Fourteen Engineering faculty and staff have been honoured for their outstanding contributions to the Faculty with teaching, research and administrative staff awards.
These awards recognize exceptional faculty and staff members for their leadership, citizenship, innovation and contributions to the Faculty’s teaching, service and research missions. The recipients would normally be recognized at the Faculty’s annual Celebrating Engineering Excellence reception, which had to be cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m grateful to have this opportunity to acknowledge the amazing contributions made by our faculty and staff” said U of T Engineering Dean Christopher Yip. “On behalf of the Faculty, warmest congratulations to the awardees, and my heartfelt thanks to all our faculty and staff members for their hard work, dedication and commitment to excellence.”
The award recipients are:
ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF AWARDS
Nini Chen (ECE)
Harpreet Dhariwal Emerging Leader Award
Recognizing a staff member who leads by example in their dedication to the Faculty’s mission and demonstrates potential to assume a more senior leadership role.
As Research Award Officer and Program Coordinator for ECE, Nini Chen has enhanced the department’s research operations through her innovation and expertise. Her efforts have resulted in significant improvements in research-related business processes within and beyond ECE and she has offered creative insight on how to improve ECE’s research capabilities. Chen has also gone beyond her role to advance other aspects of the department’s mission. For example, as an ECE alumna, she often brings exceptional alumni to the attention of the department, resulting in new connections. She has also identified stories related to research and industrial partnerships for our strategic communications team, and she recently helped create a presentation on ECE’s research achievements. Chen is an invited member of the organizing committee of the 2020 U of T Strengthening Administration of Research (STAR) conference.
Shayni Curtis-Clarke (CivMin)
Barbara McCann Quality of Student Experience Award for Frontline Staff
Recognizing a staff member who has made significant contributions to the quality of student experience in the Faculty through their outstanding frontline service.
Shayni Curtis-Clarke has served in a number of student services roles in CivMin since joining the Faculty in 2005, and has been the Undergraduate Academic Advisor since 2013. In this role, she has demonstrated exceptional patience, compassion and professionalism in counselling and supporting CivMin students through the unique aspects of this program (such as Survey Camp). She has shown an outstanding ability to determine which students require extra support and to tailor that support to each student’s individual circumstances. As a result, students see her as someone who will always be in their corner. Curtis-Clarke is also a valued advisor and mentor for student clubs and organizations, and she actively supports initiatives that will improve the student experience across the Faculty. She was a member of the Joint Task Force on Academic Advising and Mental Health and the Dean’s Task Force on Academic Advising.
David Duong (Office of the Dean)
Quality of Student Experience Award for Behind the Scenes Staff
Recognizing a staff member who has made significant contributions to the quality of student experience in the Faculty through the creation or improvement of programs or services.
Since joining MIE in 2013, David Duong has advanced through progressively more senior roles supporting the undergraduate and graduate student experience at the department and Faculty level. He played a key role in the organization of MIE’s Graduate Engineering Career Fair, and, based on the success of this event, was asked to help organize the first Faculty-wide Graduate Career Fair in 2017. In 2018, Duong was recruited as acting Faculty Graduate Coordinator. In this role, he has improved business processes, provided leadership for graduate administrators across Engineering, and forged excellent relationships with graduate student leaders. Duong has provided crucial support to several initiatives to promote student success in our graduate programs. These include the Faculty’s efforts to improve graduate recruitment in underrepresented communities and to improve support for and awareness of mental health and wellness issues.
Karen Irving (ECE)
Agnes Kaneko Citizenship Award
Recognizing a staff member who has served with distinction and made contributions to the Faculty’s mission above and beyond their job description over a long period of time.
Karen Irving has served as the Undergraduate Assistant in ECE since 2006. Highly respected by students, co-workers and faculty for her dedication, work ethic and expertise, she is a go-to person in ECE for help, clarity and insight. She consistently goes above and beyond her role to think in a big-picture way about how services can be improved. It was her suggestion that the department create a seminar to help students going into second year navigate the flexible ECE curriculum, and she played a key role in the development of the Magellen system. Irving trains and mentors new staff, setting the tone and culture for the office and making everyone feel included. She has also ably filled in for senior staff during extended leaves. In addition to her many professional contributions, Irving is ‘lead decorator’ for the ECE undergraduate office, working on her own time to create seasonal displays that make the office a welcoming space.
