Posts Categorized: Honours & Awards 2020

University Professor Elizabeth Edwards appointed to the Order of Canada

Story by Carolyn Farrell

""University Professor Elizabeth Edwards (ChemE) has been named an Officer of the Order of Canada, one of the country’s most prestigious honours. The second cohort of new appointees for 2020 was announced today by Governor General Julie Payette (ECE MASc 9T0).

As the Canada Research Chair in Anaerobic Biotechnology, Edwards is a pioneer in advancing the understanding of anaerobic microbial transformation processes and translating that knowledge into technologies for groundwater bioremediation — the use of microorganisms to degrade and detoxify dangerous chemical pollutants. She is also developing new microbial processes for wastewater treatment, particularly anaerobic digestion to recover methane for energy.

Edwards developed an anaerobic microbial consortium (KB-1) that is remarkably effective at dechlorinating two of the world’s most common and persistent groundwater pollutants, tetrachloroethene and trichloroethene.

Through SiREM, a highly successful spinoff company founded in 2002 to market microbial cultures and monitoring tools for bioremediation, KB-1 has been deployed at more than 760 sites worldwide by organizations ranging from NASA to Fortune 500 companies. SiREM continues to collaborate with Edwards and her team to develop microbial cultures capable of degrading other types of contaminants, such as hydrocarbons, pesticides and herbicides.

In addition to her own research achievements, Edwards was the driving force behind the creation of BioZone, a one-of-a-kind research and training centre at the interface of engineering, environmental science and biology at U of T. BioZone is home to more than 100 faculty, students, research personnel and industrial partners with a wide range of expertise, from microbiology and computational methods to chemical and biomedical engineering. Edwards has served as its director since its launch in 2011.

Edwards’ contributions have been recognized with many of Canada’s most prestigious research awards, including the Killam Research Fellowship, the NSERC Synergy Award for Innovation, the Kalev Pugi Award from the Society of Chemical Industry Canada, and the Killam Prize in Engineering. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Canadian Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society of Canada. In 2019 she was named a University Professor, U of T’s highest academic rank.

“Professor Edwards’ cutting-edge research, as well as her leadership in creating unique cross-disciplinary research and training initiatives, have made U of T a leading hub for the development of novel biotechnologies to address urgent environmental challenges,” says U of T Engineering Dean Chris Yip. “On behalf of the Faculty, my warmest congratulations to her on receiving the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest civilian honours.”


Professor Krishna Mahadevan Awarded Canada Research Chair in Metabolic Systems Engineering

Professor Krishna Mahadevan was awarded a Canada Research Chair in Metabolic Systems Engineering during an announcement by the Federal Government of Canada

Professor Krishna Mahadevan has been awarded a Canada Research Chair in Metabolic Systems Engineering. This news was made public after a historic announcement by the federal CRC program which includes $195 million for 259 new and renewed Chairs attracting global talent and increasing diversity in Canada research.

Established in 2000, the federal CRC program invests in recruiting and retaining top minds in Canada. It supports research in engineering, natural sciences, health sciences, humanities and social sciences. U of T’s total allotment of research chairs in the CRC program – 5 newly awarded to faculty in U of T Engineering this year – is the largest in the country.

“The Canada Research Chair program opens up opportunities for innovation and industry collaboration, making it possible for our researchers to improve the lives of Canadians, and beyond, in areas such as sustainability and data privacy,” says Ramin Farnood, Vice-Dean, Research at U of T Engineering. “I congratulate our new and renewed CRCs.”


Professor Ning Yan Elected Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada

Story by Carolyn Farrell, U of T Engineering News

Professor Ning Yan is among the 2021 cohort named Fellows of the Engineering Institute of Canada. (Photo: Tyler Irving)

Professor Ning Yan (ChemE) has been elected a 2021 Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada, in recognition of exceptional contributions to engineering and service to the profession and society.

Yan is the University of Toronto Distinguished Professor in Forest Biomaterials Engineering and the former Chair in Value Added Wood and Composites. She is an internationally recognized leader in the use of renewable biomass as feedstock to develop sustainable bio-based products, replacing fossil fuel-derived chemicals and materials. Her group was the first to develop a process to synthesize bio-based epoxy resins using bark extractives to replace toxic bisphenol A. Companies around the world are pursuing commercial applications of such bark biorefinery processes.

