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Concordia lands a $4.4 million NSERC Chair in Aerospace Design Engineering

Federal funding and industry support will allow the university to meet the growing global demand for talent
November 18, 2015
By Fiona Downey

Montreal is home to one of the world’s leading aerospace hubs and has the second-largest density of aviation jobs in the world.

Catharine Marsden, Concordia’s new NSERC chair | Photo by David Ward Catharine Marsden, Concordia’s new NSERC chair | Photo by David Ward

Now, a new Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Chair in Aerospace Design Engineering (NCADE) has been established at Concordia with the aim of ensuring a continued increase in the quality and quantity of design engineering graduates to serve this rapidly evolving industry. 

NSERC has awarded $1 million in funding over five years under its Chair in Design Engineering (CDE) program for the NCADE. Contributions from industry sponsors will bring the total value of the NCADE program to $4.4 million over five years.

The primary objective of the CDE program is to help universities meet the growing demand for design engineering talent and to help them create and develop new and innovative designs, concepts and tools. With only 16 CDEs across Canada, the competition for these positions is rigorous.

Catharine Marsden has been appointed senior chair holder at Concordia. She will be responsible for leading the development of innovative undergraduate aerospace design engineering curriculum, teaching and learning strategies, and targeted post-graduate training and research.

The NCADE approach will promote practical, hands-on experience and increased experiential learning through project-based content, increased laboratory experiments and the introduction of a final year multidisciplinary Aircraft Design Project. In this project, students will work together as an integrated design team under the guidance of Marsden, with the support of the NCADE industry sponsors. 

Marsden is a mechanical engineer with more than 20 years of work experience in the Canadian aerospace industry. Before joining Concordia in July 2015, she spent six years at the Royal Military College of Canada supervising aircraft projects and teaching structural design and analysis courses.

The NCADE is the first position of its kind at Concordia. Its activities will be realized with the support of, and in close collaboration with, an impressive group of aerospace companies. They include four major original equipment manufacturers — Bell Helicopter, Bombardier, Pratt & Whitney Canada and Siemens Canada — and two smaller companies: Marinvent and Altair Engineering Canada.

“The Canadian aerospace industry is a fast-paced, highly technical and globally competitive sector,” says Marsden. “We need to ensure Concordia students are able to contribute to the field, having mastered the right mix of solid academic skills as well as personal and professional skills that combine critical thinking, high creativity and flexible teamwork.”

Yong Zeng, the NCADE co-chair, recently completed two terms as a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Design Science (2004-2014). He will lead NCADE research activities aimed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of undergraduate and graduate engineering student training.

A professor in the Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering, Zeng will also develop and validate innovative methodologies for the aerospace design and development process.

“Collaboration with industry sponsors is the vital component of the NCADE learning experience,” says Graham Carr, vice-president of Research and Graduate Studies at Concordia.

“The creation and delivery of an apprenticeship program in close collaboration with industry takes existing internship and student club activities to a next level. It provides our students with enriched opportunities to absorb in-depth product knowledge, corporate culture and practices, and coherent career development throughout their undergraduate studies.”

“NSERC is proud to support the Chair in Aerospace Design Engineering at Concordia,” says B. Mario Pinto, president of the agency. “This chair is focused on better preparing the next generation of design engineers for careers in Canada’s aerospace industry.

“Catharine Marsden and Yong Zeng bring a wealth of industrial and academic expertise. They will work together to increase the quality and quantity of trained engineering graduates by enhancing the aerospace curriculum and offering students opportunities to gain practical and creative experiences in aerospace design.”

Find out more about research at the Concordia Institute of Aerospace Design and Innovation (CIADI).


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