R. Kerry Rowe, OC, B.Sc., B.E., Ph.D., D.Eng, DSc(hc), DHC, FRS, FREng, NAE, NAC, FRSC, FCAE, Dist.M.ASCE, FEIC, FIE(Aust), FCSCE, P.Eng, CP.Eng. 
Barrington Batchelor Distinguished University Professor  and
Canada Research Chair  in Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering - Tier 1

Department of Civil Engineering

Ellis Hall
Queen's University
Kingston, Ontario Canada K7L 3N6
Office: Ellis 229B
1 (613) 533-3113 
1 (613) 533-2128

Professor R. Kerry Rowe was educated at the University of Sydney in Australia. He was awarded a BSc (Computer Science) in 1973, B.E. (Hons I, Civil Engineering) and the University Medal in 1975, a Ph.D. in 1979, and D.Eng in 1993. He was awarded a DSc(hc) by Western University in 2016 to recognize his contribution to both the advancement of science and the engineering practice in environmental protection. From 1971 to 1974 he was a cadet engineer and from 1975 to 1978 a geotechnical engineer with the Commonwealth of Australia Department of Construction. Dr. Rowe then spent 21 years as a professor, including 8 years as Chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, at the University of Western Ontario, Canada (1979-2000). From 2000-2010 he served as Vice-Principal (Research) at Queen's University in Kingston, Canada. He is presently the Distinguished University Professor (2019-) and the Canada Research Chair in Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering (2010-) in the Department of Civil Engineering at Queen's University. 

Professor Rowe’s research and consulting have been in contaminant migration through soil and rock, landfill design, containment of contaminated sites, geosynthetics (including geotextiles, geomembranes, geogrids, geonets, etc.), tailings storage facilities, heap leach pads, dams, reinforced embankments and walls, tunnels in soft ground, and failure of slopes and excavations. Rowe is a pioneer of the relatively young yet broad field of geoenvironmental engineering. He has conducted pioneering research on the long-term performance of leachate collection systems, HDPE geomembranes, geosynthetic clay liners and in particular the interactions between the various components of barrier systems. His team was the first to quantify wrinkling in landfill liners and demonstrate that leakages observed in lined landfills — inexplicable by traditional calculation methods — can be explained and predicted by considering typical wrinkle distributions. This is changing construction practice and moving the industry towards reducing leakage to negligible levels. He was the first to show that PFAS in landfills will require a more elaborate design than is commonly adopted to prevent an unacceptable impact. 

He has consulted on over 180 waste disposal, remediation, hydrology, dam, and tunnelling projects worldwide including over 85 landfill or containment sites worldwide and provided innovative solutions to cleaning up the environment in geographic locations ranging from the Arctic to the Antarctic. He was the key advisor in developing technical aspects of Ontario's current landfill regulations. He co-wrote Canada’s current Federal guidelines for landfilling hazardous waste. He was appointed by the Ontario Minister of the Environment to the Expert Panel to Review the Design and Operations of the Taro Landfill. Following a significant incident where landfill gas caused the evacuation of hundreds of residents around a landfill in Melbourne, Australia (2008) he was called by the Victorian EPA to provide advice on mitigating the immediate problem. He then co-wrote the key liner components of new landfill standards for the State of Victoria, now used as a model for much of the country. His work has also greatly influenced the current national landfill standards and state of practice in South Africa.  He has served on an International Dam Construction and/or Remediation Panel for 13 dams and has been a senior advisor for 5 other dams. He has also served as a peer reviewer and advisor for several tailings storage facilities and been an expert witness in numerous legal cases involving forensic analysis as well as in environmental assessment and protection hearings. 

He has more than 430 refereed journal papers, 3 books, 19 book chapters, and over 360 full conference papers. His h-index (81, Google; 54, Web of Science) is one of the highest in geotechnical engineering worldwide. His work on leachate collection systems won the Ontario Ministry of the Environment’s Award of Excellence for Research and Development.  Rowe's papers have won 32 Best Paper awards and been runner-up on 35 occasions. Different aspects of his work have won the International Geosynthetics Societies Gold Medal (1996, 2004, 2014, 2018). In 2015, he won the Thomas Telford Gold Medal (for the best paper in the 34 journals published by the Institution of Civil Engineers U.K. in 2014) and the Miroslaw Romanowski Medal (for exceptional scientific work relating to environmental problems) from the Royal Society of Canada.  

