ChemE Graduate Research Exhibition 2021

Event Details

Research Exhibition Details

Gather.Town Instructions

Accessing and joining Gather.Town

  • Use this link to join through your browser (we recommend using Chrome on your laptop or desktop for the best experience!):
  • Please enter your name as it would appear on a nametag to join, so others can identify you, and select your devices such as your camera and microphone. Click on “Join the Gathering”.
  • Upon entry, you will be in the main poster room. A window will open with the message “Welcome to Gather”. It has a link to the tutorial, which you can skip or watch, if you’d like.
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Poster session:

  • Poster and whiteboards are objects in Gather.Town.
  • When you reach the poster/white board, click “X” to interact with the poster.
  • Turn your mic and/or video on to interact with poster reps.


  • If you have any tech issues during the session, first try respawning your avatar. You can do this by finding the "settings" icon in the left sidebar, navigating to "user" and clicking "respawn" at the bottom of the user settings page.




POSTER 1: An integrated process for the extraction of scandium, aluminum, and iron from bauxite residue

John Anawati (ChemE PhD candidate)

A closed-loop valorization process, combining carbothermic smelting and acid baking – water leaching was developed to recover scandium, aluminum, and iron from bauxite residue, a major side product of aluminum production. This process employs carbothermic smelting to recover 99% of the iron in the starting residue as crude metallic iron, which can be separated from slag that contains aluminum and scandium, which was treated by acid baking – water leaching, to convert scandium and aluminum to soluble sulfate species, allowing recovery. The production of solid leaching residue was avoided by employing thermal desulfation at remove 84% of leaching residue sulfur content thereby potentially allowing regeneration of sulfuric acid for acid baking and producing a recycled smelting flux that would reduce reagent consumption and would allow recapturing the scandium and aluminum not recovered during leaching. This closed-loop process enables efficient and sustainable recovery of scandium, iron, and aluminum from bauxite residue, and constitutes first steps in an integrated process for sustainable valorization of bauxite residue, supporting efforts to develop a zero-waste economy.

POSTER 2: Comparative Analysis of Chemical and Enzymatic Pathways to Industrial Lignins in Polyurethane Applications

Maryam Arefmanesh (ChemE PhD candidate)

Technologies to enhance kraft lignin homogeneity are particularly crucial to unlocking its enormous potential and entirely replace petroleum-based polyol in PU applications. To overcome bottlenecks in the valorization of Kraft Lignin for applications beyond energy use, a comparative analysis of chemoenzymatic methods was established to propel our knowledge of effective ways to tailor lignin structure for PU applications.

POSTER 3: Towards Developing a Refined Understanding About the Effect of Indoor Phenomena on the Effective VCP Emissions

Amirashkan Askari (ChemE PhD candidate)

The decrease in emissions from fossil fuel combustion sources, especially the traffic sector, due to mitigation policies implemented during the recent decades has led to increasing relative importance from other emission sources. Among these emerging sources, Volatile Chemical Products (VCPs) are significant contributors to anthropogenic emissions, especially in urban regions.

POSTER 4: Tackling a Billion Cubic Meter Water Problem with a Salty Solution

Noel Devaere (ChemE MASc candidate)

Every year in Canada, the mining and metals industry must treat and discharge over one billion cubic meters of wastewater. By exploiting the osmotic pressure of high concentration salt solutions through a membrane-based treatment system, we can demonstrate water recovery up to 75% with 99% contaminant rejection. This enables a disruptive change in the way water is handled in mining and metals processing which is necessary for their sustainability going forward.

POSTER 5: Aminated Polysaccharide Production Using a Biocatalytic Cascade

Xuebin Feng (ChemE PhD candidate)

Apply directed evolution and machine learning approaches to engineer transaminases with enhanced activity on oxidized oligosaccharides and polysaccharides. Integrate carbohydrate oxidases and transaminases into a two-step one-pot biocatalytic cascade to convert plant-derived carbohydrates to aminated forms. The applied significance of this project includes sustainable synthesis of polycationic biomolecules for remediation and multifunctional precursors for biopolymer synthesis.

POSTER 6: Visualization and Characterization of Water Flow through Biosludge flocs

Sadafnaz Kashi Kalhour (ChemE PhD candidate)

Biosludge which is a byproduct of activated sludge process, is naturally difficult to dewater. Though there has been considerable research to understand dewatering at macroscale, there has been limited research to explore the relationship between floc composition and properties at the microscale. The overall goal of my research is to understand the movement of water through single biosludge flocs. It is anticipated that this will lead to better understanding of the biosludge related processes including dewatering.

