Posts Categorized: Alumni News

‘Building community within the classroom’: Meet Professor Morgan Hooper

photo of Morgan Hooper wearing a brown leather jacket and floral shirt standing in front of green bushes

Professor Morgan Hooper (UTIAS) is an assistant professor, teaching stream, cross-appointed to the Division of Engineering Science. (Photo: Safa Jinje)

 

By Jennifer Li

Morgan Hooper recently joined the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) as an assistant professor, teaching stream, cross-appointed to the Division of Engineering Science (EngSci). 

She is currently teaching engineering design in the EngSci Praxis III course.

Hooper (EngSci 1T5 + PEY) graduated from U of T Engineering with a major in aerospace engineering and received her MS and PhD in Aeronautics from the California Institute of Technology (CalTech).  Her research focused on experimental unsteady aerodynamics and fluid-structure interactions with views towards sustainable energy harvesting. 

Writer Jennifer Li caught up with Hooper to learn about her teaching philosophy, her goals as an educator and the ways she hopes to empower students inside and out of the classroom. 

Can you share your approach to teaching?

My approach to teaching is centred around building community within the classroom. I hope to empower students to speak up and participate in their own learning. The process of learning is simultaneously collaborative and deeply personal. I try to build a safe environment for students to experiment and learn from one another, while also offering support and guidance when necessary. Of course, this approach is particularly appropriate in a design course setting — where most of my teaching is focused right now — but I do think that a collaborative, active learning approach can be successful even in a more traditional classroom setting. 

What excites you most about joining UTIAS?

As a graduate of the EngSci aerospace engineering major, UTIAS played a huge part in my undergraduate studies! I am very excited to be back in this new role and I am looking forward to connecting with and learning from all the amazing teaching and research going on here and within EngSci. 

What do you hope that students will take away from your classes?

I teach mostly hands-on design courses — in my opinion, these are the classes that really differentiate the engineering school experience. I hope to help students gain confidence with hands-on skills and build their own unique identities as engineers. I want to empower students to feel comfortable making changes to and improving the physical world around them.  

What is your goal as an educator in the next few years?  

There are a lot of exciting conversations right now around making undergraduate engineering education more integrative — that is, ensuring that there is a strong connection between what students do in design-focused courses, and what they see and do in the fundamental and skill-building courses that make up most of the curriculum.  

I think there is a great opportunity here to examine our curricula and ensure we are equipping students with transdisciplinary skills and competencies. This also means incorporating knowledge around particularly complex topics such as sustainable engineering practices. 

What is the best mistake you ever made in academia and what did it teach you?

I think the best ‘mistake’ I made in an academic setting was getting involved in student government. During my PhD, I volunteered for a position on our department’s student council. Even though it added more to my plate, I immediately discovered that I loved working with a team of other students towards making our department a more community-oriented and supportive place. The work I did as part of the student council inspired me to get more involved in research in STEM teaching and learning more broadly, which eventually led me here! 

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I have always tried to keep things balanced in my life — I love my job, but I also love cooking, eating, and trying new recipes and restaurants. I love fashion — especially sustainable fashion — and I sew some of my own clothes. I also love to sing. 

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


Grads to Watch 2022

Graduating students Saanjali Maharaj and Michael McLean (both EngSci 2T1 + PEY)

 

By Safa Jinje & Tyler Irving

With the University of Toronto’s convocation ceremonies on June 16, 2022, U of T Engineering students mark the end of one journey and the beginning of another.

Having enriched the U of T Engineering community as undergraduate and graduate students, they will join our vibrant, global network of Skule™ alumni, where they will continue to address pressing challenges around the world and inspire the next generation.

This year’s 14 U of T Engineering Grads to Watch — including two EngSci students — embody the spirit of U of T Engineering. Their stories illustrate the creativity, innovation and global impact that define our community. Watch their next steps!


Advancing Sustainable Aviation

Saanjali Maharaj (EngSci 2T1 + PEY)

“I would like to thank the EngSci community for making my time at U of T such a positive experience. I will always remember the days of both commiseration and celebration with my peers, and the tremendous support from the faculty members and upper years. Special shoutout to Professor Peter Grant (UTIAS), my undergraduate thesis supervisor, for his guidance, which will prepare me for the rest of my academic career.”

“My experience at U of T has been a time of discovery,” says Maharaj. “I learned so much about engineering design, innovations in the industry and working as part of a team.”

This time was also a period of self-discovery as her various internships, courses and research experiences helped her find out what she is passionate about, charting the course of her career.

In 2019, Maharaj had “the amazing opportunity” to be an intern at the NASA Ames Research Center’s Department of Rotorcraft Aeromechanics.

