Rabab Ward

Rabab Ward

Rabab Ward
IEEE Vice President-Educational Activities

Rabab has 45 years of post-doctoral experience in leadership, education and research. She was IEEE Division 1X Director, President of Signal Processing Society, Director of a research institute of 160 professors (1996-2007), held high leadership positions at University of British Columbia and was member of advisory boards and committees of international organizations including NRC, NSERC, NSF, RSC, BC ASI, PIMS, QNRF. She has published widely in signal processing and applications. Her work was transferred to US and Canadian industries.

Rabab holds many firsts for women in engineering, e.g., the first woman to join the professional engineering society in her country of birth, Lebanon (1967), to be appointed as lecturer in engineering in Zimbabwe (1975), as professor in engineering in British Columbia (1981), and the first woman holding a Ph.D. to be appointed as professor of electrical engineering in Canada. In 1972, she was the second woman to earn a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Berkeley.

Rabab is Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Member of the (USA) National Academy of Engineers and Fellow of the IEEE, the Canadian Academy of Engineers, and the Engineering Institute of Canada. A winner of multiple awards including the Machlachlan Award (2007), the top professional engineering award of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists in B.C, Canada for demonstrating “engineering at its best" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CYKE_mfrkw , and the 2008 IEEE SPS Society Award for technical achievements and leadership in the profession. She and her research had a wide impact on society.

Her research interests are mainly in signal and image processing and their applications to multimedia, medical imaging, face recognition, infant cry signals and brain computer interfaces. She has published 240 refereed journal and 340 refereed conference papers, and holds ten patents. She developed an improved method for processing mammograms so that 68% of breast cancer could be detected a year earlier than was previously possible, pioneered self-paced brain computer interfaces which allows people with mobility impairments to control various devices at any time they wish, and developed a way for cable television operators to automatically test their systems without having to interrupt TV signal transmission.

Rabab is professor emeritus of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UBC, Canada, she was the Science and Engineering Coordinator at UBC (2008-2015). In a national competition, Dr. Ward secured a $22.4 million grant which resulted in the creation of a new building in 2005 which was then the only centre in the world housing all equipment related to human-centered technologies.

She has supervised and graduated 47 Ph.D. students and over 50 research Master students. She was honored with the most competitive UBC Killam Senior Mentoring Award (2014) https://www.grad.ubc.ca/awards/killam-awards-excellence-mentoring, whose criteria include supporting diverse students to reach their full potential in ways tailored to each individual. A goodwill ambassador in popularizing the power of engineering, a pioneer and role model for women in engineering, Rabab has volunteered countless hours to speak to high school and undergrad students about engineering and to reach out to prospective women engineers.

Significant IEEE Activities


  • Member of Ad-Hoc Committee on IEEE your professional Home (2022)
  • Member of Ad-Hoc on President-Elect Election Pilot (2022)
  • Member of TAB/EAB Ad Hoc on Continuing Education Development (2022)
  • Chair Education Subcommittee in IEEE Humanitarian Committee (2022)
  • Member, Tellers committee (2022)
  • IEEE Director Division 1X (2020-2021)
  • TAB N&A Committee (2021-present)
  • Ad-Hoc Committee on strengthening the IEEE Constitution (2021)
  • IEEE Ad-Hoc Committee on Election Practices and Oversight (2021)
  • Co-Chair, IEEE Life-Long-Learning Committee (2020-2021)
  • Young Professionals Executive Committee (2020)
  • TAB Management Committee (2018)
  • WIE Executive Committee (2018)
  • Chair, TAB Ad-Hoc Committee on Africa and Education (2016-2017)
  • Member-at-Large, TAB Strategic Planning Committee (2017)


  • Chair, Signal Processing Society (SPS) Awards Board (2019-2021)
  • President/President-Elect, IEEE Signal Processing Society (2014-2017)
  • V.P. Conferences, SPS (2003-2005)
  • Member of SPS Board of Governors (2002-2005, 2008-2010, 2014-2017)
  • Fellow Reference Committee (2008-2010)
  • Conference Board (2006-2007, 2012-2014)
  • Editorial Board of IEEE Signal Processing Magazine (2006-2009)


  • Awards Committee (2013-2014, 2017-2020)
  • Co-founder, Vancouver SPS Chapter (2004)
  • Chair, IEEE Vancouver Student Chapter (1985-1987)
  • V.P. Western Canada (1990-1995), Canadian Society for Electrical and Computer Engineers (merged into IEEE to become IEEE Canada Region 7)

IEEE: Chairing 4 Flagship Conferences

  • Co-Chair “MGA’s IEEE Canadian Conference on Electrical and Computer Engineering (2016)
  • Chair, International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing (2013)
  • Chair, International Conference on Image Processing (2000)
  • Co-Chair, International Symposium on Circuits & Systems (2004)
  • Chair, Symposium on Signal Processing and Information Technology (2006)
  • Chair, Multi-Media Signal Processing Workshop (2012)


