Department Calendar of Events

Tailoring Multicomponent Composite and Foam Properties via Micro-structuring @ Teams/WB215
Apr 13 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am

Patrick LeePatrick Lee, Associate Professor
Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, University of Toronto

Abstract: Most new polymeric products contain two or more polymers and/or functional additives resulting in desired properties contributed from each component. Recently, our group is focusing on creating hierarchically structured hybrid composites and coextruded micro-/nano-layered structures to tune the material properties. In this presentation, an approach will be presented to develop synergy-induced hierarchically structured Polypropylene (PP)-based hybrid composites, reinforced with Graphene Nanoplatelets (GnP) and Glass Fibers (GF), capable of achieving advanced properties and functionalities. These advanced multifunctional hybrid composites can be tailored for a variety of high-performance applications by exploiting the mechanisms governing the synergistic effect. In this hierarchical system, the GnPs (i.e., nano-sized filler) are chemically and electrostatically attached to the GFs (i.e., micro-sized filler), favoring load transfer at the interface, while simultaneously enhancing the crystalline microstructure of the PP matrix. Furthermore, the volume exclusion effect induced by the GFs, promotes the formation of GnP-based conductive networks. Strategically controlling the reinforcement concentrations has been proven to directly influence the magnitude of these mechanisms, effectively enhancing the synergistic effect, thereby allowing the mechanical, electrical, and thermal conductive properties of these advanced hybrid composites to be tailored based on their application.

Secondly, a fundamental and experimental investigation of cell nucleation and growth mechanisms in advanced Micro-/Nano-Layered (MNL) polymeric structures with alternating film and foam layers will be discussed. Foams can be prepared from any type of plastic by introducing a gas or supercritical fluid (SCF) within the polymer matrix. The applications of microcellular plastics containing billions of tiny bubbles less than 10 microns in size have broadened due to the lightweight characteristics, excellent strength-to-weight ratios, superior insulating abilities, energy absorbing performances, and the comfort features associated with plastic foams, as well as their cost-effectiveness and cost-to-performance ratios. We found that the cell nucleation and growth phenomenon in MNL systems are governed by the synergy of two categories of parameters: morphological parameters (i.e., film and foam layer thicknesses and the number of layer interfaces) and material parameters (i.e., material stiffness and compatibility with neighboring layers). The presence of adjacent film layers can significantly increase cell density through three mechanisms: promoting heterogeneous cell nucleation, preventing cell deterioration, and confining cell growth. The influence of film layers varied in different layer thickness regions and interface densities, where stiffer and more compatible film layers produced higher cell densities.

Biography:  Dr. Lee is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering at the University of Toronto. He received his B.Sc. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of British Columbia, and then obtained his M.A.Sc. and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Toronto in 2001 and 2006, respectively. Then he pursued Postdoctoral study in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Lee began his professional career at The Dow Chemical Company in 2008.  He was a Research Scientist and Project Leader in Dow’s Research and Development organization. Dr. Lee joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Vermont as an assistant professor in 2014. Since joining UVM, he created his own research platform on the lightweight and smart composite structures. He joined the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at The University of Toronto starting July 1st, 2018.

Dr. Lee’s research areas focus on processing and characterization, and processing-structure-property relationships of hybrid nano-composites and foams. He has 84 journal papers, over 100 refereed conference abstracts/papers, 5 book chapters, and 20 filed/issued patent applications. He is the PI or co-PI on domestically and internationally awarded grants from various government agencies and industries. Among his honors, Dr. Lee received the G.H. Duggan Medal from Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering (CSME) in 2020, the AKCSE Early Achievement Award in 2019, the US National Science Foundation Early Faculty Career Development Award (NSF CAREER) in 2018, the Polymer Processing Society (PPS) Morand Lambla award in 2018, the Hanwha Advanced Materials Non-Tenured Faculty Award in 2017, and 3 best paper awards from the Society of Plastics Engineer (2005, 2 in 2011).