“I was the thermal lead in developing a drone to help mitigate the prevalent California wildfires,” she says. “Following that experience, I was a thermal-mechanical engineering intern at Intel Corporation.”

A significant achievement from her PEY Co-op at Intel was leading the research for a novel cooling technology that resulted in the submission of a patent application.

Maharaj has held leadership positions in co-curricular activities, including as rocketry division aerodynamics lead on the University of Toronto Aerospace Team (UTAT), and marketing director for the University of Toronto West Indian Students’ Association (WISA).

This summer, Maharaj is working on an asteroid mining project in collaboration with MDA. She is also looking forward to starting her MASc this fall at the U of T Institute for Aerospace Studies, where she will be supervised by Professor Prasanth Nair.

Ultimately, she hopes to make a positive contribution to the advancement of sustainable aviation.

“Sustainability is a passion of mine due in part to my Caribbean Island origins,” she says. “Trinidad and Tobago’s dependence on the aviation industry to maintain international connections fuels my desire to mitigate the industry’s environmental impact.”


Customizing Biochemical Constructs

Michael McLean (EngSci 2T1 + PEY)

I want to express my overwhelming gratitude towards Ali Punjani (CEO and co-founder of Structura Biotechnology) for his guidance and mentorship throughout my PEY Co-op term. I also want to thank the rest of the team at Structura for fostering an incredibly inclusive and supportive working environment. Finally, I would like to thank Professor David Fleet (Computer Science) for his valuable guidance and support throughout my undergraduate thesis.”

McLean always knew that he wanted to major in Engineering Physics or Machine Intelligence as an Engineering Science student — but he was so overwhelmed by a fear of failure that he left EngSci for TrackOne on the very first day of classes.

“I let fear control me when I made that decision, but I realized throughout first year that I wanted to learn more physics than would be possible in any other engineering stream,” he says. “So, I chose to let my curiosity and passion lead instead and transferred back.”

Through his classes and work experience, he was able to immerse himself in his passions: biophysics, machine learning and scientific computing.

A highlight of his undergraduate experience was his PEY Co-op at Structura Biotechnology, a startup working on software for cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM). As a scientific developer, he worked on developing statistical inference algorithms for the 3D reconstruction of protein molecules and implementing these algorithms in Structura’s flagship software product, cryoSPARC.

“By the end of my work term, the helical reconstruction project I worked on was deployed in cryoSPARC, which is used by scientists worldwide in over 600 institutions across 40 countries,” he says.

McLean is returning to Structura after graduation — this time as a computational research engineer, working to advance cryo-EM methodology.

“The opportunity to work in such a high-impact area, with tangible benefits to structural biology and drug discovery, is a privilege I could never have foreseen,” he says.

“I now know where my true limits lie, and that I can handle more than I thought. And this knowledge can’t be taken away.”


Read about all U of T Engineering Grads to Watch in the U of T Engineering News.


Engineering Research Day showcases the role of engineers in addressing sustainability issues

people chatting at poster display booths at Engineering Research Day

An attendee stops at an Engineering Research Day booth, which featured research institutes from across U of T’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering (photo by Dewey Chang)

 

By Safa Jinje

Students, alumni, faculty members and industry professionals recently came together to highlight the impact of innovative research and collaborations happening across the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering during the second annual Engineering Research Day.

This year’s theme – Building a Sustainable Future – spotlighted the unique role of engineering professionals in designing solutions to address everything from climate change and transportation to health care and beyond.

“The engineering skill of being able to identify, unpack and solve a problem is our ‘secret sauce,’” said alumna Sandra Odendahl during a fireside chat with Chris Yip, dean of U of T Engineering.

Odendahl is senior vice-president and head of sustainability and diversity at BDC, a bank that supports small and medium-sized businesses. In helping to open the event, she shared how she was able to combine her engineering education and background in environmental impact assessment to tackle sustainability, equity and access issues in the financial sector.

The event also featured a second fireside chat with alumna Laura Burget, co-founder of Three Ships Beauty, as well as four panel discussions on the various intersections between engineering and sustainability.

Many of the questions raised throughout the day focused on the challenges facing sustainability initiatives, including how to change consumer behaviour, how to educate the next generation of engineers in a shifting landscape and how to ask the right questions when designing sustainable solutions.

 

Five panelists and moderator sitting on stage during a panel discussion

Engineering Research Day featured four panels on the intersections between engineering and sustainability, including “Climate Positive and Sustainable Campus” (photo by Dewey Chang)

 

During the day’s final panel – Climate Positive and Sustainable Campus – the conversation shifted towards the idea of learning how to learn, and how that thought process could be applied to building sustainable buildings and spaces.

