EngSci alumnus Alfred Aho elected to the National Academy of Sciences
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
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.
Improving water equity in India: EngSci alumnus funded by U of T’s Data Sciences Institute
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’d be thrilled to see this’: Alumnus’ pioneering work helps inspire U of T’s massive geoexchange project
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.
EngSci alumni Tony Chan Carusone and Joyce Poon named IEEE Fellows
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.
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.”
EngSci alumnus establishes fellowships to support research in AI and robotics
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.
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.
“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.”
Dedicated alumni volunteers honoured with Spirit of EngSci Alumni Award
Professor Jonathan Chan and Azadeh Mostaghel are the 2021 recipients of the Spirit of EngSci Alumni Award.
Two EngSci alumni have received the 2021 Spirit of EngSci Alumni Award in recognition of their outstanding support for the Division’s mission and current students through significant volunteer service.
“On behalf of the Division, I would like to thank this year’s award recipients, Jonathan Chan and Azadeh Mostaghel, for their dedication to the EngSci community,” says EngSci Director, Professor Will Cluett. “Our program’s over 6,300 alumni span the globe and provide invaluable support through mentorship, in-class involvement and philanthropy that is critical to our mission. Our students benefit tremendously from the advice and expertise of those who have gone before them.”
Azadeh Mostaghel (EngSci 1T2, MASc IndE 1T5) has supported students through informal mentorship, her involvement in the Entrepreneurship Hatchery’s NEST program, and as a guest speaker and panelist. She also serves on EngSci’s Honours & Awards Committee, where she helps to identify and nominate outstanding alumni for the annual Engineering Alumni Network Awards, the Faculty’s highest honours for U of T Engineering graduates.
Mostaghel is an entrepreneur interested in the integration of engineering, science, business, and policy to meet our society’s rising healthcare demands. As the founder and CEO of ORCHID Analytics she is developing AI decision tools for more seamless and efficient healthcare operations. Mostaghel has over eight years of experience in healthcare, analyzing data and modeling to support decision-making, quality and process improvement initiatives.
Since 2014 Jonathan Chan (EngSci 8T4, MASc ChemE 8T6, PhD ChemE 9T5) has hosted over 35 EngSci students at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT), Thailand, as part of the Engineering Science Research Opportunities Program (ESROP). He has worked diligently to create a welcoming and supportive community for the students who spend the summer doing research in labs at the university, including hosting past and incoming summer students at the annual EngSci Alumni Dinner in Toronto.
Chan is an Associate Professor of Computer Science and a co-founder of D-Lab at the School of Information Technology (SIT), KMUTT. He is the Director of the Innovative Cognitive Computing (IC2) Research Center at SIT, and an honorary Visiting Scientist at The Centre for Applied Genomics at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, Canada. He holds an NVIDIA Deep Learning Institute (DLI) University Ambassadorship and is a certified DLI instructor. His research interests include intelligent systems, biomedical informatics, and data science and machine learning in general.
Chan and Mostaghel shared their thoughts on mentorship and why they stay engaged with EngSci.
Why have you remained involved with EngSci and U of T Engineering as an alumna or alumnus?
Chan: I have always kept in touch with the University of Toronto and was a Visiting Professor there a number of occasions. My EngSci 8T4 classmate, Prof. Mark Kortschot, was the EngSci Chair for a period of time and both he and his son had visited me at KMUTT to initiate the ESROP connection. I enjoy working with EngScis and this is an excellent opportunity to interact and shape the new generation.
Mostaghel: Remaining involved in the EngSci community seemed like the natural progression to my involvement as a student. It has also given me the chance to see the new cohort of students, interact with them and watch as they blossom into amazing engineers who want to leave their mark on their community and society at large. I have also been privileged to be introduced to and discover the impact of the alumni who came before me and aid in their recognition in the U of T community.
Professor Chan tours the Ancient Siam museum park in Thailand in 2019 with several EngSci students during their placements at KMUTT as part of the Engineering Science Research Opportunities Program.
What role has mentorship or professional community played in your own life? What do you think alumni can contribute to current students?
Chan: Ever since I came to Thailand back in 1999, I’ve been involved mostly in the academic setting, started with linkages with industry, and have maintained close contact with both academic and industry sectors. KMUTT fosters close industry ties and we provide training for the industry as well. As such, mentorship has been a major role since I came to Thailand. I strongly believe that alumni can share valuable experience with current students, both the positive and negative aspects, as we need to learn from successes as well as failures.
Mostaghel: I think our interactions shape who we are and how we see the world around us. I have been fortunate to have a few remarkable mentors guiding me through technical and business terrains. Their experience and support have allowed me to recover more quickly from a setback, avoid pitfalls, and be able to foresee and pivot.
U of T alumni are a vast resource of knowledge for current students, whether that knowledge is industry specific or life advice, we can all learn something new from one another.
What advice would you share with the graduating class?
Chan: Keep an open mind and keep on learning and you will find what you enjoy doing. The only difference is responsibility will become increasingly more important as you progress in your career. Nonetheless, if you enjoy what you are doing, then you will be successful.
Mostaghel: Believe in yourself and your abilities and always, always, always bet on yourself! Just because something hasn’t been done before, whether that’s at all or in a particular way, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. And lastly, create the change you seek!
