A decade of leadership: Prof. Brent Sleeps completes his role as two-term CivMin Chair

CivMin’s Professor Brent Sleep completes his role as two-term Chair 

Professor Brent Sleep completes his role as Chair of the Department of Civil & Mineral Engineering (CivMin) as of June 30, 2023. We take a look back at the milestones and fond memories of his past 10 years at the helm, from 2013 to 2023.

Prof. Brent Sleep, Chair of CivMin, in his office. (Photo by Phill Snel, CivMin)


A familiar sight on St. George Street, along the U of T campus, many weekday mornings is a cyclist making a usual commute. This commuter, often sporting a red jacket, is headed for a corner office in the Galbraith Building, home to Engineering’s main entrance and CivMin’s leadership offices, specifically Office of the Chair.

Prof. Brent Sleep became Chair July 1, 2013 after first serving as associate chair, research from 2008-2012 and as acting director of the Lassonde Institute of Mining in 2012-2013. He joined us initially as an assistant professor in 1990, was promoted to associate professor in 1995 and to full professor in 2000.

Under his leadership, the Department changed its name from what had long been the Department of Civil Engineering (CivE), to the Department of Civil & Mineral Engineering in 2018 to better reflect the interdisciplinary aspects of the combined teaching and research fields, recognizing the breadth of experience of its faculty members and its strategic vision.

“We also rewrote the Constitution to make the Civil and Mineral programs more parallel to each other,” reflects Sleep on the deeper aspects of the name change. “We changed the structure so Mineral would have an associate chair and the Mineral Program would have equal representation on the various committees, particularly the undergraduate studies committee.”

“I’ve been able to hire so many new faculty. With 17 new professors over the past 10 years, 15 so far and two to be announced, it’s meant a great many interviews, meetings and letters. It’s been absolutely fantastic to bring in so many faces to CivMin,” he says with a familiar grin. In fact, seven of the last 15 new faculty members have been women, representing a rapid change for the Department.

Don’t forget to enjoy your time.

“Time management,” shares Sleep when asked about passing along advice to a new leader. “It’s really a full-time job, but you also want to keep your research program going and have time for your graduate students. But, also, don’t forget to enjoy your time too.

In reminiscing about the many socializing and networking events while the Chair, he says, “There’s a lot of great people, events and experiences. I’ll miss the opportunities to meet with a great many of our alumni, Industry Advisory Board and more – although I still hope to keep up connections through future department networking and social events”

You realize just how important the staff in the Department are in running it so well.

He’s quick to credit those who quietly keep the daily hum of the department going, “One of the things you realize is just how important the staff in the Department are in running it so well. All the directors, like Michelle, Nelly, Mel, and everybody else who’s in the Student Services team, the GB105 team, the Business Office, and our technical staff working away in labs and staff offices. There’s so many people who work in this department, in addition to the faculty. I’d especially like to thank Teresa [Miniaci] for all her fantastic support during my time as Chair”.

Many major milestones for CivMin have included the new facilities at the U of T Camp on Gull Lake – including the modern and flexible-use HCAT Bunkhouse and MacGillivray Common Room. Sleep credits former Chair, Professor Emeritus Brenda McCabe, for her pivotal role in this project, even though it was completed during his term.

Additionally, though it’s been years in conception, and just now being built, the new Adjustable Multidimensional (AMD) testing device in the Structural Testing Facilities (STF) to be installed on the Galbraith Building’s new strong floor will be a legacy of his time.

During his term, Sleep has renewed much more involved efforts to include industry and alumni in the Department. He reinvigorated the Civ Industry Advisory Board (IAB), now led by Chris Andrews as Chair, as well as initiated the Lassonde Mineral Engineering Program Advisory Board (LMEP AB) which held its inaugural meeting April 2023.

When asked why he chose to run for a second term as CivMin Chair, Sleep simply states, “I still had so much to do. There were things I had not done in the first term I still wanted to do. And I felt like I was still learning the other things involved in the role.”

Sleep did take a small gap between stints as Chair, taking a research leave for six months with Prof. Heather MacLean assuming the role as Interim Chair from January to June of 2019.

Recently recognized at a Faculty Council meeting, our outgoing Chair had further accomplishments listed. Among them:

  • He received his BASc and MASc degrees in chemical engineering and his PhD in civil engineering (water resources) from the University of Waterloo.
  • Sleep has also served on many departmental and Faculty committees. Since 2021, he has been faculty advisor to the U of T chapter of Engineers in Action (EIA), an international non-profit organization whose mission is to support development of sustainable systems and infrastructure with underserved communities, local experience and global partners.
  • He was named Senior Fellow, Massey College (2018-2021), Fellow of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering (2017) and Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada (2012) among other awards and honours.
  • His research is dedicated to developing innovative methods for remediation of soil and groundwater contamination, with a focus on organic contaminants. He has made outstanding contributions to the profession through editorships in leading journals in the water resources field, and active involvement on important panels and committees.

Please join in thanking Prof. Sleep for his outstanding contributions to the Department and to the Faculty.