ChemE Future Leaders: Sargol Okhovatian (ChemE 1T9+PEY)

After immigrating to Canada from Iran to pursue a degree in engineering at Ryerson University, Sargol Okhovatian (ChemE 1T9+PEY) transferred to U of T to pursue the most extensive engineering education on offer. Now in her fourth year at ChemE, Sargol has learned immensely from her invaluable experiences working in labs and during her PEY Co-op for the Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks. With her past experience in both research and in the workplace, she is now looking for opportunities to apply her technical skills towards solving real life issues to have a positive impact on society.

What brought you to U of T?
Starting in 2013, I spent two years at the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, Iran majoring in Chemical Engineering. After that, I decided to immigrate to Canada by transferring to Ryerson University. After my first year at Ryerson University, I transferred to the University of Toronto because I wanted to obtain a more in-depth education. The deciding factor was to study in a more rigorous environment where I could tailor my degree to my career goals, either in industry or in grad school. What really drew me to U of T were the professors. ChemE has some of the best professors in the world. U of T Engineering alumni also have very high rates of employment after graduation, which was also really important to me.

What’s something you’re especially proud from your time so far at ChemE?
I am currently working on my Plant Design project, which requires innovative design for upscaling a new wastewater treatment plant utilizing a newly discovered process studied by Professor Frank Gu at U of T. Alberta is the world’s third largest oil sand reserve and Oil Sand Process-affected Water (OSPW) is one of the major byproducts of this process. It is extremely toxic to the environment and cannot be discharged without proper treatment. Oil sands mining operations are licensed to take 445 million cubic metres of water per year from the Athabasca River and least 90% of this water ends up as OSPW, a toxic wastewater in tailing ponds. Methods to treat OSPW are limited, and none of them have been successful in operating in the large scale which resulted in accumulation of OSPW in tailing ponds. Our Plant Design project will provide an innovative treatment system, enabling us to treat up to 5000 cubic metres of OSPW per day and solve the wastewater issue.

What are some highlights of your experience so far?
The opportunities I have had for hands-on experience have been the most memorable for me. I have worked in the Laboratory of Complex Fluids under Professor Arun Ramchandran in the past. Currently, I’m working in the Laboratory of Functional Tissue Engineering on my thesis project, under Professor Milica Radisic. Each of these experiences have influenced me as an aspiring engineer. I also had the chance to work with the Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks for my PEY Co-op, which introduced me to work in resource conservation, and helped to develop my technical skills and my ability to communicate effectively in the workplace.

Interested in hiring a Professional Experience Year Co-op student? Click the link to learn more about U of T’s PEY Co-op program.

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