Posts Categorized: News 2013

New Alumni Networking Group Links Women of Skule

ELSIE, named for Elizabeth “Elsie” MacGill, the first woman to receive an engineering degree in Canada when she graduated from University of Toronto in 1927, unites female Skule grads just launching their careers with those more established. The independent networking group is run by Founder Irena Mahdavi (ChemE 0T9+PEY), Co-chairs Marissa Desrochers (ChemE 0T9+PEY) and Najwa Azer, and Advisor Elika Mahdavi (IndE 0T9+PEY). Read more.


Air Pollution: How Bad is Your Neighbourhood?

Epidemiologists’ understanding of the relationship between exposure to airborne pollutants and a range of health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and asthma, has grown increasingly precise in recent years.

What’s less well known is precisely where the air is most polluted.

Toronto, for example, has only four air-quality measurement stations providing real-time data, even though research shows that the concentration of pollutants such as nitric oxides, volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide can vary by orders of magnitude within an area spanning just a few city blocks.

To more precisely gauge pollution levels, Natalia Mykhaylova, a PhD candidate in chemical engineering, is developing an inexpensive air-quality monitor that could be deployed on utility poles across a city. The shoebox-sized device, which is packed with sensors and detectors that can measure the concentration of fine particles and the pollutants mentioned above, will eventually be powered by lithium batteries and small solar panels. Click here for the full story.


What Composes the Human Heart? U of T Researchers Crunch the Numbers

A foundational study published in top biomedical journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science) by U of T researchers (including ChemE Professor Milica Radisic) and the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine have identified the optimal structure and cell ratio associated with heart function – and the discovery has already led the team to another research first: the engineering of the first-ever living, three-dimensional human arrhythmic tissue. Click here for the full story.


Alum Leads $1.25B Project

At just 32, Lim Yeow Keong (ChemE 9T7) found himself with a US$1 billion (S$1.25 billion) mega-project on his hands.

Fresh from a two-year stint in a supporting role as commercial director of United Arab Emirates’ Fujairah Independent Water and Power Plant, he was charged with being the lead developer of a similar facility in Salalah in Oman.

The Sembcorp Industries scholar, now 37, did not hesitate.

“I was surprised. I don’t think many companies would entrust a project this size to someone so young. But I was raring to go,” said Mr Lim, who became the general manager of Sembcorp Salalah Power and Water Company.

This year, he was made chief executive officer of the newly listed company. Click herefor the full story.


Innovations for Developing Countries: Grand Challenges Canada

ChemE Professors Krishna MahadevanAlexei Savchenko and Alexander Yakunin just received a big boost for their project entitled Low Cost Synthesis of Tuberculosis Drug Using Synthetic Biology, thanks to a grant from Grand Challenges Canada (GCC).

The GCC grant is awarded to health care innovations that could transform the way disease is treated in the developing world. Click here for the full story.


Remembering Leon J. Rubin

The 100th anniversary of his birth – this November 22 – is an opportune time to remember Leon J. Rubin, a remarkable alum.

Rubin graduated as a chemical engineer from the Department in 1938, where a year later he obtained his Master’s degree. He then joined the Department as an instructor where he taught for six years and was in charge of the analytical and general chemistry program.

During this time he continued his postgraduate studies in the Department of Chemistry under Professor H.O.L. Fischer where he obtained his doctorate in the field of natural products (glyceryl ethers) in 1945.

In this same year, Rubin joined the staff of the Research Centre of Canada Packers Inc. He first worked on the synthesis of steroidal hormones and vitamin D. However, he was soon appointed Director of Research and held that post until January 1979.

Under his direction the Research Centre became Canada’s leading food laboratory and a world leader in research and development of food and industrial biological processes. With a staff of 85, it was the central research laboratory of Canada Packers and dealt with the main areas of the company’s business – meats, edible oils, general packing house processing, animal feeds, fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

On his retirement in January 1979, he rejoined our Department as Professor Emeritus and initiated the program in Food Engineering. Rubin was shortly joined by Levente Diosady, who became the professor of Food Engineering. They collaborated in setting up courses in food engineering and industrial biological processes, as well as established an active research program resulting in 53 papers and 19 patents.

Rubin remained actively involved in the program as a volunteer until his sudden death in 1993. He was a senior statesman in Canadian industrial research, and his advice was sought in industry, government and academia. His achievements were recognized by numerous national and international awards. He was a Fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada, The Canadian Institute of Food Science and Technology and the Institute of Food Technologists. He was elected to the Engineering Alumni Association Hall of Distinction. He was awarded the Montreal Medal, John Labatt Ltd. Award, Charles Honey Awards of the Chemical Institute of Canada, William J. Eva Award of the Canadian Institute of Food Science and Technology and the Science and Technology Award of the Canadian Meat Council.

