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 2.14, Cruickshank Building Institute of Biological and Environmental 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 who works across disciplines to understand how biological and chemical processs interact with soil physical structure and transport properties.

Roots, fauna and microbes have considerable impact on the physical properties of soil.  I use approaches from soil physics, materials science and engineering to quantify mechanical and hydrological processes that underlie the physical engineering of soil by biology. This knowledge is applied to investigate the impact of root traits on soil physical behaviour, the sustainability of agricultural production processes and the resilience of soil to external stresses.

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.

Research Group


Annette Raffan - Soil Physics Research Technician

Postdoctoral Scientist

Dr Muhammad Naveed - Soil physicist working on the BBSRC project 'Rhizosphere by design'.

Research Assistant

Rebecca Hall - A recent U. Aberdeen MSc Soil Science graduate who is using GIS and soil survey to explore the extent of winter soil structural degradation in Scotland and its possible impact on flooding and water quality. Projected funded by CREW, Scottish Government.

Research Students

Mike Ogden - Habitat engineering by ectomycorrhizal fungi. 2013-2016. Co-supervised by Prof. D. Johnson.

Anastasia Fountouli - Are pH driven shifts to soil physical structure caused by chemical or biological process? 2013-2016. Co-supervised by Prof. Graeme Paton, Prof. Christine Watson (SRUC) and Dr Robin Walker (SRUC).

Licida Giuliani  - Does the Casparian strip influence plant root biomechanics? 2014-2017. Co-supervised by Prof. David Salt, Dr. Kenneth Loades (JHI) and Dr. Gordon McDougall (JHI)

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

Rong Qu - Soil carbon cycling as affected by aggregate structure collapse and reformation.  Co-supervised by Prof. J. Smith. 2015-2018. Elphinstone Scholarship.

Co-supervisor on the projects:

Purnomo Sidi - The suitability of Eichomia cressipes as loss circultion material on oil and gas drilling industry. 2013-2016. Principal Supervisor - Dr. Christine Sands. 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

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

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)


Dr Jiangtao Li, College of Geographic Science, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou, China. 2015-2016.

Dr Xiao-lan Zhong, College of Natural Resources and Environments South China Agricultural University Guangzhou, China. 2015-2016.

Research Grants

Current Grants

NERC: Red Soil CZ: From natural to anthropogenic evolution of Red Soil and its impact on ecosystem function in the Critical Zone.  J. Smith (IBES 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. T. Roose and I. Sinclair (Southampton), G. Bengough (Dundee) and T. George (JHI), 2014-18, £1363k - PI

EPSRC: Rooting for sustainable performance. G. 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. £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)

BI1006 - Biology for Undergraduates (Tutor)

Further Info

External Responsibilities

NERC Peer Review College, Core Panel Member

Technical Editor, SOIL

Associate Editor, European Journal of Soil Science

Assistant Editor, Vadose Zone Journal

Co-Editor, Journal of Hydrology and Hydromechanics

Admin Responsibilities

MSc Soil Science, Course Coordinator



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