Posts Categorized: Honours & Awards 2022

Three ChemE students win University of Toronto Excellence Awards

Please join us in congratulating Michael Chan, Cassidy Tan, and Bella Zhang, who have each received a University of Toronto Excellence Award (UTEA) in the Natural Sciences & Engineering category. The funding provided through the award will allow them to continue their current research projects throughout the summer.


Photo of Michael ChanMichael Chan (ChemE 2T5)

Microplastics are present everywhere in the world and can affect human and ecosystem health. Better understanding the types of microplastics present in urban environments can assist in the development of bio-retention cells – filters, which help clear microplastic contamination present in stormwater.

This is the focus of Michael Chan’s research titled, Source and fate of microplastics in urban stormwater runoff and conducted under the supervision of Professor Elodie Passeport. By examining the composition and concentration of microplastics collected from stormwater samples, Chan aims to identify relationships between different kinds of road and parking lot pavements and microplastic generation.

“After collecting water samples, microplastic particles were separated from the inorganic compounds via density separation. Organic digestion was then employed to dissolve any organic matter present, followed by filtration, sample weighing, resuspension, and sample counting. Developing a retention cell is a step towards protecting the environment and downstream communities from the chronic effects of microplastic ingestion. Limiting the release of microplastics will help mitigate the amount of microplastics ingested by organisms in downstream ecosystems,” says Chan. “Success would produce a natural ‘filter’ (retention cell) that cleans stormwater.”


Photo of Cassidy TanCassidy Tan (ChemE 2T4)

One of the challenges with preclinical anti-cancer drug testing is recreating an accurate tumor microenvironment (TME). Traditional 2D cell culture models lack both the 3D structure and extracellular matrix (ECM) present in vivo, which contributes to the low clinical success rate for anti-cancer drugs.

Cassidy Tan has been conducting research on this topic under the supervision of Professor Alison McGuigan. Tan’s work, titled Optimization of a Semi-Automated Pipeline for Creating 3D Cultures, is focused on improving drug-based cancer treatment research in the preclinical drug testing phase by automating the seeding of cell cultures with an innovative technique utilizing a pre-programmed robotic system called Opentrons OT2.

In order to provide a more accurate cell environment for research, U of T’s McGuigan Lab developed a 96-well 3D cell culture model that relies on a time-consuming cell seeding process that is carried out manually. Tan’s work is focused on automating this process by utilizing the Python coding language to create instructions for the robotic Opentrons OT2 pipetting system to help seed cell cultures more quickly, replacing the manual seeding process with a semi-automated one.

“To characterize the effectiveness of our manufacturing process, cell proliferation and the homogeneity of the cell seeding will be assessed across multiple cell types and ECMs. These metrics will be quantitatively analyzed by image analysis using a high throughput microscope and the Alamar Blue assay. Additionally, the pipeline will be assessed for time efficiency to preserve cell viability during this process.”

Tan hopes this research will enable the high-throughput construction of 3D cancer models with various TME conditions, creating new avenues for anti-cancer drug discoveries.


Photo of Bella ZhangBella Zhang (ChemE 2T2)

Catalysts are important tools for initiating chemical reactions. Everywhere you look, from your desk to your fridge, you’re likely to find a product, material, or food item that relies on one. Metal oxides, like the molybdates MMoOx (M=Fe, Co, Ni), are often applied as catalysts in the petroleum and plastic refinement processes with the conversion of hydrocarbons. They have novel structural properties that can provide superior catalytic activity or selectivity, traits that determine the speed, efficiency, and final result of catalytic reactions.

For her project, titled Temperature Programmed Reduction System of Metal Oxides, Bella Zhang is working with Professor Cathy Chin to investigate the behaviour and property of the oxygen sites of MMoOx, as well as explore their periodic trend using the Temperature Programmed Reduction (TPR) method. The oxygen sites on these bimetallic oxides are critical to their activity and selectivity.

The TPR method involves reducing the metal oxides with hydrogen flow while increasing temperature linearly in time. By monitoring their reaction with the hydrogen, the temperature needed for the complete reduction can be determined along with the activation energies needed for the reduction. Additionally, the research will provide further information on the reduction mechanism.

