Posts Categorized: News 2020

Video: U of T Engineering celebrates the holidays with the Twelve Days of Skule™

As we reflect on 2020, we can all look back with immense pride on the ways the U of T Engineering community has come together — with creativity, resilience and determination — during what has been an unusually challenging year.

I hope you take time over the winter break to relax, recharge and enjoy yourselves.

In celebration of our U of T Engineering community, we’ve prepared a special treat for you: Twelve Days of Skule™ is our video holiday message for 2020. It features the vocals of Engineering Science undergraduate student Connor Glossop, who is pursuing a minor in Engineering Music Performance.



Here’s to 2021 and to new beginnings,

Chris Yip
Dean, Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
University of Toronto

Making the most of an unusual semester: How U of T Engineering students are adapting to remote learning

Story by Tyler Irving, U of T Engineering News


Left to right: Brothers Arnaud Deza (Year 3 EngSci), Daniel Deza (Year 1 EngSci) and Gabriel Deza (Year 4 EngSci) are all studying from home this semester. Their sister Anna Deza (EngSci 2T0) joins them online. (Photo: Emmanuel Deza)

Daniel Deza (Year 1 EngSci) always knew he was going to have friends at U of T Engineering — starting with his older brothers Arnaud (Year 3 EngSci) and Gabriel (Year 4 EngSci).

What he didn’t anticipate is just how close the three of them were going to get this semester.

All three Deza brothers are currently living — and studying — together at their parents’ house in Hamilton, Ont. Their older sister Anna (EngSci 2T0) graduated last spring and is now pursuing a PhD at the University of California Berkeley, while younger brother Emmanuel is also living at home while attending high school.

“My siblings told me lots of stories about what first year would be like, but nothing prepared me for this,” says Daniel.

Like all U of T Engineering students this semester, Daniel and his brothers have had to adapt to a challenging and unusual Fall term. In doing so, he and others have found new strategies to manage their studying and remote learning.

“Online learning is demanding and rather stressful, but having siblings in the same program is certainly a very fortunate situation to be in,” says Gabriel, who also mentors other first- and second-year students in Engineering Science online through the NSight Program.

“My brothers ask me about course content and course delivery, and we discuss funny stories about the teachers we have in common.”

Gabriel says he finds online learning easier than in-person classes, as they provide more flexibility in terms of when to watch the pre-recorded lectures. But Arnaud takes a different view.

“Compared to other semesters I feel very tired after a full day of Zoom lectures at my desk staring at my laptop screen for long periods of time,” he says. “One way to cope is to go on walks almost every day, either alone or with my family. I think this is essential even on the busy days, just to clear my mind and get some fresh air.”

Michael Simunec. (Photo: Michael Simunec)
Michael Simunec. (Photo: Michael Simunec)

First-year student Michael Simunec (TrackOne) developed his own strategy for online learning via a meeting early in the semester with U of T Engineering Learning Strategist Shahad Abdulnour.

“We produced a new schedule for managing time, work and classes that suit my learning style,” he says. “Though I only met with her once, the strategy we laid out has been extremely helpful for me.”

Simunec grew up in Toronto, but has lived abroad in Rome, Italy for the past eight years. He says he chose to live in residence at Trinity College in part because it made his university experience feel more real.

“It’s tough when you can’t see your classmates, and or talk to them after class as you normally would,” he says. “Still, there are a few people around on campus. We still have to stay distant and wear masks in common areas, but the fact that I’m around other people in a similar position, including a few people in engineering, has helped.”

Outside of class, Simunec is doing what he can to get involved in co-curricular activities. When public health regulations allowed, he was able to join in pick-up games of soccer, wearing a mask of course. He is also looking into joining the U of T Chapter of Engineers Without Borders.

“I think they’ve done a good job with the transition to online,” he says. “All the information you need is available and there are people who can answer your questions. I’m hoping to get more involved as I move into upper years.”

