Posts Tagged: research

The year ahead: Q-and-A with U of T Engineering Dean Christopher Yip

Dean Christopher Yip in December 2020. (Photo: Daria Perevezentsev)

 

By Tyler Irving

A lot of adjectives have been used to describe the year 2020 — unprecedented, unusual, challenging — but Dean Chris Yip would choose a different one: inspiring.

“What I saw across our Faculty was people rising to the challenge,” he says. “That innovative spirit is what engineering is all about, and I think many of the creative solutions we developed will still be valuable when the pandemic is over.”

Writer Tyler Irving sat down with Dean Yip to reflect on the past few months and look forward to the next year at U of T Engineering.

Read their conversation in the U of T Engineering News.


FLATTEN: EngSci students’ COVID-19 project makes national headlines

FLATTEN.ca is an online tool developed by a team of volunteers, including EngSci students. It uses self-reporting to create a heatmap of potential COVID-19 cases across the Greater Toronto Area. (Image courtesy FLATTEN.ca)

As governments around the world work hard to contain the coronavirus, a key ingredient is in short supply: detailed data on the presence of the virus in our communities. Without this information, public health agencies cannot accurately identify where localized efforts are needed most.

This is the gap that Year 1 EngSci student Shrey Jain and his colleagues are trying to fill. Jain leads a team of over 25 volunteer collaborators who sprang into action two weeks ago to create an online tool that develops a real-time heatmap of potential and confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Called FLATTEN.ca, the platform uses data analytics and information crowdsourced from users who anonymously self-report how they are feeling. The goal is to identify local outbreaks so that officials can see areas where resources will be in high demand.

The current goal is to gather data from 600,000 Toronto area residents—about ten percent of the population—to provide a more accurate picture of virus spread than is currently available. Google has offered to scale the project up to other regions across the country, if they succeed.

The FLATTEN team includes engineering, computer science and molecular genetics students from U of T, the University of Waterloo, the University of New Brunswick and McMaster University. Several U of T professors in fields from public health to computer science are among its advisors.

“The EngSci program and my friends in EngSci taught me what it really means to work hard on a daily basis,” says Jain, as the team continues their efforts in addition to their regular course work.  Joining Jain on the team are EngSci students Martin Staadecker, Arthur Allshire, Rassam Yazdi (all Year 1), Hongyu (Charlie) Chen and Siyan Zhao (both Year 3 Machine Intelligence), and Jianing (Robert) Li and Lingkai Shen (both Year 4 Machine Intelligence).

“To all EngSci students who are involved in this project, I want to thank you for your efforts so far and encourage you to press on. The human race needs all the help it can get,” says Interim EngSci Chair, Professor Will Cluett.

Read how the team’s work is contributing to Canadian COVID-19 research in the Globe & Mail.


Planets in motion: an EngSci summer research story

Naireen Hussain

EngSci student Naireen Hussain (Year 4) spent summers researching a fundamental subject in astronomy.

Chaos theory may seem like a very complex topic, but EngSci student Naireen Hussain is not intimidated. The Year 4 student recently published a research paper in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society on a key question about the role chaos plays in planetary motion. The publication is the result of several years of work with Professor Daniel Tamayo of Princeton University.

Hussain spent two summers and part of two academic years working with Tamayo at U of T’s Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics. They took on a challenging research topic related to the uncertainty inherent in the movement of solar systems. Their work helps to quantify how stable a planetary system is, and will help guide the assumptions that astronomers make when studying planetary dynamics or formation from afar. Hussain’s research focused heavily on statistical and computational analysis.

“For an undergraduate to produce such high-impact research is very impressive, let alone being first author on a scientific paper before they graduate,” says Professor Aimy Bazylak (MIE), EngSci’s Associate Chair for Research.

Read more about Naireen’s research in The Varsity.

Hussain is one of many EngSci students who spend their summers in university research labs at U of T and around the world. In addition to EngSci’s own Engineering Science Research Opportunities Program (ESROP), the university supports summer research through its Centre for International Experience, the University Toronto Excellence Awards, NSERC USRA, and many department-specific summer research programs. Engineering students who conduct research on campus can present their work at the annual Undergraduate Engineering Research Day (UnERD) conference every August.

“I recommend that all of our students gain research experience. They will learn how to distinguish between research and engineering, which is an asset in industry or academia,” says Bazylak.

We sat down with Naireen Hussain to learn more about her experience.


How did you come to work with Prof. Tamayo?

After Year 1 in EngSci, I participated in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) jointly hosted by the Canadian Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics and the Dunlap Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Because I enjoyed it a lot, I returned after Year 2 and paired up with Prof. Tamayo. I continued to work with him through Year 3, and then took a break for the Professional Experience Year Co-op Program. In Year 4 we wrapped up our work, and got the research paper out the door and published.

