Posts Categorized: News 2015

Three Ways U of T Engineers are Addressing Food and Nutrition Issues around the World

A new multidisciplinary collaboration from the Centre for Global Engineering (CGEN) is bringing together researchers from across the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering to address hunger and malnutrition, which affect billions of people around the world.

The Food & Nutrition Security Engineering Initiative (FaNSEI) seeks to leverage the Faculty’s diverse expertise to advance engineering solutions to these issues. According to Professor Yu-Ling Cheng (ChemE), director of CGEN, the fact that food and nutrition are complex and intertwined with issues like agricultural productivity, water availability, energy resources, food preservation, transport and storage make them ideal challenges for engineers to take on.

“Many of our professors already work in areas that are relevant across the entire value chain of food production, but may not have thought of themselves as being able to contribute to food-related challenges,” said Cheng. “This project is about connecting the dots between our faculty’s expertise and global problems.”

The group first met in October and has received seed funding from the Dean’s Strategic Fund, which supports strategic collaborations that have a broad impact in the Faculty. FaNSEI members include Professors Edgar Acosta (ChemE), Stewart Aitchison (ECE), Amy Bilton (MIE), Chi-Guhn Lee (MIE), Timothy Chan (MIE), Levente Diosady (ChemE), Elizabeth Edwards (ChemE), Emma Master (ChemE) and Arun Ramchandran (ChemE). The team has also sought input from U of T researchers outside engineering, including plant biologists and experts in food security and nutrition. Read full story.

Caitlin Maikawa (ChemE 1T6) Reflects on her Experience at the Catalyst Canada Honours Conference

Caitlin MaikawaI was one of two U of T Engineering students who had the opportunity to attend the Catalyst Canada Honours Conference, as part of the BMO Millennial Leaders Advisory Council in November 2015. BMO invited 30 female-engineering and -business students from top schools across Canada. U of T had three students invited, two from Engineering and one from Rotman. Most students were nominated by their Faculty’s Dean to attend the conference, however some completed an essay challenge to earn their spot.

We arrived the night before the conference and met both BMO and Catalyst Canada representatives. They hosted a dinner so that we had the opportunity to meet the other students. The room was full of high-achieving girls who were excited to be able to attend and participate in the event.

The Catalyst Canada Honours Conference started the next morning. The day began with a panel discussion with the three Catalyst Canada honourees who were being recognized for their commitment to the inclusion and advancement of women in the workplace. Some interesting themes came up regarding the difference between having targets versus quotas when looking to hire or promote women in the workplace. The honourees discussed their experiences, as well as current events, such as Prime Minister Trudeau’s half-female cabinet.

Lunch was followed by an engaging workshop presented by Janet Kestin and Nancy Vonk, the co-founders of SWIM Leadership Consultancy and creators of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. They discussed with us the importance of “taking the microphone” and raising one’s hand for promotion. Their focus was on showcasing one’s achievements and strengths. We did a practice “introduce yourself to Oprah” activity with our neighbor, and learned about the importance of having a couple of things ready to say about yourself when meeting new people so they can easily relate to you.

The day finished with a keynote address by Ken Dryden, Hockey Hall of Fame goalie and former Federal Cabinet Minister. He gave an excellent talk about the development of talent in Canada, drawing parallels to talent development in hockey. He discussed the idea of a similar system to the Leafs Dreams program that has elementary school teachers nominate students who they think have talent. He explained that these teachers act as “talent scouts” similar to the scouts that get sent out to look for talented hockey players. He built on this concept that Canada needs a system to scout corporate talent so that people with potential don’t fly under the radar.

That evening we attended a dinner where the Catalyst Canada honourees received their awards. The Governor General, women who broke through barriers including Roberta Bondar, the first female RCMP officer, and the first female pilot also attended the dinner. BMO placed us at a couple of tables, each with a BMO executive.

