People | Off-site Construction Research Centre | UNB


Dr. Zhen Lei

OSCO Research Chair in Off-site Construction & Scientific Director, Off-site Construction Research Centre

Zhen Lei is an assistant professor in the department of civil engineering, the OSCO Research Chair in Off-site Construction and scientific director of the Off-site Construction Research Centre (OCRC) at the University of New Brunswick.

He received an M.Sc. and PhD in Construction Engineering and Management from the University of Alberta and then worked at PCL Industrial Management Inc. prior to joining the OCRC team at UNB.

Dr. Lei’s main research areas includes:

  • construction process simulation and optimization
  • Building Information Modeling (BIM) and emerging digital technologies
  • work process improvement in off-site construction | LinkedIn

Brandon Searle

Innovation Director, Off-site Construction Research Centre

Brandon Searle is the innovation director for the Off-site Construction Research Centre (OCRC) at the University of New Brunswick. Born in Moncton, N.B., he completed a BScE in civil engineering and a diploma in Technology Management and Entrepreneurship at the University of New Brunswick

Before joining UNB in his current role, Brandon worked on capital projects from both the owner and contractor side followed by a four-year position with WSP where he was an asset management consultant. While with WSP, he worked toward an M.Eng. focusing on level of service in infrastructure management and completed a broad collection of courses in economics, project management, business, finance and engineering.

Brandon serves as the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering (CSCE)Western NB Section Past-Chair, CSCE Atlantic Region Treasurer and sits on the Canadian Network of Asset Managers (CNAM) Board of Directors.

He is also involved in philanthropy work with a variety of organizations. Brandon is keen to collaborate and work with industry partners to grow the Off-site Construction Research Centre and to create innovative ideas that will transform the construction industry. | LinkedIn

Alex Caskey

Research Engineer, Off-site Construction Research Centre

Alex Caskey is a research engineer with the Off-site Construction Research Centre (OCRC) at the University of New Brunswick. Born in Halifax, N.S., he completed a BScE in civil engineering at the University of New Brunswick, where he played five seasons as a member of the UNB Varsity Reds Men’s Basketball Team.

After his studies at UNB, Alex went on to study architecture, earning a BEDS degree in architecture from Dalhousie University and a M.Arch degree from Ryerson University.

Alex brings a unique interdisciplinary experience to the OCRC, having worked with the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal as well as numerous architectural offices in both Halifax and Toronto. Alex has been a part of a wide range of design projects including custom residential, commercial interiors, health-care facilities, and development master planning. He has expertise in 3D-modeling, construction documentation, detailing, and graphic communication. | LinkedIn

Research team

Postdoctoral Fellow (PDF)

Dr. Ala Suliman, Postdoctoral Fellow (PDF)

Dr. Ala Suliman has a strong engineering background with B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in Civil Engineering with a focus on Construction Surveying & Photogrammetry.  In 2017, he completed a Ph.D. degree in Geospatial Data Processing from the Department of Geodesy & Geomatics Engineering at the University of New Brunswick (UNB). In 2019, he earned another M.Sc.E. degree in Construction Management from the Department of Civil Engineering at UNB.

Ala’s professional experience is a combination of academia and consulting: in the academic environment, he has a demonstrated record of teaching and research experiences at different universities. In teaching, Ala lectured a diverse set of (under)graduate Civil, Surveying, and Geomatics engineering courses/labs as a teaching assistant, stipend instructor, and a university lecturer. Research is a big part of his experience. Ala has authored and co-authored 18+ journal articles, conference papers, and a book chapter about the subject of urban geospatial data processing (Urban Remote Sensing). He has also delivered many technical presentations at international symposiums. In the consultancy profession, Ala delivered numerous surveying training programs to many local consultancy firms in Libya. He also cooperated, for 3+ years, with several construction companies as a surveying specialist for housing construction projects in Libya.

Ala is currently a research scientist at the Off-site Construction Research Centre (OCRC) of UNB. His research interests include the innovative applications of geospatial and digital technologies in construction engineering & management. | LinkedIn

Master of Engineering (part-time) (MEng)

Nic Thompson, Master of Engineering (part-time) (MEng)

Nic Thompson is currently completing his Master of Engineering at the University of New Brunswick while working fulltime with FCC Construction, a general contracting company, part of OSCO Construction Group, based in Saint John, NB. Nic is completing his masters under the supervision of Dr. Zhen Lei with a focus on the implementation of a case study within FCC to assess the practical advantages of building information modeling. Before beginning his masters, he completed a Bachelor of Science in Engineering at UNB, graduating in May of 2019.