What was it like being part of a research group with grad students, postdoctoral fellows, and professors?

It was a very welcoming environment. The work itself was mostly done in small groups, but during the summers, there were weekly meetings where the larger research group would gather to talk about their progress or about recent papers, which was a great opportunity to learn about other research frontiers.

What did you learn through this experience?

Research is slow hard work! It takes substantial time to have solid evidence to back up your hypothesis, and to ensure that you didn’t miss any details when validating your claim.

From a technical perspective, I definitely learned a lot of transferable technical skills, especially in statistics. These are of use to me even though I ultimately decided to pursue robotics in my studies instead of astrophysics.

Do you have any advice for students about doing research?

Don’t feel intimidated if you’re in your first or second year, as professors are generally enthusiastic and are willing to help mentor you. As long as you demonstrate initiative, you’ll be surprised by how much you’d be able to learn! Also, if possible, it is worthwhile to continue research into the school year. The extended time allows you to examine a problem in more depth.


EngSci alumnus elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering

Raffaelo D'Andrea

Alumnus Raffaello D’Andrea (EngSci 9T1) has been elected as international members of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (NAE). The NAE provides engineering leadership in service to the United States and globally; its members rank among the world’s most accomplished engineers.

Read the full story here.


EngSci alumnus named to the Order of Canada

Arthur Slutsky

 

Dr. Arthur Slutsky (EngSci 7T0, MASc MIE 7T2) has been named a Member of the Order of Canada. Slutsky was honoured “for his contributions to the research of mechanical ventilation injury and its prevention through non-conventional respiratory mechanics.”

As vice-president of research at St. Michael’s Hospital over the past 18 years, his passion and commitment helped bolster the hospital’s research capacities and built an international reputation for innovative research. His work led to impacts on public policy and the implementation of clinical care worldwide. “Dr. Slutksy is an exceptional innovator and true leader whose contributions demonstrate how engineering can impact healthcare in profound ways,” says Professor Deepa Kundur, Chair of the Division of Engineering Science.

Dr. Slutsky will be one of the speakers at this year’s Engineering Science Education Conference (ESEC) on January 25, 2019.

Read the full story.

Further details on Dr. Slutsky’s impact.


EngSci alumnus receives Governor General’s Meritorious Service Cross

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette (ECE MASc 9T0, at right) presents the Meritorious Service Cross to Professor Tom Chau (IBBME), Pierre Duez (EngSci 0T0, MASc IndE 0T3), Andrea Lamont, and Eric Wan (CompE 1T0, ECE MASc 1T3) on Tuesday, December 12, 2017, during a ceremony at Rideau Hall. (Credit: MCpl Vincent Carbonneau, Rideau Hall, OSGG)

EngSci alumnus Professor Tom Chau (EngSci 9T2, ECE MASc 9T4) and his team received one of Canada’s highest civilian honours at a ceremony today. Chau and his team , which includes alumnus Pierre Duez (EngSci 0T0, MASC IndE 0T3), were awarded the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Cross (Civil Division) for developing the Virtual Music Instrument (VMI). This assistive device lets individuals with limited physical abilities express themselves through music. The tool is improving the lives of children and their families in several countries.

“Professor Chau and his team’s pioneering research in pediatric rehabilitation is world renowned,” says EngSci Chair Deepa Kundur. “We are very proud to count among our graduates researchers who use their engineering skills to have such a lasting positive impact on the lives of others.”

Read more about Chau’s work and this award.


EngSci students take flight in microgravity to unravel physics mystery

Update Aug 1, 2017: Check out the team’s Twitter feed feed for photos and videos from their flight.

Team AVAIL — left to right, Caulan Rupke (Year 4 EngSci), Neell Young (EngSci 1T4 + PEY, UTIAS MASc candidate), Andrew Ilersich and Michael Lawee (both Year 4 EngSci) — has designed a physics experiment that will be carried out in simulated microgravity. Their results could accelerate the use of 3D printers to address key challenges for long-term space missions.

Not many of us get to experience what it’s like to float in space. This week several of our students will get to experience the next best thing — a flight on a microgravity aircraft where they will try to unravel a complex physics process.

Collectively known as Team AVAIL (Analyzing Viscosity and Inertia in Liquids), Neell Young (EngSci 1T4 + PEY, MASc Student UTIAS), Caulan Rupke, Michael Lawee and Andrew Ilersich (all Year 4 EngSci) will conduct experiments on a phenomenon known as the “liquid rope coil” effect.

See a video of the effect and learn more about the team’s mission.

Their work will have implications for 3D printing in microgravity during long-term space missions. Here on Earth, it could also help develop 3D printing techniques for new porous materials for use in biomedical engineering.

The team is in Ottawa July 24 – 28 for a flight on the National Research Council’s Falcon 20 aircraft. Read about their mission and follow their progress on Twitter and Youtube.


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