Emeritus Prof. John J. Jonas - Winner of the 2017 Acta Materialia Gold Medal Award

Congratulations to Prof. Jonas on receiving this award in recognition of research contributions and leadership in materials science.   The presentation of this award will take place during the TMS Spring Meeting to be held in San Diego from 26th February – 2nd March 2017.

Here we are again! For those of you of certain age…you may recall that I served as Chair some 20 years ago (!) from 1994 to 1999. So I had the, apparently, false idea that I finished that chapter until I was “cornered” to lead the department again for the next 3 years!

The department of today following its transformation from “mining & metallurgical” to “mining & materials” first under the leadership of Robin Drew and more recently of Steve Yue has not only maintained its preeminent place among sister departments and programs in Canada but has risen to new levels adapting to major changes happening around us, changes which bring opportunities and challenges requiring planning and vision for the future. 

Since I was chair, our department has continued to be one (if not THE ONE) of the most influential in the country. Over the past 10 years the “Met-Eng” program became “Mat-Eng” by expanding into advanced material fields such as “biomaterials”, “electronic & energy”, “surface engineering/coatings”, and “nanomaterials”.  This expansion through hiring several outstanding young faculty has enlivened our activities and has led to more than doubling our undergraduate enrollment over the past 5 years – we will welcome 68(!) new students this Fall, and our research output is reaching new audiences. Through these exciting developments there lies a risk of weakening our processing strength and alienating our core metallurgical constituency – a base that remains very strong in Canada. (I refer you to a recent article I wrote on this subject to commemorate the untimely passing of Ralph Harris. The paper entitled “From Extractive Metallurgy to Materials Engineering: A personal teaching and research perspective” is published in the Canadian Metallurgical Quarterly, 2015, 54(2), 129-135. I will be happy to send you a copy if you drop me a line at: George.demopoulos [at]

Moving forward we need to strike a synergistic balance between “processes” and “materials” ensuring our “Mat-Eng” is a training powerhouse for highly skilled and employable graduates. So the creative alignment of these two forces with appropriate curriculum interventions should be a priority.

With reference to mining, the recent hiring of two early career academics –after many years of reduced academic complement, has brought optimism that a stabilized and eventually further grown mining group can rise to become a stand-alone d. At the same time we need to find new ways of deployment of our resources by increasing the opportunities for shared facilities but also in securing additional resources in terms of support staff, teaching assistant budget, lab space upgrading etc. Considering however the chronic government funding shortage, seeking external funding for new initiatives remains critically important.

Over the past 2 years and in the future we are working to strengthen our connections with you, our alumni community.  We started holding certain annual events like during the CMP conference in Ottawa as well as an annual Alumni/Student mixer at McGill and more are planned.  Please attend these events; we would love to see you and even if you cannot, send us an email to give an update of where you are in life.

I would like to close by expressing a big thank you on behalf of all of us to Steve Yue for his “glorious” leadership over the past 8 years. He has been the most “fun” chairman we had and among the most successful with a hiring record for the ages. He would smile and make his witty comments even when he was dealing with some serious issues never showing a sign of stress or impatience. His regular run in the gym was undoubtedly one of his secrets in keeping in good humor, not only in good shape. Well-done Steve! Enjoy your well-deserved sabbatical!

Having served 2 years as Associate Dean Academic affairs and 8 years as Mining and Materials Chairman, I thought a decade of high-ish level administration was a nice round number to sign off on, so I pass on the task of being Chairman to George Demopoulos, who’s been Chairman before, so he knows very well how to do things.  In fact ‘doing things’, in other words the day to day of bureaucracy, is relatively easy when you have such a capable AA as Courtney Jelaco, ably supported by Florence Paray Barbara Hanley, Terry Zatylny, Teresa Barett and Genny Snider.  In my term as Chairman, we had a couple of memorable crises – the flood, is the one that really stands out, but we managed to get over it (with the help Monique Riendeau, Robert Paquette and Ray Langlois),  and one good outcome is that it triggered the purchase of a brand new scanning electron microscope, thanks to a very timely and very much appreciated anonymous gift.  This gift also included funding to increase the TA hours, which was very timely considering the significant growth of the undergraduate programs in both Mining and Materials.  This growth is firstly due to some very hard work put in by Genny and Teresa, who were charged to improve undergraduate recruitment using our very limited resources, and also due to a Departmental web page heavily revamped under the leadership of Profs. Marta Cerutti and Nate Quitoriano.   (I would be remiss if I did not attribute the growth, phenomenologically, to my glorious leadership.)    Marta and Nate are part of a new crop of some 7 profs newly hired in my term, the others being, for Materials, Kris Waters, Kirk Bevan and Jun Song and for Mining, Mustafa Kumral and Agus Sasmito.  But don’t worry – the ‘old guard’ (and I include me) are clinging on, although Prof. Jonas did retire a fair while ago and Jim Finch retired just at the end of 2014.  All of the above activity was largely a product of the passage of time rather than anything proactive that I actually planned.  Indeed, the most difficult part of this job is to have a ‘strategic’ plan, or any plan, actually.  In this respect, I have a lot of faith that George will define and execute a plan.  The department is definitely in good hands. And as for me, as a Chairman, I had a pretty easy ride and it was a privilege to look after this very active Department.  I’m off on sabbatical and when I return it’ll be in the guise of a Prof. 


2015 ASM Student Night - Poster Competition

Congratulations to our graduate students!

Pryidarshi Behera - ASM Special Award

Clod Aranas - People’s Choice Award

Hanqing Che - First Place in PhD Category