On the second day, we had the chance to have a round table meeting with Bill Downe, Chief Executive Officer of BMO Financial Group, and Alex Johnston, the Executive Director of Catalyst Canada. They wanted to hear our opinion on what Millennials are looking for as they enter the workforce. The main themes of our discussion highlighted that Millennials want to have an impact and a voice in the workplace early on in their careers. We ended our trip with a tour of BMO and the BMO stock exchange floor, followed by a lunch with all of the BMO and Catalyst Canada staff we’d had the chance to meet over the two-day conference. The entire experience was extremely inspirational and a great opportunity to network with other women. I really appreciated the opportunity to be able to attend. This was the first meeting of the BMO Millennial Advisory Council. BMO and Catalyst Canada will be reaching out to us in the near future for our opinions. I am very excited to share my thoughts and visions with them.

ChemE Alumnus Named President of National Taitung University in Taiwan

The Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry would like to congratulate Alumnus Yew-Min Tzeng (MASc 8T3, PhD 8T7) who will become National Taitung University’s president in February 2016. His work under U of T Professors Levente Diosady and L. J. Rubin led to a productive food engineering research career in Taiwan, where he later became vice-president of Chaoyang University of Technology and vice-president of the Asian Federation of Biotechnology.

U of T Hosts its First PetroChallenge

PetroChallenge 2015

During the weekend of November 28-29, 2015, students from the University of Toronto’s departments of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry, Civil + Mineral Engineering, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, Earth Sciences, and Physics competed in U of T’s first PetroChallenge sponsored by NExT-Schlumberger and ShawCor.

Close to 90 students registered for the event and only 48 were offered spots. In teams of four, 12 groups used OilSim – an upstream learning simulator that takes its participants through the entire oil and gas exploration and production business process – to acquire expertise in strategy selection and decision-making. Guided by seasoned professionals from the sponsoring organizations, which also happen to be two of the world’s largest oil and gas service companies, student competitors faced and conquered real-world industry business scenarios and technical challenges.

“During the two-day event, we simulated a number of projects in the petroleum-upstream sector using the OilSim software. In reality this could take 10-plus years! It was the most exciting and intense practice of project management, time management and teamwork I have ever experienced,” says Mehdi Ghofrani Tabari, a geophysicist and recent PhD graduate from the Department of Physics.

Directly after the closing reception on November 29, eight students from the two highest scoring teams – including Tabari – received job interviews with senior members from NExT-Schlumberger and ShawCor.

“I was very impressed by the students who participated in the competition and happy that we took part in the event. Unique learning opportunities like the PetroChallenge give students a chance to put their knowledge to the test while going beyond standard curriculum,” says Ron Dunn, Vice President of Research and Development at ShawCor.

In just a few weeks, U of T’s student winners will travel to Houston, Texas and face opponents from Rice University and Penn State in the PetroChallenge Final from January 15-16, 2016.

“As a winning-team member, I’d like to thank U of T and the sponsors for brining this opportunity to us. This event absolutely bridges the gap between industry and academia, while offering hands-on engagement with potential employers. Not only has this event enhanced my knowledge of the petroleum industry and given me a competitive edge, it has furthered my interest in pursuing a career in the industry when I graduate in June 2016,” says Kyu Mok Kim, a fourth-year student from the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry.

On behalf of the University of Toronto, congratulations and best of luck in the Final to the following students:

Alternate Oil
Rabia Chaudhry (CivE MASc student)
Amelia Ly (CivE 1T5 + PEY)
Julian Pires (MechE 1T5 + PEY)
Ahsan Saeed (MechE 1T5 + PEY)

Petro M8
Yin Peng Chan (ChemE 1T7)
Kyu Mok Kim (ChemE 1T5 + PEY)
Arthur Leung (ChemE 1T6)
Mehdi Ghofrani Tabari (Phyics PhD 1T5)

To view pictures from U of T’s PetroChallenge weekend, visit the following links:

PetroChallenge Day 1

PetroChallenge Day 2




From Canadian Petro-Chemical Consultant to Washington, DC: a Q&A with Stephen Selk (7T6)

Most people are familiar with the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the evening news.