Yan has led major collaborative initiatives for advancing sustainable technologies. She recently established the multidisciplinary Low Carbon Renewable Materials Centre at U of T, with the mandate of facilitating cutting-edge research promoting the circular economy, reducing plastic waste and developing green technologies.

Yan’s work has resulted in 13 patents/invention disclosures and collaborations with industry partners around the world, as well as numerous awards. She has delivered more than 100 invited talks, distinguished seminars and keynotes, and has provided expert advice to the Canadian government on supporting innovation in the forestry sector. She has developed state-of-the-art educational programs in sustainable chemical engineering and has trained more than 140 engineers and researchers.

“Professor Yan has been a trailblazer in developing environmentally friendly bio-based products which are helping to make a number of industries more sustainable,” says U of T Engineering Dean Chris Yip. “On behalf of the Faculty, my warmest congratulations to her on this well-deserved recognition.”


ChemE student earns prestigious Schwarzman Scholarship — a U of T Engineering first

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Fletcher Han (ChemE 2T0 + PEY) is the first U of T Engineering student to be selected for a Schwarzman Scholar fellowship. (Photo courtesy: Fletcher Han)

Fletcher Han (ChemE 2T0 + PEY) has been selected to join the Class of 2022 Schwarzman Scholars, making him the first U of T Engineering student to receive the scholarship and the fifth U of T student to be selected.

The prestigious graduate fellowship is awarded annually by Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Scholars are selected based on their exemplary leadership qualities and ability to bridge and understand political and cultural differences.

One week after his interview, Han received the call informing him he was selected as one of 154 successful applicants. “As soon as I heard the words, ‘Congratulations, you have been selected as a Schwarzman Scholar’, I was left speechless,” says Han. “After letting the news sink in, I was ecstatic and eager to share my achievement with my friends and family, while also nervous for the new possibilities my future may now hold.”

Han’s experiences as a chemical engineering student and as an international volunteer played a key role in his decision to apply for the fellowship.

“Both the Department and the Centre for Global Engineering (CGEN) gave me a platform to pursue an interdisciplinary capstone project in water insecurity and an undergraduate thesis in malnutrition — two topics rooted in global engineering,” says Han. “These opportunities have helped guide my future aspirations while also providing me with the skills necessary to thrive in the Schwarzman Scholars program and beyond.”

Through his experiences, Han developed the skills needed to understand some of the world’s most pressing challenges through a scientific and mathematical lens, and sees the Schwarzman Scholarship as an opportunity to further expand his world view.

“Through the program, I hope to explore how global relations, diplomacy and political policy can be intertwined with engineering design to effectively promote international development in an interconnected world,” says Han. “I now realize that the global implementation of a solution is only a success if global affairs is incorporated into every aspect of the final design.”

Han’s determination to make a difference is evident throughout his academic career. Since joining U of T Engineering in 2016, Han has held several leadership roles and executive positions including mentorship director of the Chemical Engineering Student Council (Chem Club), chair of the Association of Leadership in Chemical Engineering (ALChemE) and vice-chair of the University of Toronto chapter of the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering (CSChE), to name a few.

“These experiences have been essential to my development as both an individual and a leader,” says Han. “I was able to hone areas of strength and broaden my understanding of leadership, recognizing courage, humility and integrity as key ingredients, which I will bring with me when I begin my journey as a Schwarzman Scholar.”

Han is looking forward to exploring his academic and professional interests through the program — he’s also hoping to learn a little bit more about himself along the way, too. Having lived abroad his entire life, Han says he’s “thrilled to start uncovering my Chinese ancestry. I’m also excited to learn about China’s complexities and their future role in tackling some of our world’s most intractable issues.”

“To be the first U of T Engineering student named a Schwarzman Scholar is a tremendous recognition of Fletcher’s ability and potential as a leader,” says Professor Grant Allen, Chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry. “I look forward to what Fletcher will accomplish with this incredible opportunity. My congratulations to Fletcher on this exceptional achievement.”

