By Jennifer Buchalter
Dragos Paraschiv knew at a very young age that he wanted to be an engineer. Growing up in Romania, he was always curious about how things work. "In elementary school, science was my favourite subject," recalled Dr. Dragos Paraschiv. "Rather than just playing with my new electric car, I was interested more in exploring how it worked," smiled Dr. Paraschiv.
He took advantage of every physics, chemistry and science class and chose a career in engineering that would feed his curiosity and fuel his passion for discovery. Today, he is a professor in the Sustainable Energy and Building Technology program in the Faculty of Applied Sciences & Technology where he teaches the next generation of engineering technologists for a career in the growing field of sustainable energy.
Dr. Paraschiv earned his Bachelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University "Politehnica" of Bucharest. While he was pursuing his PhD degree in Power Engineering, he lectured at the university where he developed course materials and delivered training on energy audits, high voltage equipment and electrical substation design, and collaborated as an electrical engineer at Forenerg Ltd. During his summer breaks, Dragos worked with the Peace Corps in Romania to support volunteers and help them integrate into the communities they came to serve.
During this time, he discovered that a career in engineering would benefit from a strong knowledge in finance and economics. So, Dr. Paraschiv decided that simultaneously, he would also study and earn his MBA through a partnership with Université du Québec à Montréal & the Bucharest University of Economic Studies.
"My first introduction to Canada was during my MBA studies," says Dr. Paraschiv. "Many of my professors were from UQAM and McGill University who travelled to Romania to teach us finance, economics and marketing. Then during my PhD studies, I participated in a seminar hosted by a team from Ontario Hydro who talked about advanced energy efficiency initiatives in Toronto," he adds. "That was a sign that I was destined to immigrate to Canada and pursue my engineering career on Canadian soil."
In 1999, he completed his PhD and soon after that started a new life in Canada. When he secured a position as a Senior Energy Engineer at MCW Custom Energy Solutions Ltd. little did he know that he would be provided with the opportunity to truly explore Canada from coast-to-coast-to-coast.
"When I secured my position with MCW, one of my first projects took me across Canada, in rural Cold Lake, Alberta," says Dr. Paraschiv. "Seeing the Northern Lights and witnessing the Canadian Forces Snowbirds during a spring air show was just incredible and I quickly fell in love with Canada."
Dr. Paraschiv spent close to ten years with MCW before joining the City of Toronto as the Program Operations Manager in the Energy Efficiency Office. While he was developing, coordinating and planning strategic energy conservation events in consultation with major stakeholders, he was driven to secure an academic position at a local university or college.
The 2009 Green Energy and Green Economy Act (now the Green Energy Act - GEA) was brand new Ontario legislation with the intention to expand renewable energy production, encourage energy conservation and create green jobs. Dr. Paraschiv learned about the new Sustainable Energy program at Humber College and secured a part-time instructor position to develop and deliver courses in renewable energy and energy efficient systems.
Fast forward more than 10 years and Dr. Paraschiv is now a full-time professor developing curriculum in the Sustainable Energy and Building Technology (SEBT) advance diploma program; establishing industry partnerships for co-op placements and research projects; and mentoring hundreds of engineering technology students.
"My PhD professor guided me towards a mutual respect between student and professor," says Dr. Paraschiv. "Since then, I have always challenged myself to be a positive mentor to my students and motivate them to excel in whatever career path they embark on."
"In the engineering industry, we are always challenged to educate the general public on the technical information," says Dr. Paraschiv. "What excites me about teaching at Humber is to challenge my students to channel that lack of understanding from the public and use critical thinking skills to reduce this gap."
When he is not developing new curriculum or implementing the new engineering degrees, you will find Dr. Paraschiv diving into a non-fiction or history book, such as the books written by three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, whom he likes to paraphrase: “Our society cannot move ahead without engineers.”
"When I started in this field, we were such a small group of people dedicated to sustainability and renewable energy," says Dr. Paraschiv.