Alumni Achievement Awards represent the highest level of recognition a Faculty can give its alumni. Award recipients represent the best of Waterloo. Electrical and computer engineering alumni are making a difference in workplaces and communities nationally and internationally; they are people who are building a better world.
Alumni Achievement Medal for Professional Achievement
Mark Nixon (BASc ’82, electrical engineering) is currently the director of applied research at Emerson Automation Solutions where he has worked for over three decades in different roles and departments.
Over the course of his career, Nixon has received over 160 patents for his innovations, making him one of the company’s best inventors.
Of Nixon’s many professional achievements, the one that comes up time and again is his key contribution to the standardization of WirelessHART technology for optimized process controls in manufacturing. It has been so successful that it is now the core technology behind Emerson’s portfolio of wireless devices.
Nixon contributes to many automation standards. He currently leads the research and development for DeltaV, one of the most powerful distributed control systems in process automation. His work on DeltaV led him to co-author and publish two books that establish the foundation of advanced control in process automation.
In recognition of his industry leading contributions to the field of process control, Mark was elected to the Process Automation Hall of Fame in 2010 — the highest honour there is in the field.
“All I can say to aspiring engineers is don’t be afraid of failure,” Nixon says. “Work with positive people and keep on trying.”
Young Alumni Achievement Medal - Dhananja Jayalath
While studying, Dhananja Jayalath (BASc ’12, electrical engineering) developed an idea for a product that could enhance people’s fitness training by telling them which parts of their bodies needed attention.
This idea was born out of Jayalath’s own frustrations in the gym. He couldn’t afford a personal trainer and couldn’t tell if his workouts were delivering maximum benefit. He wanted a way to gather valid data from his workouts that he could action immediately.
Fast forward eight years and Jayalath’s wearable technology company, Athos, has supported the performance and recovery of more than 40 division one athletic teams, five Olympians and members of the elite branches of the United States Armed Forces. The company has also received 42 patents for its innovations.
Athos specializes in tech-enhanced athletic apparel that uses sensors to analyze a person’s muscle performance while working out. It then delivers an actionable analysis for improved training.
Jayalath’s passion for innovation extends beyond his work and he is committed to helping the next generation of entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders unlock their potential. Under his leadership, Athos has hired and mentored nearly 100 Waterloo Engineering students through the co-op program.
“I support engineering students and grads who make mistakes and keep on trying,” Jayalath says. “Learning how to learn is a survival skill so use it. Always ask why and read your emails.”
Hydro One - Friend of the Faculty Award
Among many contributions by Hydro One was the establishment in 2003 of an online master of engineering program in electric power generation.
Geared toward industry professionals, the program has enjoyed both financial support and guidance from company officials, plus promotion and use of some of its facilities for exams.
Its “unwavering support” also includes endowment of a $1.5-million chair in power engineering held by Professor Claudio Canizares, and $500,000 to endow two Hydro One graduate scholarships.
Backing from the company has been instrumental in advancing research at Waterloo Engineering in areas including power distribution systems, energy storage, demand response and smart electricity grids.
Undergraduate students have benefitted from scholarships as well, and the company has funded Engineering Outreach programs and Women in Engineering initiatives, including a conference for Grade 10 and 11 students.
Bahareh Tehrani, a senior planner and engineer who did her master’s degree at Waterloo, highlighted the progress Hydro One has made in terms of diversity and inclusion, and its plans to do more, since she joined the company in 2005.
“Now we have females in all ranks in the company and on every team,” she said, noting 22 per cent of its electrical engineers are women, 10 per cent more than the industry average. “I’m really proud to be part of this organization and I’m delighted to see how it has grown and expanded.”
Brian Courtney (BASc '97) and Aman Thind (BASc '04): Team Alumni Achievement Medal
Courtney (BASc ’97, computer engineering) and Thind (BASc’04, computer engineering) are the founders of Conavi Medical, a Toronto-based company that develops imaging devices to help cardiologists deliver better health care.
An interventional cardiologist at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Courtney built on his undergraduate degree in computer engineering at Waterloo by earning master’s and medical degrees at Stanford University, where he co-founded two medical device companies.
