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October 24, 2002 Engineering colloquiuunites research disciplines




by Mirjana Vrbaski

The second annual Eng-ineering and Computer Science Colloquium, held March 13, was an all-day feast of ingenious research. It was also a testimony to recent efforts to renew the faculty’s academic vision, and join a global move towards synthesized research.

“The first stage of research was analysis,” explained Georgios Vatistas, ENCS Associate Dean (Graduate Programs, Research). “We have now reached the second stage. To solve outstanding problems we have to synthesize different sciences, knowledge and backgrounds.”

Rachida Dssouli, who joined ENCS nearly two years ago, is now director of the Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering. To her, multidisciplinary research is “the natural evolution of things.”

“Because scientists are dealing with increasingly complex problems, more and more aspects of each problem must be considered and dealt with. This is why experts from different backgrounds are necessary,” she said.

Research synthesis begins with communication. This colloquium was an opportunity for faculty to see what their colleagues are doing and look at the potential for collaboration. Twelve professors presented their work.

“Nature has common laws,” Vatistas said. “We compartmentalize research, but this does not mean that what is done in electrical engineering cannot be applied to what’s done in mechanical engineering.”

Collaboration is not new to ENCS. Its researchers have long been working with industry companies like Pratt & Whitney, Bombardier and Bell Helicopter. As a result of massive new hiring — 40 per cent of the faculty are professors hired since 1997 — the faculty hopes to expand on existing industry partnerships.

One of the recent additions to the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering is Ibrahim Hassan.

Hassan has previously worked on several projects at the University of British Columbia, the University of Manitoba and McMaster.

Although new to ENCS, he founded the microscale heat transfer research group with several graduate and undergraduate students, and initiated partnerships with the aerospace industry in Montreal. His initiative has resulted not only in grants, but also in an honorary teaching excellence award from Concordia’s Engineering and Computer Science Council on Student Life.

Another addition is Purnendu Sinha, who joined the Dep-artment of Electrical and Computer Engineering after obtaining his PhD from Boston University in 2000. Dr. Sinha’s research interests include fault-tolerant and real-time protocols, or computer software that incorporate failure scenarios and mechanisms to deal with it.

Not forgetting its academic mission, ENCS has recently re-newed its curriculum, adding a particular foc-us on the popular field of information technology.

The results have been rem-arkable. Engineering graduate students now make up half of Concordia graduate students, and the undergraduate enrolment has almost doubled over the decade, reaching 3,799. The faculty has 132 full-time professors, only four or five of whom are not supervising PhD or master’s students. In terms of the undergraduate-graduate student ratio, ENCS comes close to the best U.S. engineering schools.

Delighted by the amount and the quality of research done at ENCS, Vatistas reminded professors that “while concentrating on reseach, we have to make sure teaching doesn’t get left behind. A question we always have to ask ourselves is: Will my work bring new insights into the classroom?”

In keeping with the expanding definition of research, the Annual Engineering Colloquium will grow, too.

To mark the opening of the new ENCS building in 2005, the Colloquium will be followed by a full-fledged international engineering conference, featuring world authorities on various engineering subjects.