Posts Categorized: News 2018

Top U of T Engineering news stories of 2018

It has been another remarkable year at U of T Engineering. As 2018 winds down, our faculty, students and alumni continue to make headlines through innovative research, game-changing contributions to a wide range of industries and unforgettable educational experiences.

Here’s a look back at five of the most-read stories on U of T Engineering News.

New NSERC Industrial Research Chair leverages nanotechnology to enhance health care

Professor Frank Gu can sum up his team’s leading-edge research in four words: big challenges, tiny tools.

Gu and his team use nanoparticles — engineered materials measuring around one billionth of a metre — to address challenges in medicine, such as diagnosing infectious diseases and treating chronic eye conditions.

After joining U of T Engineering in July 2018, Gu was recently appointed the NSERC Senior Industrial Research Chair (IRC) in Nanotechnology Engineering. The new collaboration will apply cutting-edge nanotechnology to the next generation of medical devices and techniques. Read more.

Tenure-Stream opportunity! Apply now!

The Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry invites applications for a tenure-­stream appointment in bioengineering or bioscience applied to environmental, energy or food systems. The appointment will be at the rank of Assistant Professor or Associate Professor with an expected start date of July 1, 2019, or shortly thereafter.

The successful candidate will have demonstrated excellence, leadership and innovation in research and teaching. Candidates must have experience in at least two of the areas below:

  • Complex biological systems, including microbial community engineering for water and waste treatment and reuse
  • Sustainable bioprocessing and biochemical engineering
  • Applied biochemistry and enzymology for biocatalysis and bio-pathway development; enzyme discovery; protein discovery, structure-function and protein engineering; synthetic biology applications for environmental and industrial biotechnology
  • Genomics and metabolomics;; advanced mass spectrometry applied to biological systems
  • Computational biology, genome-scale metabolic modeling and data analytics for bioprocess development
  • Areas of application include but are not limited to biohydrometallurgy, resource recovery, biorefining and forest products, renewable energy, carbon capture, bioremediation, bioreactor design and Life Cycle Analysis

For more info on how to apply, click on either of the links above (i.e. “Assistant Professor” or “Associate Professor”). The call for applications closes on February 18, 2019.

ChemE Future Leaders: Muhammad Massod

Muhammad Masood (ChemE 2T0 + PEY) is in his 3rd year at U of T where he is pursuing a degree in Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry, with a minor in Bioengineering. He is most interested in fluid mechanics, process design, bioengineering, and in particular how chemical engineering relates to the oil and gas industry. Muhammad is a member of U of T’s debate team, and in his spare time he enjoys working out as he has recently developed an interest in powerlifting.

Having worked as a translator on peer-reviewed journals and other engineering-related work, Muhammad is fluent in both English and in Urdu. He has also worked as a coach for Hatch Canada where he taught coding, programing, and problem-solving skills to children.

Muhammad’s goal is to eventually work in industry as a chemical engineer, preferably in oil and gas. “I love being challenged and getting my hands dirty,” Muhammad says, “so the ideal fit for me would be somewhere that offers a lot of hands-on experience and also gives me opportunities to apply my engineering knowledge to solve problems. Most of all I want to have a positive impact on people’s lives and on the world around me in whatever I do.”


Q: What are your strengths?

My biggest strength is problem solving, which has really served me well throughout my undergraduate degree. On one project, I had to analyze the T2 Laboratories reactor explosion (which was due to a thermal runaway reaction.) The heat and reaction profiles of the process were analyzed and modeled through the application of complex heat and mass transfer and process modeling concepts. This model also required extensive coding, which relied heavily on my ability to find creative solutions to problems on the fly and to really think on my feet.

I love working in teams, which is important because so much of engineering involves group projects. In my Engineering Design and Strategies course, I was part of a team that was attempting to introduce coding into elementary school curriculum. We all worked really well together with very few hiccups, and the project turned out amazingly well. We all had so much fun that it barely felt like work sometimes!

I also really pride myself on being a good communicator. Being on the debate team, first in high school and now at U of T, I’ve learned so much about different debate styles, such as MUN and parliamentary debating. In high school, I was a national-level debate champion, which really helped me to develop my ability to communicate effectively to a variety of different audiences.

