Posted June 12th, 2015 by Tyler Irving

Three U of T Engineering professors receive Early Researcher Awards to address distracted driving, noisy landings and cancer

Three U of T Engineering professors have received Early Researcher Awards from the Government of Ontario. The ERAs provide as much as $140,000 for promising early-career scientists and engineers to build their teams.

“These awards recognize the important contributions three of our promising young professors are already making in their fields and will help them advance their ground-breaking research,” said Dean Cristina Amon. “I would like to extend my heart-felt congratulations to professors Donmez, Ekmekci and Fernandez-Gonzalez on this well-deserved honour.”

Learn more about the U of T Engineering professors who received ERAs:

Birsen DonmezImproving driver safety

Professor Birsen Donmez (MIE) is an expert in human adaptation to technology and designing feedback to guide operator behaviour. Her project will compare different types of in-vehicle technologies, such as dashboard displays, smartphones, smart watches and Google Glass, with respect to driver distraction. She will also investigate their potential to improve safety by providing relevant driving-related information. For example, an eye-tracker could be used to let drivers know if their eyes have been off the road for a certain number of seconds. Her students will be trained for careers in traffic safety.

Alis EkmeckiReducing bad vibrations

When fluid flows around a structure — whether it’s seawater around an offshore oil platform or wind around the landing gear of a plane — it often creates powerful vibrations that make a lot of noise and can even damage equipment. Professor Alis Ekmekci (UTIAS) will investigate ways to reduce these vibrations by adding bumps or other surface protrusions that disrupt fluid flow. The solutions will improve safety for workers and make for quieter landings.

Rodrigo Fernandez-GonzalezTracking cells on the move

Within our bodies, cells coordinate their movements to build and repair tissues. However, cancer cells also do this in a process known as metastasis, in which cancerous tumours spread from their initial site to other parts of the body. Professor Rodrigo Fernandez-Gonzalez (IBBME) is creating new imaging techniques and models to understand how cells coordinate and regulate migration. By understanding the genes and chemical signals involved in migration, Fernandez-Gonzalez and his team hope to find new ways of fighting metastatic cancers which affect thousands of Ontarians each year.

“Our capacity to compete globally depends on how well we can harness our research, innovation and entrepreneurial strengths,” said Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Research and Innovation. “Through these investments, Ontario is mobilizing and preparing our researchers to succeed, compete and create the jobs of the future.”

In total, researchers across the University of Toronto received more than $2.6 million for 19 projects through the Early Researcher Awards, part of a recent $13-million announcement for ERAs across the province.