Posts By: Christina Heidorn

AI, tech and social justice: Meet EngSci alumna and U of T Groundbreaker Deborah Raji


The interview with Deborah Raji begins at 4:44 min in this episode of Groundbreakers.

 

How can AI and related technologies avoid perpetuating racism and gender bias?

The latest episode of U of T’s Groundbreakers video series hosted by Ainka Jess features an interview with an EngSci alumna who has made foundational contributions to this question.

Deborah Raji (1T9), a member of U of T’s Black Research Network discusses how bias in AI algorithms can perpetuate racism and gender bias and erode civil rights.  The research she began as an undergraduate focuses on how we can avoid this trap and how access to technology can further inclusive excellence.

Learn more about Raji’s work here.

Groundbreakers is a multimedia series that includes articles at U of T News and features research leaders involved with U of T’s Institutional Strategic Initiatives, whose work will transform lives.

 

 

 


EngSci alumni Tony Chan Carusone and Joyce Poon named IEEE Fellows

photos of Professors Tony Chan Carusone and Joyce Poon in offices

Professors Tony Chan Carusone and Joyce Poon have been named Fellows of the IEEE. (Photo: Chan Carusone; Poon by Katja Woldt)

 

By Matthew Tierney

The world’s largest technical professional organization, IEEE, has named its Fellows for 2022 — including ECE Professors Tony Chan Carusone (EngSci 9T6 PEY) and Joyce Poon (EngSci 0T2). IEEE Fellow is the highest grade of membership, given to those whose outstanding accomplishments in engineering, science and technology have shown significant value to society.

Chan Carusone, who is cited for ‘contributions to integrated circuits for digital communication,’ realized early in his career that his research in communication and control systems would have the most impact in the context of microchip design.

“That is where the rubber meets the road in electrical and computer engineering,” he says. “And I saw digital communication technologies as the most transformative technology of our age.”

The connective tissue of our high-speed digital world is the integrated circuit (IC) — the microchip — and designing faster ICs with greater reach and reliability impacts a myriad of fields: everything from digital communication to imaging and machine learning.

One can draw a direct line between efficiency gains in micro- and nanoscale IC design to vast, impactful areas such as sustainability, Chan Carusone says.

“For the past ten years I’ve been working to lower the power consumption of the microelectronics that handle our communication traffic, with hopes of reducing our footprint on the planet.”

Over his career, his research has earned him seven best-paper awards at IEEE conferences, and he’s served on many editorial boards and technical program committees of the world’s leading journals. He co-authored the textbook Analog Integrated Circuit Design and recently took up the torch from Professors Adel Sedra and K.C. Smith (EngSci 5T4) to co-author the 8th edition of the classic textbook, Microelectronic Circuits.

Professor Poon’s research focuses on a different medium of transmission: not electrons, but photons. Cited by IEEE for ‘contributions to integrated photonics on silicon and resonant microphotonic devices,’ she looks to advance computing and reduce power consumption by using light from the infrared wavelength to the visible spectrum.

“What drives me and my research is envisioning what computers will be like in ten years or so,” Poon says. “Quantum computing, neuromorphic computing, wearable displays, and eventually brain interfaces are all part of that future. I see photonics taking computing technology into new directions.”

She mentions her past work with silicon photonic foundries, which demonstrated how photonic integrated circuits (PICs) could enable new devices and functionalities, as one of her proudest accomplishments to date.

In 2018, Poon was named a Director of the renowned Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics in Germany, heading the new department of Nanophotonics, Integration, and Neural Technology. She regularly serves on technical program committees and is a Director-at-Large of Optica (formerly known as the Optical Society).

While their research interests may have followed different paths, Chan Carusone and Poon share beginnings as undergrads in University of Toronto’s Division of Engineering Science. When reflecting on their elevation to IEEE Fellow, they both mention the people they’ve been fortunate to work with, learn from, and teach.

