2023 Engineers and Geoscientists BC Award Winners
Dr. Brent Ward, P.Geo., FGC, FEC (Hon)
Dr. Brent Ward, P.Geo., FGC, FEC (Hon) has made geoscience accessible and understandable for many students over the past 25 years as a professor in SFU's earth sciences department. He has also been active in educating the public about geoscience, a collaborator in research, and involved in the industry as a volunteer.
Brent has built a legacy of mentoring undergrads, who have gone on to successful professional careers. He has contributed many years of dedicated service to advancing the geoscience field—all of which contributed to receiving the Westerman Award.
"It is a great honour to receive the Westerman Award and be considered equivalent to the impressive list of previous award winners," Brent said. "Many of the very influential geoscientists in BC are on that list, as well as many friends and colleagues. It is heady company."
Brent began his career in the early 1990s conducting surficial geology mapping throughout the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, and, more recently, in BC. He is a field-based quaternary geologist whose research interests include sedimentology, stratigraphy, paleoenvironmental reconstructions, surficial mapping, drift prospecting, and landslides.
Brent has been a member of the Canadian Geoscience Standards Committee (CGSC) since 2005. At Engineers and Geoscientists BC, he was on the Board from 2019-2022, a member of the Geoscience Subcommittee from 2000-2020, a member of the Dam Site Characterization Assessments Working Group from 2015-2017, as well as serving on several other committees and working groups. At SFU, Brent is co-director of the Centre for Natural Hazards Research and was the Earth Science Department chair for six years.
He is a primary author of the Professional Practice Guideline: Site Characterization for Dam Foundations in BC, that was developed following the release of the Report on Mount Polley Tailings Storage Facility Breach in 2015. Brent was an invaluable participant in creating Geoscience Knowledge and Experience Requirements for Professional Registration in Canada, which is a comprehensive guide used by geoscience regulatory bodies across Canada. Brent was also instrumental in creating the Geoscientist in Training Program Information Guide booklet, which helps geoscience students and recent graduates navigate the registration process in Canada.
The McLachlan Award for Outstanding Achievement in Engineering
Angus English, P.Eng.
As the Vice President, Water & Wastewater at WSP Canada Inc., Angus English, P.Eng., has close to 40 years' experience in infrastructure revitalization, replacement and upgrading for the public and private sector. Throughout his career, he has made countless contributions to the improvement of public safety.
"I still recall some of the very first projects I was involved in right after graduation," he explains, "a 1,200-seat grandstand and a 160-acre (65-hectare) sewage lagoon, and the realization that it left in me about the importance that my work had on public health and safety."
For the past 30 years in BC, Angus has been involved in many water and sewerage projects for the Metro Vancouver Region and the Lower Mainland municipalities, most of which go unseen by the public. After all this time, he still enjoys project work, and two relatively recent projects that he was proud to be part of are the Douglas Trunk Sewer, the longest micro-tunnel in glacial till in Metro Vancouver, and the Johnson Street Bridge replacement in Victoria.
Angus also has mentored young engineers with experienced advice. He notes the most rewarding aspect of his career is knowing that he had a part in coaching and mentoring an incredible group of young engineers that are changing the world for the better. Volunteering is another area where Angus has had an impact. His commitment with the United Way goes back to 2003 and he is now part of a group of business leaders driving workplace campaigns. Angus joined the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies (ACEC-BC) in 2005, and in 2020, Angus was appointed to the Board of Directors of Engineers and Geoscientists BC’s Foundation.
Angus says, "I feel humbled to have been selected for the McLachlan Award. Throughout my career I have benefited from coaching and mentoring by many engineers that I admire to this day and I have benefited from the unwavering support of my family and colleagues and I know that this has had a positive and lasting impact on the engineer that I have become."
The Meritorious Achievement Award
Dr. Phalguni Mukhopadhyaya, P.Eng.
