History of METU Geotechnical Group:

A Brief History of the Geotechnical Group Narrated by Dr. Altay Birand

When I started as an M.S. student in 1962, The Geotechnical Group consisted of just one Assistant Professor (Mr. Hüsamettin Güz). The laboratory was in a barrack in the garden of the Turkish Parliament Building next to the Dikmen-Genelkurmay Kavşağı road. The size was 20 m by 15 m including a small office for Mr. Güz. There was İlhan Bey; a Technician, Haydar Bey; assistant technician and Osman Bey who was the field man responsible for sampling, boring.

I became a student assistant in the first year of my MS studies and Mr. Akın Önalp followed me shortly. Equipment for the laboratory had been purchased from the Soiltest Firm: Just a set of sieves, two hydrometers, two consolidometers, one direct shear machine, two compactors and one triaxial machine. We were responsible for carrying all the equipment from delivery to the Lab. (mostly on our backs) and then set them up. We also had to calibrate these as well as setting up from scratch a falling head and a constant head permeameter. We had the good fortune of having Mr. Burçin Arkan, a part time staff as our foundations teacher. At the end of 1963, Dr. Ilgaz Alyanak; who had finished his Ph.D. at Birmingham, England arrived. Shortly, he was followed by then Assoc. Prof. İsmet Ordemir, a former İTU staff, who had been working in the USA, mainly designing bridges and bridge foundations as well as a Reinforced Concrete Shell Structure. Then Mr. Çetin Soydemir, while doing his military service, replaced Mr. Arkan and explained the mysteries of Advanced Soil Mechanics for two terms and then became a full time member. The staff was brilliant and we were really enjoying the research and the education. At the end of 1963, we moved to our laboratory buildings of to-day at the METU Campus. We had to dismantle all the apparatus, do the porterin all the way and refitted them. I obtained my MS degree in 1964. I was accepted as a full time assistant and started my Ph.D. studies under Dr. Alyanak which I completed in 1969. We did not have any offices so I, Dr. Alyanak and Prof. Ordemir shared today's triaxial testing room of the Lab. About this time, Mr. Türker Mirata joined the team as an instructor; having got his MS from England. New assistants were to be recruited; Miss Yıldız Güvenç (Wasti) won the competition amongst three applicants (Herself, Mr.Akın Önalp and Miss Ses İnan) and joined us. Undergraduate courses were two terms of Soil Mech. and two terms of Found. Eng. In 1966, Mr. Soydemir went to Princeton for his Ph.D. and Prof. Ordemir went to Columbia as a UNESCO Professor. The former returned in 1971 and the latter in 1969. Meantime, we had to enrich the soils lab. New and more sensitive equipment was purchased. Triaxials with Piezo-electric pore pressure measurement, auto compactors, Geonor Permeameters and the like were brought in. In 1969 Mr. Yener Özkan; with a second MS from Utah (he was a graduate of the İTÜ) returned. Although an assistant since 1965 at the Highway section; he had taken so many advanced courses on Geotech that he was joined in the Geotechnical section. A year later; we decided to recruit more assistants. We were lucky to get Mr. Ufuk Ergun, Mr. Mete Öner, Mr.Erdil R. Tuncer and Mr.Orhan Erol. Myself, Dr Wasti and Dr. Özkan got their Ph.D.s at METU. The following Ph.D. series were: Dr. Erol and Dr. Tuncer Iowa State University, Dr. Öner Norwegian Geotechnical Institute, Drs. Mirata and Ergun from Imperial College. Dr. Mete Erdemgil, who had been working in Germany joined the group and in later years left to work in private sector. Prof. Alyanak also left for a consulting company in England but rejoined in a couple of years. Dr. Tuncer left for Irbid Univ. (Jordan) and then for Eastern Mediterranean University. Dr. Öner left for the USA. Dr. Erol left to work in Libya but fortunately returned in 1983. Dr. Erdal Çokça, who was an assistant; got his Ph.D from theMETU in 1992. Then Dr. Bahadır Sadık Bakır, who was an assistant in the section joined after getting his Ph.D from Iowa State University, Dr. Kemal Önder Çetin; a Berkeley, California Ph.D., and Dr. Derin Ural, a Princeton Ph.D. who later left for İTÜ. The staff were experts in a wide variety of fields like Foundation Engineering, Saturated and Unsaturated Soil Behavior; Soil Dynamics, Theoretical Soil Mechanics, Environmental Geotechnical Engineering. Numerous very important consultancy works have been done by this staff over the years. Master thesis numbering by hundreds and many Ph.D. thesis has been concluded. The number of excellent research papers is silent testimony to the success of the group. Over the years the members also occupied places of responsibility:

Prof. Ordemir twice as School of Engineering Dean, later as President of METU, Prof Alyanak as President of METU, Prof. Soydemir and Prof. Erdemgil as Vice Presidents of METU, Prof. Birand as Department Head of CE, Vice President of METU, Faculty Dean, Undersecretary for the Ministry of Public Works. Prof. Özkan and Prof. Erol as assistant Dept. Head of CE. Prof. Çokça as Assistant Dept. Head and Presently as Dept.Head.

During the recent ten years, the section first gained many valuable assistants but then lost them due to a University regulation requiring in-bred members to terminate their contracts. A loss irrepairable in my view....