Keith Hipel

Professor, Systems Design Engineering

Keith Hipel has some simple words of advice for anyone pursuing an education or career: always surround yourself with good people.

And that’s exactly what Hipel has done during his over 40 years in Waterloo Engineering as a student, systems design engineering faculty member and researcher. He has taught thousands of students and has supervised 46 master’s and 25 doctoral candidates who have successfully completed their degrees. His teaching and research have been recognized with almost three dozen awards, including four in the past year alone.  His latest honour, the Royal Society of Canada’s 2011 Sir John William Dawson Medal, will be presented to him in Ottawa on November 26. He became a fellow of the society in 1998.  

The medal honours his interdisciplinary research in systems engineering on the development of conflict resolution, multiple criteria decision analysis, time series analysis and other decision-making methodologies for addressing systems problems in society, science, technology and the environment.   

Hipel says he enjoys working with his students and colleagues to solve challenging problems related to conflict resolution in engineering.

One of his graduate students, doctoral candidate Sean Bernath Walker, says Hipel’s teaching style is very engaging. “He’s extremely good at getting the very best out of his students,” says Bernath Walker. He adds after taking Hipel’s graduate course in conflict resolution he switched his major from chemical engineering to systems design engineering.  

Hipel founded and directs exchange programs between the university and Tottori University, Kyoto University and the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan, in which more than 200 students have gained a new cultural perspective on life through their participation.

When it comes to his own engineering education Hipel has a Waterloo “hat trick” — he graduated with a BASc in civil engineering in 1970, a MASc in systems design engineering in 1972 and a PhD in civil engineering in 1975.

One of just a couple of engineering professors who have been recognized with the University Professor designation, the University of Waterloo’s highest academic honour, he says that two of his most meaningful awards are the University of Waterloo’s Distinguished Teacher Award and the university’s Award of Excellence in Graduate Supervision.   

“I work so closely with my graduate students, especially my doctoral students, that I become like a father to them,” he says. “After graduation they become a colleague of mine and we stay in touch, often publishing work together.”