The Neverland of Learning
Thirty-two U.S patents, over 170 papers in referred journals, and $3.3 million raised in seed funding* are just a few of the credits attached to Dr. Rafik Loutfy’s name.
Now the director of EIE (Engineering, Innovation and Entrepreneurship) and innovator-in-residence at Ryerson University, Dr. Loutfy interviews students to “recruit” them into his program – and in a way, it seems as though he’s interviewing his former graduate self – probing for the same traits he’s demanded, and still demands, from himself all along his learning way.
He looks for passion, perseverance, preparation, and creativity.
From Cairo to London (the Canadian one) to Toronto, Dr. Loutfy has followed his passion for learning from one university city to another, and climbed the ladder of innovation from one international position to the next. Passion for learning, he says, is the main drive behind each global “jump” he’s made.
Having earned his MSc in Organic Chemistry from Ain Shams University in Cairo, Dr. Loutfy thought he had learned all he could in that field and decided to pursue another, thousands of miles away from his alma mater.
He earned a PhD in photo physics at the University of Western Ontario, and followed it with an MBA from the Rotman School of Management. With confident, measured strides, Dr. Loutfy was making his way from working with theory to applying it in praxis.
He was one of the first researchers to work at the corporate giant Xerox when it first opened its Research Centre in Canada, and slowly made his way up from working in a small cubicle to becoming a corporate officer.
“I did my homework”, he said when asked about his initial experience. He rummaged through books and journals in reference libraries, researching the company, its ins and outs, eventually making sure he knew about it more than those interviewing him for the position did.
Once in, he followed the same method when preparing to meet with clients – he knew what they needed, sometimes more than they did. Surely a good, sturdy approach to landing a position as a corporate officer – one of the 15 out of the 200,000 employees in the company, that is.
But, after more than 30 years, and feeling that he’s learned and accomplished all he could, Dr. Loutfy was once more driven by his passion for learning and meeting challenges into the world of academia.
Back in academia, Dr. Loutfy readjusted his knowledge and tailored it to fit academic values, such as raising funds and publishing papers, gaining credibility in the institution. Though different from the corporate world, Dr. Loutfy sees many similarities between the two types of institutions, recruiting customers/students and delivering a product/valuable knowledge being a couple of them.
Dr. Loutfy oversees the students’ projects (he’s overseen 90 students working on 30 startups), encourages them, and directs them with the experience he’s had in the “outside” world, so to speak.
He makes sure they find customer solutions that are both creative and sustainable. An approach that he wishes to incorporate into other academic institutions abroad, and, specifically, in the MENA region – that is, in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Tunisia, as well as in Mexico and India.
And why not relax at home instead?
For the mere love of it.
Dr. Loutfy enjoys interacting with students and facilitating conversations. “There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing young people blossom, grow, and learn from one another”. And surely, even in his free time, he oversees the youngest of his students, his grandkids, do just that – grow and shape their journey, one way or another.
*Raised for McMaster’s Master of Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, for students to build proof-of-concept for their enterprise projects.