  1. Led IEEE TAB effort on Africa and Education; sponsored around 30 educational and professional development courses/workshops/tutorials in six African countries (2016-2017). Each year, over 400 individuals attended /participated, including faculty and students from more than 18 universities across Africa, and government and industry professionals
  2. Responsible for the African Distinguished Visitor Program of the IEEE Ad-Hoc Committee on Africa (2019), raised $10,000 from societies and put 14 lectures in 5 African countries, reaching many hundred attendees from universities and industry.
  3. As President of SPS, initiated several programs that targeted industry practitioners, chapters, young professionals and women.
    These included the introduction of the yearly Distinguished Industry Speaker program, special awards for industry and chapters, SPS Blog, educational webinars, travel grants for industry practitioners to attend SPS conferences, and professional development events for women and young professionals in all SPS major conferences, Introduced a redesigned SPS website, enhanced SPS social media presence, extended the Student Career and the Women Luncheons to all SPS major conferences. Introduced special measures to allow all nationals affected by any travel ban to participate in SPS conferences.
  4. Outreach to educate and advocate for engineering and signal processing among high school students and public-at-large, Rabab produced and directed six PR videos. The videos “What is Signal Processing” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EErkgr1MWw0 and “Signal Processing and Machine Learning” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mexN6d8QF9o each received over 110,000 hits on YouTube (and translated into Spanish, Mandarin and Arabic). Another video “Under the Radar” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vcii84n7piw won the Favourite Audience Award and was on the entertainment program of all Air Canada flights in 2017.

Relevant Experience

Global academic experience in three continents:

  • Studied 5 years at University of Cairo, Egypt; and 5 years at University of California, Berkeley.
  • Engineer (1966-1967), Ministry of Hydro-Electric-Resources, Lebanon
  • Lecturer/Senior lecturer, (1975-1979) Electrical Engineering Dept., University of Zimbabwe
  • Faculty member, teaching/ research/service and leadership, since 1979, Electrical and Computer Engineering Dept, UBC, Canada
  • Advisor to UBC VP Research and International on the Middle East (2009-2014)
  • Consulted/interacted with industries in Zimbabwe, USA, and Canada.
  • Member of international advisory group of her highness Sheika Mozah of Qatar (2006-2008), to enhance research in Qatar.
  • Member of UBC consulting group (2001-2003) that designed a new university for Kuwait, whose graduates would be proficient in both engineering and business.

IEEE Education Related Experience:

  • Leader of TAB Ad-Hoc on Africa (2016-2017): we stressed “Educating the Educators in the Digital Era". Although the attendees of our courses were university lecturers in Africa, we also had several lectures and events for students, industry practitioners and government policy makers. 
  • Responsible for the African Distinguished Visitor Program, for the IEEE Ad-Hoc Committee on Africa (1919)
  • Member of the IEEE Working Group on Engineering Education in Africa (2019-2020)
  • Co-chair/member of IEEE Ad-Hoc on Long-Life-Learning, 2020- present
  • Member of TAB/EAB Ad Hoc on Continuing Education Development (2022-)
  • Initiated the Education Webinar series at SPS (2017)

Rich volunteer experience in MGA and TAB and proven collaborative skills: these are important because the success of IEEE education activities will be significantly enhanced by its active participation with Societies/Councils, Sections/Chapters, and Standards.

Why should we select you to serve in this position?

I have passion for education and in taking IEEE Education Board to a higher level.
I have proven leadership qualifications in collaboration with stakeholders to enhance institutions.

-Director of UBC ICICS (1996-2007), a multidisciplinary research institute, whose vision was to encourage multidisciplinary collaboration amongst UBC depts and between these depts. and the hi-tech industry. During my tenure as Director, we expanded the vision of the Institute, and increased the number of professors and student members. For example, the number of professor membership increased from 62 to 160 (from 4 to15 departments across various fields of engineering, science, business, medicine, dentistry, forestry, pharmaceutical, and arts). This increase necessitated that we significantly modify the Institute's structure, policies and procedures which I led and instituted.

To raise funding for this expansion, I led 120 professors to win a countrywide competition, obtaining $ 22.4 million from Canada and BC governments and $10 million in equipment from industry. This resulted in a new 7 story building dedicated to multidisciplinary research.

UBC’s Science and Engineering Research Coordinator (2008-2015), (UBC has 2 campuses and 67,000 students). During my tenure, the UBC portion of competitive NSERC funding rose significantly and became the highest amongst all universities in Canada. NSERC is Canada’s government agency that funds research to universities and colleges

President, Signal Processing Society (17,000 members), nurtured to success many new conferences and Transactions which were introduced just before I became president (but needed strengthening). My main focus otherwise was offering better services to our members.

Position Statement

  • The Education Board does the best job possible with its limited resources. I will stress to IEEE BoD that investing in this Board will enable it to add the resources needed to overtake the tough competition outside and make IEEE the place to go to for the best continuing education. Investing in education will reap IEEE the highest benefit on the long term. There is a great demand for good continuing education by all IEEE members (and non-members). We should first focus should on industry members.
  • The recently started " Long Life Learning” effort in IEEE should grow to encompass more technical subjects. It should take into consideration how to personalize education according to problems faced by engineers in different parts of the world.
  • It is extremely important for the Education Board (for long term success) to actively collaborate with TAB and with MGA in creating courses, demos, videos and in disseminating knowledge.
  • Traditionally engineering education has followed the one-size-fits-all model. This education model for the assembly line is now obsolete. We are now experiencing fast technological changes with new learning directions and new developed tools to address them.
  • We must address the gender, ethnic and color gaps. Changing the misconception that engineering is white men in hard hats should start in schools. The problem is no one is teaching anything about engineering there. Need to educate school teachers about engineering, and equip them with tools (textbooks, videos, knowledge etc.), so they can integrate STEM activities in the classroom.
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