Afshin Poraria (ECE)
Recognizing a staff member who has shown innovation in developing a new method, technology or system, or improving an existing system, to the benefit of the Faculty.
Afshin Poraria is being recognized for his leadership in the planning, design and installation of the DC Microgrid in ECE’s Energy Systems Lab. The project provides researchers with access to a state-of-the-art DC microgrid system that will be operating as a ‘living lab’. Access to commercial scale solar arrays and energy storage facilities and real-time data collected from DC microgrid operation individually and collectively offer opportunities for new cutting-edge research. This initiative demanded the renovation of the entire lab infrastructure, and the development of new safety procedures and training methodologies. This innovation will allow the Energy Systems Lab to be largely self-sufficient in terms of DC energy, and enables the use of an actual DC microgrid for both research and teaching. It has transformed the lab into a one-of-a-kind research and teaching environment for practical experimentation at the forefront of the field.
Jaro Pristupa (ECE)
Catherine Gagne Sustained Excellence in Leadership Award
Recognizing a staff member who has demonstrated leadership in supporting the Faculty’s mission over a sustained period.
Jaro Pristupa has been a staff member with ECE since 1979, and has served as Director of Information Technology since 2012. During that time, he has been instrumental in leading transformative change across the department. Pristupa has been recognized across the Faculty and the University for his innovative solutions to technological challenges faced by ECE. He received U of T’s Excellence Through Innovation Award in 2012 for his leadership of a project to consolidate servers across the department, and again in 2013 for leading the successful implementation of the Magellan software system. He also led a team that received the Faculty’s Innovation Award in 2015 for developing ECE’s Graduate Research Information Database. Beyond the Faculty, Pristupa serves on the UofT Information Security Council’s Working Group on Procedures, Standards and Guidelines, developing best practices for IT security across U of T.
McCharles Prize for Early Career Research Distinction
Recognizing exceptional performance and distinction in early career research, typically on the part of a pre-tenure member of the Faculty.
Gisele Azimi (ChemE, MSE)
Gisele Azimi has established herself as an exceptional researcher who is not afraid to tackle big problems in several fields at once. She has built an internationally recognized multidisciplinary research program which is carving out an entirely new field at the intersection of material science and chemical engineering, with the goal of solving sustainability challenges related to materials and energy. Her work spans several areas, including; development of advanced recycling and urban mining of postconsumer electronics using supercritical fluids; the production of rare elements from e-waste; development of green electrochemical technology for iron extraction and steel refining; and the development of rechargeable batteries from aluminum as an alternative to lithium. Azimi’s research has already led to four patents, multiple industry collaborations, and prestigious awards from several professional societies.
Eric Diller (MIE)
Eric Diller’s research focuses on developing miniature robots which can be wirelessly controlled just like full-sized robots. His goal is to enable a radically new approach to medical procedures and create an entirely new set of scientific tools. Diller shrinks the mechanical and electrical components of robots to centimeter, millimeter and micrometer length. As these miniature components are too small for batteries or microchips, he then develops novel ways to wirelessly control them, using magnetic fields and smart materials. He is developing the fundamental and applied devices and methods towards real implementation for diagnosis and surgery. Along with his academic, clinical, and industry partners, Diller is making strides towards trials and commercialization. His work has been recognized with several of the top awards for early career researchers in both robotics and mechanical engineering.
Safwat Zaky Research Leader Award
Recognizing leadership in innovative interdisciplinary and multiple-investigator initiatives that have enhanced the Faculty’s research profile
Eric Miller (CivMin)
Eric Miller is a world-leading researcher in the areas of urban land use, transportation and the environment. He has also been a leader in founding and directing multidisciplinary research centres and institutes focused on transportation and other urban issues. From 2008-2012, Miller was founding director of UofT’s Cities Centre, a multidisciplinary research institute focused on crucial issues related to urban livability. In 2013 he became founding director of the UofT Transportation Research Institute, a University-wide network of transportation research expertise in support of evidence-based transportation policy, both locally and globally. Beyond the University, Miller has been an influential voice in many public policy debates regarding transportation and land use. He has provided expert advice and leadership on public policy related to transit and transportation in Toronto and the GTA.