While completing his bachelor’s degree, Nic returned to his home town of Saint John, in the summers to work with the City of Saint John. With the city, he was responsible for collecting data to aid in the development of a 3D flow model of the city’s underground infrastructure. 

Before graduating, he also completed an eight-month co-op term with FCC Construction where he played a key role in the development and submittal of turnover documentation for a 220-million-dollar water treatment facility. In his free time, he enjoys playing and coaching lacrosse, and spending time with friends and family. | LinkedIn

Master of Science in Engineering (MScE)

José Daniel is a Colombian engineer with a petroleum and business background. He is currently a Master of Science student in Construction Engineering and Management under the supervision of Dr. Zhen Lei and he is part of the Offsite Construction Research Centre. He completed a Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering at Universidad Industrial de Santander (UIS) in 2014, followed by a degree in Business Management at Universidad de La Sabana in 2017. His research focus involves Data Analytics and Construction Project Optimization and Automation to increase economic and environmental sustainability in the Offsite Construction Industry. His professional experience includes working in the field, managing projects for companies in various industries and developing entrepreneurial projects.

José Daniel is particularly passionate about the application of Data Sciences and AI to enhance productivity in multiple fields. He loves to play and watch sports, most notably soccer, tennis and biking, and he also enjoys cooking, reading, movies and nature. Family and education are the strongest influence and inspiration for his life and career. | LinkedIn

Shahrnaz Ardalani

Shahrnaz is currently pursuing a doctorate in Construction Engineering and Management at the University of New Brunswick under the supervision of Dr. Zhen Lei and Dr. Jeff Rankin and is part of the Off-site Construction Research Centre. Her research revolves around building information modelling and the application of digital technologies including construction digital twin and augmented reality in the construction industry. Prior to joining UNB, she worked at Jayne Construction Company, a general contractor company in Iran for more than three years, where she served as a manager of the tender department and technical expert of wastewater treatment plant projects.

She completed her Master of Science in structural engineering at the Iran University of Science and Technology in 2015. In her thesis, she focused on the optimal design of reinforced concrete structures to minimize the cost and carbon dioxide emissions through different phases of a building life cycle using metaheuristic algorithms.

Shahrnaz’s research interests lie in the area of optimization to achieve a more economic and environmentally friendly way of construction. In her spare time, she enjoys cycling, traveling, pencil drawing, and reading books. | LinkedIn

Ramtin Azami

Ramtin started his master’s degree at UNB in May 2020, working with the Off-site Construction Research Centre. He has a background in civil engineering specializing in geotechnical engineering. After graduating with a degree in geotechnical engineering in 2017, he started working as a site engineer to expand his knowledge, skills and experience, which triggered his interest in construction management. Following this, he elected to pursue a degree in construction management under Dr. Lei’s supervision. Ramtin is now part of Off-site Construction Research Centre and is working on his thesis focused on optimizing the use of robots in the construction industry.

His skills include soil mechanics testing such as direct shear, triaxial, and cyclic triaxial test; analyzing geotechnical structures using GeoStudio (geo-slope), PLAXIS, and Abaqus; structural design of different buildings using both ETABS and SAP2000 software; and coding in Python.

Ramtin enjoys meeting new people and hearing or learning new perspectives. Please reach out if you are interested in talking about robotics in the construction industry, managing projects, geotechnical engineering or movies. | LinkedIn

Dylan McKenna

Dylan McKenna is currently completing his Master of Science at the University of New Brunswick under the supervision of Dr. Zhen Lei. Before beginning his master’s, he earned a General Studies Diploma from Lethbridge College while playing college baseball. Following his studies at Lethbridge, Dylan earned an Engineering Diploma from the University of Prince Edward Island before transferring to UNB, where he completed his Bachelor of Science in Engineering, graduating in May 2020.

While completing his bachelor’s degree, Dylan spent two summers working for the City of Summerside as a student site inspector for municipal engineering projects. He spent last summer working as a carpenter’s apprentice for LEAD Structural Formwork Ltd. in Halifax. While attending UNB, Dylan completed two 4-month co-op terms: one as an intern with a geotechnical engineering firm in Stuttgart, Germany, and the other as an environmental engineering student with GEMTEC Ltd. at their Fredericton office. He enjoys golfing, skiing, and spending time with friends and family. | LinkedIn