Ahmad Al-Dabbagh

Assistant Professor

Electrical, Manufacturing, Mechanical
Other Titles: Principal's Research Chair in Control Systems (Tier 2)
Office: EME 3233
Email: ahmad.aldabbagh@ubc.ca

Graduate student supervisor

Research Summary

Networked control systems; fault diagnosis; cyber security; event-triggered communication and control; process monitoring and control; alarm systems

Courses & Teaching

ENGR 453 Internet of Things


Ahmad W. Al-Dabbagh is an Assistant Professor with the School of Engineering at the University of British Columbia. He is a Principal’s Research Chair in Control Systems (Tier 2) and is the Principal Investigator of the Okanagan Laboratory for Control Systems Research. Dr. Al-Dabbagh’s research interests are in the area of control systems, and his research focuses on networked cyber-physical systems and process data analytics.

Dr. Al-Dabbagh performed postdoctoral research at Imperial College London, the University of Toronto, and the University of Alberta (2018 – 2020). He received his PhD degree from the University of Alberta (2018), MASc degree from Ontario Tech University (2010), and BEng degree from Ryerson University (2007). Dr. Al-Dabbagh is a licensed Professional Engineer with Professional Engineers Ontario. He has more than three years of industrial work experience in design, development, and commissioning of control, monitoring, and automation solutions, mainly for manufacturing and energy applications.

Dr. Al-Dabbagh was a recipient of several highly competitive scholarships and awards, including an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship, an NSERC Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship, an Alberta Innovates Graduate Student Scholarship, a Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarship, and a Governor General’s Academic Medal (Gold).


Okanagan Laboratory for Control Systems Research


PhD, Electrical and Computer Engineering (Control Systems)
University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

MASc, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Ontario Tech University, Oshawa, Canada

BEng, Electrical Engineering
Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada

Research Interests & Projects

Dr. Al-Dabbagh’s research focuses on networked cyber-physical systems and process data analytics, as summarized below.

Theme 1: Networked Cyber-Physical Systems

In a networked cyber-physical system, devices are connected over communication networks to transfer information (e.g., a controller receiving measurements from sensors and transmitting control commands to actuators). In such a system, cyber and physical components are coupled, and devices can be distributed geographically, can be stationary and mobile, and can have fixed and varying connectivity (i.e., topology). Below is a list of example research challenges that are of interest to Dr. Al-Dabbagh:

1. Fault detection, isolation, and identification;
2. Cyber attack detection and mitigation;
3. Reconfiguration and formation control; and
4. Event-triggered communication and control.

The research in this theme is based on control theory, game theory, graph theory, and optimization, where model-based and data-based approaches are to be researched (i.e., with linear, nonlinear, and hybrid system setups and in deterministic and stochastic frameworks).

Theme 2: Process Data Analytics

In an industrial automation system, data capturing process operation can be stored and archived, such as measurements, control commands, set points, operator actions, and alarms. The data can consist of identifiers, parameter values, time stamps, and locations. In such a system, operator screens can be configured to use graphics and text to inform operators about the process operation (e.g., indicating if a valve is open and if a tank level is too low) and allow them to regulate the process. With the large amount of data that can be stored and archived, there are tremendous opportunities to extract knowledge, develop decision support tools, and operate the process more efficiently. Below is a list of example research challenges that are of interest to Dr. Al-Dabbagh:

1. Abnormality and fault diagnosis;
2. Alarm management and alarm flood mitigation;
3. Operator action modelling and best response determination; and
4. Causality identification and forecasting/prediction.

The research in this theme is based on data mining and artificial intelligence/machine learning, where data-based approaches are to be researched.

Note to Potential Applicants:

Dr. Al-Dabbagh has several available positions for master’s and doctoral students to join his research group/laboratory, for May 2021 and September 2021 admission. The students should be self-motivated, eager to perform excellent research, and have some relevant research experience in relation to the themes listed above.

Interested potential applicants should send an email to Dr. Al-Dabbagh, and include the following:
1. List of topic(s) that are of interest, in relation to the themes listed above;
2. CV and scanned copies of undergraduate and graduate transcripts; and
3. Links to two journal and/or conference publications (if any).