Q: What are your weaknesses?

I have a tendency to be overly critical of myself, regardless of my achievements or my performance on a given task. While I do believe it’s important to constantly push yourself, this can sometimes get in the way of moving onto the next thing on my list. I’m always trying to be mindful to not let the perfect get in the way of good, and I continue to work on finding the right balance between the two sides. I don’t think I’ll ever stop striving to be as close to perfect as possible, but I’m getting better and better at recognizing when that stops being productive and starts getting in the way of my progress.

 Q: How would your friends describe you?

My friends would say that I’m very easy going and approachable, someone who does not get stressed easily, and someone who stays calm and collected even when things get a bit hectic. I think I’m known as someone that likes to enjoy himself when there’s some down time, but can shift gears quickly and be productive when there’s work to be done.

Q: Where would you like to be five years after graduation?

I would like to be working as an engineer for a company that is making a positive impact on the world. By that point, I hope to be an established and valued member of a team and lending my knowledge and expertise to help newer employees.

Q: What are your long-term career goals?

My long-term career goals are to master concepts in chemical engineering and their application to the real world, and to be leading projects that make a real positive impact on the lives of people and to society as a whole.

 Q: Provide a few examples of how you have shown leadership or initiative.

During high school, I was General Secretary and then President of the debate team. In these positions I was responsible for leading a large team of over one hundred people in organizing two national level debate tournaments. I was also responsible for overseeing weekly debate workshops where students were taught the art of debating, public speaking, and critical thinking. This experience helped me to greatly improve my ability to manage large teams and many different personalities, and gave me the opportunity to develop into a much stronger leader.

Q: What makes you a good PEY candidate?

I am eager to learn, and I love to be challenged. I’m also dedicated to continuing to improve myself as an engineer and as a person. I’m a great problem-solver, a strong team player, and I like to face challenges head-on. My skills, attitude, and work ethic mean I can fit in well with lots of different people and in many different environments, and I know that I can make a positive contribution to an engineering team right away.

Interested in hiring a Professional Experience Year Co-op student? Learn more about U of T’s PEY Co-op program HERE

Professor Milica Radisic joins new Centre for Research and Applications in Fluidic Technologies (CRAFT)

U of T Engineering is partnering with Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) to create a national innovation hub focused on microfluidics – a field in which tiny amounts of fluid are manipulated in small-scale devices to create everything from portable diagnostic “labs,” to repair kits for human organs.

The new hub, called the Centre for Research and Applications in Fluidic Technologies (CRAFT) will combine the talents of U of T Engineering microfluidic experts, including Milica Radisic (IBBME, ChemE), and NRC scientists in a bid to catalyze new discoveries and scale up production of existing prototypes to deliver higher quality patient care at a lower cost.

In total, CRAFT will involve more than 200 people, 45 labs and 25 technology companies, and will be jointly funded by both partners with a $22 million investment over five years.

Radisic, Canada Research Chair in Functional Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering, and Wheeler, Canada Research Chair of Bioanalytical Chemistry, will also play key roles in the CRAFT collaboration. Radisic has developed an injectable patch, which can be seeded with heart cells from a patient’s own body, to repair tissues damaged during a heart attack without resorting to open-heart surgery.

“Many researchers build their prototypes out of a material called polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS),” says Radisic. “It’s easy to work with in the lab, but it absorbs small molecules, including drugs, which means we can’t use it for the commercial versions. NRC scientists know how to make devices from other thermoplastic elastomers that don’t absorb small molecules.

“That would be a game changer for us.”

Click here to learn more about Centre for Research and Applications in Fluidic Technologies (CRAFT)

This short video profiles Milica Radisics work on growing heart tissue from human cells:

Catching up with Stephanie Tzanis

Stephanie TzanisEven though she’s no longer a student, Stephanie Tzanis (ChemE 1T7 + PEY) is still well known around the halls of Wallberg. Faculty, staff, and students remember her fondly as a true leader and a social butterfly. Some may be surprised to learn that she wasn’t always so outgoing.

“I wasn’t as confident in high school, but when I started university I decided to push myself to get involved. I made a real effort from day one to contribute as much as possible to Chem Club, which helped me to break out of my shell,” recalls Tzanis, who is now a Project Engineer-in-Training at Integran Technologies, a nanomaterials company founded by U of T alumnus Gino Palumbo (MSE 8T3, MASc 8T5, PhD 8T9).