Microsoft Teams meeting

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Meeting ID: 210 388 735 276
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Cellulose Derived Thermoplastic Films: Development and Properties @ Teams/WB407
Apr 28 @ 11:10 am – 12:10 pm

Jaan Kers
Professor of Wood Technology
Department of Materials and Environmental Technology,
Tallinn University of Technology
Tallinn, Estonia

Abstract: Cellulose, as the most common bio-polymer in the world, is an important resource for replacing fossil-based plastics. Cellulose is not intrinsically thermoplastic and must be chemically modified to achieve melting behaviour, expected by the plastics processing industry. The cellulose modification methods known so far are resource- and energy-intensive. This stimulates development of more sustainable routes. Therefore, TalTech is devising and demonstrating novel, sustainable esterification routes for preparing thermoplastic fatty acid cellulose esters (FACEs). Sustainability is ensured by minimizing the impact of the esterification agents, dissolution environment and modification methods. The cellulose esterification processes are based on chemically modified plant oils, new protonic ionic liquids, catalytic effects and the mechanochemical effect of reactive extrusion (REX). Certain components of the ionic liquids, the organic superbases can catalyze the esterification reactions. Plant oils and especially their production residues are valuable source of sustainable, fully bio-based esterification reagents. Their reactivity is improved by certain chemical modifications as well as catalytic and mechanochemical effects. The process can accept several primary or secondary sources of cellulose as dissolving pulp or microcrystalline cellulose. The study is accompanied by life cycle assessment of both production and products, including recycling of solvents and by-products, environmental durability of biopolymer films and recyclability. Research in REX experiments  with a recently installed laboratory scale pilot-line is directed by project PI Prof. Andres Krumme.

Biography: Professor Jaan Kers has received his BSc and MSc. in production technology from Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) followed by the doctoral degree in Mechanical Engineering, also from TalTech (2006). He has 6 years of work experience in the private sector and over 17 years in the Department of Materials and Environmental Engineering at TalTech. He leads the research group of wood and composite materials. He is teaching wood science, wood- based products technology and biobased composites and he is program director of international Master’s curriculum, Technology of Wood, Plastics and Textiles“. His current research interests are in the areas of wood technology, wood modification, densification and natural fibre bio-composite materials. He has over 70 publications.

Host:  Professor D. Grant Allen,;  Please contact Professor Allen if you’d like to arrange a meeting with Professor Kers.

Teams Link Meeting ID: Meeting ID: 269 921 957 030
Passcode: A37jiK

Sustainable Solutions for Agro-industrial Waste and Water Quality Management in Jalisco: The Contributions of the Sustainability and Climate Change Laboratory @ WB407
May 2 @ 9:00 am – 10:00 am

Dr. Misael Sebastián Gradilla-Hernández
Dr. Martín Esteban González López
Sustainability and Climate Change Laboratory
Tecnológico de Monterrey, Guadalajara Campus, Jalisco, Mexico

Abstract: This seminar will cover two important aspects of sustainable management practices. The first aspect will delve into the sustainable management of water bodies in Mexico, focusing on microbial ecology and metagenomics. Case studies including Lake Cajititlán, Lake Atotonilco, and the Santiago River will be presented to emphasize the significance of studying the microbial communities in water bodies for understanding their role in maintaining water quality. Advanced sequencing techniques and metagenomics will also be discussed as powerful tools for water quality monitoring and assessment, including the identification of emerging contaminants and the development of water quality indices.

The second aspect of the seminar will concentrate on maximizing bioenergy production from agro-industrial wastes in Jalisco. Specifically, streams of livestock waste, tequila vinasses, and cheese whey will be analyzed to identify the feedstock effects on the methanogenic dynamics and clusters for energy distributed ecosystems in anaerobic digestion systems. The seminar will emphasize the optimization of bioenergy production from agro-industrial waste streams in Jalisco with a specific focus on the study of biochemical methane potential (BMP). Additionally, the seminar will explore the potential for decentralized energy production using small-scale anaerobic digestion systems and its implications for sustainable agro-industrial waste management.

Bios: Misael Sebastián Gradilla-Hernández, a former General Director of Environmental Protection and Management of the Ministry of Environment and Territorial Development of the government of Jalisco, Mexico, has been a research professor and the leader of the Sustainability and Climate Change Laboratory at Tecnológico de Monterrey in Guadalajara since 2011. He obtained a degree in environmental engineering from ITESO and went on to earn a master’s degree in science and technology with a specialization in Environmental Engineering and a Doctorate in Biotechnological Innovation from CIATEJ. Additionally, he obtained a second Doctorate in management from the University of Guadalajara, specializing in environmental management and sustainability.

Dr. Gradilla-Hernández is a member of the National System of Researchers and specializes in the monitoring and assessment of surface water sources and in biotechnological strategies for the treatment of wastewater and solid waste, including anaerobic digestion and microalgal treatment. He has participated in numerous projects related to the water quality and emerging contaminants in water sources in Jalisco, such as Lake Cajititlán, Lake Atotonilco, Lake Zapotlán, and the Santiago River, and in circular economy projects for the treatment of liquid effluents from agro-industrial origin, such as livestock waste and tequila vinasses.

