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Professor Ariel Chan (ChemE) is an expert in chemical process scale-up and safety analysis. (Photo: Tyler Irving)

Professor Ariel Chan (ChemE) has been chosen as the 2022 recipient of the Wighton Fellowship. Awarded by the Sandford Fleming Foundation to just one recipient nationwide each year, the fellowship recognizes excellence in the development and teaching of laboratory-based courses in undergraduate engineering programs.  

An assistant professor in the teaching stream, Chan has made exceptional contributions in modernizing undergraduate laboratory education at U of T Engineering. She is the primary instructor for two key lab courses that consolidate lab components from all third-year chemical engineering core courses. Chan completely redeveloped these courses so that the labs integrate concepts that students have learned in the classroom to date. She also pivoted from traditional ‘recipe-driven’ lab exercises into open-ended, problem-based projects conducted over several weeks.  

Chan created more than 40 inquiry-based lab projects covering five major chemical engineering concepts. These are based on real-life consulting assignments, projects co-developed with industrial partners, field trips or on-site university chemical operation facilities. She incorporates computer-aided design and drafting software, familiarizing students with modern engineering tools they will likely be using in their future careers.   

She also oversees the Unit Operations laboratory, which was recently refurbished with support of the Dean Strategic Fund. When the University shifted to online learning during the pandemic, Chan and her team mapped out the entire space to create a virtual lab tour in close-up view that can be accessed by mobile devices and virtual reality headsets. This allowed students learning remotely to replicate the experience of conducting a lab experiment, right down to putting on a lab coat and gloves.   

Chan also developed a series of experiments that can be done at home, such as drainage piping investigation, stove/cooktop heat transfer modeling and bioethanol production by yeast fermentation. Combined with her online virtual lab tools, these experiments provide unique at-home learning opportunities for students and emphasize that engineering is all around us.  

In 2019, Chan received ChemE’s Diran Basmadjian Teacher of the Year Award for Small Classes. She has also garnered a Dean’s Emerging Innovation in Teaching Professorship and a Technology Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) Fellowship. 

Professor Chan’s achievements in revamping the Unit Operations lab curriculum, developing virtual educational tools and creating a cutting-edge hands-on learning space have greatly enhanced the learning experience for our students,” says Christopher Yip, Dean of U of T Engineering. “On behalf of the Faculty, my warmest congratulations to her on this richly deserved recognition.” 

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