Engineers Without Borders is not the only student club that is keeping its activities going this year. Samuel Looper (Year 4 EngSci) is the Executive Director of the University of Toronto Aerospace Team, and says the team is running its full slate of design projects as best as it can under the circumstances.

“We already had good systems for remote design collaboration,” he says. “We use Google Drive for file sharing, Slack for messaging, and other tools for task tracking, meetings and socials. There are some timeline complications due to the lack of in-person manufacturing, but most of the early stages can be done online.”

A schematic of one of the drones being constructed by members of the University of Toronto Aerospace Team (UTAT). (Image: UTAT)
A schematic of one of the drones being constructed by members of the University of Toronto Aerospace Team (UTAT). (Image: UTAT)

Looper says UTAT has also been able to keep up its outreach and professional development activities, including the Women of Aerospace speaker series and various STEM education events in partnership with Hi-Skule and other community organizations

“We’ve definitely had challenges this semester, particularly engaging with new students,” says Looper. “Nonetheless, we are on track to retain a record number of students into next semester, which points to the fact that there is definitely still a need for extracurriculars and student community events.”

Amelie Wang. (Photo: Amelie Wang)
Amelie Wang. (Photo: Amelie Wang)

Amelie Wang (Year 2 ECE) is studying from Shantou, in China’s Guangdong region. She says that being in a time zone that is 12 hours ahead of Toronto’s hasn’t affected her as much as one might think.

“Some of my friends still follow Toronto’s time zone, but I really can’t do that as sleeping is so important for me,” she says. “With the international timetable, the classes are mostly in the daytime, and all courses are recorded, so I can always watch the recordings if I do not want to stay up late or wake up early.”

Wang says that precisely because of this flexibility, online learning requires more self-control than in-person.

“It was really hard for me to follow the schedule in the beginning, but gradually I got used to it,” she says. “The key was to keep track of every day’s tasks and avoid procrastination.”

Outside of classes, Wang is continuing to volunteer as an ECE ambassador, including participating as a student panelist and answering live questions from prospective students as part of U of T Engineering’s Fall Campus Day recruitment event. She is circumspect about the impact of this semester on her overall degree program.

“As a second-year student, the pandemic hasn’t affected my journey much so far,” she says. “What I am focused on right now is getting a good internship for the coming summer, hopefully one where I can actually work with people in person.”

Julien Couture-Senécal. (Photo: Julien Couture-Senécal)
Julien Couture-Senécal. (Photo: Julien Couture-Senécal)


Left to right: Brothers Arnaud Deza (Year 3 EngSci), Daniel Deza (Year 1 EngSci) and Gabriel Deza (Year 4 EngSci) are all studying from home this semester. Their sister Anna Deza (EngSci 2T0) joins them online. (Photo: Emmanuel Deza)

It’s not just undergraduate students who have been dealing with an unprecedented semester. Julien Couture-Senécal (EngSci 2T0, BME PhD candidate) started his doctoral program in September.

Although labs are open, booking time in them can be difficult due to careful restrictions on how many people are allowed to be in them at any given time. Instead, Couture-Senécal says he’s been using the extra time to complete course requirements and enhance his skills in coding and statistical experimental design.

He has also been attending a lot of online seminars offered by U of T and other institutions, such as the Medicine By Design Global Speaker Series or the Harvard University Bioengineering Seminar Series.

“You don’t get free pizza or sandwiches as you might on campus, but they still quench my thirst for knowledge,” he says.

Couture-Senécal says that hardest change has been the lack of human interaction.

“Research shows that graduate students are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, so connecting with my peers remotely has been helpful to keep the stress levels low,” he says.

“My lab has organised weekly virtual coffee chats to take a breather and catch up. I took the down-time as an opportunity to reflect on my unhealthy pre-pandemic habits. I’ve also been learning about how to close the stress loop and discovering that I am more of an emotional being than I realized.”

