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Permafrost engineering applied to transportation infrastructure

International PhD School

2 - 8 June 2019, Aurora College, Inuvik (Northwest Territories, Canada)


Under the leadership of the Sentinel North program at Université Laval (Quebec City, Canada), this International PhD School (IPS) is an advanced, graduate level course on permafrost engineering applied to transportation infrastructure.

Taking place at the Aurora College’s most northerly campus in Inuvik, the school will provide participants with an integrative, cutting-edge training supervised by renowned researchers. The program includes lectures, practical exercises, two field visits on sites where interesting permafrost and engineering features can be observed (Dempster Highway and Tuktoyaktuk Highway), and a seminar on advanced instrumentation and communication for infrastructure monitoring.


Who should apply

This course will gather together a total of 20 participants, issued from both academic and professional sectors. The course is offered in two formats (credit and non-credit - see the Registration section below for details).

The target academic audience are graduate students and professionals, but, in some cases, postdoctoral fellows and undergraduate students in late stage of their program may be selected.


Applications are now closed. Thank you!


Note : Knowledge of the English language and a formal training in sciences and engineering are required. Due to the practical and hands-on approach of fieldwork in Northern environment, all applicants should be in reasonably good physical condition, and be equipped/dressed accordingly. Details will be provided to selected participants.

  • Program overview

    This intensive 7 days course will follow the preliminary program detailed below, which will be deployed through a multifaceted approach including lectures, practical exercises in class and field trips supervised by renowned researchers from different engineering disciplines.

    Training specific objectives

    Upon successful completion of the course, it is expected that the participants be able to demonstrate:

    • Understanding of the context and challenges of building linear infrastructure on permafrost

    • Knowledge of the basic principles leading to effective site investigation, design and management of linear structures built on permafrost

    • Understanding of and ability to apply the principles of risk analysis to the development of linear infrastructure in permafrost contexts

    • Ability to analyze a complex situation and propose solutions to stabilize structures in unstable permafrost conditions

    The school will also foster the development of transversal skills such as networking and international scientific collaboration, as well as communication and planning.


    Prior to the course, the students should plan some time for assigned reading, which will be made available 6 weeks prior to the beginning of the school (approximately 2 days of full-time study).


    Preliminary program

    Day 1 - Lectures

    • Introduction : The context of Northern Canada transportation infrastructure (economic and social role; condition, vulnerability, expected development)

    Day 2 - Lectures & Field Trip

    • The permafrost environment : Essential notions on permafrost environments for engineering considerations (permafrost characteristics and features, thermal regime, permafrost dynamics)

    • Heat transfer : principles and calculation (heat transfer by conduction, convection and radiation; practical methods for calculation of thermal regime, heat transfer, heat balance)

    • Field trip to the Dempster Highway

    Day 3 - Lectures

    • Basic considerations for embankment design in permafrost conditions : Thermal implications, mechanical implications, drainage considerations

    • Frozen/thawing soil mechanics : Frost action, mechanical properties of frozen and marginally frozen ground, thaw consolidation, mechanical properties of thawing permafrost and of the active layer

    • Practical exercise : 2-D embankment thermal design using Temp-W

    Day 4 - Seminar

    • Embankment design : Key considerations, embankment materials, embankment geometry, thermal analysis, mechanical analysis, special protection techniques, consideration for frost heave

    • Site investigation : Key considerations for site investigation, description of geophysical methods, drilling and sampling, in-situ testing

    • Seminar on advanced instrumentation for permafrost environments

    Day 5 - Lectures

    • Slope stability : Stability of natural and cut slopes

    • Drainage : Implications of water concentration and channeling, control of surface water, erosion and thermal erosion, design of cross-drainage systems

    • Construction in permafrost regions : Logistics, environmental considerations, permafrost preservation, working with frozen or thawing materials

    • Management strategies : Risk analysis, preservation strategies, maintenance

    Day 6 - Field Trip

    • Field trip to sites along the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway

    • Discussion on the Northern Canada transportation infrastructure development challenges and opportunities with the Mayor / SAO ?? of Tuktoyaktuk

    Day 7 - Lectures and Evaluation

    • Additional presentations and recapitulation of key knowledge

    • Final examination


  • About the Aurora college and Inuvik

    Aurora College's most northerly campus is located in Inuvik, two hundred kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. This is the land of the midnight sun and the gateway to the Mackenzie Delta, the largest freshwater delta in the country. As the research division of Aurora College, Aurora Research Institute (ARI)'s mandate is to improve the quality of life for NWT residents by applying scientific, technological and indigenous knowledge to solve northern problems and advance social and economic goals.

