Sustainability think tank created in Engineering and Design

Fall 2012

A new public policy thrust for McGill Engineering

A major initiative has been launched that will give our Faculty’s professors and students a powerful vehicle to influence public policy in the area of sustainable engineering and design.

A $10-million gift from alumnus Lorne Trottier, BEng’70, MEng’73, DSc’06, and his family will fund an institute that will broaden our students’ knowledge and serve as an influential, independent, fact-based think tank to better inform and educate decision-makers and the public about sustainability issues.

Mechanical Engineering Professor Jeff Bergthorson is one of three dozen professors at McGill Engineering whose research encompasses aspects of sustainability. He is seen here in the Macdonald Engineering Building’s Alternative Fuels Laboratory analyzing how biofuels can be used to power next-generation engines. The work Bergthorson and his colleagues are doing will inform other research about how best to integrate alternative fuels into transportation and power-generation systems, and help to develop new engine designs that improve efficiency and reduce emissions. (Photo: Sean Salusbury)

The Trottier Institute for Sustainability in Engineering and Design—TISED for short—builds on an existing sustainability endeavour called ISEAD (the Institute for Sustainability in Engineering and Design), which was launched in 2010 with support from alumnus Ram Panda, MEng’71, MBA’77. All of ISEAD’s programs and activities will be incorporated into the new, broader-based Trottier Institute.

“Science and technology form the basis of our societies,” Trottier says, “so the public should have a solid appreciation and understanding of them. As part of that effort we have to do more to inform people about current and future sustainable practices.”

Environmental Engineering Master’s student Miriam Lebeau is researching processes that could transform liquid waste into value-added by-products. (Photo: Owen Egan)

Interim Dean of Engineering Andrew G. Kirk says that “adding a public policy dimension to our work will enable McGill Engineering to move into areas well beyond our existing sustainability institute’s mandate. The resources provided by the Trottier gift will make McGill Engineering a leading player in sustainability engineering practices—in Quebec, across Canada and, as much as possible, abroad. I am confident that the new institute will influence work being conducted at other universities and impact substantially on federal and provincial government agencies and departments.”

As part of its mandate TISED will forge a partnership with Montreal’s École Polytechnique, where Trottier has endowed a similar institute that will focus on sustainable energy practices. Collaboration between the two engineering schools will include an annual public symposium to focus attention on the relevance of sustainable engineering and design to people’s lives.

Informed discussion

The symposium’s themes will be determined by McGill Engineering one year and École Polytechnique the next. The venue for the event will also alternate between the two campuses. Trottier, co-President of the Quebec-based computer graphics firm, Matrox Electronic Systems Ltd., says cooperation between the two schools “will help to secure Montreal’s place as a driver of research and discovery in the critically important area of sustainability.”

Another researcher working in the area of sustainability is Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics Professor Hatzopoulou. She has wide-ranging research interests, but a common theme of her work is supplying accurate data to elected officials and other policy-makers to enable them to make informed decisions. She leads an interdisciplinary team of engineers and health scientists that was recently awarded a three-year, $450,000 Collaborative Health Research Projects grant from the federal government. The team will examine means to reconcile the divide between urban policies that promote active transportation, and health objectives which call for minimizing the exposure of Canadians to air pollution. (Photo: Owen Egan)

McGill Engineering’s new think tank will publish white papers on global sustainability issues and on topics related to federal and provincial sustainability policies. TISED will work with other McGill units, Canadian and international universities, relevant professional bodies and federal and provincial government agencies and departments to promote informed discussion in the field.

Funds from the Trottier gift will be allocated in ways that benefit professors, graduate students and undergraduates alike. The diverse elements of the gift include an Endowed Chair; a Scholars-in-Residence program; administrative support for teaching and research projects; Faculty Scholar Awards to attract and retain outstanding junior professors; master’s and doctoral fellowships; Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering (S•U•R•E) Awards; and support for undergraduate student competitions and design projects.

Benchmarks for success

It will take approximately five years for the Trottier Institute to become fully operational. The official launch is scheduled for mid- to late spring.

At a time when each dollar Quebec universities spend is being rigorously scrutinized, both Trottier and the Faculty have taken exceptional care to prepare a balanced five-year budget. No infrastructure costs are foreseen, for example; TISED will be housed in space originally provided for the Institute for Sustainability in Engineering and Design.

Precise benchmarks were also agreed upon to assist in the institute’s management and to help gauge TISED’s short- and long-term success.

In addition, part of the Trottier gift has been set aside as leverage funding—a strategy to attract matching support from other generous donors to support various areas of TISED’s mandate.


Editor’s Note: See three adjoining articles this eNewsletter related to the Trottier Institute gift:

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