Thind also earned a computer engineering degree at Waterloo, then did a doctorate in medical biophysics, with a focus on ultrasound, at the University of Toronto.
The two came together to launch Conavi nine years ago and have gone on to develop two minimally invasive imaging devices - Novasight Hybrid and Foresight ICE - to improve image guidance and visualization during cardiovascular procedures.
The company employs more than 100 people, and Courtney and Thind together hold over 60 patents.
“It’s great to be back on campus seeing all of the energy, passion and talent that brought me here in the first place and helped drive an entrepreneurial spirit to go on and do what we’re currently doing,” said Thind.
Courtney recalled giving a graduation speech urging classmates at Waterloo to use their skills and educations to do good in the world.
“We have the potential to save thousands of lives with this technology, so it’s something we’re really, really excited about,” he said of their own work at Conavi.
Joseph M. Natale (BASc '87): Alumni Achievement Medal, Professional Achievement
Since graduating from Waterloo with an electrical engineering degree, Natale (BASc’87, electrical engineering) has gone on to become a leading executive and leader in business management and telecommunications.
He spent 14 years at Telus and for the last two years has been president and CEO of Rogers Communications, where revenues have increased six per cent during his tenure.
Natale is known as a results-driven, customer-first business leader with beliefs in a culture of inclusion, collaboration, transparency and accountability, values reflected in impressive employee engagement at Rogers.
Outside activities have included service on the board of trustees for the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and with the CivicAction Leadership Foundation and the United Way.
Since joining Rogers, Natale has also expanded the company’s social responsibility program to include national volunteer and national giving initiatives for all employees.
Mostafa H. Ammar (PhD '85): Alumni Achievement Medal, Academic Excellence
Mostafa Ammar (PhD ’85) joined the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1985 after completing his doctorate in electrical engineering at the University of Waterloo. Since then, his career has been nothing short of spectacular. Described as a maverick and a visionary as a researcher, Mostafa has made profound contributions to the field computer networks. Mostafa’s research has focused on the delivery of communication services to a large number of users. He has worked on the dimensioning of digital broadcast systems for satellites, and has been a pioneer in scalable multimedia services, replication services and large-scale optical networks.
His achievements are reflected in the numerous honours he’s received, including the Outstanding Service Award from the IEEE Technical Committee on Computer Communications.
Mostafa has managed a research group in computer networking for over 30 years and has more than 16,000 citations to his name.
He is currently a Regent’s Professor in the School of Computer Science, a position that is a rank above a “full” professor and is only awarded to select faculty at Georgia Tech. Mostafa is recognized as one of Georgia Tech’s best teachers and is a multi-time recipient of the university’s teaching effectiveness award. The award, based on student feedback for instructor effectiveness, is only given to faculty members with the highest scores. His considerable impact can also be measured by the long list of his former PhD students who have moved on to highly successful careers in academia and industry.
Sam Emaminejad (BASc ’09): Young Alumni Achievement Medal
Sam Emaminejad (BASc ’09) graduated from the electrical engineering program in 2009 with distinction and on the dean’s honour list. He went on to complete his master’s and doctorate in electrical engineering at Stanford University. Since 2016, he’s been a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UCLA. In just over two years, Sam has made an incredible impact at UCLA — both in the research lab and the classroom.
One of Sam’s major achievements to date has been designing a wearable wristband that continuously gathers health-related data obtained from sweat to diagnose diseases including cystic fibrosis and diabetes. The advanced technology works without breaking the skin, and importantly, without requiring a visit to the doctor’s office.
Dino Di Carlo, the director of the Cancer Nanotechnology Program at UCLA, describes Sam as a unique individual who will no doubt have a dominant role in shaping the future of continuous health diagnostics. Sam has also established himself as an outstanding teacher and mentor. He received exceptional teaching scores for a new graduate course he developed on the topic of biosensors.
He regularly goes above and beyond to help his graduate students achieve their highest potential and support the master’s students in his lab to transfer into UCLA’s PhD program.
