Saving lives through optimization
Justin Boutilier (MIE PhD 2018)
When Boutilier was nine years old his father, a firefighter and paramedic, taught him how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED), a portable device that can restart a human heart. Though he didn’t know it at the time, AEDs would become the major focus of his research into improving the delivery of health care.
Part of Boutilier’s PhD thesis with Professor Tim Chan (MIE) looked into whether the use of drones to deliver AEDs could offer any improvement over current practice, which relies on paramedics and AEDs deployed in certain central locations. He analyzed historical data on cardiac arrests in various parts of Ontario, and demonstrated that in most cases, drone-delivered AEDs could arrive several minutes ahead of ambulances. “It has been exciting to contribute to an idea that is at the forefront of medical technology and has the potential to be a transformative innovation,” he says.
Boutilier also spent three weeks in Dhaka, Bangladesh working with local emergency medical service (EMS) providers to gather data on local ambulance response times, as well as costs and alternative means of transport to hospitals. His analysis will help optimize the delivery of EMS, improve efficiency and potentially save lives in one of the world’s largest cities.
Following convocation, Boutilier will spend a year as an NSERC postdoctoral fellow at MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics. “I hope eventually to become a professor, and to develop a research program that focuses on combining optimization and machine learning to improve the quality, access, and delivery of healthcare, particularly in low and middle income countries,” he says.
“I would like to thank Professor Tim Chan for his unwavering support, guidance, and mentorship. I would not be the person I am today without him. I would also like to thank the entire Applied Optimization Lab for all the coffee breaks, stimulating discussion, and most importantly, friendships.”
Reinforced concrete creator
Edvard Bruun (CivE 1T4 + PEY, MASc 1T7)
Bruun’s master’s research focused on reinforced concrete. Under the supervision of Professors Michael Collins, Evan Bentz and Oh-Sung Kwon (all CivMin), he developed mathematical models for analyzing reinforced concrete beams and shells. He also used the Mark Huggins Structures Laboratory to perform the world’s first pure torsion tests on reinforced concrete shells in the state-of-the art Shell Element Tester.
“Torsion is a complex phenomenon in reinforced concrete, and is also very difficult to isolate and test,” says Bruun. “These tests provided important data which will allow us to update and modify our design codes, improving the safety and efficiency of future structures.”
Bruun’s work was supported by an Alexander Graham Bell NSERC Masters Graduate scholarship. Outside of the lab, Bruun volunteered on a number of organizations and committees, including the Earthquake Engineering Institute (U of T Chapter), ILead:Grad and U of T’s Governing Council. He also taught CIV100, a first-year course on mechanics and statistics, to a class of approximately 100 students.
After graduation, Bruun will take up a position at Arup, an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants, and technical specialists. “U of T Engineering has taught me how to collaborate and work across different disciplines,” says Bruun. “It also left me with a passion for learning and a strong work ethic. I've learned to value the importance of staying informed on a wide range of topics, and I’m able to handle stress and think quickly on my feet. This is good preparation for any sort of professional endeavour.”
“I would like to thank Professors Collins, Bentz and Kwon for their mentorship. I would also like to thank the many lifelong friends I made during my seven years at U of T, and especially Allan and Giorgio from the research group for all their academic and personal support.”
Clean energy innovator
Chandini Chandrabalan (ElecE 1T7 + PEY)
“U of T Engineering has helped me define who I am as an individual and as a professional,” says Chandrabalan. “It helped to spark my interest and catalyze my passion for the work I do, and motivated me to work hard to achieve my goals.”
Chandrabalan’s three research placements all revolved around energy. She worked with Professor Nazir Kherani (ECE, MSE) on indium-tin oxide solar films, Professor Deepa Kundur (ECE) on machine learning methods for analyzing smart meter data, and Professor Reza Iravani (ECE) on a robot that is used to test large power generators. She also completed a 12-month Professional Experience Year Co-op position at Hydro One Networks, where she participated in a cyber security audit, and a four-month placement at Bruce Power, where she worked on a switchyard replacement project.