He has presented 96 Keynote, 29 Distinguished, and another 364 invited lectures in 40 countries, including the Giroud Lecture (2002), Rankine Lecture (2005), Manuel Rocha Lecture (2006), Zeng Guo-Xi Lecture (2009), Casagrande Lecture (2011), Karl Terzaghi Lecture (2017), and Mercer lecture (2019). In 2013, the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering created the R. Kerry Rowe Lecture to honour his seminal contributions to the development of geoenvironmental engineering. In 2021, the International Geosynthetics Society created the Kerry Rowe Lecture to honour his seminal contributions to the development of geosynthetic engineering. 

In 2013, he was elected to the world's oldest and most prestigious scientific society recognizing fundamental contributions to science, the Royal Society (U.K.). He was also elected as a Foreign Member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (2016), a fellow UK Royal Academy of Engineering (2010), and both the Royal Society of Canada (2001) and the Canadian Academy of Engineering (2001). In 2020, he was elected a Distinguished Member American Society of Civil Engineers, the highest award and recognition of the world's largest civil engineering society. 

Over the past 40 years, Rowe was a winner of the Excellence in Teaching Awards and Excellence in Graduate Student Supervision Awards. He has supervised 125 research students, including 41 research Masters and 84 Ph.D. students, both Canadian and international. He was the Editor of the highly regarded International Journal Geotextiles and Geomembranes from 1997 to 2021, and presently serves as subject Editor of Royal Society Open Science, Associate Editor of the Canadian Geotechnical Journal, on the Editorial Board of 11 other journals, and over the past has served 10 years on the editorial board of ASCE Journal Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering and 4 years on the Board of Geotechnique. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2018 "For his seminal contributions to the field of geoenvironmental engineering, notably for his pioneering research in waste barrier systems.".  Most recently he was the inaugural winner of the NSERC Donna Strickland Prize for Societal Impact of Natural Sciences and Engineering Research which recognizes outstanding research that has led to exceptional benefits for Canadian society, the environment, and the economy. 

Awards and Honours

2019: Mercer Lecture, International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE) and the International Geosynthetics Society (IGS) distinguished lecture

2018: Appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada (O.C.)

2018:International Geosynthetics Society Award and Gold Medal

2018:Nonveiller Lecture, annual distinguished lecture for Croatian Geotechnical Society, Zagreb

2018:Prague Geotechnical Lecturer, annual distinguished lecture to Czech and Slovak Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, Prague, Czech Republic

2018:Honorary Professor, Southwest Jiaotong University, Chengdu, China “in recognition of his scholarship and outstanding achievements”

2018:Best paper award, Geotexties and Geomebranes

2018:Kersten Lecture

2018:Australian and New Zealand Geomechanics Society Distinguished Lecture tour,

2017:Victor Milligan Lecture

2017:Best paper award, Geosynthetics International

2017: Runner-up for best paper published in Geosynthetics International

2017:16th  Croce Lecture – highest award of Italian Geotechnical Society, Rome.

2017:Honorary Professor, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China

2017:ICE Telford Premium Prize (for best paper in Institution of Civil Engineers (UK)

2017:Karl Terzaghi Lecture Award – highest award of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Geo-Institute.

2016:Runner-up for best paper published in Geosynthetics International 

2016:Honourary Doctor of Science (D.Sc.):  Western University, London, Canada

2016:Elected Foreign Member, US National Academy of Engineering.

2015:Miroslaw Romanowski Medal, Royal Society of Canada.

2015:Distinguished Lecturer, Institute of Advanced Study, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong.

2015:Runner-up for best paper published in Geosynthetics International published in 2014

2015:R.M. Quigley Award (Honourable Mention)

2015:Thomas Telford Gold Medal (Best paper of all papers published in the 34 Civil Engineering Journals published by the Institution of Civil Engineers (UK)

2014:Best Paper Award for best paper, 7th International Congress on Environmental Geotechnics

2014:Best Paper Award from Geosynthetics International published in 2013

2014:R.M. Quigley Award (Honourable Mention)

2014:International Geosynthetics Society Award and Gold Medal for an Outstanding Contribution to the understanding of wrinkling in geomembranes.