Others, like ChemE alumnus Stephen Selk (7T6), actually work there.

The Toronto-born chemical engineer spent 25 years in the petro-chemical industry in Canada before making his way south to Washington, D.C. Since 2013, he has been a supervising program analyst at DHS.

U of T Engineering’s Jamie Hunter spoke with Selk about his anti-terrorism role at the DHS, being taught by Marshall McLuhan at U of T, and how an explosion on Toronto’s waterfront in the 1980s really set his career in motion.

Read full interview.

Engineering for Educators Builds Bridges with Local Teachers

Last Friday, more than 40 high school science and math teachers from across the Greater Toronto Area joined U of T Engineering for a series of interactive and collaborative workshops on teaching and learning.

Engineering for Educators (E4E) is an annual event in which secondary teachers and U of T Engineering faculty and staff discuss innovative ways to bring STEM into the secondary classroom. This year, E4E was expanded to a full-day event with a strong emphasis on practical strategies that are classroom-ready.

Among the group of teachers in attendance were two of our alumni. Read about the day and what they got from it.

How Canada Reversed the ‘Brain Drain’

In the 1990s, we feared a “brain drain” to the United States. But star recruits in science and engineering, such as ChemE Professor Yu-Ling Cheng, have changed the equation by staying in Canada.

Read full Toronto Star article.

ChemE Prof Grows Tiny Hearts for Research

Tiny bits of human skin are being transformed into miniature, beating hearts in a scientific medical breakthrough a University of Toronto researcher believes will not only save lives but alter the course of drug testing forever.

The rod-shaped, elastic-like, thumbnail-sized patch of tissue is only about 6mm long but expands and contracts just like a beating heart. It’s a feat that its creator, U of T chemical engineering professor Milica Radisic, originated from human skin biopsies, such as newborn foreskin tissue.

Read full story from the Hamilton Spectator.

Engineers Create New Technology for Understanding Cancer Growth

A team of U of T engineers is unrolling the mysteries of cancer — literally. They have developed a way to grow cancer cells in the form of a rolled-up sheet that mimics the 3D environment of a tumour, yet can also be taken apart in seconds. The platform, described in a new Nature Materials paper, offers a way to speed up the development of new drugs and therapies and ask new questions about how cancer cells behave.

The drawbacks of studying cancer cells in a traditional petri dish are well known. While cells in a tumour grow in three dimensions, the dish is only two-dimensional. Moreover, cells in the centre of a tumour have less access to oxygen and nutrients than those growing near the surface, close to the blood vessels. These subtle, location-dependent differences have a big impact on cell behaviour, but have proven difficult to replicate in a dish.

In response, tissue engineers have tried to build more realistic 3D models by impregnating porous, sponge-like materials with cells and stacking them like building blocks. Professor Alison McGuigan (ChemE, IBBME) is among them, but she was challenged to think differently about the problem by talking with Professor Radhakrishnan Mahadevan (ChemE, IBBME). (McGuigan and Mahadevan are both members of U of T Engineering’s BioZone.)

Read more.

Molly Shoichet Talks Regenerative Medicine at TEDxToronto

Professor Molly Shoichet (ChemE, IBBME) was among the inspiring roster of speakers and performers at this year’s TEDxToronto conference, held October 22.

Shoichet’s talk focused on her research into regenerative medicine and it’s potential to be a game-changer in the treatment of disease. “When I look back on medical treatments [from the past] I’m really happy to be living today,” she said. “But I can’t help but wonder how we will look back on today’s medical treatments. What will we laugh at and ask why?”

Shoichet described her work in three areas — cancer, blindness and stroke — and how her team is going beyond the treatment of the symptoms toward stopping and even reversing these conditions. Her complete talk is now available online.

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