By Lisa Whitaker
As a little boy in Lebanon, Zaid Saghir never dreamed he would work on experiments that could one day be launched into space.
But last Thursday in Eric Palin Hall, the Ryerson mechanical engineering professor exceeded all his childhood dreams when he was presented with the Premier’s Research Excellence Award (PREA), a grant worth more than $100,000.
“I feel proud and happy,” Saghir said after he accepted the award. “I hope this will be an opportunity to show the scientific community that, ‘Hey, we are doing some good research here at Ryerson.’”
For the past five years Saghir has worked to improve the recovery methods of oil from the ground. But the forces of gravity on earth do not allow for the proper measurement of the of the physical properties of oil. That’s why, by January 2002, Saghir hopes his research will be put on a space shuttle so it can be conducted in a zero-gravity environment.
But space is a long way off and a lot of preparation needs to be done before his project can take flight.
“I hope before I retire to have my experiment up in space,” the 45-year-old Saghir koked.
He has also had a hand in developing a state-of-the-art numerical modelling system, and with the data obtained in space he plans to write computer programs to enhance oil recovery.
Saghir is the first Ryerson researcher to receive the award, created in 1998 to recognize outstanding Ontario researchers. He said he will use the money to expand his five-person research team.
Minister of energy, science and technology Jim Wilson, who was on hand for the presentation, said the award will increase Ryerson’s profile on the international research stage and will help keep local researchers from working abroad.
“This awards program is a way for Ontario to reverse the brain drain and keep our economy strong,” Wilson said.
Saghir said the award will also help attract graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and research associates to the university.
More than 200 researchers have been given awards totalling $21.3 million since 1998, with 124 this year alone.