Chandrabalan served as a high school outreach ambassador within the U of T chapter of Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) and was a student ambassador for The Edward S. Rogers Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering. “Some of my most memorable experiences have been interacting with prospective students during open houses, presentations and Q&A panels,” she says.
After convocation, Chandrabalan will take up a position with Clear Blue Technologies, a company that designs solar-driven off-grid energy solutions, including providing street lighting and powering cell phone towers and hotspots. The company has projects in places ranging from Toronto’s Bloor West Village to rural Rwanda. “I’m looking forward to having a platform where I can apply the engineering skills I’ve attained to help communities that don’t have reliable electricity and provide a sustainable alternative form of power,” she says.
“To my professors who taught me the fundamentals and more, thank you for bringing me to a position where I can contribute to my community and for challenging me in ways that allowed me to explore beyond what I thought were my limits. And to my fellow peers at Skule: thank you for creating an environment where I am routinely inspired by your work and your ideas!”
Electrical energy systems pioneer
Kimberly Cota (EngSci 1T7 + PEY)
A deep-seated curiosity drove Cota to choose U of T’s Engineering Science program, where she majored in Energy Systems. “I'm a person who always like to ask 'why,' and dig to the bottom of an issue until I fully understand it,” she says. “Engineering Science helped me learn how to learn, and how to master lots of new technical information in a short time frame.”
After her first year, Cota spent the summer at the National University of Singapore, working with Professor Ho Ghim Wei on photocatalysts for solar hydrogen production. The following summer, she interned for Professor Kaley Walker in U of T’s Department of Physics, helping to control the flight of a balloon-borne instrument to study atmospheric composition. She then completed a four-month placement as a Technical Support Specialist Intern at GE Grid Solutions before embarking on a 12-month PEY Co-op position in Cupertino, California, as part of Apple’s iPhone Hardware System Integration Team. She also found time to contribute to the Human Powered Vehicles Design Team and Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) U of T chapter, and to mentor younger students through NSight, the Engineering Science student mentorship program.
Cota’s undergraduate thesis, supervised by Professor Peter Lehn (ECE), focused on wireless charging for electric vehicles (EVs), an area she hopes to continue researching in the future. “I think my unique background, which combines research in both large and small-scale electrical power systems, could be valuable for helping progress the EV industry,” she says. “I want to work in industry first, but I plan to pursue a master’s degree down the road.”
“If I had to pick one group to thank, it would be the supportive community I found in Engineering Science. I've met so many inspiring individuals whose hard work and virtuous character have helped me improve myself both personally and professionally.”
Future energy leader
Oluwatobi Edun (ChemE 1T7 + PEY)
“U of T has been a place for me to explore and apply who I am as a leader both in and out of the classroom,” says Edun. “As a result of the numerous opportunities I have been exposed to, I feel more confident in tackling pressing issues that we face globally, particularly in the energy sector.”
As a part-time residence don at New College, Edun provided support and guidance to a community of 40 undergraduate students. He also served as president of the Nigerian Students Association, vice president of the Society of Petroleum Engineering (U of T Chapter) and chair of the 2017 Undergraduate Engineering Research Day conference, which showcased the work of more than 100 students across the Faculty through posters, videos and oral presentations.
Edun’s own research experiences ranged from optimizing the extraction of sugars from biomass and their fermentation into fuels under Professor Brad Saville (ChemE) to a summer placement at the University of Liverpool where he designed 3D-printed tungsten components for medical implants. He completed his Professional Experience Year Co-op job in the Composites Innovation Group at Shawcor, testing materials for a new composite pipeline design.
Starting next fall, Edun plans to pursue a Masters of Engineering (M.Eng) in chemical engineering at U of T, focusing on energy efficiency and new sustainable energy technologies. In the longer term, he plans to gain a professional engineering license, pursue an MBA, and contribute to the development of both Canada and Nigeria.
