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Chairholder Profile

Derek Martin

Derek Martin

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Alberta

Chair Title

NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Railway Geomechanics

Chair Program

Industrial Research Chairs program


Senior Chairholder since 2012


With 48,000 route kilometres of track, Canada has one of the most extensive rail networks in the world. Rail, road, marine, and air transport have become integrated within society and are vitally important to the economy and the quality of life enjoyed by Canadians. Railways have become well positioned to take full advantage of the continental economy and exports that are the key economic drivers in Canada. However, the Canadian railway network is subject to severe, extreme cold climatic conditions and climate-induced geohazards, which together create hazards such as frost heave and tunnel icing, reduce the reliability of mechanical components, and increase the rate of track failures. Such conditions, if not properly managed, can impact the safety of employees and the travelling public, and the overall efficiency of rail transportation.

The Chair research program has been developed with direct consultation of Railway Engineers from across the industry. The projects have been targeted to build upon current knowledge in railway ground hazards and geomechanics, and to develop further expertise in the effects of the Canadian climate on mechanical and structural elements of the railway network. The Chair research projects are in the key applied science areas of:

  • ground hazards;
  • subgrade performance;
  • ballast quality and fouling;
  • rail and rolling stock;
  • climate change; and
  • risk management.

The research projects will develop new and existing technologies for application to the Canadian railway network.

Derek Martin, Professor of Geotechnical Engineering, is an internationally recognized expert in geohazards, rock engineering and brittle failure. Prior to entering research, he spent 15 years as a practicing engineering, of which eight years were devoted to leading the international research team at the Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.'s Underground Research Laboratory. Since 2004, Dr. Martin has been Principal Investigator in the Railway Ground Hazard Research Program (RGHRP) in partnership with Canadian National Railway, Canadian Pacific Railway, Transport Canada, and Queen's University.

His work with the RGHRP was instrumental in the selection of the University of Alberta as the lead university to establish the Canadian Rail Research Laboratory (CaRRL) in 2010. Dr. Martin's leadership in the RGHRP and CaRRL initiatives attests to his capability to manage, direct, and coordinate strategic collaborative research between industry, government and academic partners to develop and evaluate scientific technical and methodological solutions to support and enhance the ability of Canada's railway industry to manage risks associated with ground hazards.


  • Canadian National Railway Company
  • Canadian Pacific Railway/Chemin de fer Canadien Pacifique Limitée
  • Transportation Technology Centre, Inc.
  • Transport Canada
  • National Research Council Canada

Contact Information

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Alberta
3-071 NREF Building
Edmonton, Alberta
T6G 2W2

Tel.: 780-492-2332

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