David Heard and Bamidele Akinrinlola
Vadasz Graduate Fellowship winner David Heard (right) and McGill Engineering Doctoral Award recipient Bamidele Akinrinlola at work with a robotic device in a Materials Engineering research lab.

Jolly good fellows

In 2005, when Professor Christophe Pierre became Dean, the Faculty of Engineering had just eight graduate fellowships to offer its students. Today, because of his vision, the number of student awards has soared to 244, thanks in no small part to the tremendous success of Campaign McGill.

“When we began to raise funding for graduate students, our ratio of PhD students per professor was low compared to our North American peers,” says Professor Andrew Kirk, who has continued this work as Interim Dean of Engineering. “Today we have more PhD students per professor than any other engineering faculty in Canada.”

PhD students, working under the guidance of their supervisor, form the engine of the Faculty’s research agenda; they’re the ones in the lab or on the computer getting results. More first-rank doctoral students translates into better productive research programs, increased publications, and more grants to increase research funding, allowing the Faculty to attract even more doctoral students and perform more research. “It’s a virtuous circle,” says Kirk.

None of it would have been possible without the power of philanthropy. Generous benefactors to this important area have included Les Vadasz, BEng’61, DSc’07, and Judy Vadasz; Gerald G. Hatch, BEng’44, DSc’90; Marika Zelenka Roy, BEng’61; Andrew Benedek, BEng’66, DSc’05, and Diana Mourato-Benedek, BSc’81, MSc’83, PhD’90; and the Antje Graupe-Pryor Foundation, among others.

All of the Faculty’s research programs have felt the impact of the increased graduate student support; some have seen their research profile radically transformed. Zaid Al-Ghouleh is a Civil Engineering doctoral student researching ways to treat slag produced as waste from the steel-making process, so that it can be used for construction applications. He holds two McGill Engineering Doctoral Awards, the Roger Boudreault Fellowship and the Dr. Y Lin-Alexander Fellowship, established by Yanping Lin, PhD’92.

“These fellowships have helped a lot. They were paid directly to me to support my studies, allowing our lab to clear funds to run time-consuming and costly analyses, and also to assign other grant money conference participation,” he says. “So the fellowships helped me personally, but they also helped our research project.”