Oct. 24, 2022

Schulich engineering prof to lead major Canadian science congress in 2026

UCalgary's Derek Lichti named congress director for International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing convention in Toronto
Dr. Derek Lichti presents at the 2022 Congress
Derek Lichti speaks at the recent ISPRS Congress in Nice, France. Courtesy Derek Lichti

When an international science organization holds its first major event in Canada in more than a half-century in 2026, a University of Calgary professor will play a key role.

The International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS) has announced that Toronto will play host to its 2026 Congress. The last time it was held in Canada was in Ottawa back in 1972.

The organization also announced that Schulich School of Engineering professor Dr. Derek Lichti, MSc’96, PhD’99, will serve as the event’s congress director.

Lichti says the time is right to showcase Canada as a place of innovation in the growing field of geomatics engineering.

“Much has changed since 1972, so I want to show the world what we can do in terms of photogrammetry, remote sensing and spatial information sciences,” he says.

Long time coming

Lichti’s involvement with ISPRS actually spans more than two decades and includes time as a scientific working group chair and editor-in-chief of the ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, a position he held for two four-year terms between 2013 and 2020. He also volunteered to continue his duties in 2021 to help his successor with the transition.

“During my editorship, the number of manuscript submissions quadrupled and the number of editors more than doubled,” Lichti says. “When I started, the journal’s impact factor was around a three, and now it is over 11.”

In 2020, the professor in the Department of Geomatics Engineering received the Schwidefsky Medal for his contributions to the organization.

All the while, Lichti continued his research work at UCalgary, focusing on imaging metrology, 3D reality capture and biomedical engineering, among others.

A very clear decision

It was a long road to get ISPRS to Toronto. In 2016, the Canadian Remote Sensing Society made an unsuccessful bid to host the 2020 ISPRS Congress in Quebec City. Two years later, the Society decided to offer Toronto as host city for a 2024 bid.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced a delay in ISPRS making its decision, and Lichti says the person in charge of the Toronto bid saw a change in work roles, further getting in the way of leading a bid for what was now going to be the 2026 Congress.

With less than a year to get the bid together, Lichti stepped up to make sure the bid was seen at the ISPRS Congress in Nice, France, earlier this year.

“There was much work to do ahead of June 2022,” Lichti admits.

He made his case to the ISPRS General Assembly on the first day of the convention, then spent the better part of a week convincing voters that his country was the place to host the next congress.

“It was an intense time of networking and lobbying,” Lichti says. “There were two competing bids and  we didn’t know how it would all turn out.”

By a vote of 98-50, Canada was chosen as the next host country.

“I was quite elated after the week’s activities,” Lichti says. “I was also extremely proud since I was elected by my peers to lead this endeavour by a rather large margin.”

They put their faith in me to do this, so I feel quite honoured.

A time to remember

And now the real work begins for Lichti and his team to prepare for 2026.

As congress director, he will be responsible for everything related to it from sponsorships and promotion, to social and youth programming.

“I have an excellent organizing committee made up of colleagues from academia, industry and government from across the country,” Lichti says. “So, I won’t have to do everything myself, but I must make sure it all happens.”

He also has three key priorities that he will use as his definitions of success: the scientific program must be of the highest quality; there must be attractive sponsorship opportunities and an engaging exhibition; and participants must enjoy themselves.

Lichti says he will be able to lean on his past experiences to help guide him, along with a desire to take care of the little details so that participants can focus solely on the science, exhibition and other activities.

“I want people to feel that the event was more than worth the money they paid and the long distance they travelled,” he says. “I want them to positively remember the 2026 Congress for a long time.”