Associate Professor, University of Alberta / Founder and Director, Laboratory of Intelligent Manufacturing, Design and Automation (LIMDA) and Aquaponics 4.0 Learning Factory
It’s hard to keep track of how many spin-off companies and research laboratories Rafiq Ahmad helms. But each one is simply a byproduct of how his mind works — when he sees a problem, he immediately starts brainstorming a device or system that can solve it. It’s the whole reason he became a professional engineer.
“My goal is to develop new technologies that are smart, use fewer resources, and have an impact on society.”
When he saw the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on front-line workers, Ahmad wanted to create a better respirator. His team soon had a prototype, but he then noticed how difficult it was to source virgin plastic for the respirators. Ahmad began researching plastic recycling, eventually creating a centre and system where plastic could be repurposed and reused.
The respirator project was particularly poignant for Ahmad, as his older brother, a huge influence on him throughout his life, died from COVID-19. “He was really passionate about helping society, and he was leading by example,” says Ahmad. “He was so proud of that project.”
The personal tragedy only strengthened his vision and purpose. As a professor, Ahmad mentors the next generation of innovators and problem-solvers while continuing to make strides himself.
“Our impact is not always on the immediate people around us now — it’s on the future.”
Why He’s Top 40
He engineers streamline technology that helps society