2014:CSCE Donald R. Stanley Award

2013:International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE) holds the first ISSMGE R. Kerry Rowe lecture, named in honour of his contributions to the formation and development of the discipline, at the international conference in Paris

2013:Best paper award by Geosynthetics International in 2012

2013:Queen’s University Award for excellence in graduate student supervision

2013:Queen’s University Prize for excellence in research

2013:Canadian Society for Civil Engineering: Thomas C. Keefer Medal (Honourable Mention)

2013:Canadian Geotechnical Society: R.M. Quigley Award (Honourable Mention)

2012:Canadian Geotechnical Society: R.M. Quigley Award 

2012:The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal,

2012:Killam Fellowship

2012:Sir John Kennedy Medal, Highest award of the Engineering Institute of Canada

2012: 3rd Terzaghi Oration, Indian Geotechnical Society, New Delhi

2012: 7th Authur Casagrande Lecturer

2011:Canadian Geotechnical Society: R.M. Quigley Award (Honourable Mention)

2011:Distinguished Geotechnical Lecturer for 2011 ‑ Virginia State University and Polytechnique Institute.

2011:Canadian Society for Civil Engineering: Casimir Gzowski Medal

2010:Elected Fellow, Royal Academy of Engineering (UK).

2009:Runner-up for best paper published in Geosynthetics International in 2008

2009:3rd Zeng Guo-Xi Lecturer, Zhejiang University, China

2009:5th John Adjeleian Lecturer, Carleton University, Canada

2008:Best paper award by Geosynthetics International

2008:Runner-up for best paper published in Geosynthetics International in 2007

2007:Canadian Society for Civil Engineering:  Thomas C.  Keefer Medal

2007:6th Lovell Distinguished Lecturer, Purdue University.

2006:Distinguished Geoengineering Lecturer, 24th Annual Distinguished Lecture in Geoengineering, University of California, Berkeley

2006:Canadian Geotechnical Society:  Honourable Mention

2006:Elected Honorary Member, International Geosynthetics Society in recognition of “his exceptional service to the International Geosynthetics Society and his outstanding contribution to the geosynthetics industry”

2006:Canadian Cross-Canada Lecture Tour

2006:XXIII Manuel Rocha Lecture, the Portuguese Geotechnical Society, Lisbon.

2006:Schiffman Lecture, Cornell University, Ithica

2006:George F. Sowers Lecture, Georgia Section of ASCE and Georgia Tech, Atlanta

2005:Canadian Geotechnical Society:  Honourable Mention

2005:Distinguished Geotechnical Lecturer for 2005 Monash University, Melbourne.

2005:The Hong Kong Polytechnic University Distinguished Lecturer for 2005, Hong Kong.

2005:Outstanding Contribution Medal, awarded by the International Association for Computer Methods and Advances in Geomechanics for “outstanding and seminal research contributions in geomechanics that have been adopted for basic research and practical applications”.

2005:45th Rankine Lecture in London (UK) March, 2005

2004:Killam Prize for Engineering, Canada Council  (Canada’s highest award for engineering)

2004:Canadian Society for Civil Engineering: Honourable Mention for Thomas C.  Keefer Medal

2004:International Geosynthetics Society Award and Gold Medal

2003:Legget Medal, Canadian Geotechnical Society

2003:K.Y. Lo Medal, Engineering Institute of Canada

2002:22nd Dineen Memorial Lecturer, University of New Brunswick

2002:Canadian Society for Civil Engineering:  Honourable Mention for Casmir Gzowski Medal

2001:Elected Fellow, Royal Society of Canada

2001:Elected Fellow, Canadian Academy of Engineering

2001:Canadian Society for Civil Engineering: Thomas C.  Keefer Medal

2000:Canadian Geotechnical Society Geoenvironmental Division Award

2000:Canadian Geotechnical Society: Honourable Mention

2000:Canadian Geotechnical Society Geosynthetics Division Award

2000:Canadian Society for Civil Engineering:  Honourable mention for Keefer Medal

1999:Canadian Society for Civil Engineering:  Honourable mention for Keefer Medal

1999:A.G. Stermac Award for Service to the Canadian Geotechnical Society.