    The Town of Inuvik is the perfect place to witness the Land of the Midnight Sun in the beautiful and vast Mackenzie Delta. Inuvik prides itself on being authentic, accessible and amazing. Being located at the end of the Demptser Highway and at the starting point of the new Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway, both are traversing particularly challenging, ice-rich, thaw-sensitive permafrost terrain in the MacKenzie Delta. The site is ideal for the observation of permafrost features and to understand the challenge of building in the North. 

    The branching channels, ponds and wetlands of the Mackenzie River Delta spread across more than 12,000 square kilometres (4,600 sq mi) of the coastal plain. The delta is nearly 210 km long (from North to South), and between 50 and 80 km wide. It is the second biggest Arctic delta in the world, after the Lena River Delta in Russia. Most land in the Mackenzie Delta consists of permafrost, with great depths to bedrock featuring numerous pingos (ice-core hills). Below the junction with the Peel river near Fort McPherson, the MacKenzie diverges into several large channels with the largest heading north-northeast, emptying into the Beaufort Sea west of Tuktoyaktuk.

  • List of experts

    • Chris Burn, Professor, University of Carleton

    • Guy Doré, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, Université Laval

    • Sophie Larochelle, Professor, Department of electrical engineering, Université Laval, Centre for Optics, Photonics and Lasers (COPL)
  • How to apply

    Applicants must provide the following documents :

    • The online application form
    • Up to date curriculum vitae (to be attached in the application form)
    • A letter of recommendation from you research supervisor (academic candidates only) (to be attached in the application form)


    Selection process

    All applications will be assessed by the Organizing Committee as they are received and decisions will be made on a rolling basis until April 15, 2019.

    Applicants will be notified of their selection status (accept, deny, waitlist) two weeks after they submit their application at the latest.

    Academic applicant

    Applications of academic applicant will be assessed according to the evaluation criteria below:

    • Academic background and experience
    • Relevance of the candidate’s research and/or professional interests with the theme of the school

    Professional applicant

    A maximum of 10 places will be reserved for professionals. These will be awarded on a first come first served basis.

  • Registration and fees

    This course will be offered in both credited and non-credited options.

    • Credit format : this format proposes a workload equivalent to a 3-credits course, and includes 45 hours of lectures and field activities and 90 hours of personal work, including a report to be completed after the school.

    • Non-credit format (with evaluation) : this course format offers the equivalent workload of a 3-credits course and allows students registered in another university to get credits recognized from their own institution. An attestation of completion mentioning the course's objectives, contents and evaluation will be provided (including continuing education units).

    • Non-credit format (without evaluation – participation only) : this course format includes 45 hours of lectures and field activities. An attestation of completion mentioning the course'S objectives and contents will be provided (including continuing education units).


    The Sentinel North program will support the transportation and lodging fees of students registered to a regular program at Université Laval on the basis of merit and need through its the Training Fund Program.

    Transport Canada’s Northern Transportation Adaptation Initiative has financial support available for other student registrants. Please contact for details.


    Registration fees


    • Students registered full-time at Université Laval : tuition fees for a 3-credits course (the fees vary according to the applicant’s citizenship).
    • Students registered full-time in other universities : $ 650 CAD.
    • Professionals : $ 2,200 CAD

    This amount includes :

    • Registration to the school
    • Teaching and scientific materials
    • Lunches on June 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
    • Field trips (2)

    Registration fees do not cover :

    • Your travel to and from Inuvik
    • All other meals and snacks in Inuvik
    • Lodging in Inuvik : every participant is responsible for booking their own room. Housing is offered at the residence of the Aurora College at an affordable rate ($50/night) or at local hotels ($200/night). Instruction for booking will be provided to the selected candidates.
    • Additional excursions and activities that are not included in the program
    • Personal expenses
    • Health insurance (mandatory)

    Payment must be received in full at least one month prior to the start of the IPS. Payment details will be provided to the selected candidates.

    *Amount is in Canadian dollars



You want to register for the Sentinel North International PhD School on permafrost engineering applied to transportation infrastructure? Submit your application using the form below.


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Information on course content

Guy Doré, Professor, Department of civil engineering, Université Laval