Selected Publications & Presentations

Selected Journal Publications:

A. Qiu, A.W. Al-Dabbagh, H. Yu, and T. Chen, “A Design Framework for Event-triggered Active Fault-tolerant Control Systems”, International Journal of Control. (In press with early access)

A. Qiu, A.W. Al-Dabbagh, and T. Chen, “A Trade-off Approach for Optimal Event-triggered Fault Detection,” IEEE Transactions on Industrial Electronics, vol. 66, no. 3, pp. 2111 – 2121, March 2019.

A.W. Al-Dabbagh, “Design of a Wireless Control System With Unreliable Nodes and Communication Links,” IEEE Transactions on Cybernetics, vol. 49, no. 1, pp. 315 – 327, January 2019.

A.W. Al-Dabbagh, W. Hu, S. Lai, T. Chen, and S.L. Shah, “Toward the Advancement of Decision Support Tools for Industrial Facilities: Addressing Operation Metrics, Visualization Plots, and Alarm Floods,” IEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering, vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 1883 – 1896, October 2018.

W. Hu, A.W. Al-Dabbagh, T. Chen, and S.L. Shah, “Design of Visualization Plots of Industrial Alarm and Event Data for Enhanced Alarm Management,” Control Engineering Practice, vol. 79, pp. 50 – 64, October 2018.

A.W. Al-Dabbagh, Y. Li, and T. Chen, “An Intrusion Detection System for Cyber Attacks in Wireless Networked Control Systems,” IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems II: Express Briefs, vol. 65, no. 8, pp. 1049 – 1053, August 2018.

A.W. Al-Dabbagh and T. Chen, “Design Considerations for Wireless Networked Control Systems,” IEEE Transactions on Industrial Electronics, vol. 63, no. 9, pp. 5547 – 5557, September 2016.

Selected Conference Publications:

W. Hu, A.W. Al-Dabbagh, D. Li, and T. Chen, “Extraction and Graphical Representation of Operator Responses to Multivariate Alarms in Industrial Facilities,” In the Proceedings of the 10th IFAC Symposium on Advanced Control of Chemical Processes, Shenyang, China, July 25 – 27, 2018, IFAC-PapersOnLine, vol. 51, no. 18, pp. 25 – 30. (Invited paper)

M.S. Afzal and A.W. Al-Dabbagh, “Forecasting in Industrial Process Control: A Hidden Markov Model Approach,” In the Proceedings of the 20th World Congress of the International Federation of Automatic Control, Toulouse, France, July 9 – 14, 2017, IFAC-PapersOnLine, vol. 50, no. 1, pp. 14770 – 14775.

A.W. Al-Dabbagh and T. Chen, “A Fixed Structure Topology for Wireless Networked Control Systems,” In the Proceedings of the 55th IEEE Conference on Decision and Control, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, December 12 – 14, 2016, pp. 3450 – 3455.

W. Hu, A.W. Al-Dabbagh, T. Chen, and S.L. Shah, “Process Discovery of Operator Actions in Response to Univariate Alarms,” In the Proceedings of the 11th IFAC Symposium on Dynamics and Control of Process Systems, including Biosystems, Trondheim, Norway, June 6 – 8, 2016, IFAC-PapersOnLine, vol. 49, no. 7, pp. 1026 – 1031.

A.W. Al-Dabbagh and T. Chen, “Modelling and Control of Wireless Networked Control Systems: A Fixed Structure Approach,” In the Proceedings of the 2015 IEEE Conference on Control Applications (Part of the IEEE Multi-Conference on Systems and Control), Sydney, Australia, September 21 – 23, 2015, pp. 1051 – 1056.

Selected Grants & Awards

NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship

NSERC Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship

Alberta Innovates Graduate Student Scholarship

Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarship

Governor General’s Academic Medal (Gold)

Professional Services/Affiliations/Committees

Professional Engineer (PEng), Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO)

Member, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)

  • IEEE Control Systems Society (IEEE CSS)
  • IEEE Robotics & Automation Society (IEEE RAS)
  • IEEE Industrial Electronics Society (IEEE IES)
  • IEEE Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Society (IEEE SMC)

Member, Blockchain@UBC


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