“I am deeply honoured by the elevation and cannot emphasize enough how grateful I am for the many team members and collaborators who make the work possible,” says Poon. “This recognition shines a spotlight on our team, our ideas and our efforts over the years.”

Chan Carusone adds, “The most inspiring and innovative people I’ve encountered are IEEE Fellows, and I’m proud to count myself among them. But I’m most proud of seeing my grad students accomplish amazing things during and after their degree.”

Professor Deepa Kundur, Chair of ECE, sees Chan Carusone and Poon as part of the continuity of excellence in the department. “The commitment and talent that they bring to their work exemplify the ideals of engineering: bettering society while mentoring the next generation. Sincere congratulations to Tony and Joyce on this prestigious recognition.”

This story was originally published in the ECE News.

 


New EngSci course enhances experiential learning and global perspectives

Team NASSA stands with their cold air bubble piping system for the Thailand-based “Klongs for All” project. (Photo: Safa Jinje)

 

By Safa Jinje

In early December, more than 200 third-year Engineering Science students presented their collaborative solutions to a range of challenges — from recycling plastics to clearing invasive plants from canal waterways.

The two-day showcase was held in classrooms across U of T Engineering and recorded for organizations around the world, including partners based in Nigeria, Ghana, Thailand, Uganda and South Africa.

“Engineering is about people — it’s about the human condition,” says Professor Philip Asare (ISTEP, EngSci), who co-leads the course with Professor Sasha Gollish (ISTEP, EngSci).

“We want students to be able to see how technical work is influenced by all the human dimensions: the setting, the context, the people you are working with and the capacity you have.”

Held for the first time this year, the redesigned Praxis III course builds on the success of Praxis I and II — two first-year classes that introduce students to the models and tools of engineering design, including communication, teamwork and professionalism. Praxis III expands these learning opportunities to students in their second year while introducing a global element.

This year’s cohort collaborated with business students at Georgia State University as they designed and tested their functioning product prototypes, which propose solutions to the challenges faced by communities around the world.

In one of the projects from Ghana, called “The Potential of Recycled Plastics,” Makafui Awuku, who is the founder and CEO of Mckingtorch Africa, invited students to look for novel ways to re-use plastic and sawdust in the creation of new building materials.

Mckingtorch Africa recycles and upcycles plastic waste to create new products such as plastic mats, food-ware and makeshift beds. The social enterprise is exploring the production of wood-like panels for construction made from recovered sawdust and plastic.

“Each of the five teams decided to focus on a different part of the value chain, from acquiring sawdust to mixing it with plastic, to measuring properties of the produced composite wood/plastic panels,” says Asare. “The collection of projects when viewed together provide a great overall value for Mckingtorch Africa.”

Team DTUS stands with their device Jim (Just Insert Material), a thermal testing system, for “The Potential of Recycled Plastics” project. (Photo: Safa Jinje)

 

Students researched the local community, culture and practices to create designs that would provide benefit to the client while ensuring cultural sensitivity.

“Empathy is introduced as a core concept in Praxis III,” says Victoria German (Year 3 EngSci). “We had to do a lot of non-functional research to better understand the community we are serving.”

Instructors led students through reflection assignments, lectures, classroom discussions and hands-on building exercises that reinforced the importance of empathy in their designs.

During their presentations, teams also made an argument for why their designs would be relevant to the community that they were working with, through both the lens of United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and what they understood about the people and their needs.

“We spent a lot of time on the conception of the design. It was really important for us to make sure we were meticulous at every stage,” says Rasam Yazdi (Year 3 EngSci). “We definitely gained good experiences out of this from working with computer-aided design models to electrical work and the actual build.”

Praxis III is intended for second-year students, but this first iteration was introduced to third-year students due to pandemic-related delays. The next iteration begins in the winter term and will have close to 300 second-year students.

“This course requires us to innovate in a number of ways, especially with supporting the hands-on technical work through our partnership with the Myhal Fabrication Facility,” says Asare.