1999:Ontario Ministry of Environment Award of Excellence for Research and Development

1998:Elected Fellow, Canadian Society for Civil Engineering

1998:Selected by the IGS Awards Committee to be the Giroud Lecturer (given every four years) at the 7thInternational Conference on Geosynthetics, in Nice, September 2002.

1998:Engineering Science Prize for Achievement in Research

1998:Elected Fellow, American Society of Civil Engineers

1997:Professional Engineers Ontario Engineering Medal - Research and Development.

1997:Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations Excellence in Teaching Award.

1997:Canadian Geotechnical Society:  Honourable Mention

1997:Elected Fellow, Institution of Engineers, Australia.

1996:Edward G. Pleva Award for Excellence in Teaching, University of Western Ontario.

1996:International Geosynthetics Society Award and Gold Medal

1996:Canadian Geotechnical Society: Honourable Mention -

1994:Canadian Geotechnical Society: Honourable Mention

1993:Finalist in North American Geosynthetic Society Award of Excellence

1993:Elected Fellow Engineering Institute of Canada.

1993:Service Plaque of Canadian Geotechnical Society i

1992:Canadian Geotechnical Society: Honourable Mention

1992:Shamsher Prakash Research Award.

1991:North American Geosynthetics Society Awards of Excellence, Grand Award 

1990:International Geotextile Society "Special Recognition"

1990:Canadian Geotechnical Society: Honourable Mention

1989:Steacie Fellowship (1989-91) by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. 

1987:Canadian Geotechnical Society Prize

1987:"Canadian Geotechnical  Colloquium"

1986:American Society for Testing and Materials Certificate "For an Outstanding Technical and  Scientific Contribution to the Control of Hazardous Waste"

1986:Distinguished Geotechnical Lecturer for 1986 ‑ Virginia State University and Polytechnique Institute (VPI).

1985:American Society of Civil Engineers Collingwood Prize

1985:Canadian Geotechnical Society: Honourable Mention - Runner up for best paper in the Canadian Geotechnical Journal in 1984 (with M.D. MacLean , A.K. Barsvary and K.L. Soderman)

1984:Canadian Geotechnical Society Prize for best paper in the Canadian Geotechnical Journal in 1983 (with K.Y. Lo and G.J. Kack)

1975:The John Main Prize

1975:The Bradfield Memorial Prize

1975:The A.S. McDonald Prize of the Association of Consulting Structural Engineers of N.S.W.

1975:Awarded the University Medal (University of Sydney)

1975:B.E. Degree awarded with 1st Class Honours

Last updated 2019-01-03

  • Vice Chair, TC215 Environmental Geotechnics Committee of International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, 2015-
  • Chair, Geosynthetics Division, Canadian Geotechnical Society, 2011-2013
  • Past-President, Engineering Institute of Canada, 2008-1010
  • President, Engineering Institute of Canada, 2006-2008
  • President Elect, Engineering Institute of Canada, 2004-2006
  • PresidentCanadian Geotechnical Society, 2001 & 2002
  • Chairman, Standards Council of Canada (SCC) International Subcommittee on Geotextiles and Geomembranes - 1989 to 2000
  • Vice President, North American Geosynthetics Society - 1987 to 1991
  • Editor, International Geosynthetics Society Newsletter - 1986 to 1990
  • President, International Geosynthetics Society - 1990 to 1994
  • Immediate Past President, International Geosynthetics Society, 1994-1998
  • Vice President - Technical, Canadian Geotechnical Society - 1997 & 1998
  • Founding Chair, London District Section of Canadian Society for Civil Engineering and Canadian Geotechnical Society - 1993-1996
  • Vice-Chair, Ontario Regional Council, Canadian Society for Civil Engineering - 1996-1998
  • Member, NSERC Civil Engineering Grant Selection Committee - 1996-1999
  • Chair, NSERC Civil Engineering Grant Selection Committee - 1998-1999
  • Technical Chairman, 6th International Conference on Geosynthetics, Atlanta, March 1998
  • Co-Chair of the Awards Committee of the International Association for Computer Methods and Advances in Geomechanics, 1999-Present
  • Technical Chairman, 6th Canadian Environmental Engineering Conference, London, June 2000