The recipient of the Meritorious Achievement Award, Dr. Phalguni Mukhopadhyaya, P.Eng., sets research into action.
A professor in the Civil Engineering Department at the University of Victoria, Phalguni's highly regarded research has sparked building envelope advancements in moisture management and thermal insulation around the world.
His professional goals are focused on the development of construction technologies for low-carbon building envelopes and structures. He believes it is of utmost importance for all global citizens to innovate, design, and construct low-carbon buildings and structures, which can retard and reverse the drivers of climate change.
Phalguni started his professional research career at the National Research Council Canada in 1999 and moved to the University of Victoria in 2015. He has attained national and international stature as a leading expert in advanced thermal insulation materials, bio-based building materials, hygrothermal properties of building envelope materials, moisture management in exterior building envelopes, and energy audit of buildings. He is a sought-after speaker and received the 2022 professor of the year award from ASTM, the international standards organization.
Starting with the leaky condo issue in BC in the late 1990s, Phalguni helped develop moisture design guidelines that were applicable in all climates. From that, Phalguni worked on developing a durability index to analyze results and create solutions. Phalguni also introduced the concept of vacuum insulation panels to Canada and wrote the first research paper on alternative core materials in construction.
One of his nominators, UVic colleague Dr. T. Aaron Gulliver, P.Eng., noted about Phalguni: "Typically, he starts with finding a solution for a pressing issue impacting the local/global construction industry and validates it through laboratory experiments and modelling studies. Thereafter, he takes those solutions to field applications, and this is where he stands out among his peers."
The Lambert Award for Volunteer Service
Dr. Abdolhamid (Hamid) Ghanbari, P.Eng., FEC
Over his 40-year career, Dr. Abdolhamid (Hamid) Ghanbari, P.Eng., FEC, has worked in project management and building design as well as research, teaching, and curriculum development in Canadian universities and colleges. He is principal and senior project manager at EduBuild Solutions, which he founded in 2011.
His extensive volunteer experience goes back to 1999. He has had a positive impact on many local and immigrant engineers and students, especially at the Iranian Engineers of BC Association (IEBCA), where he has served on the board of directors since 2017, including as president for two years. His mentorship has helped many find their direction, navigate the professional registration system and pursue meaningful professional engineering careers. He is known for his dedication, support, and commitment.
Hamid's volunteer experience includes Engineers and Geoscientists BC, where he has taken roles in nomination, registration, professional development, and mentoring—earning the organization's 2021 Mentor of the Year award. He has also been an executive member of the Richmond/Delta Branch since 2012 (chair 2015-2016) and the organization's liaison on the Greater Vancouver Regional Science Fair Committee since 2015.
At the City of Richmond, he served on the Board of Variance (2006-2018) and the Richmond Community Services Advisory Committee (2011-2018). He has also been part of the Annual Conference and AGM Planning Committee of the BC Building Envelope Council since 2013.
He has been the “voice of patients” on various committees and councils of Vancouver Coastal Health, Doctors of BC, and BC Patient Safety and Quality Council since 2009.
"I am honoured to receive this special award," Hamid says. "This award means a lot to me. It tells me that love and social values and devotion to the community is honoured, and it encourages me to continue and improve upon my professional engagement with the community. Thanks to the organizations and individuals who trusted and provided me with volunteering opportunities and thanks to Engineers and Geoscientists BC for promoting volunteerism."
The Young Professional Award
Pia Abercromby, P.Eng.
As a strong project manager, committed volunteer and engaging leader, Pia Abercromby, P.Eng., has demonstrated—in a short time—how to excel at all levels.
Pia's engineering career began in 2010 as a bridge engineer at Beca Ltd in New Zealand. She moved to Canada in 2015 and was hired at McElhanney, continuing to add to her impressive catalogue of successful projects. In 2022, after having led a task force to create a sustainability services strategy, Pia started McElhanney’s new Sustainability Services Division and is currently the Acting Division Manager, advising on sustainability and resilience on infrastructure projects.
