The Geomechanics Project was created in 1997 by Marcelo Epstein and Michael Slawinski in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Calgary. Slawinski has been its director since the beginning.


Since 2001, The Project has been in the Department of Earth Sciences at Memorial University in St. John’s, where Michael became the Petro-Canada Research Chair in Applied Seismology.


The Geomechanics Project is an interdisciplinary research group composed of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and research associates from physics, mathematics and computer science.


Broadly speaking and depending on a chosen emphasis, our research can be classified within mathematical physics, continuum mechanics and seismology.


The intent of our work is to enhance theoretical aspects of seismology to render subtleties within empirical data accessible as physical information.  In this process, a theory can either precede or follow observations.  An experiment can be set up to support a theoretical prediction or a theory can be formulated to retrodict an observation.


We focus on the foundations of seismic theory not on the case studies of its applications. Nevertheless, interactions with such studies are important as motivations for our work and as support for our predictions.  As a consequence, our work is published in mathematical journals rather than in geophysical ones.



Our novel formulations are exemplified by the following:


The philosophy of mathematics is concerned with metaphysical questions concerning the nature of mathematical objects and with epistemic questions concerning how we acquire knowledge of them. [...] The spectrum of views is very wide, from thinking mathematical objects are objectively real and independent from us (Platonism) to thinking they are somehow a human creation. It is commonly thought that the one and only source of evidence in mathematics is proof, understood to be a logical derivation from axioms or first principles. [...] 

Canadian philosophers of mathematics and mathematicians who work on these philosophical issues include: [...] Michael Slawinski (nature of applied mathematics).


 “This one-of-a-kind book is both refreshing and refined. It is refreshing in its presentation of an amazing blend of fundamental scientific and philosophical questions with their practical implications to concrete examples in Seismology. It is refined in its

style, in the sophistication of its quotes, in the breadth of its sources and in the many details that reveal a labour of love. It makes Seismology and natural science in general appear exciting and worthy of a lifelong pursuit. As an additional bonus, the book is also extremely useful. It presents the underlying theory of the relevant aspects of Continuum Mechanics in a clear and sufficiently rigorous way, while challenging the reader’s intellect at every step 

of the way. Each chapter is followed by a set of highly nontrivial exercises, whose detailed and reasoned solution is provided. [...] Particularly welcome are the two chapters on material symmetries, regardless of their application to wave propagation. The appendices, extending over more than a hundred pages, can be considered as an independent introduction to solid mechanics. This inspiring book is highly recommended.” 

Marcelo Epstein,

University Professor of Rational Mechanics,

University of Calgary 


  • Generalization of Snell's law

  • Extension of proofs of Fermat’s principle

  • Proofs of only eight symmetry classes of a Hookean solid

  • Coordinate-free characterization of elasticity tensors

  • Fréchet-derivative approach as a ray-theory concept

  • Extension of wavefronts and rays

  • Effective elasticity tensors and distance in the 21D space

  • Mathematical constraints of Backus averaging

  • Guided waves


In each case, the subject, in a broad sense, had been familiar to many geophysicists for several decades. Also, not uncommonly, the subject grew though an empirical approach rather than a theoretical one. This explains the fact that among hundreds of case studies, in which an orientation of a symmetry plane is assumed or in which Backus averaging is applied, there is hardly any mention about relaxation of restrictive assumptions or any attempt of a foundational examination of validity of approximations. 

Our contributions consist of providing theoretical understanding of formulations and desirable extensions of, and necessary constraints on, their applications. Apart from an intrinsic scientific value, such an approach is pertinent to applied seismology whose continuous enhancement of experimental and computational tools motivate and challenge the underlying theory.

The Geomechanics Project




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