Beginning August 2021, Han will complete a one-year Master’s degree in Global Affairs and live in Beijing for an intensive year of study and cultural immersion. The program is now in its sixth year.

 


Molly Shoichet named one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada

Story by Liz Do, U of T Engineering News

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University Professor Molly Shoichet has been a longstanding advocate for women in STEM, as well as a leading voice in the advancement of science and engineering knowledge within Canada. (Photo: NSERC/CRSNG – Sylvie Li)

University Professor Molly Shoichet (ChemE, BME, Donnelly) has been named one of the Top 100 most powerful women in Canada by Women’s Executive Network (WXN). The list recognizes the country’s highest achieving female leaders in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors.

“It is a great honour to be included among this group of game-changing, successful people, and even more wonderful to share this award with women leaders across Canada,” says Shoichet. “Growing up with ‘girl power,’ and a fantastic role model in my mother, Dorothy Shoichet, I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to forge new paths and have these be recognized.”

In addition to being named one of the country’s most powerful women, Shoichet was also recently awarded Canada’s top science prize, the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering.

Conducting research at the intersection of engineering, chemistry and biology, Shoichet and her team is world-renowned for their innovative use of 3D hydrogels. The biomaterial has enabled drug discoveries for breast and brain cancer, as well as a rare lung disease. Shoichet’s lab also focuses on regenerative medicine strategies to promote repair of the brain after stroke and overcoming blindness.

Shoichet has been a longstanding advocate for women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), as well as a leading voice in the advancement of science and engineering knowledge within Canada. After being named the L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Laureate in 2015, she contributed the cash award towards establishing the Dorothy Shoichet Women Faculty of Excellence Award. Named in honour of her mother, the award aims to support pre-tenure women faculty and increase the proportion of women science professors at the University by providing teaching relief — literally buying time for faculty to focus on research.

Shoichet has advised both federal and provincial governments through her service on Canada’s Science, Technology and Innovation Council and the Ontario Research Innovation Council. From 2014 to 2018, she was the Senior Advisor to the President on Science & Engineering Engagement at the University of Toronto. She is the co-founder of Research2Reality, which uses social media to promote innovative research across the country. She also served as Ontario’s first Chief Scientist, with a mandate to advance science and innovation in the province.

Shoichet is the only person to be elected a fellow of all three of Canada’s National Academies and is a foreign member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, and fellow of the U.K.’s Royal Society — the oldest and most prestigious academic society.

Shoichet also holds the distinction of University Professor, a title held by less than two percent of the faculty at the University of Toronto. In 2017, she was awarded the Killam Prize in Engineering. She is a member of the Order of Ontario and an Officer of the Order of Canada.

“This recognition is a testament to Professor Shoichet’s enormous influence and impact in research and science advocacy, not only within Canada but around the world,” says Chris Yip, Dean of U of T Engineering. “On behalf of the Faculty, I extend my congratulations to Molly on being named one of the most powerful women in Canada, and for being such an inspiration to our engineering and science community.”


ChemE alumna Laura Burget named winner of 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneurs Awards in Micro-Business Category

Three Ships, an all-natural skincare company co-founded by alumna Laura Burget (ChemE 1T6), continues to make waves in the business world as Burget and co-founder Connie Lo, were named winners of the 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneurs Awards in the Micro Business Category out of more than 8,600 nominations.

For 28 years, the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneurs Awards has celebrated the country’s most accomplished female business leaders. Burget and Lo earned this distinction by championing the values of all-natural and affordable skincare all the while steering their company through this year’s remarkable economic headwinds.

“We are thrilled to be acknowledged in this way and feel very proud to be recognized among this extraordinary field of talented and capable businesswomen,” said Burget. “What began as a grassroots beauty business around Connie’s kitchen table has grown into something beyond our wildest imaginations. We couldn’t be more honoured to accept this award.”


University Professor Molly Shoichet receives Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal, Canada’s highest honour for science and engineering research

Story by Liz Do, U of T Engineering News

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University Professor Molly Shoichet has been awarded Canada’s highest honour for science and engineering research. (Photo: NSERC/CRSNG – Sylvie Li)

University Professor Molly Shoichet (ChemE, BME, Donnelly Centre), a world-leading researcher in tissue engineering, has received the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering — Canada’s most prestigious award for science and engineering research.

