Meet Husnain Haider, PhD '15, School of Engineering

Husnain Haider
"Being an engineering devotee, I can effectively participate in the welfare of humanity by developing efficient and environmentally friendly designs."

“Water migrates from high mountains, moves through intricate geology, and offers its body and soul for our sustenance. A complete understanding of water science and management is extremely complex; now, all of us should credulously conserve it for future.”- Husnain Haider, Class of 2015

To appreciate a bit of water’s forlorn tale above, Husnain has been striving hard for the last ten years in teaching and research related to water management. Whether it was overnight studies, long hours of lecture preparation, or the harsh environment for monitoring of laboratory and field data, Husnain has encountered countless challenges with passion and excitement. He is focused in developing models to solve multifaceted problems related to water quality deterioration and infrastructure management in both the natural and man-made systems.

After finishing his first PhD in Environmental Engineering from Pakistan in 2010, he is about to complete his second PhD Civil Engineering in water infrastructure management at The University of British Columbia.  He is looking forward to rejoin academia to continue his journey towards the pursuit of knowledge and service to humankind.

What has made your time at UBC the most memorable?

My dream to contribute to an understanding of the complexity of water science and management encouraged me to define my goals. Working with my supervisor has been the most memorable time at UBC. He motivated me, when I had to work on several difficult tasks at a time. I enjoyed the tremendous amount of hard work that it took to satisfy our clients’ requirements for the industrial projects I was involved in, while preparing lectures for the course I taught as a sessional lecturer, and executing and publishing my research in highly reputed journals.

Why did you choose Engineering?

I have always been in love with science and mathematics since my childhood, even when I was not much aware of their application in real world. Now I believe that it is a very noble profession, which provides solutions for widespread real world problems for the betterment of humankind. Engineering skills are not only useful for research and industrial projects, they also improve one’s analytical skills when dealing with various hurdles in routine life.

Tell me about your experience in Engineering. What have you learned that is most valuable?

Certainly, it was a great experience. Prior to joining UBC, I used more laboratory techniques and engineering design methods in my research. UBC’s competitive working environment further enhanced my critical thinking to solve complicated research projects. More importantly, I learned different methods of risk assessment, soft computing, multi-criteria decision-making, and their application in broad areas of water management.

How are you applying the skills you learned through your studies at UBC?

It started right after I joined UBC. For instance, I collected extensive data for treating bacteriologically contaminated water through solar disinfection in Pakistan. When I started my course work at UBC, I used the knowledge I obtained in one of the courses and developed a comprehensive model for solar disinfection under varying cloud cover conditions and water quality characteristics. There are more such examples, which enabled me to publish my research in reputed journals in addition to my focal PhD research at UBC. Moreover, UBC provided me an opportunity to observe world class professors; being an academic, I will try to adopt similar teaching techniques in future.

What has been your most memorable/valuable non-academic experience studying engineering at UBC?

During my studies in UBC, I met students from countries around the world. Through my interaction with a number of such people, I got an opportunity to learn their cultures, values and beliefs. I will always remember this valuable experience and would like to thank UBC for having such a multicultural environment.

How do you feel a degree in Engineering has benefitted you compared to a different field of study?

I believe that an aptitude for engineering can be a blessing for the community. Generally, engineering projects have a wide spectrum and involve diverse challenges, including cumbersome mathematical and analytical problems, wide-spread socio-economic impacts, complex decision making and advanced leadership requirements. Being an engineering devotee, I can effectively participate in the welfare of humanity by developing efficient and environmentally friendly designs.

What advice would you give a student considering Engineering?

Engineering is not fun unless you enjoy it. I cannot forget the following incident: once I had to spend a full day and night in a river without water and food when our boat went out-of-service during a monitoring survey. The very next morning, without any rest, I had to prepare the samples for analysis, which extended the duration of the overall activity to two consecutive days. In another situation, I spent 24 hours with mosquitoes while I was collecting samples to evaluate diurnal variations of wastewater characteristics.

In short, you have to be extremely passionate to survive in similar situations. Due to rapid technological advances, engineering students must be vigilant and consistently work hard to use the right tools for meeting the impending challenges of sustainable development in the twenty-first century. Within the first two years of common education, UBC orients students to choose the right field, depending on their interest. Students must avail themselves of this opportunity to decide on their career.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Actually, I find inspiration from ‘Good Things’, e.g., paintings, friends, parents, culture, mentors, scientists, activists, sportsmen, etc. I am inspired by anything that motivates me to positive enterprises. In particular, my father (who was also a professor of civil engineering) and both the supervisors of my first and second PhDs are the main inspirations of my life. I learned countless things about engineering and life in general from them.

What are your plans for the future--immediate? Long-term?

I developed an inclusive water quality management model for a highly polluted river with extreme flow variations during my first PhD. In my second PhD, I developed a comprehensive framework for performance and risk management of small to medium sized water utilities. Having an understanding of both the natural and manmade systems, I want to join a university as a faculty member to continue integrated research for managing water from source to tap. I would also like to work in broader areas of water management, such as policy making, sustainable development strategies, and asset management. 

How will you go on to make a difference in our world?

Everyone is aware of the importance of water management for the future. However, a large gap still exists for developing and implementing efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable technologies for reuse, recycling, conservation, and management of water, both in developed and developing countries. I will strive to be a part of on-going efforts to bridge this gap with dedication and hard work.