"It is important for me to excel in my profession to help provide service to the communities we live in," Pia says. "Part of that is volunteering in my community, whether that be by encouraging youth to consider careers in our industry, supporting our industry by encouraging clients to include sustainability considerations in their projects or working with community organisations that align with my values.”
Her focus on public safety and wellbeing in her designs goes beyond the standard requirements to meet code design clauses; she considers safety in design elements.
Pia's volunteer experience extends to serving as the logistics coordinator in the first all-women build team for the Kibembe Bridge in Uganda, through Bridges to Prosperity in 2019. She also volunteers with local organizations, including the Structural Engineers Association of BC, the Association of Consulting Engineers - BC (ACEC-BC), Women in Consulting Engineering, and Engineers and Geoscientists BC.
Pia's achievements have already earned her recognition in the industry. Last year, she received the ACEC-BC Young Professionals Award and, in 2021, she received an equity, diversity, and inclusion award from McElhanney.
"Being awarded the Engineers and Geoscientists BC Young Professional Award is a humbling experience," Pia says. "I am very grateful to McElhanney for nominating me and honoured that Engineers and Geoscientists BC chose me. This award shows me that our regulator recognises the importance of sustainability in the work that engineers and geoscientists undertake, and I am excited to see how our industry progresses in this area."
The Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Award
Kelsie Priest, P.Eng.
Five years ago, seeing a need to build a strong support system for women engineers, Kelsie Priest, P.Eng., co-founded the nonprofit organization Women in Consulting Engineering (WCE).
Through Kelsie's leadership, now as co-chair, WCE empowers women in engineering to break down barriers, seek mentorship and guidance, and find their ground in engineering. She has helped WCE develop into a valuable resource for women and for those who support women in the industry. WCE has grown to about 600 members and expanded last year as a national network with a branch in Calgary.
A project engineer at Glotman Simpson Consulting Engineers in Vancouver since 2012, Kelsie has led several equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives for the company and is an advocate for junior engineers.
Her nominee Geoffrey Glotman, MEng, P.Eng., said, "Throughout her professional career, she has contributed a significant amount of time and energy into increasing the diversity of the engineering profession, inspiring colleagues and industry peers alike."
Kelsie, as the most senior woman engineer at Glotman Simpson, is a strong mentor and role model for junior engineers, supporting many women to build connections and expand their personal development. She champions women to participate in designing and changing the built environment while having fulfilling careers.
Her leadership style and career experience enable her to connect with university and high school students through panel discussions and presentations, teaching them confidence and inspiring many to consider careers in structural engineering. She has also taken on volunteer mentorship and educational roles through the YWCA, Girl Guides, and UBC Women in Science and Engineering (WISE).
Kelsie is also a board director for the non-profit Women in Science, Engineering, Technology, and Trades (WinSETT) on the marketing committee. WinSETT aims to recruit, retain, and advance women in science, engineering, trades, and technology.
Her impact on equity, diversity, and inclusiveness, was noted by Glotman: "The community of women engineers and allies that Kelsie created provides support to women to prevent them from leaving the profession, therefore retaining talented and diverse individuals in the engineering field."
The Innovation in Sustainability Award
School District 78 Solar & Energy Storage Microgrid, Hedgehog Technologist Inc
When the wind howled through the mountains around Hope, BC, it usually meant Harrison Hot Springs elementary was destined for a power blackout. It was disruptive to close the school mid-day and challenging to make sure all the students found a way home. But, thanks to an innovative solar and energy storage microgrid system installed by Hedgehog Technologies in February 2023, school is uninterrupted by the winds.
Hedgehog Technologies designed and managed the implementation of a first-of-its-kind solar microgrid project specifically for the school that included a PV solar, battery, and an innovative microgrid controller called Nimba.