“We’ve produced important systems and processes that supports the course work from a parts and components perspective. We have also introduced a procurement process, and tools and widgets to help students work well in their labs.”

Asare believes the experience has been a positive one for his global peers.

“The global partners are interested in these kinds of interactions with students; they have made it clear that they see value in it,” he says. “Next term, we are introducing humanitarian settings with projects in Yemen.”

“As the course evolves, we want to experiment with structures that make it possible for students to continue to pursue their designs beyond the course. There are lots of interesting things to come.”

This story was originally published in the U of T Engineering News.


EngSci’s Associate Chair Prof. Aimy Bazylak elected as Fellow of the EIC

 U of T Engineering professors Aimy Bazylak (MIE), Vaughn Betz (ECE) and Frank Vecchio (CivMin) have been elected 2022 Fellows of the Engineering Institute of Canada (EIC), for “excellence in engineering and services to the profession and to society.”

Left to right: Professors Aimy Bazylak (MIE), Vaughn Betz (ECE) and Frank Vecchio (CivMin) have been elected 2022 Fellows of the Engineering Institute of Canada.

By Carolyn Farrell

U of T Engineering professors Aimy Bazylak (MIE), Vaughn Betz (ECE) and Frank Vecchio (CivMin) have been elected 2022 Fellows of the Engineering Institute of Canada (EIC), for “excellence in engineering and services to the profession and to society.”

As the Canada Research Chair for Thermofluidics in Clean Energy, Bazylak is working to advance fuel cells, electrolyzers and batteries for clean power production and energy storage without greenhouse gas emissions. Her research is focused on the use of modelling and real-time imaging to design new materials for high efficiency and performance. She has partnered with automotive and energy companies such as Nissan, Volkswagon and Hydrogenics Corp. to develop next-generation fuel cells and electrolyzers for higher efficiency, zero-greenhouse gas emission power and energy storage.

Bazylak has served as the Director of the U of T Institute for Sustainable Energy and Acting Vice-Dean, Undergraduate for Engineering, and has been a member of U of T’s Committee on the Environment, Climate Change, and Sustainability since 2017. Her contributions have earned her several prestigious awards, including the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering’s I.W. Smith Award, the Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship, and the Helmholtz International Fellow Award. She is a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists and a Fellow of the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Betz holds the NSERC/Intel Industrial Research Chair in Programmable Silicon. His work has revolutionized the use of field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), to allow engineers to rapidly create new hardware systems and realize their design visions. As a doctoral student, Betz created a packing, placement and routing tool and methodology, known as Versatile Place and Route (VPR), which is now the world’s most popular toolset for modelling new FPGA ideas. Betz cofounded Right Track CAD Corporation in 1998, growing the company to several million in annual revenue. After the company’s acquisition by Altera in 2000, he played a key role in the design of their next-generation chips, now used by tens of thousands of engineers.

In 2011, Betz joined U of T Engineering, where he continues to lead research to improve algorithms and design software to improve FPGAs. He mentors future entrepreneurs and has personally established several engineering scholarships. Betz holds more than 100 U.S. patents and has received 14 best paper awards from the field’s top conferences and journals. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the U.S. National Academy of Inventors, and recipient of the Ontario Professional Engineers Medal for Engineering Excellence.

Professor Emeritus Vecchio is the former Bahen/Tanenbaum Chair in Civil Engineering. An internationally respected authority on the behaviour of concrete structures, he has contributed substantially to increasing the safety and reliability of Canada’s infrastructure. Vecchio is the co-developer of the Modified Compression Field Theory, a groundbreaking conceptual model for describing the behaviour of reinforced concrete under general load conditions, which has been incorporated into design codes in Canada and internationally. He also developed a suite of software, called VecTor, for predicting the response of concrete structures to practically any action, which has been widely adopted for teaching and in industrial and research applications.

