Our Experts

Applied Research and Innovation Services' full-time research and service staff members are here to make your applied research project a success. From a team of dedicated, industry-experienced researchers to the people working behind the scenes to ensure our processes and equipment are running smoothly — upwards of 40 people are here, solely to work with you.

Rick Tofani, P.ENG., MBA

Director of Applied Research and Innovation Services

Photograph of Rick Tofani, Director of Applied Research and Innovation Services

As the Director of Applied Research and Innovation Services at SAIT, Rick Tofani oversees a research and support staff of over 40 full-time employees, the execution of a yearly average of $5 to $6 million in research projects and a team of researchers in investigating the development of new technologies and processes in green-building, clean energy, sports and wellness, prototype design, fabrication and testing, IT and unmanned systems.

A self-described "connector", Rick joined SAIT with a successful history in applied research — both in private industry and the public sector. As an integral member of the team that established Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), Rick became Operations Director of COSIA until January 2015.

As Acting Vice President and General Manager of Alberta Innovates Technology Futures (AITF) from 2009 - 2014, Rick managed a $35 million portfolio and initiated the Regional Innovation Network model of intra-provincial organizational research collaboration. In 2006, Rick established the Office of Applied Research and Innovation at Red Deer College and secured the office's first-ever research funding. Prior to that, while establishing the Innovation Centre at Olds College, Rick was instrumental in setting up a pilot for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada's (NSERC) Colleges and Community Innovation Fund. Rick was also the Director of Business Development for the Saskatchewan Research Council, the Manager of Marketing and Manufacturing for Westfalia DME, and began his career as a Mining Engineer for Noranda Mines.

Rick has worked with organizations such as NSERC, Innovate Calgary, Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Alberta Science and Technology Awards undertaking project review and funding adjunction. He has also garnered extensive experience internationally collaborating on research, program development and training and sits on nine advisory boards, advising SME's.

Rick has a Master's in Business Administration from the University of Saskatchewan and a Bachelor of Science in Geological Engineering from Queen's University.

Chris Zaal

Research Associate — Centre for Innovative Information Technology Solutions

Photograph of Chris Zaal, Research Associate for the Centre for Innovative Information TechnologyA critical thinker with an eye for detail, Research Associate Chris Zaal manages SAIT's Centre for Innovative Information Technology Solutions (CIITS). CIITS was created through the Applied Research and Innovation Services (ARIS) department to facilitate industry-based applied-research projects.

A SAIT Software Development graduate himself, Chris joined the RFID Application Development (RADLab) — a research area within CIITS — doing embedded programming for microprocessors. Within a year, Chris's management and leadership skills led him to a new role with the RADLab as Project Coordinator.

In September 2016, Chris became the CIITS Research Associate, overseeing employees of the RADLab, CIITS software developers, electronics specialists and dev-ops engineers, as well as the SAIT RFID Test Lab.

Emerson Burns

Research Associate — Design, Fabrication and Testing

Photograph of Emerson Burns, research associate for the Design, Fabrication and Testing Centre.Emerson Burns joined SAIT as a researcher in 2015, having completed the Mechanical Engineering Technology program in 2013. Within two short years, Emerson earned the role of research associate, overseeing the Design, Fabrication and Testing research group. His research staff consists of mechanical engineers and engineering technologists, electrical engineering technologists, machinists, welders and student interns. 

Together, the Design, Fabrication and Testing research group focuses on the design, development, fabrication and prototyping and validation of new or improved technologies. The group operates within SAIT's Applied Research and Innovation Services department, which is focused on research and development partnerships that take companies' and other organizations' novel product ideas closer to market. In addition, Emerson had a previous life as a Red Seal journeyman plumber and gas fitter and attended SAIT to pursue those certifications ten years ago.