“I plan to help Nigeria resolve its persistent energy issues by re-inventing its oil and gas infrastructure and introducing the use of sustainable fuels,” he says. “It is my dream to see Nigeria as a hub for entrepreneurship and a breeding ground for the next generation of world leaders with a desire to realize the country's potential.”
“I would like to thank my family, ILead and my New College family for encouraging me to be the best that I can be. I would also like to thank the faculty, especially Professor Graeme Norval (ChemE) for his guidance and teaching on the responsibility of engineers to society. My message to all: 'Dare to dream. Dare to believe. Be the best you can be in everything you do."
Giving a voice to people who can’t speak
Amanda Fleury (IBBME PhD 1T8)
Fleury’s research, supervised by Professor Tom Chau (IBBME) at the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, focused on textile-based sensors that can be used for rehabilitation. She developed a wearable headband that detects when a person blinks, and software that can distinguish between intentional versus involuntary blinks. These tools can provide a means of communication for people who otherwise have none.
“During my PhD I learned a lot about collaboration,” says Fleury. “I worked directly with a Toronto-based company, Myant Inc., to design and build the textile electrode headband that I tested with end users. I got to see firsthand what technology development looks like at a relatively young company and create a prototype that I'm really proud of.”
Fleury also spent part of her PhD in Ethiopia teaching biomedical engineering at Jimma University through an internship opportunity with the American International Health Alliance (AIHA) and Rice University. A student team she supervised designed a medical record-keeping system for their local hospital, which won a university-wide design competition.
Currently, Fleury is spending four months on an Endeavour Research Fellowship at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, working on projects related to wearable sensing. “The next step for me is to find a position doing research and technology development, preferably at a company in the wearable technology space,” she says. “I'd like to work at a company that values creativity, and that allows me to keep learning every day.”
“I feel really privileged to have had Professor Tom Chau as a supervisor and mentor. His commitment to his students and his focus on the real impact of the technologies we build is a motivation and an inspiration.”
Space systems innovator
Katie Gwozdecky (MechE 1T7 +PEY)
Gwozdecky’s passion for extraterrestrial exploration led her to join the University of Toronto Aerospace Team (UTAT) on her very first day at U of T Engineering. Eventually, she became the director of UTAT’s Space Systems division, focusing on the development cubesats — low-cost, modular satellites about the size of a loaf of bread. The division’s HERON and the HERON MK II were designed to conduct biological experiments in microgravity.
Following her third year, Gwozdecky took a PEY Co-op position at Synaptive Medical, a company that creates medical devices, including robotic digital microscopes based on technology originally designed for the Canadarm2. “As with my UTAT experience, my PEY Co-op job showed me that having a meaningful team to learn from and work is as important as whatever product or industry you find yourself in,” she says. “I'll work almost anywhere as long as the team shares my values.”
Following graduation, Gwozdecky has lined up a summer placement at Sinclair Interplanetary, which produces components for micro- and nanosatellites. In September 2018, she will begin her MASc at at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies Space Flight Lab (UTIAS-SFL) in Space Systems Engineering. “The balance of skills I've learned — including leadership and team building — will enable me to contribute to expanding humanity's reach beyond our planet,” she says.
“UTAT has given me a family, and shown me that sometimes knowing nothing is the most exciting place to be. I cannot believe it's coming to an end. It's a bit bittersweet, but I know that I'm just getting started!”
Fighting cancer through deep learning
Oren Kraus (MechE 1T0, IBBME MASc 1T2, ECE PhD 1T8)
Studying under Professor Brendan Frey (ECE), as well as Professors Brenda Andrews and Charles Boone (both in the Department of Molecular Genetics), Kraus’ thesis project — which recently won the Donnelly Centre Research Thesis Prize — focused on using machine intelligence to transform microscope images into useful insight.
“I trained computer models, based on millions of individual cells from genome wide microscopy screens, to identify proteins involved in regulating the cell cycle,” says Kraus. “The cell cycle is an essential process for all living organisms and mutations leading to miss-regulation of the cell cycle are often associated with human disease, particularly cancer.”