In addition to his research, he has significantly contributed to the development of standards and codes for concrete structures globally through his service on national and international technical committees. According to a recent Stanford University study, Vecchio has the highest citation score amongst Canadian researchers across all fields of Civil Engineering and ranks in the top 20 worldwide. He is a Fellow of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering and the American Concrete Institute and has received several of these societies’ most prestigious awards.

“On behalf of the Faculty, my warmest congratulations to Professors Bazylak, Betz and Vecchio,” says U of T Engineering Dean Christopher Yip. “Their outstanding contributions illustrate some of the key areas in which U of T Engineers are making an impact across disciplines and sectors.”

This story was originally published in the U of T Engineering News.


Artist, activist, EngSci student: Meet Loran Scholar Eman Shayeb

Eman Shayeb (Year 1 EngSci) is one of only 30 recipients from across Canada to be named a 2021 Loran Scholar. (Photo courtesy: Eman Shayeb)

By Safa Jinje

Eman Shayeb (Year 1 EngSci) is a visual thinker. As an artist, she has sold commissioned oil paintings across North America. And as an engineering student, mathematical equations also take shape in her mind. 

“In my calculus class, I remember the concepts because I can visualize parts of the equations moving around into the spot that they need to be in next,” she says. 

Shayeb sees engineering as an extension of her passion for art and mathematics. This fall, she joined U of T Engineering on a Loran Scholars Foundation scholarship, one of only 30 recipients from across Canada recognized for demonstrating character, service and leadership. 

Originally from Edmonton, Shayeb was attracted to the University of Toronto because she wanted to live in a big city where she could be exposed to diverse perspectives.  

She is also keen to develop new technical skills that she can use to make a difference in people’s lives. 

“I believe that engineering can be used as a tool for social justice, which is important to me,” she says. “I think that many of our modern social issues can be solved through the correct applications of engineering.” 

While in high school, Shayeb founded a provincial non-profit called H.E.A.R. for Them that is dedicated to combating period poverty by making menstrual products more accessible. 

“We are currently in the process of expanding the program to Ontario,” says Shayeb. “We are setting up ‘take what you need, give what you can’ boxes in locations around Toronto for people to drop off any extra menstrual products that they have, or take anything they need with no questions asked.” 

Shayeb is also co-writing and illustrating a book with a friend about stigmas in Muslim households. The two hope their publication will create a bridge across communities to discuss issues that are not openly addressed, such as the double standards placed on Muslim women. 

Being named a Loran Scholar in a field of more than 6,000 applicants was, in Shayeb’s words, “surreal.” 

“This scholarship gives me the opportunity to pursue all of the things that I love to do, while also pushing me to impact my community in a positive way,” she says. “It challenges me to take on a range of responsibilities that I may not have previously considered.” 

In her time at U of T Engineering so far, Shayeb has developed a preliminary interest in aerospace engineering, but she is also considering a career in computing or the energy sector. One thing is for certain: human impact will remain a key goal. 

“I know that whatever I do will have a focus on using engineering as a tool to help people.” 

This story was originally published in the U of T Engineering News.


Former EngSci Chair Rod Tennyson inducted into EAN Hall of Distinction

Two photos of Prof. Tennyson: on the left a black and white picture of the UTIAS team that helped the Apollo 13 mission gathered around a table in a classroom with chalkboard in the background; on the right a photo of Prof. Tennyson today.

Professor Emeritus Rod Tennyson (second from left in the left picture) was part of a team from the U of T Institute for Aerospace Studies that helped the Apollo 13 mission land safely.

 

Members of the U of T Engineering community were recognized on November 4 at the virtual 2021 Engineering Alumni Network (EAN) Awards Ceremony. Alumni and friends from around the world joined the lively evening to honour eleven graduates and students for their outstanding professional achievements and contributions to their communities.

Professor Emeritus and former EngSci Chair Rod Tennyson (EngSci 6T0, UTIAS MASc 6T1, PhD 6T5) was inducted into the EAN Hall of Distinction, an assembly of extraordinary alumni, selected for membership by their peers for their lifelong accomplishments. Located in the Sandford Fleming Building, the Hall of Distinction is a familiar daily presence in the lives of students and is often visited by alumni and their families.

