Professor Sietan Chieng Retires

Monday, February 23, 2015 | By Lindsay Cashin

Dr. Sietan Chieng retired from the Department of Civil Engineering in 2014, after 33 years at UBC.  Dr. Chieng grew up in Sarawak, one of the states of Malaysia, located on North Borneo Island.  His journey as an engineer began in 1968 when he was selected and sponsored by the Overseas Chinese Higher Learning Society to study soil and water engineering in the Department of Agricultural Engineering at National Taiwan University. Dr. Chieng obtained his Masters and Ph.D. degrees in agricultural engineering from McGill University, majoring in irrigation and drainage. In 1980, Dr. Chieng joined UBC as an Assistant Professor in the Bio-Resource Engineering Department.  During his career at UBC, Dr. Chieng worked as a Professor in two faculties: The Faculty of Agricultural Sciences (now called the Faculty of Land and Food Systems) and The Faculty of Applied Science. 

Dr. Chieng was trained as a soil and water engineer specializing in irrigation, drainage and hydrology.  In addition to his teaching and research activities at UBC, he has been constantly sought after by engineering consulting firms, governments and international organizations to assist in the implementation of large scale irrigation, drainage and soil reclamation projects in countries such as, China, India and Egypt. One of his most challenging projects was the CIDA (Canadian Internal Development Agency) funded (CAD $62 million) Rajasthan Agricultural Drainage Research Project (RAJAD) in India, where he served as the Chief Advisor to Drainage Research.  RAJAD was a 25000-hectare project aimed at soil salinity and waterlogging control for enhanced food production in irrigated monsoonal climatic conditions of semi-arid areas in the State of Rajasthan, India.  Dr. Chieng was the first Canadian Research Engineer who travelled to the RAJAD field site to design and establish research test sites (ranging from 50 to 200 hectares in size) in 1991, and was continually involved with the design, installation, and development of the field monitoring program until the end of the project in 2001.

Throughout his career, Dr. Chieng has been recognized with many awards, including the Canadian Society of Agricultural Engineering’s Young Engineer of the Year Award and Jim Beamish Soil and Water Engineering Award; the Canadian National Committee for Irrigation and Drainage’s Achievement Award; and the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage’s Award of Excellence.

When asked about what he misses the most about teaching and research, Dr. Chieng states “I like and treasure the sharing of knowledge and experience and the opportunity to interact with colleagues and students; I miss those interactions.”   Dr. Chieng is still in contact with his former students, many of whom work in Africa, South America, India, China and different parts of this continent.  Most of them are contributing their knowledge in the field of irrigation and drainage to achieve food security in their regions. Dr. Chieng adds: “I am proud to say that the tree of irrigation and drainage has been branching out beautifully because I have sowed the good seed during my time at UBC.”

Dr. Chieng comments that the most enjoyable thing about retirement is the liberty of having time to pursue his interests and dreams. He is an enthusiastic and skilled golfer, skier, badminton and ping pong player. He hopes he can maintain and continue to develop many friendships and professional interests with Civil, UBC and beyond in his remaining years in Vancouver.

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