After internships at Apple and Borealis AI, Kraus formed his own startup company, Phenomic AI. “What sets us apart is our ambition to seamlessly integrate AI with experiments,” says Kraus. “Imagine biologists and chemists receiving real-time, deep learning-driven analysis their data, and suggestions about the next steps they should take. We’re building the lab of the future, and we’re going to use it to take on cancer.”
Kraus says one of the things he valued most about his time at U of T Engineering was how it enabled him to work across disciplines. “I went from mechanical engineering to biomedical engineering and then to machine learning, and in every field U of T has world-renowned experts,” he says. “Professors are eager to collaborate across departments, and that openness allowed me and my colleagues to be among the first researchers to develop and publish deep learning techniques for analyzing microscopy data.”
“I would to like to thank my supervisors for their incredible support throughout my PhD. They helped me make novel research contributions in deep learning and high-content screening analysis and inspired me continue pursuing a career in which I can advance the frontiers of biotechnology. I would also like to thank my friends and colleagues Jimmy Ba, whose support was instrumental as I was getting into the machine learning field, and Ben Grys, who is a great biologist to collaborate with.”
Advanced coatings creator
Jonathan Lau (MSE1T6, MEng 1T8)
Lau’s undergraduate thesis and MEng thesis both focused on a composite coating made of nanocrystalline nickel and polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, better known as Teflon). Because this coating is relatively inexpensive to make and apply, it could provide a less costly alternative to the anti-icing, anti-fouling coatings currently used on boat hulls, airplane wings and self-cleaning windows. Lau used x-ray electron spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy to study the way the coating is affected by physical abrasion, as well as thermal degradation.
In addition to his materials research, Lau completed a minor in Engineering Business and two summer internships working alongside a serial entrepreneur in Hong Kong. Lau’s business projects included market research for a copper mine in Madagascar and for celebrity chef Martin Yan.
Lau also served in leadership roles with the Engineering Athletics Association, including director of men’s athletics, captain of the men’s volleyball team for five years, and captain of the coed team for two years. After graduation, Lau plans to return to his native Hong Kong. “I hope to start a career where I can leverage my extensive scientific and business background,” he says.
One of the things Lau appreciated the most about his U of T Engineering experience is the unparalleled support he received. “Your classmates and friends are always cheering you on, overcoming challenges alongside you, or volunteering their own time to help you get things done faster,” he says. “It’s a very caring environment.”
"I want to thank everyone: my supervisor Professor Uwe Erb, my research lab mates, volleyball teammates, and the friends from Hong Kong that came with me to U of T. Having the opportunity to cross paths with so many people shaped me into who I am. Special thanks to my mom and my brother for always being there for me!"
Construction engineer and advocate for women
Sara Maltese (CivE 1T7 +PEY)
Five years ago, Maltese was pretty sure what she wanted out of her degree. But along the way, her path was altered — she believes for the better. “It has been quite the enlightening journey,” she says. “There were moments of uncertainty, but the trend has been toward finding the confidence to make decisions that led me to my ideal destination.”
Maltese carried out undergraduate research with Professor Matthew Roorda (CivMin) in the University of Toronto Transportation Research Institute; her thesis focused on the impacts of autonomous vehicles on travel demand in the GTA. She also spent a year working for the global management consulting firm LeighFisher, where she supported the delivery of advisory services for lenders on infrastructure projects across Canada and Latin America.
She has also been a dedicated member of U of T’s chapter of Women in Science and Engineering (WISE). “I gave presentations about STEM opportunities at high schools, trained and coordinated outreach ambassadors, secured corporate sponsorships, and organized a national conference of over 300 delegates,” she says.
After graduation, Maltese will take a job as a field engineer at Turner Construction Company. “I hope to optimize project teams through motivation and effective collaboration,” she says. “I also hope to launch an initiative for women working at Turner to celebrate the increasing presence of women in construction.”