Ken Omotani

Research Associate — Environmental Technologies

Photograph of Ken Omotani, research associate of environmental technologiesKen Omotani is the lead Environmental Technologies (ET) researcher in the Applied Research and Innovation Services (ARIS) department. He joins SAIT with over 35 years of environmental engineering experience, working in sectors such as oil and gas, power generation, aluminium smelting, pulp and paper, and metal finishing. He has held senior technical and management positions throughout his career and implemented several innovative technologies as cost-effective solutions to environmental problems on behalf of organizations such as ConocoPhillips and TransAlta.

Ken has presented on these technology implementation projects at conferences and workshops such as the annual Aquatic Toxicity Workshop, Pulp and Paper Canada's annual general meeting, the GLOBE Program, and the International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant.

With a Bachelor of Applied Science in Chemical Engineering from the University of Toronto, Ken manages a multi-disciplinary team at ARIS. The goal of this industry-based applied-research partnerships is to offer organizations the technical expertise, facilities and equipment they need to take new technologies closer to market — ultimately improving the environmental performance of various sectors. 

Ken has served on several committees including Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), Greenhouse Gas Steering Committee, Wood Buffalo Environmental Association board and various committees with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and Consulting Engineers Alberta. Ken was also part of the Electricity Project Team that won an Emerald award in 2004.

David Silburn, BA EnvSt., M.Arch.

Research Associate — Green Building Technologies

Photograph of David Silburn, research associate of Green Building TechnologiesDavid has developed and managed the Green Building Technologies (GBT) research initiative since 2009. He acts as designer, construction manager and technical consultant for Net-Zero Energy Home (NZEH) projects while working with multiple industry partners to design, fabricate and introduce building-integrated renewable technologies and advanced envelope assemblies into the market.

Select publications and roles include principal architect of the ENMAX SolAbode Solar Decathlon 2009, architect of the Discovery 5 NZEH, designer and energy consultant on the NZEH Arctic House, in addition to multiple reports to the federal and provincial governments on building codes, residential energy efficiency and net-zero energy component assemblies.

David received the Custom Project of the Year award from NZEH Coalition for his work on the Discovery 4 home, an Emerald Award for his work on the Discovery 5 Home and the Doing It Right This Time (DIRTT) Innovation Award for the design and development of a prototype solar-thermal evacuated-tube balustrade.

Vita Martez, PhD

Industrial Research Chair — Colleges in Oil Sands In-Situ Steam Generation

Photograph of Vita Martez, Industrial Research Chair of Colleges in Oil Sands In-Situ Steam GenerationDr. Vita Martez is a recognized industry leader in chemical technology and environmental engineering. She brings over 18 years of industry experience and award-winning applied research to her current position.

As an Industrial Research Chair for Colleges in Oil Sands In-Situ Steam Generation, Vita's research is backed by a five-year, $1.75 million award from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance and Alberta Innovates — Energy and Environment Solutions — as an NSERC research chair.

Vita is focused on four main areas:

  • Studying the fouling and efficiency issues that impede high-efficiency steam generation with once-through steam generators (OTSG) in collaboration with scientists and engineers from ConocoPhillips Canada.
  • Investigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction, low-carbon and renewable energy tie-in strategies.
  • Assessing conditions for maximizing water recycle and reducing water usage.
  • Researching blowdown treatment and management.

Research outcomes are expected to provide evidence-based knowledge for energy-efficient in-situ steam-water recycle, lowered usage of make-up water, and decreased GHG emissions. In addition, her collaborative work with academia, industry, government, small-to-medium-sized enterprises, First Nations and not-for-profits organizations will give rise to a novel, clean technology that benefits the environment and can be commercialized.

Previously, Vita founded and led SAIT's Environmental Technologies research group. Over seven years, she managed a team of eight researchers and $8.6 million in industrial applied-research and clean-energy technology projects with the transportation, mining and oil and gas sectors. 