Sam proactively seeks opportunities to expose students to his research and organize campus-based initiatives that promote diversity in the STEM fields. His outreach activities have resulted in the recruitment of 13 undergraduates and three high school students for his lab.
As a young alumnus, Sam has already made significant research contributions in developing an unprecedented non-invasive wearable device designed for disease diagnosis and bridged the long-standing gap between the Internet of Things and personalized medicine.
David H. Au-Yeung (BASc '04), Matthew Cheung (BASc '04), David C. Meyers (BASc '04), Wehuns Tan (BASc '04): Team Alumni Achievement Medal
More than two years after graduating from Waterloo in 2004, David, Matthew, David and Wehuns were all putting their engineering degrees to good use at good jobs. But that wasn’t what they really wanted. Close friends since their first year of Waterloo’s computer engineering program, the foursome from the Toronto area still had their sights set on becoming entrepreneurs.
That day came in 2007 when they all packed in their jobs and launched a company called Wishabi to provide consumers with an online platform for comparison shopping. Six years later, they launched the Flipp app and the company was soon rebranded because of the quick consumer brand traction. Based in Toronto, Flipp Corporation now has over 800 employees and is the leading mobile application for digital flyers in North America.
The Flipp app has been downloaded more than 40 million times and displays flyers from 90 per cent of the continent’s largest retailers, including Walmart, Target, Kroger, Macys and Dollar General. Last year alone, Flipp was used to open a staggering 1.8 billion publications as consumers searched for deals and planned shopping trips for groceries, home renovation supplies, pet products, electronics and clothing. The app is creating a real difference in the lives of everyday consumers by helping families save 20 to 40 per cent off their weekly grocery bills.
What’s inspiring about the computer engineering graduates is their risk-taking spirit that they trace back to the Faculty of Engineering. The four are all true entrepreneurs who have gone far beyond successfully disrupting the print flyer industry.
Richard Frayne (BASc '89): Alumni Achievement Medal, Academic Excellence
Richard Frayne, BASc 1989, Electrical Engineering is awarded the Faculty of Engineering Alumni Achievement Medal, Academic Excellence, in recognition of his exceptional research contributions to magnetic resonance imaging for the detection and treatment of vascular disease and his outstanding reputation as an academic.
Barbara Paldus (BASc '93, BMATH'93): Alumni Achievement Medal, Professional Achievement
At age 17, Barbara Paldus (BASc ’93, BMath ’93) walked into the Waterloo Engineering undergraduate office to enroll in classes. When she was asked which program she was interested in, Barbara responded by asking a question of her own: Which program was the hardest to get into?
Not content to simply study electrical engineering at Waterloo, she pursued an applied math degree at the same time. Barbara graduated from both programs in 1993. Her exceptional grades earned her a spot in graduate school at Stanford, where she developed a spectrometer a million times more sensitive than existing instruments.
Doctoral degree in hand, Barbara set about commercializing her invention. It was a crash course in everything from raising capital and building teams to developing real-world applications. Today, cavity ring-down spectroscopy is used for everything from detecting pipeline leaks to ensuring that every banana in a shipment ripens at the same time.
In 2005, Barbara co-founded Finesse Solutions in Silicon Valley to develop measurement and control systems for pharmaceutical bioreactors. Currently, she is focusing on developing miniature cell factories for immunotherapy by taking T-cells from a cancer patient’s blood and training them to attack the tumours. The company’s goal is to develop a desktop machine that makes that process possible within hospitals to help extend the life expectancy of people with advanced cancer. Barbara, whose work has been recognized with numerous prestigious honours, has been awarded a remarkable 21 patents and has 12 pending patent applications.
Brian Chapnik (MASc '90), William Gastmeier (BSC '74, MASc '76), Robert Howe (BASc '84), Robert Stevens (MASc '03): Team Alumni Achievement Medal
HGC Engineering is a Toronto-based acoustical consulting group that was founded in 1994 when three respected Waterloo Engineering graduates — Brian Howe (BASc ’84), Bill Gastmeier (BSc ’74) and Brian Chapnik (MASc ’90) — came together with a common vision and a shared purpose. They were later joined by Rob Stevens (MASc ’03), also a Waterloo Engineering alumnus.