U of T startup Kepler Communications raises US$60-million for aerospace venture
A rocket bearing one of Kepler Communications’ satellites launching in 2018. (Courtesy: Kepler Communications)
Kepler Communications, a startup founded by EngSci and UTIAS alumni that provides space-based telecom services, has raised US$60-million for its growing fleet of miniature satellites, according to the Globe & Mail.
Kepler’s founders Wen Cheng Chong (EngSci 1T3), Mark Michael (EngSci 1T2, MASc MIE 1T4, PhD 1T6), Mina Mitry (EngSci 1T2, AeroE MASc 1T4), and UTIAS graduate Jeffrey Osborne (AeroE PhD 1T6) first met as students. All four were part the U of T Aerospace Team (UTAT), a student-led design team with focuses on rocketry and satellites. Their startup was supported by U of T Engineering’s Entrepreneurship Hatchery and Start@UTIAS, and aims to build a global satellite network.
AutoDrive Challenge™: U of T Engineering places first for the fourth straight year
Zeus, a self-driving electric car created by a team of students from U of T Engineering, parked outside the MarsDome at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies. The team has placed first in the intercollegiate Autodrive Challenge the last four years in a row. (Photo: Chude Qian)
By Tyler Irving
Last night, the aUToronto team — U of T Engineering’s entry into the AutoDrive Challenge™ — placed first in a virtual competition to demonstrate the capabilities of their self-driving electric vehicle, dubbed Zeus. It marks the fourth year in a row that the team has come out on top.
The aUToronto team consists of more than 70 members, most of whom are U of T Engineering undergraduate or graduate students. Its faculty supervisors include Professors Tim Barfoot, Angela Schoellig and Steven Waslander (all UTIAS).
Keenan Burnett (EngSci 1T6+PEY, UTIAS PhD candidate), a former captain of the team, has continued to act as a key advisor in the latest competition.
“We’re elated to see this continued validation of our team’s efforts,” says Burnett. “We try our best to stay competitive and not let our past wins make us complacent. We use ourselves as our benchmark for success, continually trying to outdo ourselves and improve on our previous iterations.”
“Despite all the challenges of keeping the team going throughout COVID, our students have had a great year of learning about self-driving technology, working in a team, and pushing their limits,” says Barfoot. “I couldn’t be more proud of our aUToronto team once again for another great year in the Autodrive competition.”
“A tremendous amount of effort went into succeeding this year,” says Schoellig. “We had to accomplish new and more advanced autonomous driving tasks, complete more sophisticated simulation challenges, and prove the safety of our car. This win reflects our team’s continued technical, collaboration and communication strength. I am extremely proud to work together with such a capable team.”
Zeus is a Chevrolet Bolt that has been retrofitted with a suite of sensors, including visual cameras, radar and lidar. Additional hardware and student-designed software inside the car processes these signals and converts them into commands that enable the car to drive itself safely and efficiently.
The AutoDrive Challenge™ launched in 2017 with eight universities from across Canada and the U.S. In addition to U of T Engineering, competitors included Kettering University, Michigan State University, Michigan Tech University, North Carolina A & T State University, Texas A & M University, University of Waterloo and Virginia Tech.
“Both the Year 3 and Year 4 competitions challenged the teams to perform autonomous ride-sharing under controlled environments,” says Jingxing “Joe” Qian (EngSci 1T8 + PEY, UTIAS MASc candidate), the current Team Lead for aUToronto.
Watch the team’s safety video to see Zeus in action.
“The vehicles are tasked with navigating multiple destinations while handling various traffic scenarios. One particular interesting requirement this year is that we need to reach SAE J3016 Level standard for the loss-of-GPS scenario: the vehicle must perform fallback strategies to either continue the task or pull to the road shoulder when GPS signal is lost.”
While the teams based in the U.S. were able to meet in person in Ann Arbor, the Canadian teams competed by means of reports, presentations, simulations and video demos. Qian says that the team is used to this format, as much of the work on the car has been done virtually for the past year.
“We managed to get a small task force to perform real world tests one or two days per week,” says Qian. “After testing, they would share demo videos and results to the team. We also developed an automatic evaluation system that leverages various simulation environments. It runs daily on our deployment server against a set of test scenarios, and it has greatly improved our development efficiency.”
Watch the full demonstration video that earned the aUToronto team first place in the Year 4 competition of the AutoDrive Challenge™.
“We will be getting a brand new GM Chevy Bolt EUV 2022 to build up our autonomy system from the ground up,” says Frank (Chude) Qian (UTIAS MASc candidate), who will lead the team for the AutoDrive Challenge™ II.
“We hope to develop our vehicle with real-world driving scenarios, apply industry safety standards, and bring awareness and assurance to the general public about autonomous vehicles. We are excited to compete with the new universities and hopefully continuing our winning streak!”
EngSci alumnus helps launch tool for breast cancer surgery
MOLLI Surgical was launched in 2018 by alumnus Ananth Ravi (EngSci 0T4, left), an associate professor in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, and U of T alumna Fazila Seker (right), who serves as president and CEO of the company (photos courtesy of MOLLI)
University of Toronto researcher Ananth Ravi (EngSci 0T4) and U of T alumna Fazila Seker founded MOLLI, a company that has developed magnet-based technology that helps surgeons locate breast tumours more efficiently, causing less pain for patients. Their streamlined process could help reduce surgery backlogs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.