Dr. Gradilla-Hernández has co-authored several environmental programs of the State of Jalisco, such as the strategy to reduce food loss and waste in the state of Jalisco, the comprehensive waste management program “Jalisco Reduce”, and the development of a support system for decision-making in Río Santiago. Currently, he is leading the Sustainability and Climate Change Lab initiative at Tecnológico de Monterrey in Guadalajara, financed by the European Union.

Martin Esteban Gonzalez Lopez is a Chemical Engineer with a Master of Science in Forest Product Science, and a Doctor of Chemical Engineering from the University of Guadalajara. He is a Level I Researcher of the National System of Researchers by the National Council of Science and Technology of México. Currently, he works as a Postdoctoral Researcher at Tecnológico de Monterrey in the Sustainability and Climate Change Laboratory. Dr. Gonzalez’s research interests include the sustainable use of lignocellulosic waste to produce biodegradable materials and environmental remediation applications in water treatment.

Dr. Gonzalez has conducted research at the Institute of Science and Technology of Polymers in Madrid, Spain, and Université Laval in Quebec, Canada, where he worked under the guidance of Dr. Denis Rodrigue, a renowned researcher in the field of polymers. He obtained an honors degree during his Master’s and Doctoral studies and received the State Award for Innovation, Science and Technology in the Postgraduate Thesis category in 2019 and 2021, respectively, due to his excellent academic performance and published scientific articles.

Machine Learning, Olfaction and Scientific Discovery @ Teams/WB407
May 15 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am

Benjamin Sanchez-LengelingBenjamin Sanchez-Lengeling
Research Scientist, Google Research

With deep learning techniques and large datasets, we have ways of transforming molecules into vectors with meaningful qualities for chemistry. How do we design operations that are useful for specific chemical contexts? In this talk, Benjamin Sanchez-Lengeling will showcase part of his work on using machine learning, specifically graph neural networks, to build maps of olfaction and chemical structure. And then using these tools to drive scientific discoveries.

Benjamin Sanchez-Lengeling is a research scientist at Google Research on the Brain Team working at the intersection of molecules and AI. His research centers on using and improving computational tools for molecular discoveries, striving to make them real, for molecules of all sizes: small, large (proteins) and periodic (polymers); in application areas that include solar cells, solubility, drug-design, and olfaction. He cares about interpretability for scientific discoveries and making research clear and approachable. Besides research, he is also passionate about science education and divulgation. Benjamin is one of the founders and organizers of a STEM-education NGO Clubes de Ciencia Mexico and a LatinX-centered AI conference RIIAA.

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MiC Series Alumni Series – Ishita Aggarwal
May 30 @ 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm
ChemE Alumni Mixer & Lab Tour
Jun 3 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm

All ChemE alumni from years ending in 3 or 8 are welcome to attend.

The event will start with a mix-and-mingle session in the undergrad common room (WB238) from 1-2pm, followed by an exclusive one-hour lab tour departing from the same location at 2pm. Don’t miss out on the chance to catch up with old friends and see the latest advancements in ChemE. Be sure to register now to secure your spot!

Seminar: State-of-the-art Research in Thermocatalytic CO₂ activation @ WB407, refreshments will be served
Jun 15 @ 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm

Host: Cathy Chin, Multidisciplinary Laboratory for Innovative Catalytic Science

Unraveling the nature and the identity of the active site in heterogeneous catalysis by a multi-scale and multi-technique approach

Professor Matteo Maestri, Politecnico di Milano, Italy

There is no doubt that the rational interpretation of the structure-activity relationship in catalysis is a crucial task in the quest of engineering the chemical transformation at the molecular level. In this respect, multiscale analysis based on structure-dependent microkinetic modelling is acknowledged to be the essential key-tool to achieve a detailed mechanistic understanding of the catalyst functionality in reaction conditions. In this talk, I will present the development of a methodology for the study of the structure-activity relationship in heterogeneous catalysis via a structure-dependent multiscale and multi-technique approach. This includes the combined application of both experimental analysis (kinetic experiments, operando spectroscopy) and first-principles and multiscale simulations. Selected examples in the context of CH4 dry reforming, CO2 hydrogenation on metal catalysts and NO oxidation will be used as show-cases. As a whole, this methodology makes it possible to reach a molecular level description of the catalyst material in reaction conditions and its catalytic consequences in terms of reactivity. As such, it paves the way towards the use of a rigorous theoretical description for the interpretation of the experimental evidence in terms of structure-activity relationships.

