U of T co-hosts large international conference on sustainability

Chuck's dinner

Chuck Mims (centre) celebrating with friends and colleagues on Monday, October 29.

The XXIX Interamerican Congress of Chemical Engineering Incorporating the 68th Canadian Chemical Engineering Conference, co-hosted by the University of Toronto and Ryerson University, ran from October 28-31, 2018 at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto.

The conference – one of the largest of its kind – welcomed nearly 1,400 delegates from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay.

The incredible interest in the proceedings demonstrated from around the world was due in large part to the nearly 100 academics, industry leaders, and government officials from Canada and internationally who supported the organizing committee led by U of T Professors Charles Jia (Conference Chair) and Ramin Farnood (Technical Program Co-Chair), as well as Ryerson Professor Farhad Ein-Mozaffari (Technical Program Co-Chair).

“The leadership and commitment of Professors Jia, Farnood, and Ein-Mozaffari helped to spotlight the outstanding research and breakthroughs coming out of Toronto,” said Professor Grant Allen, Chair of U of T’s Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry. “This conference was a great opportunity for our researchers to connect with the global chemical engineering community and really showcase the kind of leading-edge work the Department is continually producing.”

With the theme Engineering for a Healthy and Sustainable Planet, the conference sought to address the biggest challenges facing the world today, with particular focus on human health, sustainable energy, natural resources, globalization, and the environment. The comprehensive technical program was made up of over 1,000 oral and poster presentations, and six plenary lectures which included the prestigious Emerging Leaders in Chemical Engineering Forum. Professor Gisele Azimi from U of T was named an Emerging Leader in Chemical Engineering prior to the conference.

The technical program also included seven international symposia on topical subjects, with three honouring internationally renowned Canadian pioneers in lignocellulosic resources (David Goring), environmental science (Don Mackay) and biomedical engineering (Mike Sefton). Ten technical tracks were also organized, reflecting the diversity of the chemical engineering discipline and showcasing the advances in traditional and emerging chemical engineering fields. Seven special sessions were added to wrap-up the technical program, including one recognizing the outstanding contributions made by Chuck Mims to heterogeneous catalysis. Goring, Mackay, Mims, and Sefton are all prominent members of the U of T Chemical Engineering community.


David Goring was actively involved in teaching and training at U of T’s Pulp and Paper Centre. He devoted the majority of his working life (before, during, and after U of T) to the study and understanding of the structure of the three main components of wood: lignin, cellulose, and hemicellulose. His ground breaking, original work on how wood components are modified by chemical pulping has been of great importance to the pulp and paper industry. His publications on the thermal softening of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin are the basis of much of the recent work on the effects of elevated temperatures in the thermo-mechanical pulping of wood. Goring’s work formed the foundation of the thermo-mechanical pulping industry. It was also important for the press drying, high temperature calendaring, and thermally induced bonding of webs in the production of paper sheets. His original work on the modification of the surface of cellulose fibers in order to make them more reactive shed light on how they bond in paper sheet formation and how they bond to polymer coatings. This has led to the more efficient production of paper and new polymer coated paper products.

Don Mackay is Professor Emeritus in U of T’s Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry where he taught for nearly 30 years. His principal research has been on the environmental fate of toxic substances and has included studies of numerous partitioning and transport processes in the environment, the focus being on organic contaminants. Much of this work has been directed towards the issue of Great Lakes water quality and Arctic conditions. Recent work has included the extension of multi-media environmental models to include food uptake and pharmacokinetic processes and their application as components of chemical risk assessments by regulatory agencies world-wide.

Chuck Mims joined U of T’s Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry as a professor and an NSERC Industrial Research Chair back in 1990. He formally retired in 2015. His research areas have focused on heterogeneous catalysis and heterogeneous reactions related to energy conversion, especially where the fundamental reaction mechanisms which govern kinetics and selectivity impose the major barrier to commercial feasibility. Due to the need for sophisticated analytical information in order to pursue this research, Mims led the establishment (with extensive Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) funding) of a world-class surface analytical laboratory at U of T. This was recently enlarged and combined with electron microscopy facilities as the Ontario Centre for Characterisation of Advanced Materials (OCCAM), used by over 300 different research groups annually.

Mike Sefton is University Professor and Michael E. Charles Professor in U of T’s Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry and the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering. He was Director of the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering from 1999-2005. He is currently Executive Director of Medicine by Design. Sefton has degrees in Chemical Engineering from U of T (1971) and MIT (1974) and has been at U of T since 1974. For his research, Sefton has been active in the preparation of blood compatible materials through heparinization, the microencapsulation of mammalian cells in synthetic polymers and various strategies for vascularizing tissue constructs.


On top of the conference’s rich technical program, a robust student program was provided for both undergraduate and graduate students, consisting of eight events ranging from poster competitions to a workshop on early career publishing. U of T PhD student Maryam Arefmanes supervised by Professor Emma Master won third place in the Energy Division Poster Competition for her poster entitled, Lignin modification with ionic liquid.

“Thank you to everyone from U of T who participated and helped to make the XXIX Interamerican Congress of Chemical Engineering Incorporating the 68th Canadian Chemical Engineering Conference such a huge success,” said Professor Allen. “It was an incredible honour to co-host such a significant international event. I think our organizing team should be very proud of the way they were able to represent U of T to the global chemical engineering community.”

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