POSTER 7: Impact of anaerobic digestion on biosludge dewatering

Sergio Luna Nino (ChemE PhD candidate)

Biosludge dewatering continues to be an economic challenge for pulp and paper mills. Existing and future anaerobic systems may significantly alter the dewatering of biosludge, but there is much to before using them to affect dewatering in a repeatable way. Here we explore how anaerobic digestion improves the dewaterability of pre-treated biosludge to learn how the external protein and polysaccharide content and water-binding energy are associated with improved dewatering.

POSTER 8: Long-term Analysis to Elucidate the Origins of Ultrafine Particles in a Major City

Hosna Movahhedinia (ChemE PhD candidate)

Vehicular emissions are a major source of UFP in many urban areas. However, new particle formation (NPF) events can also make a significant contribution on some days. Many studies have identified these event days by looking at the total number concentration of UFP. However, our study showed that this method can result in incorrect classification of event days. In this study, we analyzed 13 years (2006-2019) of particle size distribution (PSD) data from downtown Toronto, Canada and identified days which had a large number concentration of UFP around noon but were not NPF events.

POSTER 9: Investigation of the Reductive Dehalogenase Enzyme Family Used in the Bioremediation of Halogenated Pollutants

Katherine Picott (ChemE PhD candidate)

Reductive dehalogenases are key enzymes required for the bioremediation of toxic halogenated pollutants, but they have not been adequately studied due to challenges in their production. Presented here is a novel heterologous expression system to produce these dehalogenases and its use to analyze the substrate preferences of several enzymes.

POSTER 10: Enzymatic modification of industrial lignins and methods to evaluate changes in lignin performance

Anupama Sharan (ChemE PhD candidate)

The focus of this work is the enzymatic functionalization of the naturally abundant but complex bio-based feedstock, lignin. It is an attractive natural alternative to polyol-based polymer precursors that are typically derived from non-renewable sources. Research on the enzymatic functionalization of industrially relevant lignins is very limited and conventional approaches for enzyme screening don’t translate to scalable activities on lignin. This study will fill these gaps in literature by bridging the gap between enzyme discovery and application with a three-pronged approach: developing enzyme assays testing activity directly on industrial lignins, increasing capacity for in-silico enzyme mining and assessing the feasibility of industrial-scale process development for biocatalysis of lignin.

POSTER 11: Implementing Edge Based Object Detection for Microplastic Debris

Amardeep Singh (ChemE MEng candidate)

This project utilizes computer visioning techniques to create models that can detect and tag plastic debris from images. The models serve as a tool to aid ocean cleaning machines as plastic debris remains challenging to detect and collect. Rather than using a manual cleanup method, the objective is to use the tools to automate the process of detection.

POSTER 12: Applying Algal Biofilms for the Recovery of Rare Earth Elements from Dilute Aqueous Solution via Biosorption

Mitchell Zak (ChemE PhD candidate)

Rare earths are a critical resource that is often found at dilute concentrations making recovery difficult. It is possible to use a process where metals bind to the cell wall of microalgae called biosorption to recover rare earths even at low solution concentrations. Additionally, growing algae as a biofilm improves adsorption performance and helps address issues with implementing biosorption in an engineered treatment system.

POSTER 13: Disruption in molecular symmetry enables fluorinated boron subphthalocyanine hybrids as promising materials for organic solar cells

Nina Farac (ChemE PhD candidate)

Boron subphthalocyanines (BsubPcs) and boron subnaphthalocyanines (BsubNcs) are small organic molecules which have made tremendous progress as semiconducting materials in organic solar cells (OSCs), mainly due to their strong absorption in the visible light spectrum. Although extensive work has been carried out on these molecules for high-performing OSCs, they have yet to reach a suitable efficiency range for commercialization. A potential solution is to implement hybrid BsubPc-BsubNc molecules that exhibit uniquely broadened absorption of the solar spectrum, which translates to more solar energy being captured by a single material. This research demonstrates the structure-property relationship of Bsub(Pc-Nc) hybrid molecules for their application in OSC devices.

POSTER 14: Role of Membrane Allocation Constraints in E. coli metabolism

Mauricio Garcia-Benitez (ChemE PhD candidate)

We developed a model of E. coli including two additional constraints: a fixed overall proteome allocation capacity and a fixed membrane insertion capacity. Simulations suggest that expressing a membrane protein has a stronger effect on acetate production than expressing a cytosolic protein, because it limits the membrane space available for oxidative proteins.

POSTER 15: Factors Affecting Soap Solubility in Kraft Black Liquor

Manling Huang (ChemE PhD candidate)

My research topic is measuring the solubility of resin and fatty acids soap re-introduced at high solids black liquor. Industry experience indicates the linkage of re-introduction of small amounts of resin and fatty acids and reduced sodium salt scaling in high solids concentrators.