“I would like to thank the WISE U of T Chapter for encouraging me to choose engineering when I was in high school, for giving me a family of truly amazing people, and for giving me a purpose beyond my studies during my time at U of T.”
Clean air crusader
Natalia Mykhaylova (ChemE PhD 1T8)
Mykhaylova is passionate about protecting the air we breathe. Her thesis, working with Professor Greg Evans (ChemE) focused on the development of low-cost, portable detectors that can quickly report the levels of common air pollutants, such as ozone, nitric oxides, fine particulate matter and volatile organic compounds. These devices were used during Toronto’s 2015 Pan Am Games to monitor Air Quality Health Index (AQHI), and the information they record can help people reduce the negative impacts of air pollution on health.
During her PhD, Mykhaylova founded two startups. Cleanopy, which was supported by The Entrepreneurship Hatchery, centered on a portable air purification device designed to protect young children from air pollution. WeavAir, developed through NEXT Canada, is developing technology that could be integrated into current HVAC systems to save energy, improve indoor air quality and reduce costs. WeavAir will create both the advanced sensors and the software — including artificial intelligence algorithms — needed to analyze the data, predict outcomes and adjust operation modes appropriately. For these achievements and others, Mykhaylova was named one of 2017’s Top 30 Under 30 in Sustainability by Corporate Knights magazine.
“My desire to make change happen is what helped overcome the learning curve and start a PhD project in a field very different from that of my undergraduate studies,” says Mykhaylova. “The experiences I had at the University of Toronto have helped me learn, practice and develop effective leadership skills, which have served me well and continue to do so in my current projects.”
“I’m very grateful to my thesis supervisor, Greg Evans, as well as the SOCAAR lab for giving believing in me and giving me space to learn and grow. I’m also very grateful to the staff and faculty at the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry as well as the Faculty of Engineering for their support. Finally, I’d like to thank all of the amazing people I got a chance to work with when participating in student initiatives at the University of Toronto – they inspired me, expanded my worldview and motivated me.”
Jonathan Reyes Ortiz (MSE 1T8)
Reyes Ortiz sums up his U of T Engineering experience in one word: inspirational. “The diverse student population, variety of cultures, brilliant staff and emphasis on global citizenship permanently inspired me to take risks, be open-minded, and be creative when solving problems,” he says.
Last summer, Reyes Ortiz travelled to Saudi Arabia to do a research exchange at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, working on the development of new materials to be used in solar cells, a technology that has since been licensed by Tesla for use in solar roofs. The previous summer, he investigated two forensic engineering cases at the Ontario Centre for the Characterization of Advanced Materials.
As co-founder and past president of the Ecuadorian Students Association, Reyes Ortiz organized a series of workshops focused on helping his fellow students improve their academic performance, interpersonal and interview skills. After the 2016 earthquake that affected the coastal region of the country, Reyes Ortiz and his team raised more than $10,000 for disaster relief.
Following graduation, Reyes Ortiz plans to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Cambridge, focusing on a project related to 3D-printed steel. “I picture myself in the future working for one of the two biggest steel manufacturing companies in Ecuador while collaborating on governmental projects,” he says. “As a recipient of a full governmental scholarship, I am cognizant that every single person from my country has contributed to my education, and I aim to pay back this fantastic opportunity by contributing to innovation in the steel industry.”
“I am very grateful to the MSE department for their support and openness during this long journey. I would like to give a special mention to Professors Alexander McLean and Doug Perovic for their guidance and mentorship. In addition, I would like to thank the entire Skule community and the Ecuadorian community at U of T for their constant inspiration and spirit.”
Javier Romualdez (UTIAS PhD 1T8)
During his PhD thesis, Romualdez worked on a project known as the Super-pressure Balloon-borne Imaging Telescope (SuperBIT). This one-tonne device launches to an altitude of approximately 40 kilometres, suspended beneath a helium balloon the size of a football field. It is capable of mapping out the distribution of dark matter through gravitational lensing measurements around hundreds of galaxy clusters, as well as studying the atmospheric composition of exoplanets.
