Meet the 7 recipients of the first Entrepreneurial Ph.D. Fellowship

Monday, December 19, 2022

Chao Yu & LoopX, winners of the Rogers OVIN 5G Challenge

Chao Yu (third from left) is an Entrepreneurial Ph.D. Fellowship recipient, slated to graduate from the MBET program in 2025. He co-founded LoopX Innovation Inc., who recently won the OVIN and Rogers 5G Transportation Challenge Fund.

This fall, the Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business welcomed seven University of Waterloo Ph.D. students to the Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) classroom through the inaugural Entrepreneurial Ph.D. Fellowship program.

The fellowships were awarded to support outstanding, business-minded Waterloo doctoral students who are interested in commercializing their research. The following recipients will complete the three-year part-time program alongside their regular doctoral studies, tuition-free. 

Faculty & Program Faculty of Health, Public Health & Health Systems
Starting Term of PhD Fall 2021
Supervisor Chris Perlman
Research Interest Evaluation of the efficacy of social programs and healthcare delivery and the development of novel approaches to respond to identified knowledge gaps to improve system level performance indicators around accessibility, equity, timely delivery of services and various other outcome measures.
Previous Degree(s)
  • MScN (Nursing)
    • York University
  • BScN (Nursing)
    • York University/Seneca College

Venture Name, Idea or Focus?

Social and health service delivery innovation, performance, and economic sustainability.


My interest in the Entrepreneurial PhD Fellowship stems from a desire, within the construct of socially responsible business models, to be well prepared to translate research and my knowledge of the health sector into novel implementable solutions in our technology-enabled world. The health sector has lagged considerably in taking up technological interventions to enhance service delivery, and I believe the knowledge and network I am developing within the multidisciplinary fellowship cohort is equipping me to contribute to our health system at this critical time.


James Livingstone

James Livingstone profile photo 

Faculty & Program Faculty of Science, Pharmacy
Starting Term of PhD Winter 2021
Supervisor Michael BeazelyZoya Leonenko
Research Interest Neuropharmacology, neurophysiology, developing induced pluripotent stem cells into neurons, investigating quantum effects in neurons
Previous Degree(s)
  • MSc (Cell Developmental Biology)
    • University of Waterloo
  • BSc (Biomedical Science)
    • University of Waterloo

Venture Name, Idea or Focus?

Developing personalized medicine using induced pluripotent stem cells.


I chose the MBET program because I felt it would teach me the business management and entrepreneurial skills I need to successfully bring my ideas to market.


Rebekah Maffett

Faculty & Program Faculty of Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Starting Term of PhD Spring 2019
Supervisor Alfred Yu
Research Interest Biomedical engineering, biomedical ultrasound tech, blood flow mapping
Previous Degree(s)
  • BASc (Nanotechnology Engineering)
    • University of Waterloo

Venture Name, Idea or Focus?

Develop wearable ultrasound technology for cardiovascular health monitoring.


I have been considering starting a venture for most of my PhD but having no background in business made it hard to know where to begin. The MBET program was extremely appealing due to its focus on entrepreneurship instead of more established businesses like an MBA. The opportunity to pursue the MBET degree at the same time as my PhD was the perfect fit for me and will allow me to hit the ground running when I graduate.


Navya V. Nair

Faculty & Program Faculty of Environment, Sustainability Management (Water)
Starting Term of PhD Fall 2021
Supervisor Prateep Nayak
Research Interest Water quality analysis, coastal fisheries, wastewater treatment, microbial fuel cells, and bio-energy generation, impact of water quality and blue carbon ecosystem (wetlands) on small-scale fishing communities
Previous Degree(s)
  • Master of Environmental Science (Sustainability Management)
    • University of Waterloo
  • Master of Technology (Environmental Engineering)
    • Kerala Technological University
  • Bachelor of Technology (Civil Engineering)
    • Kerala University

Venture Name, Idea or Focus?

Development of a toolkit to address water quality concerns in coastal fishing communities.


De-routing from engineering to environmental science, I want to bring creative ideas to explore and resolve water quality problems in the coastal context. People all across the world are developing and implementing creative, practical, and sustainable solutions to some of the most serious social and environmental concerns.

I applied for this Entrepreneurial PhD Fellowship to learn the current market, techniques, and tactics for developing a beneficial social entrepreneurship as part of my doctoral research. I want to focus on a non-profit sustainable social change instead of waiting for big businesses or the government to act on policy changes that impact the viability of coastal fisheries.


