diverse array of topics on physical and biological interactions in soil.  Graduates have research positions around the world in universities and research institutes.

The PhD students are truly multidisciplinary, made possible by diverse supervisory teams from different schools, universities and institutions.

Funding and 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



  • Postgraduate, 3 stage, September start

    We offer the only dedicated soil science degree in the UK and one of the few remaining in Europe.  Soils have risen markedly on political agendas because they are central to climate change and food security.  The decades long legacy of work in this area provides comprehensive and cutting edge teaching.


Teaching Responsibilities

Course Tutor - 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)


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