“Having a better understanding of the characteristics of these metal oxides will then support the search for better and more effective catalysts,” says Zhang. “The better catalysts will direct the reaction to produce more desired products (ethylene in this case) and improve the efficiency of the process. This can lead to far-reaching impacts in energy saving, economic benefits, and sustainable development.”

Professor Milica Radisic wins the 2022 Acta Biomaterialia Silver Medal

Milica RadisicProfessor Milica Radisic is the recipient of the 2022 Acta Biomaterialia Silver Medal, which honours and recognizes significant scientific contributions and leadership deemed recent and timely.

Professor Radisic is a Canada Research Chair in Functional Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering and a Senior Scientist at the Toronto General Research Institute. She is also the Director of the NSERC CREATE Training Program in Organ-on-a-Chip Engineering & Entrepreneurship, as well as the Director of Ontario-Quebec Center for Organ-on-a-Chip Engineering. Professor Radisic obtained a B.Eng. in Chemical Engineering from McMaster University in 1999, and her Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also in Chemical Engineering in 2004. In 2005, she joined the University of Toronto as an Assistant Professor. In 2014, she was promoted to the rank of Full Professor.

Professor Radisic’s work shaped a new field of organ-on-a-chip engineering. She addressed the field’s greatest challenges: maturation of stem cell-derived cardiac tissues and modelling of cardiac disease. Using multi-material processing techniques, she developed a heart-on-a-chip platform that eliminates the use of drug absorbing PDMS relying on fully inert plastic materials. She also enabled non-invasive continuous measurement of contraction force by microscopy via embedding of polymeric sensor wires into the platform that also act as anchor points for tissue growth. She developed techniques to create defined atrial, ventricular and atrioventricular tissues from human iPSC. Through microscale processing of elastomeric polymers, Professor Radisic developed scaffolds that enable minimally invasive injections of tissues into the body and polymer-based branching microvasculature that allows direct anastomosis to the host blood vessels. She developed hydrogels based on a new peptide QHREDGS, a sequence from angiopoietin 1, to enable healing of hearts after myocardial infarction and regeneration of skin wounds without scarring.

The broad and significant impact of her pioneering contributions are demonstrated by her diverse awards, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, Steacie Prize, Engineering Medal for Research & Development, YWCA Woman of Distinction Award, to name a few, and through the training of 114 researchers, who have themselves won over 160 awards.

Before the age of 40, Professor Radisic was recognized as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Engineering, two of Canada’s premier academies. She is also a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and a Biological Engineering and of the Tissue Engineering & Regenerative Medicine International Society. She was privileged to hold an NSERC E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship (2014–2016) and a Killam Research Fellowship (2020–2021), the most prestigious research fellowships in Canada. Her technology transfer activities provide undeniable evidence of the transformative impact of her discoveries, which have resulted in 40 pieces of IP and 2 companies (TARA and Quthero).

Professor Radisic is an Associate Editor for ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering, Senior Consulting Editor for the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology and Reviewing Editor for eLife. After serving as a member of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research-Biomedical Engineering Panel since 2008, Dr. Radisic was appointed a Scientific Officer of this panel in 2020. She served as an international reviewer for the Israeli Council for Higher Education on Biotechnology (2012–2013) and Biomedical Engineering (2016–2017). She served on Boards of Directors in Canada (Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, McMaster Alumni Association, Canadian Biomaterials Society) and abroad (TERMIS) as well as on international Scientific Advisory Boards for university centres (TERC, Columbia University; ABM-CDT, University of Manchester). From 2017-2020 she served as an Associate Chair, Research for the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry (2017–2020), a position she left to hold the Killam Fellowship.

She received the 2022 Acta Biomaterialia Silver Medal at the Society for Biomaterials meeting, which took place from April 27-30, 2022 in Baltimore MD.

