Solar soldier: James Bambara
By Dawn Wiseman
James Bambara (Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering) used to love building dog houses as a child, but it took him a while to figure that Building Engineering was "his destiny."
"I was a bit lost after CEGEP and actually started off in mechanical engineering," he said. As soon as he switched into the building program though, things started to fall into place. He marks improved, his interest was piqued and he met Andreas Athienitis.
Athienitis is the Scientific Director of the NSERC Solar Building Research Network, a national collaborative effort focused on solar energy in homes and businesses. Bambara received special permission to take a graduate level class on passive solar building design with him and was then invited to work with Athienitis as NSERC Summer Intern.
This project focused on something very close to home, developing a prototype for the solar insulation to be used in the John Molson School of Business (JMSB).
"We tested the performance on the prototype, and in September continued the project where I was very involved in the roll out and commissioning of the system implementation in the building itself."
Bambara underlines that the system being used in the JMSB building combines solar panels with heat recovery and has never been used before. As such, it is of interest to the research community. Athienitis and Bambara have already published one paper on the prototype, and are now writing another on the performance of the system itself.
This summer Bambara plans to take it easy with some travel to Europe. He is returning to Concordia in the fall to begin his masters work, which will look at improving the design of the JMSB system. And, now that he has clearly found his path, he is already thinking of next steps "A PhD -- and once I have a good understanding of the solar energy market in housing, opening my own business."
The formula for success: Percival Graham
By Russ Cooper
Percival Graham thinks he knows the secret.
Over the course of his four years at Concordia, this baccalaureate in mechanical engineering has developed a system for success in both academics and athletics.
"You put in your hours at the gym, you put in your hours at school," he says. It's a simple ethos that's allowed the 22-year-old Montrealer to keep his GPA near 4.2 while excelling as scrumhalf for the Stingers rugby squad.
His ability to balance both has yielded a slew of awards on both sides. At Convocation this spring, he'll collect the Mechanical Engineering Medal for having the highest GPA in his class. In April, he received the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering (CSME) Gold Medal for demonstrating outstanding academic achievement. And at the annual Athletic Awards ceremony, he won the President's Academic Award for top male student-athlete, as well as an Award of Distinction for career contributions to his team.
If that wasn't enough, for each of his four years here (the last of which he served as VP Academic of the Concordia chapter of the CSME), he received $7 000 from the Norman D. Hébert Scholarship in Engineering. He's also appeared on the Dean's List each year.
Did it take a lot of hard work? "It did and it didn't," he says. "By my third semester, I realized I could just get A+ all the time if I wanted to." Pardon?
"It sounds arrogant, but the classes are all structured the same in a way. I always found the material interesting, so if I studied the same way, I could always get good grades."
Besides his awards, since being here, he's landed internships at the National Research Council, Rolls Royce, and the Concordia Institute of Aerospace Design and Innovation. And he's just returned from Victoria, B.C. where he displayed his Capstone project, a small-scale (5' x 10') wind tunnel built to study ice build-up he created under professor Ali Dolatabadi, at a CSME design competition.
So do academic success strategies work on the field? "My coach [Clive Gibson] thought I was approaching school and rugby the same way, which is kind of true. But it's easier to cram for an exam than it is to cram to get in shape."
Did we mention he's known for doing handstand push-ups? "It ties in with the whole thing," he laughs. "I like to have fun and be entertained."
Imagination over knowledge: Khoa Luu
By Dawn Wiseman
Computer Science grad student Khoa Luu went from completing his master's research directly into a PhD with his mentors.
Khoa Luu's web page begins with a quote from Einstein, "Imagination is more important than knowledge," which is fitting given his current work. Luu is using computers to estimate peoples' ages based on digital imaging and to extrapolate from existing images what they might look like as they grow older.
Helping computers determine which wrinkles to emphasize and what hairs to grey based on familial information is actually part of Luu's PhD research under the supervision of Tien Bui and Ching Suen (Computer Science and Software Engineering). It builds on work he completed for his MASc, the degree he is receiving at spring Convocation and which is currently being considered for a patent.
Luu came to Concordia from Vietnam specifically to work with Bui and Suen because of their internationally recognized reputations in the areas of pattern recognition and machine intelligence.
Since arriving in Montreal he has immersed himself fully in the life of the academy, publishing, attending conferences and building a research portfolio that has attracted interest internationally for its potential application in the areas of security and intelligence gathering.
Luu will remain at Concordia through the completion of his doctorate and hopes to take up an academic research position once he is done. "I also hope to have a chance to work in my homeland one day" he said.
PhD finds his calling: Jad El-Najjar
By Dawn Wiseman
As he gets ready to receive his PhD, Jad El-Najjar (Electrical and Computer Engineering) is interviewing at a number of Montreal telecommunications companies.
"But it's nice I have a Plan B," he said.
Plan B is an NSERC Industrial Research and Development Fellowship (IRDF). These two-year post-doctorates are awarded to the most promising recent doctoral graduates so that they can engage in research and development in the private sector and with not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations.
El-Najjar's fellowship is hardly surprising: during his time at Concordia he has maintained a perfect GPA, published widely and received two best paper awards for his work in the area of optimization of wireless mesh networks for telecommunications.
He came to Concordia for its expertise in this area, and has been working with professors Chadi Assi and Brigitte Jaumard at the Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering (CIISE). This collaboration has been a highlight of his experience at the university.
"These are two professionals who each give 100% to motivate you as a student. Assi, in particular, likes to challenge people and sets extremely high expectations."
El-Najjar clearly rose to the occasion, and said he feels extremely grateful to be taking the skills he has developed at Concordia into either industry or the academy.
"These things will be with me for the rest of my career."