“We need to constantly be rethinking what it is that we are designing, who we are designing for, where we are designing,” said alumna Priscilla Chew, principal of Purpose Building, Inc., which develops sustainable operational solutions for its clients.

While last year’s event was fully remote, this year’s programming was hybrid – both in-person and online attendees could engage with research institutes such as the Centre for Analytics and Artificial Intelligence Engineering (CARTE), the Southern Ontario Centre for Atmospheric Aerosol Research (SOCAAR), the Institute for Water Innovation (IWI) and the Centre for Global Engineering (CGEN) to learn more about the collaborations and investigations happening across engineering disciplines.

“Engineering Research Day is a great opportunity to see the breadth and depth of the sustainability research and boundary-pushing education happening across our Faculty,” says Yip.

“From new ways to harvest and store energy from the sun and wind, to cleaner, more efficient engines that can run on biofuels, to designing better ways to move people through cities, the event illustrated how our students and researchers work well beyond the borders of our campus to create a brighter future for all.”


EngSci alumnus Alfred Aho elected to the National Academy of Sciences

photo of Alred Aho sitting at an office desk with textbooks, one of which is titled Compilers

Photo credit: Eileen Barroso

By Brandon Wesseling

Professor Alfred Aho (EngSci 6T3) was recently elected as a member to the distinguished National Academy of Sciences for his distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

Alfred V. Aho, the Lawrence Gussman Professor Emeritus of computer science at the Columbia University, is known for his broad and fundamental contributions in algorithm design and analysis, and programming languages and compilers, which translate human-written code into a form that machines can execute. With his longtime collaborator Jeffrey Ullman (SEAS’63), a professor emeritus at Stanford, Aho received computing’s highest honor, the Turing Award, in 2020. Before joining Columbia Engineering in 1995, Aho spent more than three decades at Bell Labs, helping to run the lab that invented UNIX, C, and C++.


Meet our alumni: Adam Rosenfield (1T5) helps remake our cities to save our planet

photo of Adam Rosenfeld wearing a bike helmet standing next to a lake with a bicycle in the background

Adam Rosenfield (EngSci 1T5) is a transportation policy advisor in Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation.

Adam Rosenfield (EngSci 1T5) likes to look at the big picture, and that’s what led him to earn degrees in both engineering and urban planning. Today, as a senior policy advisor in Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, he draws on his expertise in both fields to tackle the province’s number 1 emitting sector—transportation. And the big picture is a sustainable, equitable future.

Read a conversation with Rosenfield about his career path, his commitment to a sustainable future, and how he is helping to develop new curriculum options for engineering students.


EngSci alumna bolsters U of T’s rapid rise in entrepreneurship space

Phot of Jiayue (Jenny) he wearing a red dress and smiling

Jiayue (Jenny) He (EngSci 0T3 PEY) is the co-founder of a Silicon Valley startup that’s rethinking how home construction and renovation services are delivered (Photo: Jenny He)

By Rahul Kalvapalle

When you think of industries that are being disrupted by technological innovation, fence installation and driveway construction don’t immediately leap to mind.

Jiayue (Jenny) He (EngSci0T3 + PEY) is looking to change that. She’s the CEO and co-founder of Ergeon, a Silicon Valley startup that’s transforming how outdoor home construction and renovation services are delivered.

Ergeon uses video calls and satellite imaging to conduct remote assessment of clients’ properties, before sub-contracting the labour to skilled contractors — essentially owning the process end-to-end. Founded in 2018, the company has completed over 8,000 projects in California alone (it also operates in Texas) and has raised nearly $35 million from investors.

“We’re trying to empower the world to build,” says He, who earned her Bachelor of Applied Science from the Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto.

“We’re trying to take a pretty traditional industry — construction is one of the oldest industries since the beginning of time, as long as people have had houses — and bring in innovation, transparency and more access.”

Ergeon is one of more than 400 promising startups that have played a role in U of T’s status as the fastest riser in the 2021 PitchBook rankings for undergraduate programs, which rank universities on how many undergraduate alumni become founders of venture capital-backed companies.

U of T leapt to 27th from 33rd in the rankings last year. The rankings consider companies that received a first round of venture funding between January 2006 and November 2021 — a period in which companies founded by U of T undergraduate alumni raised over $17 billion.

The biggest fundraisers include AI research company OpenAI, enterprise software firm Databricks and pharmaceutical firm Moderna — which is now a household name thanks to its ubiquitous mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine.