“I would like to extend my congratulations to Rod on receiving this recognition and thank him for his many contributions to U of T Engineering,” says Professor Will Cluett, Director of the Division of Engineering Science.

Tennyson has been a pioneering leader in aerospace engineering research and education and over the course of his career spearheaded the creation of new research, entrepreneurship, and teaching initiatives.

In 1970, while still a junior professor at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS), Tennyson was part of the U of T team that helped Apollo 13 land safely after experiencing critical damage from an explosion during a mission to the moon.

He became a full professor in 1974, and served as Chair of the Division of Engineering Science from 1982-1985 .

He was later appointed Director of UTIAS for two terms, from 1985 – 1995. Under his leadership a new wing was added to UTIAS facilities to accommodate new research areas. He also implemented a new program that provided incubation laboratory space for start-up companies formed by graduate students.  He was appointed founding Director of the University of Toronto’s Government Research Infrastructure Program (GRIP) office , helping to secure over $400 million dollars in funding for researchers across the University over just four years.

He was a Founding Member of the International Space University (ISU) headquartered in Strasbourg, France, and President of the Canadian Foundation for ISU (CFISU) from its inception
in 1987 to 2001. He has also served as a consultant to the Federal Government in the early creation of the Ministry of State for Science and Technology, and as member of the first
Canadian Defence Science Advisory Board.

Tennyson has been a Board member of the Canadian Institute for Aerospace Research and the federal Centre of Excellence, Intelligent Structures for Innovative Systems, and served as Board member and Interim Director of the Ontario provincial Centre of Excellence, the Institute for Space and Terrestrial Science.

Over the last decade, Tennyson has focused his engineering and leadership expertise on bringing clean drinking water to tens of millions of people in the Sahel region of Africa.  He has worked tirelessly to bring the 8,000-kilometre Trans-Africa Pipeline (TAP) to reality in the hopes of alleviating human suffering and environmental degradation.


U of T student success at U.S.-based ECIC competition

The CECA U of T presentation team (left to right): Yiyang Hu (Year 3 CivE), Sarah De Sousa (Year 4 CivE), Joanna Melnyk (Year 4 EngSci), Zhiyuan Zhu (Year 4 Architecture), Ruth Zachariah (Year 4 CivE) and Lina Mollazadeh (Year 3 CivE). (Photo by Ruth Zachariah)

By Phill Snel

Students, representing the Canadian Electrical Contractors Association (CECA) U of T Chapter, were recognized for their success at the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) Electrical Contracting Innovation Challenge (ECIC) held Saturday, October 9.

The team won the Most Innovative proposal and placed third overall in the competition, behind Iowa State and Wayne State University.

CECA U of T is the first and only Canadian student chapter, with a team consisting of some 30 members comprised of a range of Engineering and Architecture students, who worked on the four-month design proposal from January to April 2021. CECA U of T was selected in July 2021 as one of the top three finalists.

The finals were held on October 9, 2021, where six U of T Team Leads / Members from every sub-team delivered an oral presentation virtually to the in-person event in Nashville, Tennessee. The presenters included Joanna Melnyk (Year 4 EngSci – Building Energy Management Team Lead), Ruth Zachariah (Year 4 CivE – Smart Building Design Team Lead), Sarah De Sousa (Year 4 CivE – Community Engagement Coordinator), Aaron Hu (Year 3 CivE – Team Member for Lighting sub-team), Lina Mollazadeh (Year 3 CivE – Project Management Team Lead) and Zhiyuan (Scott) Zhu (Year 4 Architecture – Building Information Team Lead). The team took direction from their faculty advisor Ian Sinclair, a CivMin sessional instructor.

“We did our best, given that we presented virtually by video from Toronto, while the other finalists were in Nashville for this year’s in-person conference,” says Zachariah.