Despite the challenges, Couture-Senécal still sees plenty of opportunities, and is optimistic that he can still make the most of this academic year.

“I am a firm believer that this moment of reflection will help change the graduate school experience for the better,” he says.

‘Reflect, remember, respond’: U of T commemorates National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

Story by Liz Do, U of T Engineering News

Members from across U of T’s three campuses gathered virtually to mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

On Dec. 6, 1989, a gunman entered an engineering classroom at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal and murdered 14 female students, injuring another 10 women and four men. The victims were targeted because of their gender. The date of the massacre has become a day of remembrance and action against gender-based violence and discrimination.

Each year, the university community marks the day with an event at Hart House. On the 30th anniversary of the massacre in 2019, U of T Engineering was among 14 engineering schools from across the country to shine one of 14 beams of light — one for each of the women killed — into the sky from coast to coast.

(Photo: Roberta Baker)

This year’s tri-campus virtual memorial was led by U of T Engineering and the Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre, in partnership with Hart House.

“Today we are here to remember the past, the 14 women who died from violence,” said Marisa Sterling, Assistant Dean & Director, Diversity, Inclusion and Professionalism at U of T Engineering. “We are here to acknowledge how far we have come in the present, and we are here to take actions, reimaging a future without violence or aggression towards women within the intersections of many identities.”

“This a song for all of our sisters, my Indigenous sisters, my kin, and extending out to all the sisters, including transwomen and non-binary. We have a lot of violence pushed up against us,” says Jenny Blackbird, coordinator, Ciimaan/Kahuwe’ya/Qajaq Indigenous Language Initiative Program, Centre for Indigenous Studies, who gave a performance at the start of the event. “I love you all, this is for you.”

Students from across the university then led in reading the names of the 14 women before a moment of silence.

Professor Micah Stickel (ECE), Acting Vice Provost, Students, also announced this year’s three recipients of the Award for Scholarly Achievement in Gender-Based Violence, in recognition of U of T students who have shown commitment on issues around gender-based violence and discrimination through research and prevention.

The recipients are:

  • Ferdinand Lopez (Women & Gender Studies Institute)
  • Rajpreet Sidhu (Department of Human Geography, UTSC)
  • Kanishka Sikri (Centre for Critical Development Studies)

The event culminated in a fireside chat, facilitated by Jennifer Flood and Bristy Chakrabarty of the Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre, and featuring panelists Dean Chris Yip, U of T Engineering; Alana Bailey, president of the National Society of Black Engineers U of T Chapter; Tee Duke, assistant director, Indigenous initiatives, at UTM’s Indigenous Centre; and, Andi Alhakim, intercultural programs assistant, UTM International Education Centre.

The conversation highlighted concrete actions individuals can take to question, call out and take action to end violence against women — the discussions emphasized the need to centre the narrative around protecting and preventing violence against racialized and 2SLGBTQ+ communities.

“It’s crazy how [violence is] happening to us, Black women, Indigenous women, the most — and yet less focus is on us,” says Bailey. “People need to wake up and not be desensitized. This energy is what makes society look away. To centre the narrative, I think we need to create spaces where we have a voice, spaces where we won’t be shamed, ignored and looked over.”

The group also discussed how non-Black, Indigenous and people of color (Non-BIPOC) U of T students, staff and faculty can commit to taking actions, informed by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

“I encourage folks to actually read the report,” says Duke. “It’s going to take some time, it is 1,200 pages with 231 recommendations, but it’s not that we don’t have a roadmap. It comes down to everyone having a responsibility in ending violence.”

Angela Treglia, director of the Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre, closed the event with a call to action: “Today we reflect, we remember, but we need to respond. May we all find the courage and strength to take action and speak out against violence against women and may we continue to work for change.”

Three Ships Beauty featured in 2020 Engineering Holiday Gift Guide

From a brain-sensing headband to a contemporary culinary cult classic, U of T Engineering has collected its top gift ideas — all with ties to the Faculty — to inspire your gift giving for a holiday season unlike any other.