Vita has also been a sessional instructor at SAIT's MacPhail School of Energy and guest lectures at the University of Calgary's Schulich School of Engineering. Vita's two patents — both assigned to industry — direct royalties to SAIT students and educational programming. She has contributed to eco-initiatives in St. Kitt's, Mexico and Chile with the Alberta Association of Colleges and Technical Institutes', and Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture. 

Ken Whitehead, PhD

Research Associate — Centre for Innovation and Research in Unmanned Systems (CIRUS)

Photograph of Ken Whitehead, Research Associate for the Centre for Innovation and Research in Unmanned Systems.Dr. Ken Whitehead is a UAV mapping and applications specialist and a research associate at SAIT, in the department of Applied Research and Innovation Services. Formerly as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Calgary, Ken studied the potential uses of UAVs for environmental monitoring. While completing his PhD, Ken worked with pioneering UAV survey company, Accuas, where he was responsible for coordinating research into UAV data processing and developing UAV applications.

Ken also worked with researchers from a number of universities on a variety of industry-academic joint projects and has authored a number of peer-reviewed journal articles on UAV applications, the current state of the  UAV industry in Canada and the application of accuracy standards for UAV surveys.

Prior to moving to Canada in 1999, Ken worked in both the UK and South Africa and held a variety of different positions in both the public and private sectors. Over the course of his career, he has worked as a land surveyor, a photogrammetrist, remote sensing and GIS specialist, remote sensing instructor and independent mapping consultant.

During his PhD, Ken carried out research in the Canadian Arctic and pioneered the use of UAVs for glaciological surveys. His current activity within the research community is focused on developing methods for the fusion of ground-based data with UAV imagery.

Carole Doucet Love, M.H.Sc.

Applied Research Coordinator - Grants

Photograph of Carole Doucet Love, Applied Research CoordinatorCarole joined SAIT in 2009 after a career in public health nutrition.

In her role as the Applied Research Coordinator - Grants on the ARIS Service Team, Carole helps SAIT researchers obtain complementary funding for applied research projects with small and medium-sized enterprises and other partners. 

Carole has a significant track record of success in the grant applications she has led, submitting 150 applications and bringing in over $21.6 million in funding for Applied Research and Innovation Services. Funding sources primarily include NSERC, Alberta Innovates, Western Economic Diversification, the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency.

Joe Petermann

Coordinator — Student Initiatives

Photograph of Joe Petermann, coordinator of student initiatives at ARIS.Joe is dedicated to promoting student involvement in applied research and entrepreneurship at SAIT. 

In his role as coordinator of student initiatives, he works closely with faculty and curriculum developers to find even more ways to engage students in applied research projects, provide advice on intellectual property and facilitate partnerships with industry.

Joe has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Carleton University and a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education from the University of Worcester. He has taught in Japan and England and managed in youth programs for Junior Achievement of Canada. He recently completed his Master's degree in Education Leadership and Management from Royal Roads University.

Priya Reynaud

Manager — Business Operations

Photograph of Priya Reynaud, manager of business operations at ARIS.With an MBA in Management Accounting and a broad experience base, Priya offers a hands-on business approach — comfortable interacting with and delivering services to all levels of an organization.

Prior to coming to SAIT, Priya was self-employed and involved in the start-up and sell-off of several companies in the construction and information technology industry. She also has a certificate in conflict management and is a designated investigator with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Since joining SAIT, Priya has been heavily involved in the business development activities of ARIS — creating strategic industry alliances and developing the business model for the leasing of flexible, short-term research space now available to SAIT industry partners.

In the last year, SAIT has created a new division — Corporate Development & Applied Research (CD&AR) — as the new manager of business operations for this division, Priya has been tasked with ensuring that processes are in place that will improve and enhance the overall efficiency of the CD&AR operation.

Applied Research and Innovation Services

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1301 - 16 Avenue NW
Calgary, Alberta
T2M 0L4

Tel: 403.284.7056
Toll-Free: 1.866.884.7117
Email: applied.research@sait.ca

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