An engineering professor at the University of Waterloo with a lifelong interest in environmental protection has won a prestigious national award for scholars.

Keith Hipel, a professor of systems design engineering who earned his three degrees as a student at Waterloo, was named today as one of five winners of 2019 Killam Prizes through the Canada Council for the Arts.

Given annually to eminent, active scholars in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, health sciences, and engineering, the awards come with $100,000 prizes.

“Professor Keith Hipel continues to add to an outstanding career with this honour of the Killam Prize,” said Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor of Waterloo. “Professor Hipel is a world-class researcher and educator and has been an impactful member of our community. The entire University celebrates with him today as he is recognized for his many accomplishments.”

Hipel has been a professor for more than four decades, with a research focus on the development of modeling tools to break down, analyze and help solve complex problems, primarily those involving water resources and the environment.

“A model is really a simplification of reality so you can understand it better,” he said. “If you can understand it better, you can discuss it with others and hopefully make more informed decisions.”

The author of five books and almost 600 academic papers and conference articles, Hipel was described by the council as “globally renowned” for his unique research on conflict resolution, multiple criteria decision analysis, time series modeling, and other decision-making methodologies.

“It is wonderful that Professor Hipel is being recognized with such a prestigious prize,” said Pearl Sullivan, dean of Waterloo Engineering. “He has been a tireless champion of using a systems approach to address complex problems related to the environment, and the industrial and services sectors.”

Among the dozens of academic and professional honours he has received, Hipel is an officer of the Order of Canada, former president of the Academy of Science within the Royal Society of Canada, and the winner of several teaching awards.

He is the fifth professor at Waterloo to win a Killam Prize since the program started in 1981. Paul Thagard, a professor of philosophy, was the last Waterloo researcher honoured in 2013.

Previous nation-wide winners of Killam Prizes, which are selected by a peer committee, include Nobel Prize laureates Arthur McDonald and John Polanyi.

“It feels good,” said Hipel, coordinator of the Conflict Analysis Group at Waterloo. “To me, this is the top prize in engineering in Canada, and I share it with all of my students and colleagues.”