RGHRP research is lead by a team of experts from two of Canada’s premiere universities. Dr. Derek Martin and Dr. Jean Hutchinson, FEIC, are internationally renowned experts in geotechnical engineering and direct and coordinate the research activities, making this a cross-Canada collaboration effort.

The RGHRP enlists six accomplished researchers from the University of Alberta (UofA) and Queen’s University to guide graduate students in conducting world-class research in monitoring and risk assessment techniques. Graduate students gain valuable training and skills in geotechnical engineering, field investigations, laboratory testing, numerical modeling, risk assessment methodology and emerging technologies. Through the RGHRP, students have access to the UofA’s GIS laboratories and Queen’s Geocomputational Laboratory and Geotechnical Imaging Laboratory, which have leading facilities for numerical modeling and remote sensing. Additional specialist support and expertise is provided for students by Postdoctoral Fellows, Research Associates, technicians and industry personnel. Students also participate and present their work at international conferences and at the annual RGHRP workshops. The overall research experience available through the RGHRP promotes technical proficiency with advanced laboratory and numerical techniques, problem solving, critical thinking and communication skills, all of which are essential to geotechnical engineering.

Students work directly with geotechnical engineers from CN, CP, BGC Engineering and Transport Canada, encouraging the transfer and implementation of technology into industrial practice. Students conduct research and analysis individually and in groups, working in laboratories, at the industrial partners’ offices and at test sites on operational tracks. Typically, there are 6-10 field related programs concurrently operating. The RGHRP inspires truly exceptional collaborative research between industry and academia across the nation.


Dr. Michael Hendry is the Principal Investigator for Phase III of the RGHRP. Dr. Hendry’s research with the railway industry started in 2005 as a graduate student conducting research with Northern Ireland Railways on projects relating to slope stability and the cyclic loading of embankments over soft peat foundations. His current research is focused on the strength of soft foundation soils under heavy axle loading, the degradation of railway ballast and its effects on the integrity of the track structure, and the fundamental soil mechanics of peat and organic soils. He is a strong proponent of field-based studies and has an interest in finding new means to measure soil behaviours in the field.


Dr. Jean Hutchinson is a Professor of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering Department at Queen’s University in Kingston, and is currently serving as the Head of that Department. She has been co-PI for all three Phases of the RGHRP. Dr. Hutchinson’s research areas include work on engineering geology risk assessment, natural hazards and landslides, mining induced ground subsidence, underground rock support design, insitu and remote sensing techniques for assessing ground conditions, and engineering education. She shared the task of researching and writing “Cablebolting in Underground Mines” with Dr. Mark Diederichs, and has written more than 30 refereed articles, several book chapters, and more than 90 conference contributions. At Queen’s, Dr. Hutchinson and Dr. Diederichs fund and supervise the Geomechanics Computational Laboratory and the Geomechanics Imaging Laboratory. Dr. Hutchinson is currently serving as a Trustee on the Board of the Canadian Foundation for Geotechnique, and as the co-Chair of the Trailblazer award selection committee for Women in Mining Canada. She is delighted to have received several awards in recognition of teaching, including the 2009 Golden Apple Teaching award from the Engineering Society at Queen’s, and in recognition of technical contributions with the Thomas Roy Award in 2013 and the John Franklin Award in 2003, both from the Canadian Geotechnical Society. In 2011, Jean was made a Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada.

renato macciottaDr. Renato Macciotta obtained his BSc in Civil Engineering from Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru, Lima, Peru. He started his engineering profession at the Canadian-based Klohn Crippen Berger, focusing on the geotechnical aspects of mining operations, specifically the design and operation of tailings storage facilities, water treatment ponds, site investigations and remediation options for mine closure. He moved to Edmonton, AB, to pursue a postgraduate degree in Civil Engineering after four years of industrial experience. Renato obtained his Ph.D. in Geotechnical Engineering at the University of Alberta in 2013, specializing in risk engineering aspects of natural and man-made slopes. Renato’s areas of practice and research include risk engineering and safety assessments for natural and human-made slopes, mining structures, transport operations, dam structures and operations, ground hazards, and reclamation. His expertise also includes the geomechanical characterization of rock and soil masses, slope failure mechanisms and monitoring, rock fall detachment and trajectory analysis, and remote monitoring techniques. His work integrates his technical skills with risk engineering principles for the design and operation of engineered systems and structures. Renato has over 12 years of industrial experience and nine years of research experience. His research has been published in more than 30 peer-reviewed publications, including 10 Journal articles and over 20 conference proceedings. He has guided several Ph.D. and M.Sc. candidates in risk engineering and geotechnical components of their research projects and has delivered lectures and presentations nationally and internationally. In his current research, Renato is working on quantitative risk assessments of natural and cut slopes, the influence of subjective probabilities on the uncertainties related to risk calculations, and the role of monitoring in managing risks inherent to low probability/high consequence events.


 Dr. Derek Martin is an internationally renowned expert in geotechnical engineering and was the Principal Investigator for Phases I and II of the RGHRP. Dr. Martin and his team of experts from the University of Alberta work directly with geotechnical engineers from CN, CP and Transport Canada, encouraging the transfer and implementation of technology into industrial practice. His current research includes investigating ground hazards, risk and GIS technologies; repository geomechanics; and geoscience (stress and fracture flow).