Four professors win prestigious APEGGA awards

(Edmonton) Four Faculty of Engineering professors have won prestigious awards from the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta for research, teaching, leadership and early achievements.

Wilsun Xu (above photo, from l-r), Tian Tang, Murray Gray and John Nychka were all recognized at the annual APEGGA Summit Awards gala in Calgary April 14.

Nychka, a materials engineering professor, was awarded the Excellence in Education Award. “This is a great honour, and I am thrilled to be recognized for doing something I love,” said Nychka. “I am very thankful to APEGGA, my nominators, colleagues, students and the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Alberta.”

Nychka developed and organized the U of A’s first engineering workshop on teaching assessment and serves as a teaching mentor—recently taking on this role university-wide. He is co-chair of the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering’s teaching enhancement committee.

A professor in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, Gray was awarded the Centennial Leadership Award, which is presented to a member of APEGGA who has attained the highest distinction relating to the science of engineering as an executive or director of an outstanding project or ongoing enterprise.

Gray has long recognized that sustainable development of the oilsands requires technological breakthroughs to create economically viable and environmentally conscious methods for the mining, extraction and upgrading of Canada's oilsands. He played a key role in establishing the interdisciplinary, multi-university Centre for Oil Sands Innovation
Tang, a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, was recognized with the Early Accomplishment Award.

Tang leads a team of six graduate students researching mechanical and interfacial behaviours at nanoscale level and in biological systems. Her findings are being used in important engineering applications, such as the development of new methods to process carbon nanotubes and the design of synthetic polymers as gene delivery carriers to treat cancer.

Xu, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, received APEGGA’s Research Excellence Award for his eight years of research and development on anti-islanding protection methods for distributed generation (DG) generators to protect electrical workers.
In DG systems, power is produced in many smaller energy sources and pooled on a main grid. When an outage occurs at a substation, “islanding” may occur around DG generators that are still producing electricity. This can be hazardous to workers trying to repair the grid.

Xu and his research team are now looking to change how consumers monitor their home’s electricity usage. They have determined that individual appliances give off distinct usage signatures in a house’s wiring. Analyzing these changes in patterns can determine which appliances are running and how much power each uses.