Today, Tzanis continues to push beyond her comfort zone and embrace new opportunities that have come her way.

“When I graduated I thought I wanted to work in alternative energy or in a role related to the environment and sustainability. I wasn’t looking to work in the nanomaterials industry at all, but I absolutely love my job and can’t see myself anywhere else now. I learn new things every day, my tasks are so diverse and I’m always moving around. It’s great,” declares Tzanis, who is heavily involved in research and development at Integran Technologies.

A typical work day has her involved in electroplating, electrochemistry, and even getting her hands dirty in the shop (with a press drill, bandsaw, or sandblaster, to name a few). She has the good fortune to carry out experiments based on client requests with a respectable amount of autonomy, something she values greatly.

“One thing that’s pretty amazing is how much freedom and trust I’m given at Integran. I’ve been well trained on the job, and I came in feeling confident because of my education,” Tzanis explains. “I learned pretty quickly during my undergrad that chemical engineering impacts many different industrial processes. The program also taught me a ton about time and priority management. I wasn’t that worried about entering the workforce when I finished school,” she claims. “I knew I was ready to handle just about anything.”

Beyond work, Tzanis likes to pursue interests that take her outside of her areas of expertise, such as singing in her church choir and taking dance lessons. “To live a life with no regrets, you have to take a few risks,” says Tzanis. It’s clear she’s hit the ground running, and the future is bright.

If you’d like to CONNECT with Tzanis, please send her an email through U of T Engineering Connect. She is keen to learn from Skule™ community members and expand her network.

In high demand: Why U of T graduates are among the most sought after on the planet

When it came to launching a career, Enakshi Shah (ChemE 1T7 + PEY) didn’t need to look far after graduating from the University of Toronto.

Armed with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a passion for computer programming, Shah packed up her things and moved a few subway stops south of U of T’s downtown Toronto campus to a fast-growing software development firm, where she’s now hammering out code for a who’s who of the corporate world.

“The projects have been great,” says Shah of her new position. “They’re all with Fortune 500 companies – mostly from the States. It’s such a good variety – new Android technology, iOS – right across the board.”

Shah and her family are originally from Peterborough, Ont. But they moved to the United States when she was in Grade 5, ultimately ending up in Orlando, Fla. She and her father, a mechanical engineer, tinkered with car engines in the driveway of the family home. They also took apart toasters and put them back together.

Shah zeroed in on U of T’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering when deciding where to attend university – in part because of U of T’s top-notch reputation, but also because of the faculty’s commitment to diversity.

She says her decision to remain in Toronto following graduation last spring was a no-brainer.

“I think it’s going to be the next tech hub in North America,” she says. “I never felt bottlenecked or stymied after I graduated. There were so many opportunities.”

Shah’s experience is an increasingly common one among U of T graduates. Despite dire warnings about a “lost generation” after the Great Recession that followed the 2008 financial crisis, many U of T grads – and even some current students – are suddenly finding themselves in exceptionally high demand, wooed by a wide variety of employers in Toronto and beyond.

Read more HERE

U of T co-hosts large international conference on sustainability

Chuck's dinner

Chuck Mims (centre) celebrating with friends and colleagues on Monday, October 29.

The XXIX Interamerican Congress of Chemical Engineering Incorporating the 68th Canadian Chemical Engineering Conference, co-hosted by the University of Toronto and Ryerson University, ran from October 28-31, 2018 at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto.

The conference – one of the largest of its kind – welcomed nearly 1,400 delegates from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay.

The incredible interest in the proceedings demonstrated from around the world was due in large part to the nearly 100 academics, industry leaders, and government officials from Canada and internationally who supported the organizing committee led by U of T Professors Charles Jia (Conference Chair) and Ramin Farnood (Technical Program Co-Chair), as well as Ryerson Professor Farhad Ein-Mozaffari (Technical Program Co-Chair).

