2024 Frank Spragins Technical Award Recipient

This award is presented to APEGA members recognized by their peers for their integrity, technical expertise, and outstanding accomplishments in fields relating to engineering or geoscience. 

Dr. Zengtao Chen, P.Eng.

Dr. Zengtao Chen, P.Eng.

Professional engineer Dr. Zengtao Chen has an innate curiosity for how things work—and how to make them work better—which he channels into his research activities.

A global authority on the mechanics of materials, Dr. Chen’s groundbreaking research and technical innovations have had positive effects on the environment, the economy, and society. One of the most influential and prolific researchers in his field, his efforts focus on the strength and durability of lightweight metal alloys and composite materials, and their performance under extreme conditions.

Whether he’s designing lighter automobiles that use less fuel and produce fewer emissions, building safer pipelines, creating high-precision machine parts, developing value-added pulp and paper products, or investigating heat transfer in electric vehicle batteries, Dr. Chen’s work is on the leading edge.

“I’ve always strived to advance the development and application of smart materials for the sustainability of our society and well-being of humankind,” reveals Dr. Chen. “As a researcher, I would like to see my work improve people’s lives and inspire younger generations, particularly from under-represented groups, to choose engineering as their future career.”

A professor in the University of Alberta’s department of mechanical engineering, his achievements across nearly four decades have resulted in improved manufacturing techniques and several new standards and guidelines in modelling simulation and design. Dr. Chen’s highly sought-after expertise has led to extensive research partnerships with academic institutions, industry, and government labs across Canada and the world.

Passionate about sharing his knowledge, Dr. Chen has published three books, more than 285 papers in esteemed journals, and an abundance of conference papers and research reports. He also serves as an editor and reviewer for numerous journals, has spearheaded more than 20 international conferences, and is frequently invited to be a keynote speaker.

Dr. Chen’s dedication to training future professionals is equally commendable. He’s taught hundreds of undergraduate students and has supervised more than 80 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows who have become academic and industrial leaders. “It’s a great feeling working with so many creative and energetic students and colleagues to discover solutions to very challenging issues,” he says.

For Dr. Chen, technical excellence is measured by the positive effects of his work, the respect of his peers, and by making lasting contributions to the engineering profession as a whole. “To become an engineer was my childhood dream. It’s what I love to do, and I’m deeply humbled by this recognition.”

Awards and Distinctions

  • Fellow, Canadian Academy of Engineering (2023)
  • Fellow, Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering (2020)
  • Hiwin Doctoral Dissertation Award, Supervisor Award, Chinese Mechanical Engineering Society (2019)
  • Fellow, American Society of Mechanical Engineers (2017)
  • University Research Scholar (no more than two each year), University of New Brunswick (2012–2014)
  • Mechanical Professor of the Year and Teaching Excellence Award, University of New Brunswick (2012)
  • Most Cited Paper, International Journal of Applied Mechanics (2009–2015)

Professional Affiliations and Activities

  • Leading Guest Editor: International Journal of Fracture (2022–2024); Materials (2020; 2016; 2010); Advances in Mechanical Engineering (2017–2019)
  • Editorial Board Member: Coatings (2020–present); Materials (2020–present); Journal of Pipeline Engineering and Science (2019–2022); Advances in Mathematical Physics (2018–present); Nano Materials Science (2018–present)
  • Member: APEGA (2014–present); Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering (2013–present); APEGNB (2005–2014); American Society of Mechanical Engineers (2004–present); PEO (2004–2015)
  • Executive Board Member, Canadian Fracture Research Group (2009–present)