Matteo Maestri (Ph. D., PoliMI, 2008) is a Full Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Politecnico di Milano, Italy. He has been visiting scholar at the University of Delaware, USA (2006-2007), Alexander von Humboldt Fellow and at the Fritz-Haber-Institute in Berlin, Germany (2009-2010) and at the Department of Chemistry of TUM, Munich, Germany (2011). His main research interests are related to fundamental analysis of catalytic kinetics and multiscale modeling of catalytic processes, by applying and developing methods that span from atomistic (DFT) calculations to CFD, and from kinetic analysis to operando-spectroscopy. He has been awarded the 3 ERC grants (ERC Starting Grant + 2 ERC Proof-of-concept). He has been the recipient of several international awards including the honorary title of TUM Ambassador (2021), TUM, Munich, Germany, and the Gold Medal in Catalysis “Gian Paolo Chiusoli” by the Italian Chemical Society (2022).

Full CV, Google Scholar Link

CO2 Reforming of CH4 over Ni-MgO-Cex-Zr(1-x)O2 Catalysts

Professor Hyun-Seog Roh, Yonsei University, South Korea

Ni-MgO-Cex-Zr(1-x)O2 catalysts are developed and applied to CO2 Reforming of CH4. Ni–MgO–CeO2 shows the smallest Ni particle size and the particle size increases with increasing ZrO2 content. Ni–MgO–Ce0.6Zr0.4O2 exhibits the largest oxygen storage capacity. The size of the Ni particle and the oxygen storage capacity are found to be the primary and secondary key factors that influence the catalytic performance, respectively. The turnover frequency is dependent on the size of the Ni particle, but the catalytic performance is affected by the number of Ni active sites, which is estimated from the reduction degree and Ni particle size. Overall, the Ni–MgO–Ce0.8Zr0.2O2 catalyst shows the highest performance owing to the high reduction degree and small Ni particle size.

Hyun-Seog Roh (Ph. D., Yonsei University, 2001) is a Professor of Environmental Energy Engineering at Yonsei University, South Korea. His research interests comprise of hydrogen production, C1 chemistry, Bio-oil upgrading, Desulfurization, Liquid phase oxidation of aromatic compounds, DeNOx, Microwave catalysis, Synthesis of nanoporous materials, Inorganic membrane, and VOCs removal. As the author of 201 published papers and the inventor of 27 patents, Professor Roh is an outstanding scientist with an h-index of 60 and has been ranked globally as the Top 2% Scientist on multiple occasions (2020 & 2021). He also serves as the Director of BK 21 Four Project, Yonsei University, and on the editorial boards for Journal of CO2 utilization and Catalysts.

Full CV, Google Scholar link

Seminar: “Polymer Nanoparticle Design and Delivery Strategies to Resolve Vascular Inflammation” @ Donnelly Centre
Jul 11 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am

Headshot of Dr. Laura BracagliaPolymer Nanoparticle Design and Delivery Strategies to Resolve Vascular Inflammation

Dr. Laura Bracaglia, PhD Villanova University

Hosted by Dr. Molly Shoichet

Snacks and refreshments available




Polymer nanoparticles (NPs) can provide a safe and efficient delivery mechanism for therapy directly at specific tissues and cells, but achieving sufficient levels of NPs and therefore therapeutics in target tissues in humans has remained a barrier to the translation of this technology. The in vivo efficacy of polymeric NPs is dependent on their pharmacokinetics, including time in circulation and resulting tissue tropism, as well as intracellular trafficking and behavior. In this work, we examine tunable chemical and molecular characteristics of polymer NPs to tailor the design for an intended therapeutic delivery – both to and within the target cell. We are particularly interested in designing NPs and delivery strategies which can direct therapeutics to endothelial cells to correct dysfunctional inflammation in the vasculature. I will present several approaches for nucleic acid and small molecule delivery using polymeric NPs in vitro, in vivo, and in ex vivo models of human tissue, and show the impact of design changes on reducing inflammatory signaling. Our goal is to optimize NP design to combat dysfunctional inflammation locally and with more impact than globally administered therapies.


Speaker Bio

Dr. Bracaglia joined the faculty at Villanova University in the fall of 2022 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. She is continuing her research into NP-based therapeutic delivery to human vasculature and integrating these strategies with tissue-engineering to create tools for long-term immune modulation. Specifically, materials that provide support for tissue regrowth while temporarily inhibiting inflammation-related injury, thus reducing the burden of chronic inflammation. This work was born out of work that Dr. Bracaglia conducted as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Biomedical Engineering at Yale University as part of Dr. W. Mark Saltzman’s research group, as well as her graduate work, where she developed vascular, tissue engineered constructs using a combination of biological and synthetic materials at the University of Maryland with Dr. John Fisher in Bioengineering.

