Professor Michael Vitelli had such a positive experience as a student at the University of Waterloo in the Department of Chemical Engineering that he chose to launch his career here.

Vitelli came to the University of Waterloo straight from high school. He decided to pursue a BASc in Chemical Engineering because of his love of math and chemistry in his high school studies.

In Vitelli’s BASc Capstone project, his group developed a protein powder made from navy beans. The aim was to develop protein alternatives using physical means rather than chemical. Instead of adding chemicals to get a purified protein supplement, his team used triboelectric charging.

Vitelli obtained his BASc in 2015. He decided to continue to graduate school in the Department of Chemical Engineering primarily because of his experience with his Fourth Year Design Project. Vitelli had a very positive working relationship with his Capstone supervisor Professor Raymond Legge.

“I wanted to continue working with Professor Legge because of the relationship that we had,” says Vitelli. “I decided this department was a good place to stay and the research was really interesting.”

Vitelli completed his MASc with Legge and went on to enroll in the PhD program under the supervision of Professor Hector Budman.  During his PhD studies, Vitelli shifted his focus to pharmaceuticals.

Vitelli had the option to work with the company Sanofi which does vaccine manufacturing. His PhD was structured very similarly to an industrial PhD and so Vitelli spent the majority of time working in the labs at Sanofi. He found his graduate studies very enjoyable.

“I had really good supervisors both for my Masters and my PhD.  I was impressed by my supervisor’s willingness to assist and guide me,” says Vitelli. “I also appreciated the freedom to follow my interests. It made obtaining my graduate degrees interesting and made it fun to explore and find solutions.”

Vitelli enjoyed being part of the graduate student community in the Department of Chemical Engineering. He became good friends with his peers with whom he shared office space and enjoyed collaborating with them.

As for advice to prospective graduate students, Vitelli encourages regular meetings with supervisors to clearly understand their research approach. He recommends trying to have fun and create a balance between research and social life.

Vitelli, who as a teen gave swimming lessons as a lifeguard, always enjoyed teaching. His positive experience as a teaching assistant during his graduate studies further inspired Vitelli to pursue a career as an educator.

Vitelli took on the position of lecturer in the Department of Chemical Engineering after he graduated with his PhD in 2022. In fact, he had started working as a lecturer as he was defending his thesis. The highlight of teaching for Vitelli is communicating with his students and taking a hands-on approach to educating.