Showcasing Waterloo Engineering Research

Norman Zhou and Ibraheem Khan.When today’s children are ready for dental braces, there’s a chance they’ll end up with a mouthful of high-tech wire, thanks to the research of Norman Zhou, left, and Ibraheem Khan.

Zhou, a mechanical and mechatronics engineering professor, and Khan, a mechanical engineering doctoral candidate, have invented a process for manufacturing “smart materials” that can embed multiple memories into a single piece. Traditional memory material “remembers” only one shape per temperature, but their method enables the material to remember many more. This patent-pending technology could revolutionize devices, such as dental braces, stents, pacemakers and even hard drives.

Finding out about new research applications was the goal of WE Innovate, engineering’s first research showcase, held November 4, 2010 in Engineering 5. Over 40 displays included everything from smart materials to magnetically floating microrobots and attracted over 250 graduate students, faculty members and industry professionals.

During the showcase Khan discussed his technology with students and also with an automotive design engineer who had an idea about a possible vehicle application. “WE Innovate was a perfect platform to join students, researchers and industry together,” Khan says.


  • The 2010 Alumni Achievement Medals were presented to John Baker (BASc ’00, SD), Carlos de Oliveira (BASc ’04, Civil), Bruce Bodden (BASc ’69, Civil), Fred Grigsby (BASc ’71, Elect), Kevin Negus (BASc ’84, MASc ’85, PhD ’88, Mech) and George Newton (BASc ’64, Elect). The Friend of the Faculty Award was presented to Xerox Research Centre of Canada.
  • The Faculty’s Teaching Excellence Award was received by Michael Fowler of chemical engineering, Andrew Heunis of electrical and computer engineering and Hamid Jahed of mechanical and mechatronics engineering.
  • The En-hui Yang Engineering Research Innovation Award was presented to Susan Tighe of civil and environmental engineering. The Engineering Research Excellence Award was received by Carolyn Ren of mechanical and mechatronics engineering, Murat Uysal of electrical and computer engineering and Daniel Stashuk of systems design engineering.
  • Mary McColl of electrical and computer engineering and Erick Engelke of engineering computing received the Faculty’s Outstanding Staff Award.

Removing barriers to commercialization

There’s no question that Canada produces world-class original research. Where we fall short is in commercializing the results, says DALSA Corporation founder Dr. Savvas Chamberlain.

While countries like China, India and Brazil support and nurture their companies, Canada doesn’t. Only a small percentage of Canadian technology reaches the development phase. Start-ups face remarkably high failure rates. And of those that succeed, only a handful go on to become international leaders.

So when Chamberlain helped organize a symposium on the issue in April 2010, the response was enthusiastic. The event was sponsored by the Dean of Engineering Advisory Council of which Chamberlain is a member and drew more than 80 business leaders, academics and government decision-makers.

The resulting “Waterloo Declaration” aims to revolutionize how Canada puts knowledge to work. The document, which is available online, calls for more emphasis on business in schools and universities, more mentoring for entrepreneurs at every stage along the way, and government measures to give new ventures more access to capital.

For Chamberlain, supporting businesses makes bottom-line sense. “If they succeed, we all benefit,” he says. “Business creates jobs for Canadians.”

New centre focuses on energy

Step inside the new University of Waterloo energy research facility and you can sense the electricity – both figuratively and literally. In gleaming clean rooms on the main floor, the next generation of photovoltaic technologies is under development. Upstairs, you’ll find labs dedicated to everything from pollution modeling to fuel cell research. Even the roof has been put to work to test solar thermal technologies and wind turbine acoustics.

The Energy Research Centre is the latest example of the university’s focus on energy issues. “There’s nothing like it in any other Canadian university,” says Jatin Nathwani, executive director of the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy and a Waterloo Engineering professor.

The 43,200-square-foot facility that officially opened its doors in October 2010 brings together engineers, economists, planners and environmental scientists under one roof. “Here at Waterloo we came to the conclusion some time ago that the challenges of the energy sector are far too complex to be managed in silos through a single discipline,” says Nathwani. “You need to have people interact.”