Together, they have grown their company thanks, in part, to their diversified skill set: Bill is an Electrical Engineering grad, Brian Howe and Rob are Mechanical Engineering grads, and Brian Chapnik is a Systems Design Engineering grad.
Throughout the years, HGC Engineering has gained a worldwide reputation in the measurement, assessment and mitigation of noise and vibration problems. It has also developed international expertise in the acoustical optimization of architectural spaces and products.
Over the decades, the company has worked with clients from a wide variety of industries and disciplines to develop responsive, cost-effective solutions based on its extensive acoustical experience and application engineering know-how. The majority of the company’s employees are Waterloo Engineering graduates, many of whom started working for the company as co-op students.
HGC principals have contributed knowledge, skills and experience to the education of Waterloo Architecture students for over two decades and made repeated contributions of technical expertise to other local institutions.
Marc Morin (BASc '87): Alumni Achievement Medal, Professional Achievement
Marc H. Morin (BASc ’87) has had a remarkable career since graduating from our Electrical Engineering program in 1987. After working as a software engineer for Hewlett-Packard for nine years, he became Chief Technology Officer for PixStream, which manufactured and marketed network hardware and software solutions. The successful Waterloo-based company was sold to Cisco Systems Inc. in 2000.
Since then, Marc has gone on to launch and lead three companies in the Waterloo Region: Sandvine, Emforium and now Auvik of which he is the Chief Executive Officer. Auvik, a cloud-based system, provides IT professionals with a better way to monitor, configure and automate networks.
Marc continually strives for excellence, bringing forward innovative solutions to help other businesses succeed. Not only is he a role model as a business developer and a technical expert, but he also takes the time to mentor others through his ongoing participation in networking events. As well, Marc has been an angel investor for many startup companies in the Waterloo Region. Always remembering his academic roots, he gives back to the University of Waterloo by regularly employing our co-op students and graduates. Marc is an excellent example of a highly successful entrepreneur who continues to demonstrate the knowledge and extensive opportunities that go hand in hand with his Waterloo Engineering degree.
Brent Tweddle (BASc '07): Young Alumni Achievement Medal
Brent Tweddle (BASc ’07) graduated from Waterloo with a Computer Engineering degree in 2007 and then went on to complete a master’s degree and PhD at MIT.
Brent’s accomplishments in aerospace robotics are nothing short of amazing. While working on his doctoral degree, Brent headed up the development of a robotic research system that has successfully operated on the International Space Station. Brent was the technical lead of a team of about 30 people from academia, government and industry who worked together to design, build and test what’s known as the Vertigo Goggles. Vertigo Goggles is a set of stereo cameras, embedded high performance computers and associated electronics that enable computer vision base navigation algorithms to be tested in a microgravity environment.
In addition to this work, Brent provided training to astronauts on how to use the technology and supported them through direct space-to-ground communications during their operational test session.
The Vertigo project has resulted in numerous conference and journal publications, including the highly regarded Journal of Field Robotics. It was also a major factor in Brent receiving the 2013 Boeing Engineering Student of the Year award. The honour recognizes the best and brightest among future leaders and innovators.
Since the beginning of 2014, Brent has been employed as a guidance and control engineer at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory working on the Lander Vision System for the Mars 2020 Entry, Descent and Landing System.
Fangjin Yang (BASc ’07, MASc ‘09): Young Alumni Achievement Medal
Fangjin Yang (BASc ’07, MASc ‘09), who has been called one of the brightest talents in the big data industry, holds a BASc in Electrical Engineering and a MASc in Computer Engineering, both from Waterloo. After graduating in 2009 with his master’s degree, Fangjin worked for Cisco Systems where he put his extensive technical skills to work as a software engineer.
Two years later, he joined Metamarkets, as one of the first employees of the real-time analytics platform for the digital advertising space. While part of Metamarkets, he received major international recognition as the creator of Druid, an open-source, real-time analytics system that has tackled some of the most difficult computing problems in a distributed data framework.