The innovative system, educational benefit, greenhouse gas reduction and ability to adapt the system to work in other communities lead to the project earning the 2023 Engineers and Geoscientists BC Innovation in Sustainability Award.
Lead engineer Younes Rashidi, P.Eng., Vice President of Engineering Operations at Hedgehog, says, "This award holds deep honour for both the team as a whole and for me personally. We strive to create innovative solutions that prioritize sustainability, considering the long-term effects on society and the environment. This award reinforces the importance of sustainability and inspires us to continue promoting sustainable engineering innovations."
The solar microgrid system has enabled the elementary school to maintain power during outages and provides the opportunity for BC Hydro to access stored energy through demand response events. Since the project’s completion, there have been active peak shaving events (on-going) and regular utility demand response events providing power to the system. It has also been tested for power outage events with the utility to verify it meets the system specifications.
By using solar energy as a source of power for the school, they have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions contributing to tangible climate action. The installation of a microgrid also helps to create a more sustainable energy system and improves energy security, making it more reliable and resilient.
For School District 78, it's a power solution and educational opportunity for students. "We now have a reliable source of clean energy that keeps our community running even during power outages," says Doug Templeton, Director of Facilities and Transportation at the school district.
"The PV solar array and battery storage unit have been a game changer for us, and the innovative microgrid controller has ensured seamless operation and integration with the local utility. Not only has this project improved energy reliability for our community, but it has also helped to reduce our carbon footprint and promote sustainability."
From an innovation standpoint, the Nimba Microgrid Controller that was created for this project allows for optimized control of renewable assets while allowing communities to be more energy resilient to unforeseen events.
Says Younes, "Through the adoption of sustainability principles, we can promote positive outcomes that will benefit future generations. Our innovations should embody practicality, forward-looking vision, ethical considerations, and a profound sense of responsibility toward our planet. We can all push for a brighter future together."
Geoscientists Canada’s Canadian Professional Geoscientist Award
Dr. Catherine Hickson, P.Geo., FGC
This year’s recipient of Geoscientists Canada’s Canadian Professional Geoscientist Award, Dr. Catherine Hickson, P.Geo., FGC, has made significant contributions to geoscience through her career, volunteer service, and leadership.
A pioneering volcanologist and a globally-recognized geoscience and geothermal expert with more than 30 years’ experience, she is the author of over 100 scientific papers as well as articles for the public, including two books.
Catherine's early career focused on assessing past and future eruptions and hazard impacts of young volcanoes in Canada and globally. She went on to spend 25 years working with the federal government at the Geological Survey of Canada. She worked closely with the International Civil Aviation Organization creating pilot and airspace regulations for flight in regions impacted by volcanic ash. She also formulated and implemented Canada's volcanic eruption response.
Combining her management and volcanological expertise as well as her global experience, an impactful career in the private sector followed, with a focus on geothermal energy and lithium brines. In 2014, Catherine founded her own geological and management services company specializing in supporting geothermal development, lithium exploration, and public engagement in the Earth sciences.
In 2018, she became Chief Geologist of the Alberta start-up Terrapin Geothermics. Under her leadership, Terrapin secured over $25 million in project development funds from Natural Resources Canada’s Emerging Renewable Power Program for its Alberta No. 1 project to harness the benefits of geothermal energy. She now serves as Alberta No. 1’s CEO.
Catherine served as an Engineers and Geoscientist BC Board member from 2017 to 2019 and has also been a member of the organization's Geoscience Committee (2018–2022), the Credentials Committee (2018–2021), the Professional Practice Advisory Group (2017–2018), and the Nominations Committee (2013–2015). She is currently a member of the Engineering Experience Assessment Panel.
Geoscientists Canada president, Doug Bell, P.Geo., commented: “Dr. Hickson's dedication to advancing the science of volcanology and geothermal energy throughout her career is exemplary, in addition to her contributions to the profession of geoscience through her volunteer service and leadership. She is a shining example of what this national Canadian Professional Geoscience Award represents."