Lynch accepts fourth term as dean of engineering
“The Faculty of Engineering has achieved a long list of accomplishments under the leadership of Dean Lynch over the last 15 years,” said Carl Amrhein, provost and vice-president (academic). “Dean Lynch’s greatest strengths are in assessing the status of the faculty, envisioning steps to advance to the next level and planning how to get there. He then continually plans, finds new pools of resources, engages others and builds.”
Lynch, who was born and raised in Minto, New Brunswick, received his bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from the University of New Brunswick in 1977. With a Governor-General’s Gold Medal in tow—awarded to the undergraduate student who had achieved the most outstanding academic record in the overall UNB graduating class—Lynch came west to take on a PhD in chemical engineering at the U of A.
Lynch developed a productive research career in the areas of chemical reaction engineering and catalysis, in particular, the catalytic elimination of pollutants from automobile exhaust gases and the polymerization of olefins. Along with his successes on the discovery front, Lynch showed an early aptitude for instruction, joining the Department of Chemical Engineering in January 1981 as an assistant professor. He has twice received the Faculty of Engineering Teaching Award (1989, 1993) and in 1993 he received the AC Rutherford Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the highest teaching award at the U of A.
“I always enjoyed the excitement of involvement with the next generation in education and research,” said Lynch, who still maintains a presence in the classroom, teaching ENGG 400, an engineering responsibilities and ethics course. “That’s why I think professor is the best possible job in the world.”
Lynch made the jump into administration as the associate dean of engineering in 1992. In the midst of the budget reductions of the mid-1990s, Lynch suddenly found himself in the role of acting dean. On July 1, 1995, he was named dean.
Faced with a university-wide 21 per cent budget reduction, Lynch says he saw those early days of his tenure as an “important transition point for the Faculty of Engineering.”
“There was the opportunity to move out of a very difficult period and embark on fairly strong possibilities for future development,” he said. “I have really enjoyed the continuing challenges, opportunities and the excitement of seeing the faculty develop in quite spectacular ways over the past 15 years.”
In his role as dean of engineering, Lynch has been heavily involved in three main areas: the recruitment of outstanding students, the recruitment and retention of outstanding new faculty and the obtaining of resources to provide an exceptional educational and research environment for all students and staff.
Lynch says he has always been most proud of seeing the exceptional educational and research environment that the Faculty of Engineering has provided for the increasing numbers of students.
“Ultimately, the university is a people place: a place for the development of the people, and the support of the people for education, research and service,” he said. “That’s the thing that I continue to be most excited about and most proud about seeing-how that has developed spectacularly in the Faculty of Engineering.”
Being careful not to take his eye off of the faculty’s long-term goals, Lynch says he plans to improve faculty-student ratios to further increase the quality of the student experience and expand funding for undergraduate and graduate students. He plans to continue the growth of the faculty, meeting student enrolment targets and increasing the faculty complement with more high-quality appointments. Lynch also wants to deal with some of the major issues concerning the renewal of the university’s older engineering facilities as well as a major number of initiatives on the way including the Nano-Bio Accelerator, the Helmholtz-Alberta initiative and several other projects that have major national and international scope.
“What nobody knows today is what will be the new opportunities that will come available to us over the next five years,” said Lynch. “What the previous 15 years as dean have demonstrated to me is that, at the start of a term as dean, the circumstances can change rapidly, both positively and negatively.
“The next five years will be marked by having a good long-term plan and the ability to develop and seize those opportunities as they come available, in the context of knowing where it is we want to go.”