Three Ships Beauty, founded by Laura Burget (ChemE 1T6), is among the 13 gifts featured in the guide guide this year:


(Photo courtesy: Three Ships Beauty)

Recently featured on CBC’s Dragon’s Den, Three Ships Beauty is an all-natural, cost-friendly line of skincare products co-founded by U of T Engineering alumna Laura Burget (ChemE 1T6).

Pamper yourself this holiday season with vegan and cruelty-free peptides, serums, creams, and masks – all available for under $40.

View the complete gift guide

Pulp & Paper Centre brings together over 250 academic and industry partners in virtual Consortium conference

Each November, the University of Toronto’s Pulp & Paper Centre coordinates and hosts the annual, three-day Effective Energy and Chemical Recovery in Pulp and Paper Mills Research Consortium review conference, bringing together over 100 attendees from academia and industry.

The Consortium is led by a team of multidisciplinary research leaders including professors Grant Allen (ChemE), Markus Bussmann (MIE), Nikolai DeMartini (ChemE), Honghi Tran (ChemE), and Nathan Basiliko from Laurentian University.

The Consortium is supported by 26 industry partners across Canada, the United States, Brazil, Chile, the United Kingdom, Finland and Sweden, making it’s impact international in reach and scope.

Faced with organizing the conference online this year, the Consortium found new methods of engaging participants and presenting research across its four strategic areas including, evaporator fouling, recovery and biomass boilers, recaust and lime kiln, and mill waste process utilization.

“We had to think of an online delivery strategy that gave all students an opportunity to present their findings, as would typically be done in-person,” says Mandeep Rayat, Consortium project manager. “We decided to pre-record our research presentations and post them online ahead of the conference and upload the presentations over four weeks.”

By pre-recording the presentations, attendees could watch the research presentations at their convenience. It also enabled those who may not have been able to travel to Toronto to attend and participate. As a result, over 250 academia and industry partners attended the meeting with over 130 participants per session – a conference first.

“One of the most important outcomes of the Consortium is the interactions with industry partners and getting their questions, input and finding out what research they find most useful,” says Professor Nikolai DeMartini, Consortium lead. “While that was more challenging this year, we received increased engagement by making the presentations more accessible to a wider audience and received overwhelming support and positive feedback from industry partners.”

Fifteen graduate students from U of T Engineering participated and presented their research at the conference, catching the attention of several industry leaders.

“I’m very proud of our students for their hard work leading up to the conference – their presentations received significant interest from industry partners, which is a true testament to their leading-edge research,” says DeMartini.

Two new clean-energy hubs in the GTA to boost U of T Engineering sustainability research

Story by Liz Do, U of T Engineering News


This rendering shows the vision for the Sustainability Lab, a new facility to be constructed on the roof of the Wallberg Building. (Image courtesy Baird Sampson Neuert Architects)

Two leading-edge facilities set to open in 2022 will further strengthen U of T Engineering as a powerhouse for clean energy research and commercialization.

This week, the National Research Council of Canada announced a new advanced materials research facility in Mississauga. Among other things, the facility will house the Collaboration Centre for Green Energy Research Materials (CC-GEM), a partnership between U of T and NRC that focuses on both fundamental discoveries and their translation into commercial technologies.

Professor Timothy Bender (ChemE) is one of two co-leads for CC-GEM. His research expertise focuses on the development of organic chemical substances that convert light into electricity or vice versa. These materials have important applications in display screens — from smartphones to big-screen TVs — and could also provide low-cost alternatives to the silicon-based products that currently dominate the solar power industry.

“Sustainably meeting our growing energy needs is one of the most critical challenges we face,” said Christopher Yip, Dean of U of T Engineering. “Professor Bender and his multidisciplinary team have a strong track record of success in transforming fundamental insights in chemistry, engineering and materials science into innovative technologies.