POSTER 16: The Effect of Black Liquor Burning on the Settling and Filtering Behaviour of Green Liquor Dregs

Elizabeth Maggs (ChemE MASc candidate)

Black liquor burning results in the production of undesirable suspended solids in green liquor called dregs which are removed via sedimentation and filtration. Poor dregs settling/filterability have been persistent problems at many mills leading to substantial production losses. The goal of this work is to conduct a systematic study to examine the effect of black liquor burning conditions on dregs behaviour.

POSTER 17: Controlled release of ocular protein therapeutics using an affibody-modified hydrogel system

Chiara Bostock (ChemE MASc candidate)

Delivery of protein therapeutics constitutes a significant challenge in ocular drug delivery due to their inherent instability upon administration. While sustained delivery strategies have been widely explored, modulating protein release kinetics remains difficult. We propose an affinity-based hydrogel capable of tuning the release of therapeutic proteins to achieve therapeutic efficacy.

POSTER 18: A 3D unrollable tumour model to study cell behavior in a graded microenvironment

Jose Cadavid (ChemE PhD candidate)

The behaviour of cancer cells depends on cell-intrinsic and environmental factors. We re-engineered our TRACER model to analyze patient-derived organoids (PDOs) as a function of their microenvironment in vitro. PDOs in TRACER displayed gradients of oxygen, response to therapy, and expression of genes and molecules related to immunomodulation.

POSTER 19: Development of Fortified Bouillon Cubes: Phase Behaviour of Micronutrient Premix Coating

Kiki Chan (ChemE PhD candidate)

Two billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, and fortification is used to address this global challenge. Bouillon cubes, a staple in West Africa, can be fortified with premix. Here we show that the phase of the premix coating depends on the fat content and processing temperature during bouillon cube fabrication.

POSTER 20: Why so many superspreading events in the COVID-19 pandemic but not the 2009 H1N1 pandemic?

Paul Chen (ChemE PhD candidate)

Why do some emerging respiratory viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2 during the COVID-19 pandemic, show broad variation in individual infectiousness and transmission driven by superspreading? We identify the first virological factor, heterogeneity in respiratory viral load, associated with overdispersion, and superspreading, for respiratory viruses. Our findings present considerations for disease control in the COVID-19 pandemic as well as future outbreaks of novel viruses.

POSTER 21: Triggering release from colloidal drug aggregates

Eric Donders (ChemE PhD candidate)

Colloidal drug aggregates could be used to deliver high quantities of drug, but they cannot enter cells where the drug target resides. We previously demonstrated a delivery strategy that used a targeting ligand and acid-responsive drug; however, most drugs are not acid-responsive and would not work with this approach. In this work, we chemically modified a drug to make it acid-responsive and showed that it facilitates delivery into cells while remaining bioactive against its target.

POSTER 22: Regenerative Synthetic Polymer Hydrogel as a Vehicle for Tolerogenic Dendritic Cell Delivery

Sean Kinney (ChemE PhD candidate)

Tolerogenic dendritic cells (tolDCs) generate unique immune responses that protect target cells from the immune system. TolDC therapies are being investigated as treatments for autoimmune diseases and transplant rejection. Delivery of tolDCs is not well-developed. In this work we use a tissue engineering approach to enhance and control tolDC delivery.

POSTER 23: Liposome Imaging in Optically Cleared Tissues

Jessica Ngai (ChemE PhD candidate)

Three-dimensional (3D) optical microscopy can be used to understand and improve the delivery of nanomedicine in tumours. However, this approach cannot be applied to analyze liposomes in tissues because the processing step to make tissues transparent for imaging typically removes the lipids. Here, we developed a tag, termed REMNANT, for REtained Molecular NANoparticle Tag, that enables 3D imaging of organic materials in biological tissues.

POSTER 24: A Brain-on-Chip Model for High-Content Drug Screening of Glioblastoma

Arianna Skirzynska (ChemE MASc candidate)

Glioma Neural Stem cells (GNSCs) play an important role in glioblastoma (GBM) invasion, yet the mechanisms driving this behaviour are poorly understood. To recapitulate tumour invasion in vitro, we developed a GBM tumour-mimetic hydrogel using extracellular matrix components upregulated in patients. We show the hydrogel facilitates subtype-dependent infiltration of GNSCs which suggests a promising platform to illustrate patient-specific response to therapeutics in the drug development pipeline.

POSTER 25: Exploring the Therapeutic Potential of Thermostable ChABC in an ET-1 Model of Ischemic Stroke

Sabrina Zuccaro (ChemE MASc candidate)

Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability, yet no approved therapies restore lost brain tissue. Chondroitinase ABC (ChABC) is a promising treatment but is plagued by instability. This work discusses the controlled release of a novel thermostabilized ChABC from a methylcellulose hydrogel to promote tissue regeneration following stroke.

Contact Info

Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Association (CEGSA)

Nina-Francesca Farac, President, CEGSA

Event contact

Branden Wesseling, External Relations Manager, ChemE