Samantha Cheung (ChemE PhD 2T1) and Fletcher Han (ChemE 2T0+PEY) Named 2021 Grads to Watch by U of T Engineering

With the University’s virtual Convocation ceremony on June 23, 2021 U of T Engineering students mark the end of one journey and the beginning of another.

Having enriched the U of T Engineering community as undergraduate and graduate students, they will join our vibrant, global network of Skule™ alumni, where they will continue to address pressing challenges around the world and inspire the next generation.

This year’s 14 “Grads to Watch” — selected by their home departments and institutes — embody the spirit of U of T Engineering. Their stories illustrate the creativity, innovation and global impact that define our community. Watch their next steps!

Samantha Cheung (ChemE PhD 2T1)

Samantha Cheung. Photo: Sean Caffrey.

Throughout her degree program, Cheung searched for opportunities to advocate for her fellow graduate students by serving on committees, organizing events and launching new student life programs.

An active member of the Graduate Engineering Council of Students (GECoS), Cheung started a Mental Wellness Commission and an Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Commission, both of which have made key recommendations to enhance graduate student life.“One of the most important skills I developed during my PhD is emotional intelligence,” she says. “Working with so many people from different backgrounds helped me become a better leader, co-worker, and person.”

She also led the creation of the first ever U of T Engineering Research Conference, which took place virtually last June.

“I’m also still in awe over how quickly my team put it together,” she says. “It is so important for graduate students to practice presenting their work, and to have a way to connect with each other, especially when labs were shut down due to COVID-19.”

Cheung’s own research focused on optimizing growing conditions for microalgae, single-celled organisms that can produce chemicals used in everything from biofuel to nutritional supplements and cosmetics. Combining this expertise with her leadership experience will, she hopes, enable her to make a difference in Canada’s biotech industry.

“I believe that harnessing the power of biology will be an important part of a more sustainable future,” she says. “I want to be one of the people conducting this impactful research.”


Fletcher Han (ChemE 2T0+PEY)

Fletcher Han. Photo: Umna Asim.

Born in a small town in New Zealand, and with heritage stretching across Northern Europe and East Asia, Han has lived in all over the world, including the Netherlands, which he still considers home. He chose U of T Engineering in part because its global community reflected his own background.

“I wanted to learn from world-renowned professors and a cohort of talented minds from all over,” he says. “I was also keen to push my own boundaries while helping my fellow students with personal and professional development.”

Han chaired both the local chapter of the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering and the Association of Leadership in Chemical Engineering. After his third year, he spent 16 months working as a Trade Floor Technology Consultant for Scotiabank through the PEY Co-op program, where he designed web tools to optimize trade floor operations.

In addition to earning the U of T International Engineering Scholar Award upon acceptance, Han also received the U of T Class of 8T2 Emerging Leaders Award, the U of T Class of 5T9 Emerging Leaders Award, and a University of Toronto Student Leadership Award. Next fall, he’ll head to Tsinghua University in Beijing as U of T’s first engineering student to receive a Schwarzman Scholarship.

In his final year, Han completed two major projects with a global engineering focus: an interdisciplinary capstone project in water insecurity and an undergraduate thesis about malnutrition.

“The success of a design relies not only the skills of engineers,” he says. “To enact global change, politics, business, and international relations must also have a seat at the table. Recognizing the importance of this, I hope to join a company in the future that values diversity to ensure that all voices are heard, and revolutionary solutions can be put forth.”



Click HERE for more on U of T Engineering’s 2021 Grads to Watch