  • The Royal Society (UK) fellowship selection committee SC4 for engineering and applied sciences (one of only 2 non-UK members of SC4), 2014-
  • Council of Canadian Academies Expert Committee on Research Integrity 2010
  • U.S. National Academies Committee appointed to assess the performance of engineered waste containment barriers 2006-2007
  • Canadian Geotechnical Society Committee on Geotextiles, Geogrids and Geomembranes - 1982 to 2000
  • Canadian General Standards Board Committee on Geotextiles - 1982 to 2000
  • SCC International Subcommittee on Geotextiles and Geomembranes - 1984 to 2000
  • International Standardization Organization Working Group on Physical Properties of Geotextiles - 1986 to 2000
  • International Geotextile Society Technical Committee on Publications and Education - 1984 to 1988
  • Soil Properties Committee, American Society of Civil Engineers, 1986 to 1995
  • Governing Council of the International Geotextile Society, 1988 to 1998
  • Groundwater Quality Committee, American Society of Civil Engineers, 1994 to 2000

Editorial Board Membership

  • Geotextiles & Geomembranes (Elsevier), 1990 - present; Editor: 1997 - present
  • Royal Society Open Science, Engineering Subject Editor2014- present
  • Canadian Geotechnical JournalAssociate Editor - 1983 - present
  • Journal of Geotechnical Engineering, American Society of Civil Engineers, 1986 - 1995
  • International Journal on Computers and Geotechnics, 1988 - present
  • International Journal for Analytical and Numerical Methods in Geomechanics, 1987- 2013; Associate Editor - 1997 - 2001
  • Geosynthetics International, 1994 - present
  • Soils & Foundations: Journal of Japanese Geotechnical Society, 1997 - present
  • Italian Geotechnical Journal, 1997 - present
  • Geotechnical Engineering (Institution of Civil Engineers, U.K.), 1998 - 2003
  • Lowland Technology International, 1999 - present
  • Geotechnique (Institution of Civil Engineers, U.K.), 2000 - 2004
  • Transport in Porous Media, 2000 - present
  • International Journal of Geomechanics, 2001- present; Co-Editor, 2001- 2009
  • Journal of Environmental Engineering and Science, 2001- 2008
  • Waste Management, 2002 – 2006; Associate Editor 2015-
  • Soils and Rocks, 2005 - present
  • Environmental Geotechnics, 2013 - present
  • International Journal of Transportation Geotechnics, 2013 - present

Boards of Directors

  • Interuniversity Super Computer Advisory Board 1986 - 1989
  • Interuniversity Super Computer Advisory Board (Chair) 1989
  • Management Board OCLSC - University of Toronto 1989
  • Canadian Geotechnical Society 1997-1998
  • Centre for Research in Earth and Space Technology (CRESTech) 2000-2002
  • Member, Executive Committee 2001-2002
  • Member, Audit Committee 2001-2002
  • Member, Environmental Advisory Committee 2001-2002
  • Member, Selection Committee for CEO 2001- 2002
  • High Performance Computing Virtual Laboratory (HPVCL)(Chair) 2000-2010
  • Canadian Microelectronics Corporation (CMC) 2000-2009
  • PARTEQ Innovations Inc (Chair) 2000-2010
  • Canadian Geotechnical Society 2000-2003
  • CANARIE Inc. 2003-2007
  • Sudbury Neutrino Observatory Institute 2003-2010
  • Engineering Institute of Canada, (President, 2006-2008), 2004-2010
  • Partnership Group for Science and Engineering (PAGSE). 2005-2010
  • Kingston Technology Exchange Centre (Chair of Board and President), 2007-2010
  • Innovation Park Advisory Board (Chair) 2008-2010

Last updated 2019-02-14