“This partnership will catalyze the transformation of these discoveries into innovative products and new business ventures that will power a greener Canadian economy.”


Professor Tim Bender. (Photo courtesy of Tim Bender)

Bender says that one of the most important functions of CC-GEM will be fostering new collaborations between U of T Engineering professors and students and NRC experts who have long-standing research programs in the field of photovoltaics.

“I’m excited because this centre will open up access to cutting-edge equipment and new kinds of experimental scenarios,” says Bender. “These are opportunities we currently don’t have at U of T.”

But CC-GEM is not the only new facility on the horizon. On the St. George campus, Bender is also one of the leading proponents of another emerging initiative: U of T Engineering’s Sustainability Lab (S-Lab).

This new facility will be housed atop the Wallberg Building, and will focus on accelerating research in areas such as smart grids, carbon management and advanced materials, to name a few.

S-Lab will be an open-concept, multidisciplinary space, encouraging students and researchers from more than a dozen lab groups across the Faculty to collaborate, share tools, equipment and resources, catalyzing new ideas to tackle the climate crisis.

“Going from no space to two facilities focused on exclusively on sustainability is quite extraordinary,” says Bender. “I see these two hubs as being connected; they will both enable us to foster important discoveries and industry collaborations, allowing us to quickly move these key green technologies to market.”

Three ChemE instructors get creative with remote active learning

A camera and a bottle of Gatorade were the key pieces of equipment for a recent virtual lab in Professor Jennifer Farmer’s (ChemE) course, CHE204: Applied Chemistry.

“We told students that they’d have to determine the amount of food dye in the drink,” explains Farmer.

Any other year, students would learn to operate a spectrometer to find the answer.

“Well, we don’t have spectrometers at home — or do we?”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, instructors and teaching assistants (TAs) across U of T Engineering have had to get creative in finding new, engaging and equitable ways to conduct labs — a traditionally hands-on and collaborative in-person learning experience — without on-campus equipment, software or space.

""Farmer is using a combination of “kitchen labs,” simulated lab platforms and data analysis reports to create a new lab experience. And in the case of this recent assignment: students used a camera or smartphone in place of a spectrometer.

“It was important that the labs were accessible and that students could use what they have on hand at home instead of procuring specialty items and tools,” says Farmer.

Another important goal of Farmer’s is to ensure her students still get to build relationships with their peers. For the kitchen labs, she puts students into teams to mimic the interactions of a lab setting.

“Normally, students will be looking over and going, ‘Oh, it didn’t work for you either? Ok, so is it the chemistry that’s not working?’ and they talk it out to solve it,” she says. “I want to provide that same conversation from their own homes.”

Professor Emeritus Joseph C. Paradi (ChemE, MIE) and Lecture Fellow Margarete Von Vaight, a trained opera singer, engineering consultant and Faculty of Music alumna, are leveraging music and creativity to deliver Entrepreneurship & Small Business. This includes the voluntary Dollar Store Challenge, where students are assigned a fictional case and are tasked to create a musical instrument, costing under $10, for an individual suffering from a physical or mental health issue.

Additionally, Professor Grant Allen, Chair of ChemE, has produced a video series that uses a leaf blower as an example of a fluid mechanics device that uses a ‘pump’ and transfers momentum. The videos, which have received overwhelmingly positive reactions from students, were produced near his family cottage and feature ample cameos from his dog, Layla:

Read the story on U of T Engineering News


ChemE students Erin Ng and James Keane celebrated as top scholars and athletes by U of T Varsity Blues

This year, U of T Varsity Blues is celebrating a record number of student athletes who received academic honours in the 2019-20 academic year. In total, 308 students received top honours, with engineering students making up 32 of awardees. Among the engineering students included two ChemE students, Erin Ng (Year 2) from the figure skating team and James Keane (Year 3 on PEY) from the lacrosse team.

Read the full story

© 2022 Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering