By Hannah Yakobi
Photos by Luther Caverly

One of the most common challenges that recent university graduates face in the current job market is the lack of hands-on experience. This makes it difficult to secure internships or full-time positions at the start of their career.

The latest Collaborative Research and Training Experience Program (CREATE) research grants, totalling $3.3 million, awarded to several departments at Carleton will not only expand the focus on leading research programs in building sustainability and human computer interaction, but will also assist career expansion and help students build the skills necessary to successfully compete in the job market. The grants were awarded by the prestigious Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) earlier this year.


Mario Santana Quintero

Mario Santana Quintero, who is an assistant professor of Architectural Conservation and Sustainability at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, will receive the grant over the course of six years. The funds will be used by Santana Quintero and his team for the NSERC CREATE Heritage Engineering Program, which will address conservation, rehabilitation and sustainability of existing structures and designated historic buildings. Santana Quintero will be joined by program coordinator Laurie Smith, as well as 10 other professors from Carleton, Université de Montréal and Université du Québec à Montréal who will help supervise the students.

Thanks to the new grant, engineers and architects graduating from the program will learn how to retrofit buildings in the best way possible. Heritage protection and sustainability will be at the core of all their work. This year alone, Santana Quintero and Smith have six students joining the project, and they forecast that this number will expand to about 100 students over the course of the entire program implementation.


Laurie Smith


The Heritage Engineering Program Team ( left to right): Susan Ross, Jeremy Laliberté, Laurie Smith, Cécile Bulle, Chris Joslin, Mario Santana Quintero, Liam O’Brien, Mariana Esponda, Justin Berquist, Zeynep Ekim, Alex Federman, Carly Farmer.

Over 20 industry partners will support the students and their research, including ERA Architects, consulting engineering firm John G. Cooke & Associates, American software company Autodesk, Public Works and Government Services Canada, UNESCO and the National Trust for Canada. The program aims to address one of the United Nations Sustainability Goals focused on protecting city heritage.

One of the best elements of the program is that graduate and post-graduate students will spend 20 per cent of their time doing an internship with one of our industry partners

“This will assist their career growth. Students will be working on something valuable to them, something valuable to Carleton, and something valuable to society as a whole”, explains Santana Quintero.



“The program will support students from varied educational backgrounds, including engineering, architecture, Canadian studies and information technology,” adds Smith. “They will have an opportunity to engage in a meaningful and ongoing exchange of ideas, attend special forums, and collaborate in workshops and at roundtables.”

Mario and I are very excited to see this program integrating with the heritage sector, and it’s nice to see the government supporting it

Another recipient of the grant is Anthony Whitehead, who is an associate professor and the director at the School of Information Technology. His team will also receive a portion of the funding over six years to conduct a project called Collaborative Learning of Usability Experiences (CLUE).

“The project was created to help students develop their User Interface Design and User Experience Design skills with real problems that industry partners are currently working on,” explains Whitehead. “The project is a collaboration between Carleton, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, and Queen’s University, with 10 faculty members from various disciplines.”


The program will train Canada’s leaders in Human Computer Interaction – in the context of this project, it refers to the broad umbrella of activities that fall within the interdisciplinary field. The long-term goal is to improve trainees’ capabilities across the disciplines of psychology, computer science, information technology and design, through collaborative professional skills development, experiential learning and technical skills. This improved training regimen will be facilitated through short courses, hands-on workshops and industry-based colloquium series.

The program will provide students with a paid internship opportunity with one of our more than 30 industry partners

“The program will also help students transition from academia to industry via an internship component,” adds Whitehead. “It will provide students with a paid internship opportunity with one of our more than 30 industry partners. In addition, there are extra academic activities such as workshops and a lecture series that students will engage in.”


“The best thing I like about this project is that it provides a real, industry-based context to the university studies. It will allow students to better understand why the things we are teaching are important, and will help them engage with the learning process more deeply,” Whitehead concludes.