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The solutions to modern-day problems lie at the intersection of disciplines, not in single disciplines

BY Partnership Promotion

18th Nov 2022 Life

A profile on Professor Aziz Guergachi and his philosophical outlook

Aziz guergachi

Born and raised in Safi, an old coastal city with a rich history in Morocco, Aziz Guergachi is a tenured professor at Toronto Metropolitan University in Toronto, Canada. A former visiting scholar at the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences in Toronto and at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna, Guergachi received his undergraduate education in France, where he got two Bachelor's degrees in engineering from Ecole Centrale Marseille and Mathematics from Aix-Marseille University. Currently, he engages and leads post-doctoral fellows and graduate and undergraduate research students from across Toronto Metropolitan University's campus in interdisciplinary research programs that cover fundamental and applied research with applications in industrial and governmental sectors.

Guergachi's Way

Initially, Mr. Guergachi was criticized for his way of tackling multiple research topics in one go, leading people to anticipate that he would fall short and his work would never live up to his expectations. The anticipations and speculations didn't affect Mr. Guergachi's assiduity to meet his goals by successfully managing to make significant progress on all his projects simultaneously. Yet, his approach to research starts simply by asking a basic question: "What is the problem?" which may look trivial, but it is a critical question. A renowned physicist once famously said: "If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it". Still, when we attempt to address the 'What is the problem?' question, we often put huge walls around our respective disciplines, which makes it easy for us to analyze the challenges at hand, but often leads to the wrong problem statement. Mr. Guergachi's way is to open up to other worldviews and hear from other disciplines because of the enormous complexities of the challenges. For instance, when he got into his Ph.D. studies in the mid-90s at the University of Ottawa, Mr. Guergachi aimed to work on systems associated with a large amount of 'disorder' (often referred to as 'entropy' in physical sciences). He ended up selecting wastewater and its biological treatment as his Ph.D. research topic. His research endeavors started in the civil engineering department. Still, he reached out to multiple bodies of knowledge in electrical engineering, mathematics and computer science to define the research problem. His Ph.D. thesis was eventually nominated for the best Ph.D. thesis award at the Ottawa-Carleton Institute Joint Institutes. An internationally renowned eminent scholar described it as "a highly unusual thesis."

Mr. Guergachi's back-to-back success as a multitasker made people admit that his multitasking is one of his greatest strengths. According to him, working on multiple projects at the same time helps him develop the connection among the projects and come up with something unique, which he might not have found working on an individual project. Ultimately, his multitasking ability has always brought more innovations.

"The solutions to modern-day problems lie at the intersection of disciplines, not in single disciplines. It's similar to a soccer game. Defensive and offensive players pass the ball to each other, and when the best moment comes, one of those players will score. So, it is hard to state the role of individual players in scoring the goal." – Aziz Guergachi

Mr. Guergachi is aware of the fact that conducting interdisciplinary research is easier said than done. According to him, two prerequisite conditions must be satisfied in the community before interdisciplinary research becomes meaningful and effective. The first is humility, and the second is an advanced skillset for the non-expert to communicate with the expert.

Mr. Guergachi has published and co-published multiple visionary papers and made significant progress in several research programs. His work has escalated him at many international forums, and he is now regarded as one of the leading researchers in his field. Aziz's story is an array of fruitful outcomes of thinking out of the box. His unique multitasking research approach has cemented his contribution to his respective fields. His research contributions are in the diverse areas of digital health and well-being, the manufacturing industry in advanced economies and national strategies to protect it, wealth distribution models and their applications, and environmental systems management in the global economy.

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