As Druid’s lead engineer, Fangjin was responsible for designing and executing the data platform. He also headed the promotion of Druid in the big data community and the integration of the system into the world’s top technology companies such as Yahoo, Netflix, eBay, PayPal, Time Warner Cable and many others.
This past May, the Druid team won the Best Open Source Innovation award for excellence in software development from the Software and Information Industry Association.
Just last month Fangjin, along with two other former Metamarkets employees, launched Imply. The startup’s first product is the Imply Analytics Platform, which includes Druid and other open-source components.
Besides developing data platforms, Fangjin loves to share his extensive knowledge about them. He’s a frequent speaker at big data conferences and a guest lecturer at academic institutions.
Frank Baylis (BASc ’86) and Kris Shah (BASc ’86): Team Alumni Achievement Medal
Frank Baylis (BASc ’86) and Kris Shah (BASc ’86) were classmates who graduated together from the electrical engineering program in 1986. In 1989, Frank joined Baylis Medical which was founded by Gloria Baylis, followed by Kris in 1990. Today, Frank is president of Baylis Medical and Kris is executive vice president and chief technology officer.
With over 200 employees and offices in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, London, England and Boston, the company is a leading developer, manufacturer and supplier of high-technology medical devices used in interventional cardiology and radiology.
Over the last 25 years, Baylis Medical has been involved in a number of medical firsts, both in the Canada and throughout the world. The company’s innovations include the world’s first cooled-RF platform for pain management procedures and the OsteoCool® system for treatment of pain emanating from metastatic bone tumors.
In recognition of their work in the Canadian medical device industry, Frank and Kris were named Ernst & Young’s 2011 Quebec Health Sciences Entrepreneurs of The Year.
Khaled Al Sabawi (BASc ’06): Young Alumni Achievement Medal
The son of Palestinian refugees from Gaza, Khaled Al Sabawi (BASc ’06) graduated from Waterloo in 2006 with a computer engineering degree and became the first certified geothermal engineer in the Middle East. As the founder and president of MENA Geothermal, a green energy business, Sabawi was responsible for the first geothermal systems in Palestine in 2007. His company, a two-time winner of the Energy Globe Award in 2008 and 2011, installed the largest geothermal system in the Middle East at the American University of Madaba in Jordan.
Sabawi's TABO initiative, Arabic for "title deed," is a for-profit development project which is part of Union Construction and Investment, one the largest real-estate development companies in Palestine. It offers affordable, registered plots of residential land in the West Bank online and offline in response to the increasing cost of land in Palestine. TABO also protects land against Israeli annexation through title deed registration.
Sabawi was named one of the world’s top energy entrepreneurs by Global Post in 2010, and was featured in Forbes Middle East magazine in 2014.
Lynnette D. Madsen (BASc ’86, BA ’04): Alumni Achievement Medal, Professional Achievement
Lynnette D. Madsen (BASc ’86) (BA ’04) graduated from the Faculty of Engineering in 1986 with a degree in electrical engineering. After graduation, Lynnette went on to complete a Master of Engineering at Carleton University, a Doctorate Degree in Materials Science and Engineering at McMaster University, and a Docent in Materials Science from Linkoping University in Sweden. She then returned to the University of Waterloo, to complete a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology.
Her unique educational path is reflected in the direction her professional life has taken. She has worked for Nortel Networks in Ottawa, and was part of Linkoping University in Sweden, starting out as a visiting scientist. She was an associate professor when she left Linkoping in 2000.
Since then, Lynnette has been a part of the National Science Foundation based in Arlington, Virginia where she is currently the program director for ceramics.
Lynnette has also managed to maintain her engineering science research record while a program director for the National Science Foundation, something few of her colleagues who hold similar positions have managed to do.
Lynnette is called one of the most dedicated individuals in terms of her promotion of the advancement of women and minorities to help them achieve their full potential in their science and engineering careers.