The  Herzberg Gold Medal is awarded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) in recognition of research contributions characterized by both excellence and influence.

“I was completely overwhelmed when I was told the good news,” says Shoichet. “There are so many exceptional people who’ve won this award and I admire them. To think of my peers putting me in that same category is really incredible.”

A pioneer in regenerative medicine, tissue engineering and drug delivery, Shoichet and her team are internationally known for their discovery and innovative use of 3D hydrogels.

“One of the challenges facing drug screening is that many of the drugs discovered work well in the lab, but not in people, and a possible explanation for this discrepancy is that these drugs are discovered in environments that do not reflect that of the body,” explains Shoichet.

Shoichet’s team has invented a series of biomaterials that provide a soft, three-dimensional environment in which to grow cells. These hydrogels — water-swollen materials — better mimic human tissue than hard two-dimensional plastic dishes that are typically used. “Now we can do more predictive drug screening,” says Shoichet.

Her lab is using these biomaterials to discover drugs for breast and brain cancer and a rare lung disease. Shoichet’s lab has been equally innovative in regenerative medicine strategies to promote repair of the brain after stroke and overcome blindness.

“Everything that we do is motivated by answering a question in biology, using our engineering and chemistry tools to answer those questions,” says Shoichet.

“The hope is that our contributions will ultimately make a positive impact in the cancer community and in treating diseases for which we can only slow the progression rather than stop and reverse, such as with blindness.”

Shoichet is also an advocate for and advisor on the fields of science and engineering. She has advised both federal and provincial governments through her service on Canada’s Science, Technology and Innovation Council and the Ontario Research Innovation Council. From 2014 to 2018, she was the Senior Advisor to the President on Science & Engineering Engagement at the University of Toronto. She is the co-founder of Research2Reality, which uses social media to promote innovative research across the country. She also served as Ontario’s first Chief Scientist, with a mandate to advance science and innovation in the province.

Shoichet is the only person to be elected a fellow of all three of Canada’s National Academies and is a foreign member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, and fellow of the Royal Society (UK) — the oldest and most prestigious academic society.

In 2014, Shoichet was appointed University Professor, a distinction held by less than two percent of the faculty at the University of Toronto. In 2017, she was awarded the Killam Prize in Engineering. She is a member of the Order of Ontario and an Officer of the Order of Canada.

The Shoichet Lab at a holiday celebration in December 2019. (Photo courtesy Molly Shoichet)

“What’s really wonderful for me in getting this Herzberg Gold Medal is the recognition of the importance of interdisciplinary research, and the recognition of the team — of the brilliant graduate and undergraduate students, post-doctoral fellows, technicians and collaborators with whom I have the privilege to work,” says Shoichet.

“I’m so grateful to work with amazing people who bring their creative ideas and challenge me to think more innovatively.”

“Professor Shoichet is a trailblazer and an inspiration to the engineering and science community, here at U of T, across the country and around the world. Her research continues to advance knowledge towards practical, and incredibly vital, applications in human health,” says U of T Engineering Dean Chris Yip. “On behalf of the Faculty, my enthusiastic congratulations to Molly on receiving this tremendous honour.”


Angela Tran awarded 2T5 Mid-Career Achievement Award at 2020 EAN Awards

Eleven outstanding members of the U of T Engineering community were recognized Nov. 5 at the 2020 Engineering Alumni Network (EAN) Awards.

The evening awards ceremony, held virtually this year, celebrated alumni and students for their accomplishments and their contributions to the Skule™ community

“The Faculty has just been amazing in its resilience, and tonight’s winners really embody that spirit,” said Dean Christopher Yip. “You illustrate the role that engineers can play in meeting the world’s most daunting challenges.”

Among the award recipients was ChemE alumna Angela Tran (EngSci 0T5, ChemE MASc 0T7, ChemE PhD 1T2), who received a 2T5 Mid-Career Achievement Award:

""Angela is a native Torontonian who calls San Francisco home, where she is a General Partner at Version One. Investing in the US and Canada, she has a unique perspective on both ecosystems. Angela’s desire to help others and work with people who are bringing about positive transformational change led her to the world of VC, where she quickly made a big impact.