“The leadership and commitment of Professors Jia, Farnood, and Ein-Mozaffari helped to spotlight the outstanding research and breakthroughs coming out of Toronto,” said Professor Grant Allen, Chair of U of T’s Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry. “This conference was a great opportunity for our researchers to connect with the global chemical engineering community and really showcase the kind of leading-edge work the Department is continually producing.”

With the theme Engineering for a Healthy and Sustainable Planet, the conference sought to address the biggest challenges facing the world today, with particular focus on human health, sustainable energy, natural resources, globalization, and the environment. The comprehensive technical program was made up of over 1,000 oral and poster presentations, and six plenary lectures which included the prestigious Emerging Leaders in Chemical Engineering Forum. Professor Gisele Azimi from U of T was named an Emerging Leader in Chemical Engineering prior to the conference.

The technical program also included seven international symposia on topical subjects, with three honouring internationally renowned Canadian pioneers in lignocellulosic resources (David Goring), environmental science (Don Mackay) and biomedical engineering (Mike Sefton). Ten technical tracks were also organized, reflecting the diversity of the chemical engineering discipline and showcasing the advances in traditional and emerging chemical engineering fields. Seven special sessions were added to wrap-up the technical program, including one recognizing the outstanding contributions made by Chuck Mims to heterogeneous catalysis. Goring, Mackay, Mims, and Sefton are all prominent members of the U of T Chemical Engineering community.


David Goring was actively involved in teaching and training at U of T’s Pulp and Paper Centre. He devoted the majority of his working life (before, during, and after U of T) to the study and understanding of the structure of the three main components of wood: lignin, cellulose, and hemicellulose. His ground breaking, original work on how wood components are modified by chemical pulping has been of great importance to the pulp and paper industry. His publications on the thermal softening of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin are the basis of much of the recent work on the effects of elevated temperatures in the thermo-mechanical pulping of wood. Goring’s work formed the foundation of the thermo-mechanical pulping industry. It was also important for the press drying, high temperature calendaring, and thermally induced bonding of webs in the production of paper sheets. His original work on the modification of the surface of cellulose fibers in order to make them more reactive shed light on how they bond in paper sheet formation and how they bond to polymer coatings. This has led to the more efficient production of paper and new polymer coated paper products.

Don Mackay is Professor Emeritus in U of T’s Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry where he taught for nearly 30 years. His principal research has been on the environmental fate of toxic substances and has included studies of numerous partitioning and transport processes in the environment, the focus being on organic contaminants. Much of this work has been directed towards the issue of Great Lakes water quality and Arctic conditions. Recent work has included the extension of multi-media environmental models to include food uptake and pharmacokinetic processes and their application as components of chemical risk assessments by regulatory agencies world-wide.

Chuck Mims joined U of T’s Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry as a professor and an NSERC Industrial Research Chair back in 1990. He formally retired in 2015. His research areas have focused on heterogeneous catalysis and heterogeneous reactions related to energy conversion, especially where the fundamental reaction mechanisms which govern kinetics and selectivity impose the major barrier to commercial feasibility. Due to the need for sophisticated analytical information in order to pursue this research, Mims led the establishment (with extensive Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) funding) of a world-class surface analytical laboratory at U of T. This was recently enlarged and combined with electron microscopy facilities as the Ontario Centre for Characterisation of Advanced Materials (OCCAM), used by over 300 different research groups annually.

Mike Sefton is University Professor and Michael E. Charles Professor in U of T’s Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry and the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering. He was Director of the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering from 1999-2005. He is currently Executive Director of Medicine by Design. Sefton has degrees in Chemical Engineering from U of T (1971) and MIT (1974) and has been at U of T since 1974. For his research, Sefton has been active in the preparation of blood compatible materials through heparinization, the microencapsulation of mammalian cells in synthetic polymers and various strategies for vascularizing tissue constructs.


On top of the conference’s rich technical program, a robust student program was provided for both undergraduate and graduate students, consisting of eight events ranging from poster competitions to a workshop on early career publishing. U of T PhD student Maryam Arefmanes supervised by Professor Emma Master won third place in the Energy Division Poster Competition for her poster entitled, Lignin modification with ionic liquid.

“Thank you to everyone from U of T who participated and helped to make the XXIX Interamerican Congress of Chemical Engineering Incorporating the 68th Canadian Chemical Engineering Conference such a huge success,” said Professor Allen. “It was an incredible honour to co-host such a significant international event. I think our organizing team should be very proud of the way they were able to represent U of T to the global chemical engineering community.”

