Doctoral graduate shows promise as an educator and in his research

Dr. Yuri Shardt, Photo: copyright of New Light Photography

Process industries are archiving historical data that has been collected over the course of plant operation and how to turn the data into useful information and knowledge has become a tremendous challenge in both academia and industry. This challenge was examined by Yuri Shardt, a postdoctoral fellow who graduated last week (November 21).

Dr. Shardt was born in Toronto and he moved to Edmonton to take his Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering in Computer Process Control at the University of Alberta. In his fourth year, he worked on an NSERC-funded project under Dr. Biao Huang and from there he wanted to continue at the U of A and working with Dr. Huang, who is world-renowned for his research in soft sensor and control performance assessment.

Dr. Shardt’s doctoral thesis focused on the field of process data quality assessment and closed-loop system identification. His work addresses the use of the historical data to develop process models for control, monitoring, and soft sensor applications (i.e. software where several measurements are processed together). His dissertation proposes a two-step method, consisting of data segmentation for data quality assessment with application to soft sensor development. The first step, data segmentation, seeks to separate the extracted data into regions or groups that can be described using the same model. The second step, data quality assessment, seeks to assess the data quality of each region/grouping. Finally, when applying the results to a soft-sensor system, it was determined that the configuration of the soft-sensor system can impact on the performance.

His research has a high industrial relevance as the models can be used to predict how to control or update the process, which in turn could save time and money. His work has led to five publications in prestigious journals such as Automatica and the Journal of Process Control and numerous conference presentations.

Dr. Shardt was also involved in the coordination of the Performance Assessment Technologies and Solutions (PATS) project from 2010 to 2012. The PATS project is a collaborative research initiative between: the University of Alberta, Syncrude, and the National Science, and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada to develop software that allows the assessment of controller performance both from practical and economic aspects. Dr. Shardt helped standardize the process and met with plant managers in Fort McMurray to discuss improvements to the software to fit their needs. He also developed a repository for version control to ensure that everyone had access to the latest version of the models.

He is the recipient of numerous awards including, the APEGA Gold Medal in Chemical Engineering, the Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship from NSERC for both his Masters and Doctoral work, and he also was the recipient of the Fraser Shirley Russell Teaching Fellowship.

 

Dr. Shardt’s PhD supervisor, Dr. Biao Huang said, “Not only did Yuri demonstrate excellent ability in his research, but he also did exceptionally well as a Teaching Assistant. The laboratory manual he created for the course has been continuously used.”

 

On teaching the course, CHE 358 - Process Data Analysis, Dr. Shardt said, “people came to me for help and I through that, I gained experience explaining concepts so I started to learn and understand what students wanted and how to deliver the information effectively.” He reflected further, “it does require a lot of preparation though. I would say you need to know 200% more than the students. You don’t present everything to them because that would be too much, but you can use the knowledge to help explain the material.”


Undergraduate student, Asem Alsaadi, said, He has a strong passion for what he does and will always go out of his way to ensure he answers students’ questions thoroughly and succinctly. He is also admired by other students around campus for his extremely helpful day-long MATLAB seminars that he voluntarily teaches on weekends on a regular basis.” 

Natalie Lauf, undergraduate student, said, “Yuri is an organized, intelligent, and thoughtful teacher who rose above his obligations to the course putting the understanding of his students first.”

Dr. Stevan Dubljevic, Professor in Chemical and Materials Engineering said, “Apart from his lab and teaching skills, the vision that Yuri has regarding all academic aspects of chemical engineering program is rare and he was one of the most valuable contributors in the graduate student population to our department’s academic effort.” 

Dr. Shardt is currently working on a postdoctoral project with Syncrude modelling primary separation vessels (PSV) to predict bitumen concentration using readily available process data.

 

In regards to continuing teaching he said, “you can’t predict the future, which is kind of funny because that’s what I do in my research, but I’d like to continue with a career in academia.”