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Nigel Shrive

Faculty Listing

Civil Engineering

Nigel Shrive



(403) 220-6630

ENF 206


FICE, P.Eng, C.Eng

Dr. Shrive's research is in the area of structural mechanics, ranging from materials science at the one end to structural behaviour at the other. Dr. Shrive is also the graduate coordinator for the University of Calgary's Biomedical Engineering Graduate program.

The principles are applied to masonry within the specific field of Civil Engineering, and to the soft tissues of joints in collaboration with colleagues from the Faculty of Medicine. The work in masonry has led to a better understanding of the behaviour and failure of the material when subject to compression. Face-shell bedded masonry has been a targeted type of masonry in recent years, particularly when subject to concentrated load. Results of the work have led to changes in the codes of practice of both Australia and Canada. The work on fracture has found wider application to concrete and rock. Post-tensioned masonry has been studied extensively, with more recent work focusing on the use of Advanced Composite Materials (ACMs).

In the Biomechanics area, the research has been focused on the mechanical and structural behaviour of ligaments and articular cartilage. The interest has been in defining how the properties of these tissues change with age, and improving the healing of damaged and transplanted tissues to restore as close to normal function as possible. Many new instruments have been devised for various aspects of the work, with one now under license to a major world-wide manufacturer of testing equipment. Clinical treatment of damaged ligaments has changed as results have been published. Recent work has been centered on testing whole joints with a robot.

In the area of cardiac mechanics, the finite element method has been applied to models of the cross-section of the heart under normal and abnormal loading. The role of the septum (separates the right and left ventricles) has been examined as, has the role of the pericardium. The latter appears to have a major role in regulating the relative outputs of the two ventricles, while deformation of the former under abnormal loading induces zones of compression in the wall of the left ventricle. The zones have been shown to be associated with reduced blood supply to the muscle with possible clinical consequences. With his colleague, Dr John Tyberg, Dr Shrive has also investigated why pressure and blood flow in the aorta with time in a heart beat follow different patterns. They ascribe these to two features, blood storage as the aorta expands under pressure, and blood flow - an interpretation different to the 50 yr old forward and backward wave paradigm that exists in the literature.


  • 2006 - Schulich School of Engineering Research Excellence Award
  • 2006 - Department Research Excellence Award
  • 2005 - APEGGA Summit Ingenuity Fund Research Excellence Award
  • 2002 - Chosen one of the April Mentors of the Millennium by the Alberta Women's Science Network
  • 2000 - Awarded the John B. Scalzi Award. This award (the most prestigious research award in masonry) is presented annually by the Masonry Society in honour of Dr. John B. Scalzi of the National Science Foundation (USA) "to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to masonry research." The Society considered researchers from around the world who have contributed to the advancement of knowledge in masonry over a number of years. Recipients in the last ten years have come from the UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand.
  • 1999 - Dr. Nigel Shrive is the recipient of one of the two University of Calgary Killam Research Chairs. The initial appointment is for five years. Dr. Shrive aims to build and consolidate the Provincial Biomedical Engineering Program. Following the mandate of working to improve multidisciplinary research on campus, Dr. Shrive will continue to work with Dr. Sheldon Roth, Faculty of Medicine, on developing the collaborative environmental research activities in the University. As a project leader in the ISIS (Intelligent Sensing for Innovative Structures) NCE (Network of Centres of Excellence), Dr. Shrive will also maintain his interest in masonry research.
    • "A Killam Memorial Chair is the most prestigious research award bestowed by the U of C and the Killam Trustees," says U of C Vice-President (Research) Len Bruton. "Only world-class scholars are named Killam Memorial Chairs at the U of C and this year is no exception. It is a nationally renowned award."
  • 1998 Faculty Research Excellence Award
  • 1997 - London Life Award - to investigate the use of gene therapy to improve healing of injured ligaments. This is the first time the London Life Award has been awarded to researchers in Western Canada.


Dr. Shrive has been consulted widely on structural mechanics problems, including testing for the City of Calgary LRT and B.C. Skytrain systems, and various masonry and mechanical test problems. Tenet Medical Engineering is a spin-off company from the biomechanics work, specializing in instruments for improving diagnosis, surgery, and rehabilitation in the musculoskeletal system (orthopaedics).

Professional Activity

  • Currently chairs the Canadian Standards Association Committee on masonry mortars and grouts
  • Member of the Masonry Structural Design Committee
  • Associate Editor (Structures) of the Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering
  • Serves on the Editorial Boards of the Masonry Society Journal, Masonry
  • International, Construction and Building Materials and the Journal of Biomechanics
  • Coeditor of Computer Methods in BioMechanics and Biomedical Engineering
Research Activities: 
  1. Masonry. Basic studies on creep and creep processes in clay masonry are in progress. Post-tensioning of structurally efficient geometric cross-sections of masonry with unbonded tendons, including thermal effects on such assemblages is also being studied. Models of the behaviour of such structures are being developed. A corrosion-free prestressing system is being developed as part of the ISIS Canada Network of Centres of Excellence. These structures would also benefit from improved bond and bond-strength as well as improved shear strength. The fracture of masonry is another subject of ongoing study, utilizing fracture mechanics methodologies for compressive stress states. The development of design rules for face-shell bedded masonry subject to concentrated load has been an area of considerable activity with much effort being expended on creating valid finite element models of the problem. Recent efforts have been directed at the effective use of ACM's in masonry construction and rehabilitation.
  2. Ligament biomechanics. Having spent a number of years characterizing the mechanical and structural behaviour of normal, healing and transplanted ligaments, emphasis is now being placed on developing ways of improving the healing of damaged or reconstructed ligaments. The objective is to return the ligament closer to normal, sooner than the current healing and remodeling processes. This involves related projects on understanding how loading affects the cellular activity which drives healing and remodelling, determining the spectra of loads to which a ligament is subject during healing, determining how other tissues in the joint may compensate for or begin to fail under the changing stability of the joint, and how the gross behaviour of the tissue can be improved by different treatment regimens. For example finite element modelling is used to study the stress states for different methods of fixing transplants to the host bone: creep of the tissues may be accelerated by inflammation processes post-transplantation, stretching the transplant too much and dooming the joint to instability and chronic arthritis. A joint is now seen as an organ of interacting components. In collaboration with colleagues, "in vivo engineering" is being pursued with the intent of improving the result of the scarring and remodelling processes. Dr. Shrive and his medical colleagues in the area (Dr. Cyril Frank, Department of Surgery and Dr. David A. Hart, Departments of Medicine and Microbiology and Infectious Diseases) are members of the Canadian Arthritis Network.

  3. Cartilage biomechanics. Projects on this tissue revolve around its structural role in load transfer across joints and its degradation in arthritic diseases. Finite element modelling is used to provide information on the former subject. Methodologies have been developed to help in the transplantation of healthy cartilage to replace damaged tissue and to study the ability of the transplanted cartilage to maintain its load-bearing function with time after transplantation.
  4. Cardiac Mechanics Recent activities have been aimed at establishing a consistency throughout the circulatory system of storage and wave phenomena as the heart is filled and compressed. The structural behaviour and interaction between components is still being investigated.

M.A., D.Phil. (Oxford)