Farid Najm (ECE)
Farid Najm is an international leader in the field of computer-aided design software tools for the design of large-scale integrated circuits. His work has addressed many important problems faced by industry, and has been widely incorporated into industrial practice. As Chair of ECE from 2009-2019, Najm made exceptional contributions in expanding and advancing the department’s research mission. He created the new role of Associate Chair, Research and reached out to other departments to break down silos and create multidisciplinary research centres such as the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics. Najm also led a major outreach program to industry, forming an Industrial Advisory Board and creating networking opportunities to facilitate industrial partnerships. These initiatives led to a significant increase in research funding, as well as disclosures, patents and start-ups, over the course of Najm’s term.
Amy Bilton (MIE)
Early Career Teaching Award
Recognizing an early career instructor who has demonstrated exceptional classroom instruction and teaching methods.
Amy Bilton has served as Director of the Centre for Global Engineering since 2018. Through this role and her classroom teaching she has created unique opportunities for our students to work with international partners in the area of engineering for global development. Most notably, she has developed international capstone projects for students in the mechanical engineering and multidisciplinary capstone design courses. These allow students to travel abroad and work with community members in the developing world to address local challenges using their engineering design skills. Due to the extremely high demand for these projects, Bilton has significantly expanded the initiative in recent years, providing opportunities for students to work with NGOs in Kenya, Guatemala, and Rwanda, as well as the Canadian far north. She has successfully fundraised and recruited the support of other faculty members to further develop this program.
Elodie Passeport (CivMin/ChemE)
Early Career Teaching Award
Recognizing an early career instructor who has demonstrated exceptional classroom instruction and teaching methods.
Since joining the Faculty in 2014, Elodie Passeport has demonstrated a passion for building her skills as a teacher and developing innovative teaching techniques for the benefit of her students and colleagues. One such innovation was the joint project she recently co-designed to facilitate the connection between two second-year ChemE courses, which included the incorporation of leadership skills development in partnership with ILead. This led to a paper at Canada’s leading engineering education conference, and to receiving the 2018 Bill Burgess Best Teacher of the Year Award for Large Classes. Passeport is Chair of ChemE’s Teaching Effectiveness Committee; in this role she has organized monthly lunches and panel discussions on non-traditional teaching approaches, with the goal of creating a community of practice. She has continued these efforts by leading the organization of an early-career faculty retreat last summer.
Timothy Chan (MIE)
Faculty Teaching Award
Recognizing a faculty member who demonstrates outstanding classroom instruction and develops innovative teaching methods.
Tim Chan is a talented and dedicated teacher who has developed new courses and new ways of teaching operations research. He developed the course Analytics in Action, a case-based introduction to data analytics that has proven hugely popular, and led the creation of the popular MEng Emphasis on Analytics. One of the ways Chan’s teaching is unique is his use of games to explain difficult concepts – he has developed a game modelled on the TV show Deal or No Deal to explain decision making under uncertainty which has been used in engineering and MBA programs in several institutions, including Duke and MIT. Chan has published on his teaching methods and presented at international conferences. In addition to being a great mentor to his students, Tim makes a point of training and mentoring his TAs, both to ensure his courses are well-taught and to pass on his exceptional teaching to the next generation of engineering educators.
Mark Kortschot (ChemE)
Sustained Excellence in Teaching Award
Recognizing a faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in teaching over the course of at least 15 years.
Since joining the Faculty in 1988, Mark Kortschot has contributed to the Faculty’s teaching mission at every level. He has held several leadership roles, serving as Associate Chair Graduate and Associate Chair Undergraduate for ChemE, Acting Chair of First Year for the Faculty, and Chair of Engineering Science. In addition to being an outstanding teacher, Kortschot has also played a key role in developing the Faculty’s design curriculum. He was a member of the team which developed Engineering Strategies & Practice, and co-wrote the course textbook. He also participated in the development of the Faculty’s Graduate Attributes for design engineering. Kortschot founded ChemE’s Teaching Effectiveness Committee and has served on the Advisory Board of the Hatchery. He is currently chairing a makerspace committee, with the goal of improving the Faculty’s fabrication facilities. He is a co-recipient of the 2007 Alan Blizzard Award for Team Teaching.