He says her time at U of T Engineering was foundational to what she went on to achieve. That includes getting comfortable with numbers and instilling a data-driven approach to problem-solving and decision-making. She adds that her engineering education also helped her hone the ability to structure and solve problems.

“I find that universally applicable, no matter what kind of problem I’m solving,” He says.

She also credits the Faculty’s Professional Experience Year Co-op Program (PEY Co-op) with an all-important first exposure to Silicon Valley, where she worked for a semiconductor company.

“That made it very easy for me to make the decision a few years ago to move out here,” she says.

She launched Ergeon after recognizing the home renovation and construction sector needed to become more customer-friendly and transparent — as any homeowner can probably attest — as well as her observation of there being a lack of technology to facilitate skilled blue-collar work.

She says clients have largely embraced the novelty of remote video and satellite-based assessments, but a bigger challenge — especially early on — was convincing workers in the skilled construction trades to interact with a tech startup.

Ergeon’s solution?

“We literally make our app look like texting because that’s what they’re OK with,” He says. “We make all the interfaces look much more old-school — our interface looks like a calendar because that’s in their comfort zone.”

Ergeon has also had to adapt to several non-tech challenges, including the volatility of lumber prices.

“Lumber has been oscillating as wildly as Bitcoin, so that’s been the biggest challenge we’ve had to manage,” He says, adding that the issue has forced Ergeon to take greater control of its supply chain and ordering processes, which has paid off in other ways.

By contrast, when it came to scaling her company to match a rapid uptick demand, He says she found herself better prepared than most. That’s because her previous job at EZ Home, a startup that offers lawn care and yard maintenance services, ballooned from about 10 employees to 250 over a period of just three years.

“When I started Ergeon I wanted to do a lot of things with scalability in mind much earlier,” He explains. “So, we made a few decisions including having super-clear company values and investing in scalable processes and tools from day one.”

She adds that Ergeon’s status as a fully remote operation has also helped the scaling process — and gave the company a head start adapting to the pandemic. As a result, Ergeon this year became one of 32 new U of T entrants in the PitchBook rankings — and among the top three raisers of venture capital in the group.

Going forward, He says she envisions Ergeon progressing from outdoor projects to servicing “the whole home.”

“We started with outside the home first since that’s where technology has the biggest power to do remote assessments, etc.” says He. “But with the latest iPhone, you can now do that much better inside as well.”

“I think we’re just a few years away from that being pretty common and ubiquitous.”

Interested in entrepreneurship?  Check out the upcoming U of T Entrepreneurship Week.


Improving water equity in India: EngSci alumnus funded by U of T’s Data Sciences Institute

 

Photo of an urban street in India with a woman standing next to pipe coming out of the ground from which water is flowing into a blue barrel.

As part of their research on water equity in India, a multi-disciplinary team at U of T will examine water distribution infrastructure, such as this tube well seen in New Delhi, India in 2017. (Photo: iStock)

 

EngSci alumnus David Meyer (1T1) is an assistant professor in U of T’s Department of Civil & Mineral Engineering and the Centre for Global Engineering whose research focuses on how urban water distribution infrastructure behaves in Mega Cities in the Global South.

He and his multidisciplinary colleagues have received one of 17 Research Catalyst Funding Grants through U of T’s Data Sciences Institute (DSI).

Read how they are using data visualization to study how access to water could be improved in urban India.


‘He’d be thrilled to see this’: Alumnus’ pioneering work helps inspire U of T’s massive geoexchange project

rendering showing aerial view of the front campus with cutaway showing geothermal exchange infrastucture of long vertical pipes in the ground

As part of the Climate Positive Campus initiative, the area beneath Front Campus will be used for a large-scale ground source heat pump — a technology pioneered in part by MIE Professor Frank Hooper (EngPhys 4T6). (Photo courtesy: U of T Facilities & Services)

By Tyler Irving

When Jim Wallace (MIE) joined the University of Toronto back in 1978, one of the first people he met was Frank Hooper (EngPhys 4T6).

“I took over a course that Frank had been teaching a while, and he was gracious enough to give me a copy of his notes,” says Wallace, a professor emeritus of mechanical and industrial engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. “Not long after that, he and his wife had me over for dinner. He was so supportive and helpful to the new guy.”

Hooper, who was also a professor emeritus of mechanical and industrial engineering, died in May 2021. He was an accomplished researcher in energy systems – and his legacy includes seminal work on ground-source heat pumps. Today that technology is being demonstrated on an unprecedented scale as U of T constructs Canada’s largest urban geoexchange system at the heart of its St. George campus, which is being built in connection with the ongoing Landmark Project.

Read the full story in the U of T News.

 

 


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.

 


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