Information found on this page has been archived and is for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. Please visit NRC's new site for the most recent information.
Information identified as archived on the Web is for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It has not been altered or updated after the date of archiving. Web pages that are archived on the Web are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats by contacting us.
I manage the climatic engineering facility at the NRC-Centre for Surface Transportation Technology. This means I test anything and everything. We test products at different temperatures and we can simulate precipitation: snow, humidity, fog and rain.
We do a lot of work for the military and for passenger railcar manufacturers – our facility is big enough for a railcar. We test switch heaters for rail equipment manufacturers. We test aircraft wing de-icing fluids for Transport Canada and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. We've done work for electrical cable and snowblower manufacturers.
Getting There: Road to NRC
In high school, I wanted to study medicine. I thought medicine would be a good place to make a contribution and a good living. At university, I chose biochemistry because it's a harder route into medicine and I figured that if I'm going to eliminate myself, I would rather do so early. It worked!
Although biochemistry was a hot field when I started my degree, there were few job openings when I graduated. Many folks had switched from biochemistry into chemical engineering, so I gave it a try. I earned a B.Eng. from the University of Ottawa in 1984.
Afterwards, I spent time in the military reserves while looking for work. I got my first real job at the Ontario Research Foundation (now called Ortech) in Mississauga. I worked there for about 13 years. We mainly tested packages: boxes, bottles, cans. Testing beer packaging was one of my favourites. We would snag the handle of a beer case on a wire. If the handle ripped, the bottles would fall on the floor and break. Then our technician realized that the actual test ends when the handle breaks. He put foam under the testing rig so the bottles wouldn't break and we could dispose of them in the old fashioned way! Why waste perfectly good beer?
One day, I got a phone call from NRC: "Do you know anyone interested in running a lab, who knows something about climate and testing vehicles?" I said: "Yeah, me!" That was in 1998.
It sounds corny, but I like to think I'm helping to better our standard of living. Keeping the facility going is important because we're providing jobs. And we're helping people. When we test a transit vehicle, for example, it helps transit authorities deliver public transportation, which helps protect our environment. Besides that, I actually get paid to break things!
When our climate chamber is running, we sometimes start tests at 8 a.m. and don't finish until after midnight. Sometimes we run tests for 24 hours a day.
I wear several hats at work. I manage the other people who work with me. When there's testing work, I oversee the tests. I also market our services. We are 100% funded by industry, so we survive on the projects that come in. I attend two or three conferences a year where I make an effort to meet new customers. So far, I've been to Orlando, Frankfurt, Toulouse, Vancouver and San Francisco.
Our main customers are railcar manufacturers that bring passenger vehicles here to check the heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems. If you get on a commuter train in the winter and get a blast of hot air in your face while your feet freeze, you may decide to drive the next day. But if you're comfortable, you're more likely to come back tomorrow. Transit authorities know that, so their suppliers have to meet certain requirements. Rather than wait for Mother Nature to provide a range of conditions, CSTT can simulate winter or summer and everything in between.
Someone once asked us to test some aircraft fuel lines with fuel in them, because they might leak in hot conditions over time. How could we do this safely? We made a steel frame with glass batts inside. We put in raw heating elements. We set it outside in an enclosed compound in mid winter and ran the test at about 150° C. It ran smoothly. If the fuel line had blown a leak and exploded, the walls would have popped off with little impact. But if we had done the test indoors, the safety issues would have been very complex.
I practice karate about three times a week. Karate gives me a good workout. It's a 45 minute class and I sweat pretty hard at the end. I help teach the classes.
I also like building plastic models such as military vehicles, boats and planes. And I enjoy gardening – I focus on vegetables and my wife focuses on flowers.
Books: I like science fiction. I like fantasy books like Lord of the Rings, which I've read several times.
Television: I like the current Enterprise series. I tape Coronation Street every Sunday morning. I also like comedy such as Just for Laughs.
Movies: I liked Lord of the Rings and I enjoy historical films and action pictures.
If I was awarded $1 million for my facility, I would put in some upgrades like humidity and solar testing capabilities and I would add a sand and dust facility to simulate blowing sand and dust.
If I won a $1 million lottery, I wouldn't quit work. Even if I won a lot more, I don't think I would quit. I would pay off my house. I wouldn't gamble it or do anything terribly silly.
I once bought a lottery ticket for a $30 million draw, and promised in my business plan that if my ticket won, I would give CSTT a million a year for 30 years from the interest I would earn. I won a free ticket, but that one lost. However, I did get a few smiles from the management team so for $2 it was a worthwhile investment.