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Get to Know the Acting Dean of Engineering Dr. Yi Liu

Posted by Emily MacKinnon on October 13, 2023 in News
In July of 2023, Dr. Yi Liu assumed the role of Acting Dean of Engineering.
In July of 2023, Dr. Yi Liu assumed the role of Acting Dean of Engineering.

In 2015 Dr. Yi Liu took on the role of Department Head in the Faculty of Engineering, and in July 2023 she assumed the role of Acting Dean – the first woman to hold the position. During fall convocation, Dr. Liu took to the stage to offer some evergreen bits of wisdom:

“We, as a society, often shy away from the notion of failure. However, I want to challenge you to reframe your understanding of that word. Failure is not an end point; it is neither final nor fatal. It is an essential ingredient of a well-lived life; a stepping-stone on the path to truth and success.

The value of life is not measured by how quickly and easily you achieve your goals. Rather, it is how you experience life with its whole spectrum of flavours – the bitter, the sweet, and everything in between. Bitterness is essential to give meaning to the sweetness.”

So, who is the woman behind these wise words? Get to know the Faculty of Engineering’s Acting Dean in this short Q&A.

1. What’s the most surprising thing that has happened to you since becoming Acting Dean? (Has everything gone according to plan, or have you had to pivot at all?)

I sort of knew what I had in store for me when I was called upon to do this job, but the experience has been eye-opening. I get to see all aspects of the operation at the university level and appreciate the Dean’s critical role in moving each faculty towards excellence and progress while also achieving the collective goals of the university. One thing I learned since I became the acting Dean is to expect the unexpected. Unexpected situations may happen any day of the week. The Dean needs to be prepared and ready to respond to and deal with them in real time. I like to say there is not a dull day at work. And so far, I have been looking forward to going to work and taking care of business of the day, expected or unexpected. 

2. What advice do you have for students interested in pursuing graduate or post-graduate engineering education?

I think that the following three pieces of advice might be applicable to all students who want to pursue higher education. These are also things that have served me well in my pursuit of engineering.

1. Understand Your Goals:
Take the time to reflect on your career goals and how engineering education aligns with them. Consider the specific area of engineering that most interests you and research the relevant programs and specializations.

2. Chart Your Academic Path:
Ensure you have a strong foundation in the fundamentals of engineering in the discipline you choose. Be open to adjusting your educational and career plans as you gain more experience and    insights. Take advantage of all opportunities for various forms of learning that the university provides.

3. Stay Disciplined and Resilient:
The pursuit of advanced engineering education may have its challenges, but discipline and resilience are key to overcoming obstacles and achieving your goals.

3. Do you bring your lunch to the office or buy your lunch?

I bring my own lunch to the office most of the time. My favourite lunch combo is a grilled eggplant and halloumi panini, an oatcake cookie and a latte. 

4. Since one of your areas of interest is structural analysis and design, do you find yourself analyzing every building you enter, or are you able to separate your research and work from everyday life?

I do catch myself doing that sometimes, but certainly not for every building. One place I do spend time appreciating architectural features and structural aspects is airports, especially during layovers. Another place I visited recently that I couldn’t get enough of was the Sagrada Família [basilica] in Barcelona, Spain. It is a prime example of how architecture and structural aspects work in beauty and harmony.

5. If you weren’t in academia, what would you be doing?

I would be in the field of psychology. I have always loved learning about it, especially how human psychology affects social and economic behaviours.

6.  Where is your favourite spot on the Sexton campus?

My favourite spot is the sitting area nestled between the Halifax Public Library and the G Building on the Sexton campus. You may find me there taking a break with a latte and just watching the world go by on a sunny afternoon in the summer.