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
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.
A 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 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 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.
Melanie Ross, BArchSc
Melanie Ross (BArchSc) joined SAIT’s Green Building Technologies (GBT) team in 2019 as Research Associate and Business Administration Manager. She is responsible for overseeing research activities within the 850-metre-square GBT Lab and Demonstration Centre, which opened on SAIT campus in June 2017, becoming the first net-zero commercial building in Calgary.
The building received combined infrastructure funding support from federal, provincial and private sources and sets a new standard for net-zero energy and net-zero water design and construction. It serves as a “living laboratory” and includes specialized workshops, testing bays and product development workshops to assist industry in bringing new building products to market. The GBT Lab and Demonstration Centre complements the existing GBT solar labs and a rainwater harvesting lab on SAIT’s main campus near downtown Calgary.
Ross brings more than 10 years of experience with recognized architecture, planning and engineering firms to her role as GBT team lead within Applied Research and Innovation Services (ARIS). She has a solid background in projects ranging from LEED, WELL and other third-party certifications to energy management and existing building performance, including sustainability planning and policy development.
Vita Martez, PhD
Dr. 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 and a $2.0 million award from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, The Research Capacity Program, Alberta Government and industry.
Vita's research is focused on four main areas:
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, not-for-profits and small to medium-sized enterprises.
Research applications would entail clean technology-based environment solutions that are relevant to current challenges and that can be commercialized for the benefit of society, economy and industry.
Previously, Vita founded and led SAIT's Environmental Technologies research group and its leading-edge research. Over ten years, she managed a team of twelve researchers and $12.6 million in industrial applied-research and clean technology projects with the transportation, mining and oil and gas sectors.
Vita has served as a sessional instructor and the subject matter expert for curriculum development 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 empowering students and next generation of learners. She has contributed to various 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
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 the 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.
Jamie McInnis, M.ED, PMP
Jamie McInnis is the Senior Research Grants coordinator working with researchers, faculty, their teams, industry and government to move technology along technology readiness levels toward commercialization. She is a successful grant writer; securing and then managing over $47.5M in scientific funding. She is focused on the writing of large and small-scale grant proposals and managing them to ensure the outcomes are achieved on time and within budget.
Jamie believes that working in applied research requires flexibility, initiative and strong adaptability to take on the many roles that are required for a research project or program to be successful. There are not just work breakdown structures (WBS) and Gantt Charts to be prepared; there are students to engage in applied research, there are close-knit ties within and across academic institutions that need to be honoured, industry and government relationships that need to be fostered, budgets to balance and controled, and risk to manage. Jamie and the grants team work collaboratively to bring success to applied research activities.
Jamie has been a certified Project Manager since 2014, holds a Master’s degree in Policy from the University of Calgary and has several certifications in technical and business writing.
Tim is dedicated to supporting student and faculty involvement in applied research, scholarly activity and entrepreneurship at SAIT.
In his role as coordinator of academic initiatives, he works closely with faculty and curriculum developers to find more ways to engage students in applied research projects, provide advice on intellectual property and facilitate partnerships with industry.
Tim is a SAIT graduate from the Mechanical Engineering Technology program and has a Bachelor of Kinesiology from the University of Calgary. Prior to taking on this role Tim worked as part of the Design, Fabrication and Testing group at ARIS working directly on research projects involving industry partners and students.
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.