Mechanical Engineering Professor named Distinguished University Professor

Congratulations to Mechanical Engineering Professor, Dr. Warren Finlay, who has been awarded the University’s Distinguished University Professor. The award celebrates the careers of “exceptional faculty members who are globally recognized leaders and whose exemplary teaching, research and citizenship have made them leaders in their disciplines internationally.” Finlay is the first professor from Mechanical Engineering to have received the award and only the fifth professor from the Faculty of Engineering.


Finlay, who was an undergraduate student at the U of A and has been on Faculty for 30 years, has a deep connection to the University. That connection lends significance to the award for Finlay. “My formative scholarly years were spent here. When I pass through the bookshelves of Cameron Library, or other old haunts, it awakens fond memories, including admiration for the people who have held this award before me,” he says. “So I am deeply touched to be honoured by the University in this way.”  

Professor Finlay works in the field of medical aerosol science – the science of delivering medicines to the respiratory system via inhalers and pumps. Finlay’s research successes have improved the lives of millions of people around the world. Respiratory disease is a major public health issue, with chronic respiratory diseases being the third-highest underlying cause of death in Canada. Respiratory disease is also a major source of illness, with more than 3 million Canadians suffering from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, tuberculosis (TB), or cystic fibrosis.  

Dr. Finlay and his lab have developed idealized “standard” mouth-throat and nasal shapes for testing and development of inhalers for adults and children. These geometries are now manufactured and sold worldwide to pharmaceutical companies by the world’s leading supplier of inhaler testing equipment (Copley, UK). More than 40 pharmaceutical companies worldwide working in this field rely on these models during product research and development. Besides these models, Dr. Finlay’s lab has also developed equations that optimize drug delivery, such as the determination of the detrimental effect of altitude and ambient temperature on inhaler performance, which has directly affected recommendations for use of inhalers by patients. It also includes development of equations to predict inhaler behaviour, the development of a patented method of producing powders using spray freeze-drying, and the first rigorous development of aerosolized formulations of bacteriophages for resistant bacterial lung infections.

In addition to his research contributions, Dr. Finlay tirelessly shares his knowledge with others. Researchers and companies around the world rely upon the online deposition calculator published by his laboratory, in their development of respiratory drug delivery devices and formulations. His definitive monograph on inhaled pharmaceutical aerosols “The Mechanics of Inhaled Pharmaceutical Aerosols: An Introduction” (Elsevier, 2001) is one of the most cited and influential books in his field. Dr. Finlay has an impressive international record of service as an Editor, reviewer, conference organizer, educator and committee member as well as regular advisor and Scientific Advisory Board member for numerous major international pharmaceutical companies.

In the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Professor Finlay contributes to public outreach and develops new, exciting course offerings at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Congratulations again to Dr. Finlay, Mechanical Engineering’s Distinguished University Professor.