The Faculty of Engineering Alumni Achievement Medal for Professional Achievement is hereby awarded to Lynnette D. Madsen in recognition of her vision and outstanding leadership in the areas of materials and nanotechnology, as well as her promotion of groups underrepresented in science and engineering.
Steve Brenneman (BASc ’98), Tony Jedlovsky (BASc ’98), and Brian Orr (BASc ’98)
Upon graduation in 1998, three bright entrepreneurs, Steve Brenneman (BASc ’98), Tony Jedlovsky (BASc ’98), and Brian Orr (BASc ’98) started a software company, Jedor. As Jedor, Tony, Brian and Steve created an innovative animation software package called Viscosity and released it in 1999.
In February 2000, Sonic Foundry, a US-based company, purchased Jedor, yet the founders remained in Waterloo to start a Canadian office for Sonic Foundry. As developers at Sonic Foundry, the trio helped refine early versions of the company's flagship products: Vegas and Movie Studio. They went on to create new software such as the award winning DVD Architect product, and technologies such as the innovative "Show Me How" interactive tutorials.
In 2003, Sony purchased Sonic Foundry and the three founders now represented a division of Sony located in the City of Waterloo. They continued development of DVD Architect and other Sony products, and also created new software for Sony such as Cinescore, Photo Go and Media Manager. More recently, the Waterloo Engineering alumni started a new product for Sony, called Media Go, which is used by millions of Sony customers worldwide.
Since 2003, Tony, Brian and Steve have grown Sony's Waterloo office to 25 individuals, always staying close to their Waterloo Engineering roots. They hired their first co-op student in 1999, and since then have interviewed hundreds of co-op and permanent employees through the University of Waterloo's co-op program.
The Faculty of Engineering Team Alumni Achievement Medal is hereby awarded to Sony Waterloo in recognition of the company’s commitment to developing cutting-edge software products and dedication to growing a dynamic team that includes Waterloo Engineering co-op students and alumni.
Andrew J. Clinton (BASc ’05): Young Alumni Achievement Medal
Andrew J. Clinton (BASc ’05) graduated with a computer engineering degree in 2005. In 2012, Andrew Clinton received a Technical Achievement Academy Award for inventing micro-voxels. His ground-breaking work on the invention of microvoxels is considered by the film industry as game-changing technology that has had a tremendous impact on the way visual effects are done in movies today. It is for this breakthrough research and invention that Andrew, along with his colleague, Mark Elendtwere, were honoured with the award, commonly called the Sci-Tech Oscar. It is considered to be the most prestigious award and highest honour that an individual can receive in the film industry.
Andrew, who works for Side Effects Software in Toronto, is known for constantly pushing the boundaries of research, innovating and designing rendering software. His contributions to the development of the industry-leading Mantra renderer have been used by artists world-wide. Andrew has made it possible to produce eye-popping visual effects in Academy Award winning movies such as Life of Pi, Zero Dark Thirty, and Inception, as well as blockbuster movies such as Man of Steel and Pacific Rim.
Beyond his tremendous technical achievements, Andrew has spent significant time and effort giving back to the community by presenting talks and teaching courses at a premier conference on computer graphics in the world, to share his tremendous knowledge and passion to the community.
The Faculty of Engineering Young Alumni Achievement Medal is hereby awarded to Andrew J. Clinton in recognition of his award-winning work through the invention of microvoxels considered throughout the film industry as game-changing technology.
Michael D. Watkins (BASc '80): Alumni Achievement Medal, Professional Achievement
In recognition for being a world-renowned business strategy author and co-founder of Genesis Advisers, a leadership development firm specializing in transition acceleration programs and coaching.
Reza Chaji (PhD '08): Young Alumni Achievement Medal
In recognition of his invaluable contributions as president and CTO for IGNIS Innovations Inc., as well as his work as a Waterloo Engineering adjunct professor and collaboration on Faculty research projects.
Sheldon Fernandez (BASc '01): Young Alumni Achievement Medal
In recognition of co-founding Infusion Development Canada, a leader in the emerging technologies industry, his service as chief technical officer for Infusion's spinoff company AuditionBooth, and for his ongoing volunteer work with Big Brothers and other organizations.