The ECIC is an annual case competition run by Electric International and NECA Student that provides university students and faculty advisors an opportunity to actively engage with a range of industry professional and other Student Chapters. This year’s competition focused on designing an innovative, and efficient electrical system, based on NECA-approved construction documents and building information models, for a new student dorm residence that would meet the needs of future UofT students.

This story was originally posted on the CivMin website.

 


‘Creating meaningful change’: International Pearson Scholar joins EngSci

photo of Angel

 

Year 1 EngSci student Angel Rajotia is among three Pearson Scholars joined U of T Engineering this fall.

The Pearson Scholarships recognize exceptional academic achievement, creativity, leadership potential and community involvement among international students. The award covers tuition, books and incidental fees for four years.

Hailing from India, Rajotia was attracted to EngSci’s interdisciplinary nature as it allows her to combine her interests in science, engineering, and the humanities. She is keen to apply her education to create meaningful change for underserved segments of the global population.

Read more about Rajotia and why she chose to study in EngSci in the U of T Engineering News.


EngSci alumnus establishes fellowships to support research in AI and robotics

Photo of EngSci alumnus Steven Truong

Steven Truong and his company VinBrain have created eight new fellowships which will provide undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to catalyze research at the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics

 

Steven Truong (EngSci 8T9) was just 17 when he moved to Canada from Vietnam in the 1980s to study Engineering Science at U of T.  Now the successful computer engineer and entrepreneur is giving back to U of T Engineering by supporting undergraduate and graduate research in AI and robotics related to Smart Cities, Smart Health and the Internet of Things.

Truong believes that each of us has the power to leave this place better than we found it. After more than 12 years as a senior leader in artificial intelligence (AI) at Microsoft, he recently a founded VinBrain to use AI to help create more equitable healthcare.

 

Screenshot of a chest x-ray and the AI-based app developed by Steven Truong's company.

VinBrain has developed an AI-based assistant to help radiologists detect diseases faster and more accurately. (Photo courtesy: Steven Truong)

 

As AI and robotics play an ever-increasing role in our daily lives, Truong believes U of T Engineering students are in prime position to have a significant positive impact by applying technology to improve the lives of people around the world.

With a donation of $130,000 he and his company have created the VinBrain AI Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowships and the VinBrain AI Graduate Student Fellowships. These fellowships will provide funding to undergraduate students and PhD students working with U of T’s many experts in these areas, including in the Centre for Analytics and Artificial Intelligence Engineering (CARTE) and the University of Toronto Robotics Institute.

Learn more about Steven Truong and his motivation to support U of T Engineering.

“Being able to spend the summer in internationally renowned research groups working at the leading edge is an invaluable experience for undergraduate engineering students,” says Professor Will Cluett, EngSci’s Director. “We are very grateful to Steven Truong for establishing these fellowships and encouraging students to apply their skills to improving the lives of others.”


Are you interested in supporting students in the Division of Engineering Science?
Find giving opportunities here.


Building tech solutions for an inclusive future: Meet EngSci’s 2021 Schulich Leaders

2021 Schulich Leaders Lisa Bera, Andrew Magnuson, and Kevin Qu

(Photos courtesy: Lisa Bera, Andrew Magnuson, and Kevin Qu)

 

First year students Lisa Bera, Andrew Magnuson, and Kevin Qu (pictured above) are among five U of T Engineering recipients of a 2021 Schulich Leader Scholarship.

Since their founded in 2011 by philanthropist Seymour Schulich these awards have recognized Canadian high-school graduates who exemplify academic excellence, community leadership and a passion for STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

This year ten U of T students earned scholarships valued at $80,000 for science, technology or mathematics students and $100,000 for engineering students. The award also includes membership in the growing Schulich Leaders Network of successful alumni.

Learn more about what motivates EngSci’s recipients of this prestigious award—full story in the U of T Engineering News.


© 2020 Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering