Brock Engineering welcomes new Chair as program development continues

Work has been underway to bring the vision for Brock University’s Yousef Haj-Ahmad Department of Engineering to life.

Since the department’s formation was approved by University Senate in May 2021, significant strides have been made in the creation of bold new programming that will welcome Brock’s first cohort of undergraduate Integrated Engineering students for the 2024-25 academic year.

Integrated engineering takes key concepts from traditional engineering fields — such as mechanical, software and electrical — and brings them together into a single coherent program where students learn about each field as well as the connections among them.

Students will explore topics such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, medical devices, energy, sustainability and climate change, robot automation, manufacturing and transportation.

Beatrice Ombuki-Berman, Founding and Interim Chair of Brock's Yousef Haj-Ahmad Department of Engineering.

Professor Beatrice Ombuki-Berman, who was the Founding and Interim Chair of Brock’s Yousef Haj-Ahmad Department of Engineering, recently passed the leadership reins after a year overseeing hiring and curriculum development for the department.

In the months following Senate’s approval, the Department of Engineering — with the interdisciplinary nature of integrated engineering top of mind — hired its first faculty members and staff: Assistant Professor Jasneet Kaur, who is cross-appointed to the Department of Physics; Associate Professor Shengrong Bu, Engineering’s first primary hire; Assistant Professor Glaucio Haroldo Silva de Carvalho, who is cross-appointed with Computer Science; and Administrative Assistant Josie Zhao.

These efforts were led by the department’s Founding and Interim Chair, Professor Beatrice Ombuki-Berman, who recently passed the leadership reins after a year overseeing hiring and curriculum development. This included the hiring of the Department’s new Chair, Professor Shahryar Rahnamayan, and two new faculty members — Associate Professor Amir Mofidi and Assistant Professor Alonzo Zavafer (cross-appointed with Biology) — all whom began at Brock July 1.

Rahnamayan is an award-winning scholar who brings more than 18 years of research experience from the University of Waterloo, Michigan State University, Simon Fraser University and Ontario Tech University.

Rahnamayan earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in software engineering, and his PhD in systems design engineering. He has published more than 200 papers in areas of machine learning, optimization and medical image processing, and was ranked in the top two per cent of artificial intelligence researchers worldwide in 2020 and 2021. Rahnamayan was recognized with both teaching and research awards during his time at Ontario Tech University.

Ombuki-Berman, a Computer Science Professor with the University, says Rahnamayan’s interdisciplinary research paired with his experience launching new programs made him an ideal fit for the role.

“We were looking for someone who could bring administrative experience, interdisciplinary research excellence and their international worldview to our Integrated Engineering program,” she says. “We are lucky to now have Shahryar leading Engineering at Brock. He is already actively involved in moving the department forward.”

Rahnamayan says he was intrigued by the opportunity to help build the University’s Engineering programming from the ground up.

A group of five people - two men and three women - stand together posting in a stairwell.

In addition to its new Chair, Brock’s Department of Engineering now includes (from left) Associate Professor Amir Mofidi, Administrative Assistant Josie Zhao, Assistant Professor Jasneet Kaur, Associate Professor Shengrong Bu and Assistant Professor Glaucio Haroldo Silva de Carvalho. Absent from the photo is Assistant Professor Alonzo Zavafer.

“There is so much potential here and I’m excited to be a part of it,” he says. “I believe establishing Engineering at Brock is a turning point for the University and I look forward to what the future holds.”

Brock will be one of only three Canadian universities offering Integrated Engineering programs at the undergraduate level.

Since Rahnamayan began in his new position, his focus has been on advancing curriculum development and further growing the department, which will welcome its newest faculty member next July.

In alignment with Brock’s commitment to foster a culture of inclusivity, accessibility, reconciliation and decolonization, the department, from its inception, has not only focused on developing an excellent interdisciplinary curriculum, but also committed to attracting an excellent diverse and inclusive talent pool, including students, staff and faculty, Ombuki-Berman says.

The next step for Engineering at Brock will see a proposal brief detailing the program’s curriculum brought to Senate for review this fall.

After its undergraduate programming is in place, the Engineering team intends to bring forth a statement of intent for graduate programs within the department.

Rahnamayan thanked Ombuki-Berman, Faculty of Mathematics and Science Dean Ejaz Ahmed as well as Greg Finn, Special Advisor to the President and Provost, and members of the Advisory Committee on Engineering for their contributions to the department’s development, which was also made possible by a transformational $5-million gift from the Haj-Ahmad Family Foundation.

More information on the Yousef Haj-Ahmad Department of Engineering is available on the department’s website

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