Student profiles

Robynne Murray, PhD candidate

Research focus: Tidal energy

Robynne Murray first came to Dalhousie as an undergraduate student, drawn to the only university in the Maritimes where she could complete the final two years of her Bachelor of Engineering degree. She discovered that Dal’s Mechanical Engineering department was also the best place to pursue a master’s degree, a PhD and her passion for renewable energy.

“I always knew I was interested in something to do with oceans and renewable energy,” says Murray, now a doctoral degree candidate co-supervised by Dr. Darrel Doman and Dr. Michael Pegg. “Being on one of the coasts is the place to be.”

Murray’s research is focused in the emerging area of tidal energy. “Right now what I’m working on is developing blades for tidal turbines. I’m looking at ways that we can increase robustness and cost-effectiveness for tidal turbine rotors, replacing complicated parts with something that would be inherently lower-maintenance.

“The end goal is for tidal energy to hopefully one day replace less clean energy sources.”

Murray's research work has taken her across the globe, to renewable and tidal energy conferences in Ireland, Sweden, Denmark and South Korea. She's thrilled to be working in a newer field that can make a major environmental and economic impact – and one that brings out her creativity.

“There’s so many different avenues that you could take,” she says. “For an engineer, it’s a playground.”


Amanda Colella-Centazzo, master's student

Research focus: Blood flow in stents

Read Amanda's profile

Amanda Colella-Centazzo first spoke to Dr. Clifton Johnson, NSERC Chair in Design Engineering at Dalhousie, as she was completing her undergraduate degree at McGill. When she discovered Dr. Johnson’s emphasis on creativity, innovation and hands-on design, she knew Dalhousie was the place to pursue her master’s degree.

Under the supervision of Dr. Johnson, Colella-Centazzo is now conducting research that combines mechanical and biomedical engineering. Her work has the potential to improve understanding and treatment of arterial diseases.  

“If someone has a clogged artery or an aneurysm or any kind of disease inside of their arteries, the way that surgeons treat it is to expand and prop open the artery with a metal cylinder called a stent,” she explains. “But your body can sense that the blood flow is being disturbed (by the stent), which can lead to other complications such as the formation of blood clots."

“Our lab is trying to figure out what these blood flow disturbances are and what they look like compared to an artery that doesn’t have a stent in it. And then further grad students would look into designing stents that have a more natural flow through them.”

Colella-Centazzo enjoys her lab’s focus on creativity and practical results that make a real difference in the world.

“I think the approach of this lab is really unique. I looked at other labs, but I felt like here I had a lot more freedom.”

Al-Mokhtar Mohamed, PhD 

Research focus: Improving the grinding process in manufacturing

Read Al-Mokhtar's profile

Even engineers who have already built a professional career see the value and benefits of a graduate education at Dalhousie University.  Just ask Al-Mokhtar Mohamed, a PhD candidate who left his home country of Libya several years ago to study at Dal.

“Before I came here, I worked as an engineer in my country for around 10 years,” Mokhtar says. “For my master’s (at Dal) I got a scholarship from my country and for my PhD I got a scholarship from (Dal faculty members) Dr. Andrew Warkentin and Dr. Robert Bauer.”

During his master’s degree studies, Mokhtar investigated the effect of heat transfer in grinding.  This research was led by Dr. Warkentin.  “Dalhousie is a leader of grinding process research,” Mokhtar says.  “And Dal’s faculty have the most expertise in this field.”

For his PhD project, Mokhtar is working on developing a grinding wheel that improves grinding productivity and efficiency with less heat generation.

“Heat can damage a workpiece.  You don’t want heat damage to occur, especially if you are grinding very expensive pieces like aerospace parts,” Mokhtar says. “We developed a new practical system for grooving and re-grooving the grinding wheel and we started to get a deeper depth of cuts and also consume less power."

Mokhtar says he enjoys the focus on design and problem-solving that comes with his research.

“In this research, you also learn how to design and build equipment. For example, we designed, built and tested a method for grooving the grinding wheel that never found in the literature.”