Angela focuses on health/bio, AI/ML, social platforms and other startups leveraging network effects. She is a firm believer that good investing is both value- and data-driven. Prior to Version One, Angela co-launched Insight Data Science, a YC-backed startup designed to help PhDs transition from academic research to careers in industry via a six-week training program.

Angela is a trustee on the board of the Computer History Museum where she chairs the NextGen advisory committee. She is a board member for the C100 and is involved with the Creative Destruction Lab in Vancouver.

Learn more about Angela Tran (video)

Read the full story on U of T Engineering News »


ChemE students and faculty take home top prizes at CCEC 2020 Virtual

From October 26 to October 30, 2020, ChemE students and faculty virtually attended and participated in the 70th Canadian Chemical Engineering Conference (CCEC) hosted annually by the Chemical Institute of Canada (CIC). Over 600 delegates representing 16 countries attended the conference. Attendees included undergraduate and graduate students, faculty members and industry experts.

This year, ChemE students and faculty were recognized with top awards and honours across several categories:

Undergraduate students Ziting (Judy) Xia (ChemE 2T2 + PEY) and Saif Rjaibi (ChemE 2T1) placed first and second for best technical oral presentation, respectively, in the Robert G. Auld Student Paper Competition. Both presented on their research from the McGuigan Lab.

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A screenshot from Xia’s presentation examining the workflow followed to establish a co-culture system of tumor-macrophage on TRACER and extraction of cells for downstream analysis. (Photo courtesy: Ziting (Judy) Xia)

Xia’s research focused on optimizing the culture media and digestion protocol of the tumor-macrophage co-culture on TRACER, which is a 3D-engineered tumor model developed by the McGuigan Lab. The research is significant in that it enables accurate and precise downstream analysis to identify potential targets for immunotherapy to treat pancreatic cancer.  

For Xia, one of the highlights of CCEC 2020 was the opportunity to attend sessions by industry leaders, “I really enjoyed the conference this year as it gave students a great opportunity to hear from experts across academic and industry and see some of the frontiers of research and application.”

In his presentation, Rjaibi examined the development of an image analysis workflow to quantitatively validate 3D adipocyte model by assessing the obesity hallmark of cell hypertrophy. Once validated, this model will serve as a foundation for investigating future therapies to prevent obesity-associated disease.

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From L-R: Ziting (Judy) Xia and Saif Rjaibi snap a selfie using the McGuigan Lab’s tissue engineering virtual background. (Photo courtesy: Ziting (Judy) Xia, Saif Rjaibi)

Rjaibi says one of the most rewarding moments of the conference was reconnecting with his peers, “One of the things I have missed this year has been bonding with fellow ChemE’s in our Undergraduate Chem Common Room, so I was elated that the conference served as an opportunity for students and faculty to reconnect.”

Additionally, Emma Harrison (ChemE MASc candidate) placed third in the Graduate Poster Competition for her presentation titled, Computational Design and Evaluation of Microbial Cell Factories for Biomanufacturing, and Professor Gisele Azimi (ChemE, MSE) presented three invited lectures as the 2020 CSChE Innovation Award recipient and the 2020 Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering Lectureship Award recipient for her exceptional contributions to the chemical engineering profession. Azimi also presented a plenary lecture among three other emerging academic leaders in chemical engineering.

Follow CIC on Twitter and LinkedIn to read more about the 2020 conference results and award winners.


Professor Molly Shoichet receives Margolese National Brain Disorders Prize

""Four of Canada’s leading scientists in heart, brain and cancer research have been recognized by UBC’s Faculty of Medicine for their scientific accomplishments, and for their potential to make further contributions in their fields. University Professor Molly Shoichet (ChemE, BME, Donnelly) was named the recipient of the 2020 Margolese National Brain Disorders Prize for her ground-breaking work in regenerative medicine of the central nervous system.

The prize is valued at $50,000, making it among the most prestigious honours bestowed by a Canadian university. The recipients were selected by a committee of international experts.

Read the full story »


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