Mojtaba Vàlipour

Faculty & Program Faculty of Math, Computer Science
Starting Term of PhD Fall 2019
Supervisor Ali Ghodsi
Research Interest Symbolic regression and sequence modelling with conditional and dynamic language models/deep learning and natural language processing
Previous Degree(s)
  • MSc (Artificial Intelligence & Robotics)
    • Shiraz University
  • BS (Computer Hardware Engineering)
    • Jundi-Shapur University of Technology

Venture Name, Idea or Focus?

Daneshbaz: Open Research, Open Problem, Open Ideas.

Publishing a paper takes a long time, and it can be challenging to collaborate with someone you don't know. Researchers encounter these issues throughout their careers, but it is even more critical for those in their early stages and newcomers, like graduate students. Their network of collaborators is much smaller, and they lack the experience and publications to facilitate such collaborations. Moreover, since the status quo freezes papers after publication, they will no longer be subject to revision. In addition to supporting the current approach, Daneshbaz gives you a chance to improve it. It makes collaboration accessible, efficient, and easier between researchers, and introduces the concept of living papers as an alternative to the status-quo dead papers. Daneshbaz is a revolution in research.


Having specialized in Deep Learning/Machine Learning for a long time, I never explored the business side of entrepreneurship. The MBET program will bring me a great opportunity to explore novel directions of entrepreneurship and business modelling with hands-on learning that has been outside of my technical area of expertise.


Chao Yu

Faculty & Program Faculty of Engineering, Mechatronics Engineering
Starting Term of PhD Winter 2020
Supervisor Amir Khajepour
Research Interest Autonomous driving and vehicle control using machine learning and model predictive control techniques
Previous Degree(s)
  • MEng (Automotive Engineering)
    • Shanghai Jiao Tong University
  • BEng (Automotive Engineering)
    • Wuhan University of Technology

Venture Name, Idea or Focus?

LoopX Innovation Inc. is a Waterloo-based startup developing autonomous driving software and mobile robots with a mission to better the world through autonomy. LoopX has developed Canada’s first all-weather autonomous delivery robot named GoosEx™ that has been deployed at the University of Waterloo campus for take-out food delivery. LoopX is a recipient of Accelerator Centre: Venture Studio Fund, OVIN and Rogers 5G Transportation Challenge Fund, NSERC Lab2Market Fund, and UW Engineer of The Future Fund.


With 2 years of entrepreneurial experience at LoopX, I have realized that systematically learning entrepreneurial business skills will help me bring LoopX to the next level. I believe this part-time MBET program is the best chance to enhance my entrepreneurial mindset with access to Conrad School’s faculty and Waterloo’s unrivalled entrepreneurial ecosystem.


Kelly Zheng

Faculty & Program Faculty of Engineering, Mechatronics Engineering
Starting Term of PhD Fall 2020
Supervisor Roydon Fraser, Jesse The
Research Interest Spatiotemporal modeling, machine learning, quantum computing
Previous Degree(s)
  • BASc (Chemical Engineering)
    • University of Waterloo

Venture Name, Idea or Focus?

Coastal Carbon: combatting climate change while restoring our world’s largest ecosystem; leveraging AI and remote sensing to verify and monitor blue carbon projects anywhere on earth.

Climate change is one of our generation’s greatest existential threats and strategic decarbonization is a key step in taking climate action. Offsetting emissions with blue carbon (using coastal and marine ecosystems, like kelp, seaweed, and mangroves) is incredibly beneficial both in terms of better carbon sequestration, but also better ocean ecosystem restoration, improving the health of our planet’s atmosphere, coasts, and oceans along with those who inhabit them. Coastal Carbon’s product provides much-needed data for blue carbon projects, making monitoring and verification easy and remote by leveraging state of the art developments in AI and remote sensing.


I took BET 300 and an entrepreneurial enterprise co-op (e-coop) term with Wayne Chang a few years ago and it was one of the highlights of my undergraduate experience, inspiring me to grow as an entrepreneur and as a leader. At the same time, I was fortunate to gain a bit of hands-on experience in entrepreneurship: I’ve built and exited two ventures, won over $250k in pitching and innovation awards, and have gone through some great programs like Canada’s Next 36 and Velocity Residence. I’m excited for this Entrepreneurial PhD Fellowship in MBET to fill in the gaps in my practical knowledge and learn my “unknown unknowns” so that I can build even better, impactful ventures and help me and my team dream bigger in our entrepreneurial journey going forward.


*Responses may have been edited for clarity and consistency.