Romualdez designed and implemented systems to point the telescope and stabilize the resulting images on the camera. “The goal was to provide a three-axis image stability of 20 milliarcseconds over long integration periods,” says Romualdez. “This is equivalent to threading a needle from one mile away and not having the thread touch the sides for more than an hour.” He was involved in two major flight tests of SuperBIT: one in 2015 at the Stratospheric Balloon Base in Timmins, Ont. (in association with the Canadian Space Agency and the French space agency, CNES) and one in 2016 in Palestine, Tex. (in association with NASA).
“It's not very often that a thesis project comes along where the students get to see the full design and launch cycle of a project of such scope,” says Romualdez. “It’s both exciting and terrifying at the same time.”
After graduation, Romualdez will work as a postdoctoral researcher at a number of institutions, including the University of Toronto, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Durham University, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories. He will focus on software development, hardware design, and data analysis for SuperBIT and for other balloon-borne projects, including Spider2, designed to search for evidence of primordial gravitational waves within the cosmic evolution of the universe, and BLAST-TNG, which aims to measure the effects of cosmic magnetic fields on star-forming regions beyond our solar system.
“I’d like to thank the SuperBIT team for all the hard work, dedication, and shared peril over the years.”
Jeremy Chan-Hao Wang (EngSci 1T7 +PEY)
From his first year at U of T Engineering, Wang knew he wanted to make his mark in the aerospace field. And that’s exactly what he did, leading a major reorganization of the University of Toronto Aerospace Team, adding an outreach division and expanding its membership to more than 100 students. He also presented at the 2016 International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Guadalajara, Mexico as part of the Canadian Space Agency’s official delegation.
For his Professional Experience Year Co-op, Wang chose to work for The Sky Guys, a company that provides a wide range of services using drones. He founded the company’s research and development division, leading projects such as a custom drone capable of creating 3D maps through the use of lasers. Wang now serves as the Chief Technology Officer of The Sky Guys and will continue in the role after his graduation.
Wang was also active with the Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering (ILead), serving as a facilitator for Leadership Labs and completing his undergraduate thesis on engineering leadership and culture in student team. “ILead filled a gap in my worldview, helping me realize that although many students choose to study engineering for the cool technology, we survive and thrive by figuring out how to work with others and act with empathy,” he says.
Wang sees his future as solidly within entrepreneurship. “I plan to continue building companies that leverage aerospace technology to improve the world,” he says. “Transportation and data lie at the core of many problems, and aerospace startups offer a way to make contributions rapidly.”
“I’d like to thank my friends and mentors at UTAT and ILead for the unparalleled learning, laughs and opportunities.”
Chemical engineering professional
Elizabeth White (ChemE 1T7+PEY)
“My experience at U of T has truly changed my idea of what is possible and what I can accomplish,” says White. “From the moment I stepped into the engineering community as a F!rosh, I was amazed and inspired by all of the things my peers and upper-years were doing. In my efforts to effect change in the community, I was always met with support and encouragement.”
White dedicated a lot of her energy to providing professional development opportunities for students. She currently heads the student chapter of the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering (CSChE) which won the organization’s Student Chapter Merit Award Last year, and is organizing the student program for CSChE’s annual conference, set to take place in Toronto in October 2018.
In addition to CSChE, White was involved with the University of Toronto Concrete Toboggan Team, which placed fourth in its last national competition, as well as the Blue & Gold Committee and Suits U, a non-profit student group dedicated to helping students dress well in a professional setting. After her third year, she spent a summer at the Technical University of Darmstadt, researching new ways of synthesizing zinc-oxide nanoparticles. Such particles could be used in solar cells, physical force sensors and other electronics.
After graduation, White will take some time off before looking for work in the area of process safety management. “I’m interested in a field where I am able to serve the public through my work,” she says. “I also hope to continue to help bridging the gap between students and industry professionals.”
“The Skule community is filled with amazing students who always motivate me to do and be better — thank you to each and every one of you!”