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The former dean of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering and the Division of Engineering Science will both be among those honoured by the University of Toronto Alumni Association at their annual Awards of Excellence celebration on April 10.

Dean Emeritus Michael Charles (ChemE) has been named the recipient of the 2012 Vivek Goel Faculty Citizenship Award, which recognizes “a faculty member who has served the University of Toronto with distinction in multiple leadership capacities in diverse spheres over many years.”

The Division of Engineering Science will also be recognized for its “distinguished achievements in connecting teaching and research” with the 2012 Northrop Frye Award (departmental/divisional category).

“On behalf of the Faculty, I extend my warmest congratulations to Dean Emeritus Charles and the Division of Engineering Science,” said Dean Cristina Amon.

“Michael Charles has been an exemplary citizen of the Faculty and the University for nearly 50 years, and we are fortunate to continue to benefit from his service as Chair of our Faculty’s Committee on Nominations for Honours and Awards,” she said.

“I am also delighted that the first-rate educational experience offered by Engineering Science, with its unique focus on providing research experience for undergraduate students, has been recognized,” Dean Amon added.

The awards will be presented in a ceremony at Hart House’s Great Hall on Tuesday April 10 at 5:30 p.m.

Dean Emeritus Charles
Dean Emeritus Charles. Photo by Raj Grainger.

Dean Emeritus Michael Charles,  FCAE, PEng 
Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry
2012 Vivek Goel Faculty Citizenship Award

In a career at U of T that has spanned almost 50 years, Dean Emeritus Charles has provided his leadership and counsel to a variety of University committees, councils and task forces, in addition to serving as the Chair of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry (1975–1985), the first Vice Dean of the Faculty (1986–1993) and later as Dean (1993–2001).

“The goal,” he explained, “was to make a difference and add value to what was going on.”

Among his many contributions was leading the development of five proposals for the then-new Ontario Centres of Excellence program, which was launched by the Ontario government in the mid-1980s. All five proposals were successful and U of T became the home to five of the original seven Centres of Excellence.

Dean Emeritus Charles was also an active participant in the University’s governance, including serving as a member of the University-Wide Committee on Top Governing Structure, which led to the creation of the University’s Governing Council. He served as an elected member of the council from 1989–1995 and participated on many of its committees and boards.

He continues to contribute his time and efforts within the Faculty, where he currently serves as Chair of the Engineering Honours & Awards Committee.

He is the third consecutive recipient of the citizenship award from the Faculty of Applied & Engineering. The award was presented to Professor Emeritus Ron Venter (MIE) in 2009 and Professor Emeritus Safwat Zaky (ECE) in 2010 (the award was not presented in 2011).

When asked to comment on U of T Engineering’s impressive track record of citizenship, Dean Emeritus Charles remarked, “I think all three of us looked beyond our own disciplines and our own Faculty … and maybe underlying it all is that as engineers, we like to build and make things happen.”

Members of the Engineering Science team. From left to right: Jason Foster, Hana Lee, Anne Marie Kwan, Gina John, Mark Kortschot, Lisa Romkey, Erin Macnab, Maria Abrantes, Sarah Steed. Not pictured are Associate Chairs Jim Davis and Costas Sarris. Photo by Katherine Carney.
Members of the Engineering Science team. From left to right: Jason Foster, Hana Lee, Anne Marie Kwan, Gina John, Mark Kortschot, Lisa Romkey, Erin Macnab, Maria Abrantes, Sarah Steed. Not pictured are Associate Chairs Jim Davis and Costas Sarris. Photo by Katherine Carney.

The Division of Engineering Science
2012 Northrop Frye Award (Departmental/Divisional category)

At the core of the Engineering Science program is undergraduate research. The program is uniquely designed around a “2+2” curriculum structure that features two years of foundation curriculum followed by two years of specialization in one of eight research-intensive fields. All students are required to prepare an undergraduate thesis based on an individual research project supervised by faculty members drawn from across the University.

“We start exposing students to opportunities that make them great researchers right from first year,” explained Engineering Science Senior Lecturer Lisa Romkey. “In Praxis (a cornerstone first year design course offered to Engineering Science undergraduates), students are finding and framing a problem. As any researcher knows, identifying an excellent problem and framing it appropriately is one of the biggest challenges, and we have our students doing that right from first year.”

Course-based research experiences are further enhanced through summer research placements. In 2003, the Engineering Science Research Opportunities Program (ESROP) was established to help support student research placements at U of T around the world. As Romkey explained, 60–70% of Engineering Science students will have participated in a research experience before beginning their thesis project in fourth year.

Ana Klimovic (EngSci 1T3) had the chance to participate in ESROP in the summer following her first year. A research assistant in the laboratory of MIT Professor Vladimir Stojanovic, her project was entitled “Modeling Interconnection Networks for Multicore Processors.”

“Participating in research was a great way to explore my interests. I got to learn a lot about a field I would not have had the opportunity to delve deep into simply through classes at university. I also got to apply some of what I have learned through lectures and see how theory gets put to practice, which provides lots of motivation for learning,” stated Klimovic.

Jonathan Yam (EngSci 1T3) had the opportunity to work in lab of Harvard University Professor Robert Westervelt on a project entitled “Digital Microfluidics Transport System for Biosensors.” The experience clarified his future educational goals.

“My experience at Harvard has left me with a strong desire to go to grad school, as I realized there is so much more in the world that has not been discovered or solved yet,” said Yam.

This result is not uncommon according to Romkey, who noted that more than 60% of students in the program go on to graduate studies, while another 10% pursue professional degrees in areas like business, law or medicine.

“The reason we’ve had some success and won this award is because of our excellent students and our excellent professors … who have embraced the importance of undergraduate research at an institution like U of T,” said Romkey.

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