Seminar: “Following the Rabbit into Chemical Space” @ Donnelly Centre (Zoom link also available)
Jul 14 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am

Headshot of Dr. Brian Soichet

Following the Rabbit into Chemical Space

Dr. Brian K. Shoichet, PhD University of California, San Francisco

Hosted by Dr. Molly Shoichet

Snacks & Refreshments Available


Zoom Link:

Meeting ID: 860 8663 8773

Passcode: 484696



Structure-based docking can be used to screen compound libraries for novel ligands. Recently, docking libraries have expanded from three million “in-stock” to over four billion make-on-demand (“tangible”) molecules. Docking these new libraries versus the dopamine, melatonin, and s2 receptors have revealed novel scaffolds with nM and sub-nM potencies directly from the docking. I will discuss recent applications to the alpha2a-adrenergic, serotonin, and cannabinoid receptors, and the serotonin transporter, where in vivo active leads have been developed for analgesia, depression, and opioid withdrawal. Methods questions will also be considered: the effect of bias toward bio-like molecules in the virtual libraries, how and if docking score improves as the libraries grow, how number tested affects the quality of the experimental actives, and whether we have reached a plateau in the results we can expect from large library docking, or if bigger remains better.


Speaker Bio:

Brian Shoichet received a B.Sc. in Chemistry and a B.Sc. in History in 1985, from MIT. MIT appears to have no record of this. He received his Ph.D. for work with Tack Kuntz on molecular docking in 1991, from UCSF. Shoichet’s postdoctoral research was largely experimental, focusing on protein structure and stability with Brian Matthews at the Institute of Molecular Biology in Eugene, Oregon, as a Damon Runyon Fellow. Colleagues from Eugene have only sketchy memories of his time there. One recalls, “He seemed to travel a lot.” Matthews himself was unavailable for comment. Shoichet joined the faculty at Northwestern University in the Dept.of Molecular Pharmacology & Biological Chemistry as an Assistant Professor in 1996. No record of this Department’s existence can be found outside of one locked filing cabinet in Gene Silinsky’s office. Silinsky was unavailable for comment. In a fit of absent-mindedness, Shoichet was promoted to a tenured Associate Professor in 2002, only one year after his younger sister, Molly Shoichet, received tenure at the University of Toronto. Shoichet denies any sensitivity around this issue. Around that time he was recruited back to UCSF, where he is now a Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry. We confused him with Kevan Shokat, admits a member of the recruiting committee at UCSF. A charismatic speaker, he is recalled as giving ‘the best talk at the worst Keystone Conference I ever attended,’ by a senior NIH Program Officer. Research in the Shoichet Lab seeks to bring chemical reagents to biology, combining computational simulation and experiment. An unanticipated observation emerging from the theory/experiment cycle was the colloidal aggregation of organic molecules. This phenomenon has great effects in early and late drug discovery, and we continue to investigate it. More broadly, we adopt a protein-centric approach that seeks new ligands to complement protein structures. This involves new docking methods, model experimental systems to test them. Using a ligand-centric approach, we seek new targets for established drugs and reagents. Whereas this lacks the physical foundation of the structure-based research program, it returns to an older, pharmacological view of biological relationships, bringing to it a quantitative model. A focus for both approaches is ligand discovery against G Protein-Coupled Receptors (GPCRs).

Seminar: “We Should All Try to Save the Planet” @ WB 407 - Wallberg Building
Aug 3 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Professor Larry Lessard
Department of Mechanical Engineering McGill University, Montréal

Hosted by Professor Elizabeth Edwards

Join Via Zoom:
Meeting ID: 814 6372 1950
Passcode: 384453


Professor Larry Lessard, from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, works in the research area of recycling of composite materials. He will present work on recent projects on the topic of recycling and sustainability. Furthermore, Professor Lessard is undergoing a round-the-world bike trip to help promote these ideas and to film a documentary film on the subject. Bike62 will be cycling around the world from July 2022 to August 2023, a journey that will cover over 22,000Km, visit around 20 countries, and speak at 30 universities to promote ways to rethink and reuse composite materials.


Follow Professor Lessard’s journey:
website: |Instagram: ridebike.saveplanet |YouTube: Bike62