Core Teaching Team
Dr. Syed Imran Ali, PhD – Course Director
Dr. Ali is an experienced aid worker and engineering researcher who seeks ways to improve public health engineering in humanitarian response. He has worked as a water and sanitation specialist and led operational research with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF/Doctors Without Borders) and UNHCR (the UN High Commissioner for Refugees) in South Sudan, Pakistan, Jordan, Rwanda, Uganda, and elsewhere. Dr. Ali has taught at the University of California-Berkeley, where he completed a postdoctoral fellowship, and holds a PhD in environmental engineering from the University of Guelph. Dr. Ali is a Fellow at the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research and Adjunct Professor in the Lassonde School of Engineering at York University. Dr. Ali is Founder and Lead of the Safe Water Optimization Tool Project (https://www.safeh2o.app/), a water quality data analytics platform that helps ensure drinking water safety during humanitarian emergencies.
James Brown, MEng, FRSA –Associate Course Director
Mr. Brown is a water, sanitation and public health engineering expert, with over nine years’ experience leading humanitarian and development projects across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. His work has involved the set-up of community health centres in Sierra Leone with Oxfam during the Ebola outbreak, coordinating contingency planning ahead of the Mosul offensive in Iraq with the Global WASH Cluster, and designing water supply and sanitation programs in South Sudan, Myanmar, Liberia, Iraq, Ukraine, Nigeria, and Lebanon with Oxfam, GOAL, and NRC. Prior to his work in the humanitarian sector, James co-founded Red Button Design – a social enterprise in the UK developing appropriate technology solutions for safe water access in rural communities. James specializes in bringing a diverse set of perspectives, from technical engineering to user-centred design, data science and business strategy, to the design of innovative, effective humanitarian programmes.
Dr. Khalid Kadir, PhD – PBL Facilitator
Khalid is a Continuing Lecturer at the University of California-Berkeley and a WASH Specialist with Global Support for Development (GSD). At Berkeley, he teaches courses in Civil and Environmental Engineering, the Global Poverty & Practice program, and Political Economy, and with GSD he supports rapid responses to emergencies. Khalid received his PhD in civil and environmental Engineering from Berkeley in 2010. His doctoral research focused on pathogen removal in water and wastewater treatment systems, and he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to work on water and wastewater treatment in Morocco. Khalid has a highly distinguished teaching and research career at Berkeley including being selected as a Chancellor’s Public Scholar in 2013, awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Public Service for Service-Learning Leadership in 2014, and received UC Berkeley’s Distinguished Teaching Award, the campus’ most prestigious honour for teaching in 2017.
Cheryl McDonald, MSc – PBL Facilitator
Ms. McDonald is a skilled humanitarian professional with over 18 years of experience working in international development, emergency, and protracted crisis. She has managed and advised on water, sanitation and public health programmes across Africa and Asia including in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Kenya, Indonesia, Madagascar, and Haiti. Her work has included serving as the advisor for the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office funded Global WASH results programme and as the humanitarian expert on a 12-month evaluation of UNICEF’s WASH programming. Cheryl has been on the Red Cross emergency roster since 2011, most recently deploying to Bangladesh for the Rohingya refugee crisis. Cheryl holds a Masters in Civil and Environmental Engineer from Southampton University, a MSc in Water and Waste Management from the National School for Water and Environmental Engineering in Strasbourg, and is a Chartered Civil Engineer.
Dr. James Orbinski, OC, MSC, BSC, MA, MD
Dr. Orbinski is a professor and the inaugural Director of York University’s Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research. Dr. Orbinski has a highly distinguished career in humanitarian action and research. He has worked providing medical relief in situations of war, famine, epidemic disease, and genocide with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF/Doctors Without Borders). He was elected International President of MSF from 1998-2001, accepted the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to MSF in 1999, and co-chaired the founding of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative in 2004. He is the author of the best-selling book An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarianism in the 21st Century. In 2016-2017, as a Fulbright visiting professor to the University of California-Irvine, he worked on modelling the health impacts of climate change. Dr. Orbinski holds a BSc from Trent University, an MD degree from McMaster University, and an MA in International Relations from the University of Toronto. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada and received the Meritorious Service Cross for his leadership in providing direct medical relief in Kigali during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
Prof. Satinder Kaur Brar, PhD
Prof. Satinder Kaur Brar is James and Joanne Love Chair in Environmental Engineering at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering. Her research interests span both environmental biotechnology and ecological decontamination technologies, and she leads the research group at the Bioprocessing and Nano-Enzyme Formulation Facility at York University. Much of her work has been on the understanding conversion of residues into high value bioproducts as well as integrating decontamination with resource recovery. Dr. Brar is an Academician at the European Academy of Science and Arts since 2021 and a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada. She has co-edited 15 books on environmental engineering and has about 360 research publications. Her research laboratory over the past 16 years has trained 25 PhDs, 8 Master’s and 6 postdoctoral students.
Prof. Ali Asgary, PhD
Prof. Asgary is Associate Professor in Disaster & Emergency Management at York University. His area of research and teaching is on disaster and emergency modelling, mapping, simulations and exercise; post disaster recovery and reconstruction; and organizational and business continuity and resilience. Prof. Asgary is the Director of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Centre International de Formation des Acteurs Locaux (CIFAL) at York and the Associate Director of the Advanced Disaster, Emergency and Rapid-response Simulation (ADERSIM). He has served as the global board member of the International Association of Emergency Management (IAEM) and president of the IAEM-Canada from 2007-2009. Prof. Asgary was among the recipients of the York Research Leaders Award in 2015 and 2019. He is currently involved as PI and Co-PI in a number of major research projects funded by SSHRC, CIHR, NSERC, DRDC, and IDRC, among others.