Rubin was a cultured gentleman, a culinary expert (as well as food scientist), loved and respected by his students and colleagues. His memory is enforced by the Leon J. Rubin Scholarships – a major entrance scholarship to our Department established in his memory.


$4.9 Million for Greener, Lighter Cars

By Jenny Hall

A University of Toronto research team has won $2,513,500 from Automotive Partnership Canada (APC) to work with Ford Motor Company to develop a novel new material for car parts using renewable resources extracted from wood pulp. Together with financial and in-kind contributions from Ford and U of T, the project’s total value is $4,981,500.

The team, led by Professor Mohini Sain, who is cross-appointed to our Department, is using two key ingredients from wood pulp: micro-cellulose fibre and lignin carbon fibre. These two fibres are combined to create a high-strength composite that will be used to manufacture automotive components. The manufacturing process will be greener and the components lighter, leading to reduced vehicle emissions. 

“We are very fortunate to have three leading public-private partners helping us to address a key research issue to design and manufacture automobiles for better living,” said Sain, who is dean of the Faculty of Forestry and cross-appointed to chemical engineering and applied chemistry. “We are a committed multidisciplinary team with relevant expertise poised to bring transformative changes in lightweight materials innovation and positively contribute to global climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Sain is joined by U of T ChemE Professor Ramin Farnood, MSE ProfessorChandra Veer Singh and Professor Ning Yan of Forestry, who is also cross-appointed to our Department. Roman Maev of the University of Windsor rounds out the team. To develop the unique design tools and processing technologies needed to produce their new composite material, researchers are working closely with industry partner Ford Motor Company.

“Congratulations to all the researchers,” said Professor Paul Young, U of T’s vice-president (research and innovation). “Collaborative research like this, in which academia and industry join forces, allows us to apply our combined strengths to solving real-world problems.”

The project builds on Sain’s success innovating the use of natural materials in place of plastic in manufactured goods. An active entrepreneur, Sain’s technology formed the basis for the spinoff company Greencore Composites, and he holds several patents.  
Announced in April 2009, Automotive Partnership Canada is a five-year, $145-million initiative that supports collaborative research and development and pushes the Canadian automotive industry to greater levels of innovation. Automotive companies play a key role in this industry-driven initiative, by providing both financial support and essential in-kind contributions to the collaborative research projects.

“The automotive industry has told us how important R&D partnerships are to innovation in this sector,” said Janet Walden, Chief Operating Officer of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, which is the lead agency within Automotive Partnership Canada. “Across Canada, Automotive Partnership Canada is supporting industry-university research partnerships that are translating our strong discovery research into new knowledge and technologies that companies tell us help to improve their products, processes and technologies.” 


The Geography of Pollution

Epidemiologists in recent years have developed an increasingly precise understanding of the relationship between exposure to airborne pollutants and a range of health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and asthma. What’s less well known is precisely where the air is most polluted.

Toronto, for example, has only four air-quality measurement stations providing real-time data, even though research shows that the concentration of pollutants such as nitrous oxide, volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide can vary by orders of magnitude within an area spanning just a few city blocks.

To more precisely gauge pollution levels, Natalia Mykhaylova, a PhD candidate in chemical engineering, is developing an inexpensive air-quality monitor that could be deployed on utility poles across a city. Click here for full story.


UK Supports Diosady’s Iron Fortified Tea Solution

The UK is backing new research into iron fortified tea leaves, which it is hoped will save the lives of thousands of mothers and babies in the developing world.

Across the world, a woman dies in childbirth every 2 minutes. Dr Levente Diosady, a professor of chemical engineering and applied chemistry at the University of Toronto, suggests a simple iron-enriched cuppa could be part of the solution. Click here to read more.


Professor Elizabeth Edwards Talks Career and Parenthood

Elizabeth Edwards, a chemical engineering professor at the University of Toronto and the mother of three children, the youngest of whom is now 19, credits her outlook to great mentorship. Her late mother was a professor of urban planning at McGill University in the 1970s and 1980s when there was a major pay restructuring after a salary survey revealed that female faculty earned significantly less than men. “She was one of those pioneers who really believed in equal rights and equal pay. She was a great role model.” Edwards drew on this example in her own career. To read more, click here.


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