Dal engineer elected fellow by the prestigious Canadian Academy of Engineering for distinguished service

- May 6, 2024

Dr. Graham Gagnon. (Danny Abriel photo)
Dr. Graham Gagnon. (Danny Abriel photo)

Dalhousie researcher Dr. Graham Gagnon has been elected as a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering (CAE), one of the highest honours an engineer can receive in Canada. 
Dr. Gagnon serves as director of Dalhousie’s Centre for Water Resources and Studies (CWRS) and has been instrumental in shaping engineering practices at Dalhousie for more than 25 years.  

His research programs, which have trained over 250 students and secured more than $50 million in research funding, have positioned him as a leading authority in applied water and wastewater research in Canada.

“Being recognized by my peers in the Academy is truly humbling and is recognition of the talented teams and partners that I have been fortunate to work with throughout my career,” says Dr. Gagnon, who also currently serves as dean of Dalhousie’s Faculty of Architecture and Planning.

Leading advances and adaptations

Dr. Gagnon's pioneering research has focused extensively on drinking-water safety, particularly in distribution systems and adaptation strategies to combat the impacts of climate change.

Through his roles as Canada Research Chair in Water Quality and Treatment and NSERC/Halifax Water Industrial Chair in Dal's Faculty of Engineering, he has spearheaded ground-breaking research, including the development of a rapid detection method for SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater. This method, now adopted by leading water-monitoring companies, has significantly accelerated the analysis process, aiding in pandemic response efforts. 
“The development of new methodologies in water has been a core pillar of research that we have conducted alongside Halifax Water, Moncton, LuminUltra and many other partners for several years,” says Dr. Gagnon. “This monitoring project was accomplished through the efforts of incredible research students and the support of colleagues in Nova Scotia Health.” 
In addition to his contributions in wastewater surveillance, Dr. Gagnon has been actively engaged in recent research aimed at improving the identification of water-borne pathogens using state-of-the-art genetic sequencing equipment. Furthermore, he has played an integral role in studying harmful algal blooms triggered by cyanobacteria, which have emerged as a pressing issue in Atlantic Canada. The impacts of climate change have intensified the spread of these bacteria, leading to their increased frequency and prolonged presence in Nova Scotia's lakes.

Supporting self-determination

However, one of his most notable achievements lie in his leadership and commitment in establishing the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority (AFNWA), a pioneering Indigenous-owned and operated water utility in Canada. 

Dr. Gagnon has dedicated more than 15 years to offering technical expertise and advisory support for the AFNWA's development, advocating for self-determination in water-service delivery for First Nations communities. His dedication to equity and sustainability in water management has left a lasting impact on the region

“I am honoured to support First Nations across Wabanaki and the AFNWA as they forge new paths in the pursuit of clean and safe water for their communities,” says Dr. Gagnon. “Together, we can develop Two-Eyed Seeing engineering education that will prepare Indigenous students to care for water in a good way.”

Dr. Gagnon continues to play a pivotal role in a research partnership between the AFNWA and Dalhousie University, supported by a $4.3 million NSERC Alliance-Mitacs Accelerate Grant. This collaborative effort aims to advance the AFNWA's mission of providing top-tier drinking water and treatment grounded in Indigenous knowledge and values. 

Dr. Gagnon's research focuses on implementing UV LED technology for wastewater treatment, aligning with the AFNWA's commitment to sustainability and innovation in water management. Through this partnership, he is actively shaping the future of water infrastructure and training a new generation of engineers, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to ensure the long-term success of the AFNWA and sustainable water management practices in the region.


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