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Commitment to research excellence

Engineering associate deans and alumni inducted into the Canadian Academy of Engineering


By Jackey Locke

The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science’s associate dean (research) and associate dean (graduate studies) and two alumni are the newest fellows of the Canadian Academy of Engineering (CAE).

Dr. Octavia Dobre, Dr. Faisal Khan, Dr. Pengfei Liu and Gary Smith are being honoured for their distinguished achievements and career-long service and contributions to the engineering profession.

The CAE is an independent, non-profit organization established in 1987 to serve the country in matters concerning engineering.

Fellows of the academy are nominated and elected by their peers.

“This recognition from the Canadian Academy of Engineering underscores a deep commitment to research excellence and service to the engineering community,” said Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research), who was elected to the CAE last year.

“On the international stage, this year’s inductees are considered leading experts in their respective fields. Their prolific work continues to raise Memorial’s global profile for cutting-edge research and outstanding contributions to the engineering profession. Congratulations to Drs. Khan, Dobre, Liu and Mr. Smith on their tremendous honours.”

Dr. Octavia Dobre
Dr. Octavia Dobre
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Dr. Octavia Dobre

Dr. Dobre is the associate dean (research) in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. She is also the Research Chair in Subsea Communications.

She obtained her doctor of philosophy degree in 2000 from Politehnica University of Bucharest. She joined Memorial in 2005.

Dr. Dobre has made pioneering contributions to telecommunications research, specifically in the field of blind signal identification and enabling technologies for the fifth-generation (5G) and beyond wireless networks. Dr. Dobre’s work, from machine learning to statistical signal processing-based methods has led to her international reputation as a worldwide front-runner in the telecommunications field.As a leader of multi-million-dollar research programs, Dr. Dobre and her team have also developed high-performance algorithms for optical communications. They have established solutions for transmitting information at hundreds of Gbps in the optical transport network. Her research contributions have received approx. 10,000 citations.

Dr. Dobre has held several leadership roles within the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (IEEE), including membership on the initial steering committee for the world-wide IEEE 5G Wireless Initiative and editor-in-chief of the prominent Communications Letters journal. She is the inaugural editor-in-chief of the first-ever IEEE open access journal in telecommunications, the IEEE Open Journal of the Communications Society.

Dr. Dobre is a fellow of the IEEE and a fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada. She is also the recipient of Memorial’s President’s Awards for Outstanding Research, as well as the faculty’s Dean’s Award for Research Excellence and the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Supervision.

“I am pleased, honoured and humbled to be recognized as a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering,” said Dr. Dobre. “I would like to thank those who nominated me and supported my nomination, as well as my students, postdoctoral fellows and colleagues who have contributed to the technical achievements over the past two decades.

“I would also like to thank my husband and daughter, who have always been besides me. I am grateful for all the support, without which this recognition would have not been possible. I am thrilled that Memorial University is so well represented within the 2021 class of CAE fellows and I’d like to convey my congratulations to all the newly-induced fellows.”

Dr. Faisal Khan
Dr. Faisal Khan
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Dr. Faisal Khan

Dr. Khan is the associate dean (graduate studies) in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and a professor in the Department of Process Engineering. He is also the Tier 1 Canada Research in Offshore Safety and Risk Engineering.

He obtained his doctor of philosophy degree in 1998 from Pondicherry University. He began teaching at Memorial in 2002 as an associate professor.

Dr. Khan has made pioneering contributions to integrated safety and environmental management systems for offshore oil and gas operations, which have led to new approaches in risk assessment and management, asset integrity, sustainable industrial processes and systems operating in harsh environments. He has conducted research on safety and risk engineering and applied these risk-engineering concepts to a range of industries, including oil and gas, mining and mineral processing, marine and offshore systems, transportation and, more recently, alternative energy. His research contributions have received more than 26,300 citations.

Dr. Khan and his research team have fostered collaborations among universities across Canada, as well as with many universities around the world.

He has developed new advanced risk-based safety and integrity management methodologies and models widely used by industry and academia.

Dr. Khan has led the development of safety and risk engineering discipline at Memorial, which resulted in the creation of a unique, multidisciplinary research centre of excellence – the Centre for Risk, Integrity and Safety Engineering (C-RISE), founded in 2002 by Dr. Khan and currently has more than 100 members.

He has received Memorial’s President’s Awards for his outstanding research and outstanding graduate student supervision. He is also the recipient of the faculty’s Dean’s Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Supervision.

“I am humbled and honoured to join the Canadian Academy of Engineering,” said Dr. Khan. “This fellowship recognizes the impactful contributions my students and other team members have made over two decades. It is a recognition of their efforts and impact; I am just a conduit to serve them.

“I am blessed to be part of the Memorial team. I am thankful to the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science for trusting me and providing me with the opportunity to serve the community.”

Dr. Pengfei Liu
Dr. Pengfei Liu
Photo: Submitted

Dr. Pengfei Liu

Dr. Liu received his doctor of philosophy in 1996 from Memorial University. He is currently a professor of marine hydrodynamics and director of the Marine Propulsion Research Laboratory (Emersion Cavitation Tunnel), Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, U.K.

Dr. Liu received his M.Eng. and PhD in naval architecture from Memorial in 1991 and 1996, respectively.

Dr. Liu has worked extensively for over three decades in pioneering computational hydrodynamics and the development of specialty engineering software for marine propulsion and renewable energy, teaching undergraduate courses, and supervising research for postgraduate degrees.

He is a fellow of Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineering, a professional engineer of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia and a member of various international academic committees, including the board of directors of Computational Fluid Dynamics Society of Canada (2001-2007), member of the International Ship and Offshore Structures Congress (ISSC) Ocean Space Utilization Committee 2018-2022, and member of the Advisory Council of the current International Towing Tank Conference (ITTC). Dr. Liu developed several breakthrough technologies in marine propulsion and renewable energy, and has co-authored nearly 200 refereed journal articles and conference papers in engineering software development and experimental research for hydrodynamic and aerodynamic applications of rotary and oscillatory wings for propulsion and renewable energy.

“When I began my graduate studies at Memorial Engineering in 1989, I couldn’t imagine that I would one day receive the honour of a fellowship from the Canadian Academy of Engineering,” said Dr. Liu. “It was the Memorial spirit of ‘vision, mission and values’ and ‘equity, diversity and inclusion’ that planted the seed.

“I am grateful for the support and collaboration of colleagues, peers and Memorial Engineering throughout the years. This fellowship would not be possible without it. I see this fellowship as an opportunity to strengthen research ties, advance research and development, and represent Canada on the global research front for public good and human welfare.”

Gary Smith
Gary Smith
Photo: David Howells

Gary Smith
Mr. Smith is executive vice-president, Eastern Canadian and Caribbean Operations, Fortis Inc. He received his B.Eng. from Memorial in 1984.

According to the CAE citation, Mr. Smith has spent 37 years improving the utility system across North America and the Caribbean.

His leadership through Hurricane Irma relief efforts earned him the Edison Electric Institute “Emergency Assistance Award” in 2018. His industry and community involvement are extensive, including vice-chair of the Strategic Steering Committee on Power Engineering for the Canadian Standards Association and chair of the board of directors of the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Care Foundation in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Becoming a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering reminds me of how incredible our profession really is,” said Mr. Smith. “When I reflect on my career, and look at those of the other CAE fellows, I am humbled and inspired by the opportunities offered by an engineering degree. We get to solve many of the challenges facing society and that is really gratifying!”

The induction appointments were announced on June 14.

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