Geological Science and Engineering

Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering
Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering

Sarah Cain

M.A.Sc. Candidate, Geological Engineering

Office: Geomechanics Lab
Thesis Topic : Excavation damage zone (EDZ) impact on tunnel, cavern and shaft design
Supervisor: Dr. Mark Diederichs



Research Interests

Sarah is pursuing research associated with excavation induced damage within low- and medium-level nuclear waste repositories. This research will contribute to the resolution of a significant public policy and engineering issue in the Canadian context, given the pressing need to safely dispose of and store nuclear waste generated in Canada over the past six decades.

Sarah’s research will encompass the effects of macro-geometry choices (shape and dimensions) and details (geometry, aspect ratio, excavation sequence and staging) on excavation damage zone (EDZ) and highly damaged zone (HDZ) development. Her work will start with extensive continuum, 3D, non-linear modelling. Sarah will then explore the impact of structural complexities using discontinuum methods. She will also be investigating the short term impacts of excavation methodology and long term effects of pore pressure increase and thermally induced stresses.

Brief Biography

Sarah completed a B.Sc.E. in Geological Engineering at Queen’s University in 2015, with a focus on geotechnical engineering and rock mechanics. During her undergraduate summers, Sarah worked as a Geotechnical Technician at Cambium Inc., in Peterborough ON, where she gained practical working knowledge of soil classification, subsurface stability, subsurface contamination, groundwater movement and materials testing. As a registered Engineer-In-Training with the P.E.O., Sarah was also responsible for planning and managing geotechnical investigations, supervising or supporting field work and writing geotechnical engineering reports and proposals during her final (2015) summer with Cambium Inc.

In September of 2015, Sarah began her Master’s of Applied Science (M.A.Sc.) program under the supervision of Dr. Mark Diederichs. Her research is associated with excavation damage zone (EDZ) impact on tunnel, cavern and shaft design for deep geological repositories (DGRs).


2016 – Recipient of the Tunnelling Association of Canada (T.A.C.) Z.D. Eisenstein Memorial Scholarship, rewarded annually to one Canadian post-graduate student undertaking graduate studies in the field of tunneling

2016 – Griff Murphy and Anne Raymond Teaching Assistant Award for outstanding assistance within the field of Applied Geophysics

2015 – Student-nominated, Thurber Engineering Ltd. Teaching Assistant award for outstanding assistance within the field of Geotechnical and Geo-environmental Engineering

2015 – Dean’s Honour List Graduate (B.Sc.E. – Geological Engineering)

2014 – Queen’s University Conetec Geotechnical Award for leadership, independent thinking and suitability to pursue fieldwork and field based research

2011 – Queen’s University Excellence Scholarship


  • Cain, S. and Diederichs, M. S. 2017. The impact of tunnel shape, orientation and blast round length on excavation damage zone development in brittle rock, World Tunnel Congress 2017 Annual Conference, Bergen Norway.
  • Cain, S. and Diederichs, M. S. 2017. Shape Matters. Tunnels and Tunnelling North America, February - March 2017, pp. 32-37.
  • Cain, S. and Diederichs, M. S. 2016. The Impact of Tunnel Shape and Profile Details on Brittle Damage Development, Tunnelling Association of Canada Conference, Ottawa, ON.

Professional Affiliations

  • Registered Engineering-in-Training, Professional Engineers of Ontario (PEO)
  • Tunnelling Association of Canada (TAC) student member
  • Ontario Soccer Association (OSA) District Level Referee

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