ChemE Future Leaders: Samantha Kim

Samantha Kim (ChemE 2T0 + PEY) is in the 3rd year of her degree in Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry at U of T. When she’s not in class, she can usually be found volunteering or working in one of her numerous roles on clubs throughout campus. In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading and spending time with good friends, and she places a great deal of importance in making time for herself. “In order to be able to do good work for others, sometimes you need to put your own health and happiness first,” she explains. Samantha is taking the Bioengineering Minor, and is particularly interested in Engineering Biology, and Reaction Kinetics.

Outside of school and making sure to take some time for herself to relax, Samantha is an active volunteer and club leader. She is the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) High School Mentorship Director, where she manages a team of mentors, pairing them with high school students across the GTA. In her role with the WISE mentorship program, Samantha is also responsible for planning and running monthly events that bring mentors and mentees together in fun and engaging ways.Samantha is also the Vice-President Finance for the Bioengineering Student Association, the ChemClub Webmaster, and a Child Life Volunteer at SickKids Hospital.

Samantha has also worked as a Research Assistant for Professor Ya-Huei (Cathy) Chin (ChemE), studying phenol adsorptive properties on the catalyst Zeolite Socony Mobil (HZSM-5) in order to understand hydrodeoxygenation reactions for the purposes of upgrading bio-oil to biofuel.Samantha is open to all the possibilities that chemical engineering has to offer, with particular interest in pharmaceuticals. She can also one day see herself as a business consultant or strategist, employing the analytical and time management skills she’s developed over the course of her degree. She is excited for the chance to explore her options to find the best fit possible during her upcoming PEY Co-op.

Q: What are your biggest strengths?

My biggest strengths are my ability to maintain a well-balanced life, and my ability to manage my time effectively. I am able to balance being heavily involved in numerous clubs while still keeping up with my schoolwork and maintaining strong grades. I love to help other people, but it takes a lot of work and commitment to always deliver my best on time. That’s why I think finding the right balance between school, work, volunteering, and my personal life is incredibly important. I don’t think you can help other people if you’re not also helping yourself. I try to always make sure to leave time after all of my other obligations for things that make me happy, like going to spin class, or simply just hanging out with friends and family.

Q: What are your weaknesses?

My desire to help others often leads me to avoid conflict wherever possible. This can have its benefits when working in groups, but it can also prevent me from being assertive with others at times. Strong leaders need to be confident and assertive to get the best out of the people around them, and this is an area I’m working hard to be better in.

Q: How would your friends describe you?

My friends would describe me as someone who is organized and responsible. They see me handling many responsibilities and being able to balance them all with my school life. They might also say that I am well-spoken and able to communicate my thoughts thoroughly and clearly. I think this really helps me to maintain strong relationships because it means the people around me know they can count on me, and they know they always have somebody they can talk to.

Q: How do you want to improve yourself in the next year?

I would really like to improve my ability to network effectively. Once people get a chance to know me, they realize how hardworking, caring, and reliable I am, but I can have a hard time making professional contacts at times. I want to become more assertive and confident in reaching out to people in industry and in academics, because I understand how important good relationships are to achieving my goals.

Q: Where would you like to be five years after graduation?

I have always dreamed of being a professor, especially here at U of T. I would love to work in the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) to continue pursuing my interest in bioengineering, so in five years I hope to be nearing the end of my PhD and working toward becoming an academic.

Q: Describe your ideal PEY Co-op?

My ideal PEY Co-op is one that will allow me to do many things and one that keeps on providing opportunities to learn. I also think it’s important for me to work with people because I enjoy and value creating interpersonal relationships.

Q: Why should somebody hire you for a PEY Co-op?

I have a proven ability to handle many things at once. I am organized and able to manage my time well, and I am also able to communicate both on technical issues and interpersonally. I am also open-minded and versatile, and open to trying new things. I always put in my best effort possible, and I think I’m really easy to work with because I’m dependable and easy to get along with.


Interested in hiring a Professional Experience Year Co-op student? Learn more about U of T’s PEY Co-op program HERE

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