Runaway growth in info systems institute

Offers unique multidisciplinary program

karen herland

President Claude Lajeunesse (foreground) and Vice-Provost Research Truong Vo-Van meet CIISE students Siamak Kolahi (left) and Rabeb Mizouni while touring the telecommunications service engineering research lab.

Photo by kate hutchinson

President Claude Lajeunesse was surprised to discover students and faculty crammed along the hallways all the way to the elevators when he visited the Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering’s (CIISE) fourth floor offices on René-Lévesque Blvd.

The greeting was arranged by institute Director Rachida Dssouli to mark the president’s visit on March 14. It was the third day of laboratory tours organized by Vice-Provost Research Truong Vo-Van, who accompanied the president. The tours are meant to highlight research achievements across the university.

After some introductions and photographs, Dssouli presented the considerable achievements of the graduate research and training program, which is barely three years old.

Dssouli, along with Depart-ment Administrator Sheila Anderson, were hired in June 2002. The next professor hired, Associate Director Mourad Debbabi, worked with them to develop Concordia’s program in information systems engineering through the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science. The first program developed was a graduate certificate in Service Engineering and Network Management.

A flurry of hiring from 2003 to 2004 expanded the institute. “We are unique in Canada to conduct research and offer multi-disciplinary programs information systems security and total quality systems engineering,” Dssouli said.

CIISE combines research and training related to information systems security, systems engineering, telecommunication software engineering, image processing and much more.

The program has attracted graduate students with bachelor’s degrees in engineering and computer science for the opportunity to earn an MSc or an MEng in either Information Systems Security or Quality Systems Engineering.

“We are committed to the training of experts in the areas of information systems, security and total quality,” Dssouli said.

“Our goal is to train technical leaders that are ready to fly when joining industry or governmental organizations.”

Currently the institute houses 10 full-time faculty (four of whom hold research chairs) along with two adjunct professors and a handful of positions pending. The institute is actively hiring another seven faculty members, with an eventual goal of 25 professors.

CIISE has about 200 graduate students, a quarter of whom are working on PhDs. Many of them came with the newly integrated faculty members.

CIISE faculty members have been very successful in securing funding from a variety of corporate and governmental agencies. If anything, it is suffering from growing pains.

“We have no trouble securing funds for research and equipment,” Associate Director Deb-babi said. “What we need is dedicated space to give the appropriate training to our students.”

The institute’s expansion has sent it spilling out of its René-Lévesque Blvd. location to the EV building on Ste. Catherine St., where nearly half of the graduate students have set up labs.

During a tour of those facilities, Professor Brigitte Jaumard, who holds a Concordia Research Chair, presented some of the facilities in the EV Building. Dssouli said this division of space hampered the synergy of working closely and physically together.

Debbabi added that the work that students do requires dedicated laboratories with specialized equipment for hands-on experience. The students need to conduct IT security experiments in safe and controlled circumstances.

The CIISE is on the brink of even more expansion. About 100 students joined the institute last year when new programs were added. The current hiring push, and a much-anticipated certificate in 3D gaming design slated to begin in September 2006, will swell the institute even more.