U of A names Professor Molly Shoichet a 2022 honorary degree recipient

Professor Molly Shoichet

Professor Molly Shoichet

Congratulations to Professor Molly Shoichet who will be receiving her honorary Doctor of Science degree on June 13 at 3 p.m. from the University of Alberta.

Shoichet is a leading Canadian researcher who has developed breakthrough approaches to treating cancer, stroke, blindness and spinal cord injuries. Her pioneering work has resulted in more than 650 research papers and patents, and she has co-founded four spinoff companies.

Actively engaged in translational research, she launched Research2Reality, a national social media campaign to engage the public in understanding the importance of scientific research.

She is the only person to be inducted into all three of Canada’s national academies of science, and was awarded the NSERC Herzberg Gold Medal, Canada’s top prize in science and engineering.

Read the full U of A news story.

Jeanette Southwood receives prestigious citizenship award

A ChemE alumna has been honoured by the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) and Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) with an Ontario Professional Engineers Award. Jeanette Southwood (ChemE 8T6, MASc 8T8) received the Citizenship Award, for an engineer who has made significant volunteer contributions to the community. 

An award-winning engineer and leader, Southwood is Vice-President, Corporate Affairs and Strategic Partnerships at Engineers Canada, the national organization of the 12 engineering regulators that license Canada’s 300,000+ members of the engineering profession. Prior to joining Engineers Canada, Southwood led the Canadian Urban Development & Infrastructure Sector and the Global Sustainable Cities teams at international consulting firm Golder Associates, where she was the first Black woman to be appointed to the senior leadership position of Principal globally.

Read the full U of T Engineering news story.

Four ChemE students receive U of T Student Leadership Awards

This month, 18 students from the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering earned U of T Student Leadership Awards, which recognizes leadership, service and commitment to the university. Among this group were four outstanding ChemE students.

Brohath Amrithraj

Brohath Amrithraj (ChemE 2T1+1) recognized the lack of international engineering student services and founded an organization called International Transition to fill this gap and aid students.

John Anawati

John Anawati (ChemE PhD 2T2) was the Head Coordinator for the inaugural Chemical Engineering Graduate Mentorship Program, which works to build departmental community, improve student mental health and reduce isolation.

Paul Chen

Paul Chen (ChemE PhD 2T2) has led several community-building and science-outreach activities. As Co-Chair of Massey Grand Rounds, he helped foster the biomedical and health communities at Massey College. Through his roles with Science Rendezvous and “I Am a Scientist,” he hopes to show kids that, regardless background, a career in science is possible.

Emily MacDonald-Roach

Emily MacDonald-Roach (ChemE 2T1+PEY Co-op) was Co-Founder and Co-President of Brew of T, the University of Toronto Homebrewing club. She also held multiple leadership roles in Skule Nite, the Engineering Sketch Comedy Musical.

For the full list of U of T Engineering recipients, please click here.

Professor Honghi Tran inducted to Pulp & Paper Canada’s Hall of Fame

Honghi Tran

Honghi Tran, professor emeritus and director, Pulp & Paper Centre at University of Toronto

Congratulations to Professor Honghi Tran, one of the winners of Pulp & Paper Canada’s inaugural Hall of Fame. As Professor emeritus and Director of the Pulp & Paper Centre at the University of Toronto, Professor Tran has contributed immensely to the pulp and paper industry in Canada.

Having worked originally in the glass industry in Japan, he was tasked with a project that involved solving an issue with a recovery boiler in a pulp and paper mill in Thunder Bay. Without knowledge of the industry, his hard work prevailed and he was able to present at an international chemical recovery conference in Vancouver three years later. Continuing to work in the industry, Professor Tran graduated with a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Toronto.

His research on energy and chemical recovery in kraft pulp mills has lead him to kraft pulp mills in Canada, the U.S. and even Brazil. Over the years, he has assisted in solving many operating issues related to the chemical recovery process, and along with his team, has led the way with innovative solutions for the pulp and paper industry. Professor Tran’s research has been supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Industry Canada, the American Forest and Paper Association and the Department of Energy.

Read the full Pulp & Paper Canada article on Professor Honghi Tran.


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