Posted March 23rd, 2016 by Kevin Soobrian

Three students making sustainability part of their education

  • Omar Haggag (Year 4 MechE), Kayla Musalem (Year 3 ChemE) and Ping Gu (Year 4 EngSci) are three undergraduate students making sustainability and the environment key components of their education by completing Engineering minors in these areas.

Population growth, the depletion of natural resources and environmental degradation are straining our global society like never before. As the world increasingly looks to engineers to advance solutions to these critical challenges, U of T Engineering offers a diverse range of minors and certificates that prepare undergraduate students to make sustainability a key part of their engineering practice.

“Sustainability—whether environmental, economic or social—is surely the most pressing issue of our time,” says Professor Bryan Karney (CivE), Associate Dean of Cross-Disciplinary Programs. “We want our students to be both deeply motivated and well-equipped with the latest tools for addressing these challenges, whether they pursue a career in aerospace engineering, cloud computing, water resources or alternative energies.”

The Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering offers minors in Environmental Engineering and Sustainable Energy, and a certificate in Renewable Resources Engineering. These programs give students competencies in areas ranging from environmental impact and risk assessments, to alternative energy systems, energy policy and green urban infrastructure. Students must complete a minimum of six half-courses to earn a minor and three half-courses for a certificate.

More than 600 undergraduate students have earned minors in Environmental Engineering and Sustainability Energy — among the seven minors the Faculty offers — since they were introduced in 2008. Here are three undergraduate students who are making sustainability and the environment core components of their education.

Omar02Omar Haggag (Year 4 MechE) grew up in Abu Dhabi, “a place where the energy industry is a focal point in the economy.” This experience inspired him to enhance his studies in the Energy and Environment stream in Mechanical & Industrial Engineering (in addition to the Solid Mechanics and Machine Design stream) with a minor in Sustainable Energy. “Sustainability is an approach that will help us move in the right direction towards what is best for our planet,” says Haggag. “It’s a long-term initiative and a core value that must be ingrained in our generation and in generations to follow.”

Haggag is applying his education in sustainability to his MIE capstone project. Alongside three other students and under the direction of Professor Shaker Meguid (MIE), he is working to design a battery electric-powered vehicle (EPV) for the Mechanics and Aerospace Design Laboratory. The team hopes to provide a viable alternative to conventional internal-combustion engine vehicles and to improve the aesthetics, cost and safety of EPVs.

Untitled-1Kayla Musalem (Year 3 ChemE) is pursuing a minor in Sustainable Energy because “the earth has finite resources and we are using them to improve human life.” For Musalem, the only way to maintain the quality of life we experience today is to find new and sustainable ways to use these resources, and she believes education in engineering provides the best avenue to contribute. “Engineering has taught me that any problem can be solved in more than one way and gave me the tools to take different perspectives.”

Musalem has continually refined her expertise in sustainability while pursuing a minor in Sustainable Energy. She spent the summer of 2016 on a research exchange at the University of Liverpool’s School of Engineering where she studied solar cell technology. She is also advancing her skill set by studying the impacts of climate change on electrical systems in her Professional Experience Year placement. As she explains, “I am laying the groundwork for a wide knowledge base in sustainability and renewable energy.”

Although she wants to gain more industry experience after graduation, in the end she aspires “to create a product or process that will help people and improve lives. I want to make an impact wherever I go.”

 PingGuPing Gu (Year 4 EngSci) is wrapping up his minor in Environmental Engineering by focusing his final thesis on improving efficiency in wind turbines.

When a wind turbine turns, it produces a wake, or ripples and disruptions in the air. Gu is looking at how these wakes impact the efficiency of surrounding turbines. “If we have a better understanding of the wakes, we can maximize the power production of the turbine placed behind it,” says Gu.

Originally from China — an area of the world where air pollution is a serious concern — Gu sees growing opportunities to make an impact in environmental engineering. “Acknowledging the environmental issue could make a difference. It could help me make a contribution to our society.”

Under the supervision of Dean Cristina Amon and working closely with Jim Kuo (MechE PhD Candidate), Gu aims to publish his research in the fall of 2016.