People profiles

Professor Leonardo Simon

Leonardo Simon

Chemical Engineering Professor

Leonardo Simon, a lead investigator with Ontario’s BioCar Initiative, has invented a process that combines plastic with wheat stalks to create lighter car parts. Ford Motor Company was the first to make use of the new parts – its 2010 Ford Flex, made in the company’s Oakville plant, includes straw-reinforced plastic storage bins for third row passengers.

“The most satisfying thing was to see that we’re using something that is grown in Ontario in a product that is assembled in Ontario. This is sustainable innovation,” says Simon, a Waterloo chemical engineering professor.

Undergraduate student, Mechanical Engineering Lydia Lane-Smith

Lydia Lane-Smith

Undergraduate student, Mechanical Engineering

Lydia Lane-Smith knows a lot about self-discipline and achieving goals. She recently completed the Royal Conservatory’s piano curriculum and earned a black belt in mixed-martial arts karate. Along the way, Lydia has made both activities part of her lifestyle. “Karate has been really good for me,” she explains. “It helps me relax and de-stress. And piano is part of who I am and how I express myself.”

Alumnus Alim Somani

Alim Somani

Alumnus, Electrical Engineering (BASc ’01)

Alim Somani started at Infusion Development as a Waterloo co-op student. Today, he’s the president.

Infusion Development is a consulting company specializing in software development for financial institutions. And while its client list is confidential, chances are that if you name a large investment bank, you’ll find Infusion behind it.

“In finance, the companies that do well are the ones that can efficiently trade on the markets,” says Alim. “They need IT to do that and they hire us to write it. Our systems are the guts of what happens on Wall Street.”

Professor Carolyn Hansson

Carolyn Hansson

Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering Professor

Rusting steel structures are a problem. Rusting steel reinforcing bars inside concrete structures are an even bigger problem.

“The trick, of course, is that you can’t see the damage,” says mechanical and mechatronics engineering faculty member Carolyn Hansson. “So you don’t know which structure is in trouble until it’s too late.”

Graduate Student Plinio Morita

Plinio Morita

Graduate Student, Systems Design Engineering

For Plinio Morita, a doctoral candidate in systems design engineering, being awarded a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship is an honour that will help support his research in how technology can be used to improve trust in group situations.

“A multi-year award like this will allow me to accomplish even more than I had planned,” he says. “It is a privilege to receive such a prestigious award.”

The scholarship, valued at $50,000 annually for up to three years, was awarded to Morita through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Genevieve LeBlanc

Undergraduate student, Chemical Engineering

Genevieve has fought Red Death and won. The battlefield was the Shell Refinery in Fort Saskatchewan, where Genevieve spent several co-op work terms. Her weapons were intelligence, initiative and hard work.

During the process that turns crude oil into gasoline, the crude goes through a hydrocracker to break it down. When some of the molecules are too large, they produce a red, waxy, equipment-damaging build-up known as Red Death. Genevieve’s task was to find out how much of the waste stream could be cycled back through the process before Red Death started to foul things up.

Prithula Prosun, Architecture graduate with an image of her house lifting design

Prithula Prosun

Graduate student - Architecture

Bangladesh is known for many things, but for architecture graduate student Prithula Prosun two in particular leave an impression: poverty and floods.

Alumnus Tom Chau

Tom Chau

Alumnus, Systems Design Engineering (PhD ‘98)

Deep in the heart of Canada’s largest children’s rehabilitation hospital, Tom Chau is giving disabled children a hand.

Tom, who earned his PhD in Systems Design at Waterloo in 1998, leads a team of researchers at Bloorview Kids Rehab in developing creative devices to help improve the lives of injured or disabled kids, who often struggle with so-called adaptive technologies. “We want to move the onus from individuals adapting to technology to the technology adapting to individuals,” Tom says.

Photo of Bill Owen

Bill Owen

Associate Director of First-Year Engineering

Contact information

Location: CPH 1325H
Email: bowen@uwaterloo.ca

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My first-year advisor/administrator duties include:

Erika Murray

Graduate student, Chemical Engineering

Erika Murray wants to find a cure for diabetes. She is working on a stem cell research project that looks at the cellular effects of a new diabetes drug INGAP on mesenchymal stem cells isolated from human pancreases. Her goal? To coax those cells to produce insulin to finally beat the disease.

“In the future, the field of regenerative medicine combined with tissue engineering has the potential to revolutionize current medical treatments,” says the chemical engineering doctoral student.

Undergraduate student, Geological Engineering Neil de Laplante

Neil de Laplante

Undergraduate student, Geological Engineering

“As a kid my favourite toy was the globe,” says geological engineering student Neil de Laplante. “I’ve always been drawn to the empty places on the map.”

Neil followed that pull to the edge of the Sahara, where he spent three months scouting for oil in the spring of 2006. It was a co-op work term with the Ottawa-based Sander Geophysics Limited (SGL), a company that conducts surveys for petroleum and mineral exploration using airplanes and helicopters. 

Alexander Wong

Alexander Wong

Graduate PhD Systems Design

As the adage goes "a picture is worth a thousand words." And no one knows that better than Alexander Wong, the university's Alumni Gold Medal winner for the year's top PhD graduate.

Professor John McPhee

John McPhee

Professor, Systems Design Engineering

What are the best new drivers for the 2012 golf season?

The best hybrids? Irons? Wedges? Putters? John McPhee, systems design engineering professor, can tell you.

Photo of Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson

Associate Director of First-Year Engineering

Contact information

Location: E2 1778A
Email: mary.robinson@uwaterloo.ca

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I work closely with the Administrative Co-ordinator, Associate Director, and Director of First-Year Engineering. In this role, I am involved in:

José Imbert

Graduate student, Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering

With gas prices spiking and the eco-movement hitting the pavement faster than you can say, “hybrid SUV,” it’s no wonder auto manufacturers are looking for new ways to lighten the weight of their vehicles.

It’s also little wonder that researchers around the world, including José Imbert, a Waterloo mechanical and mechatronics engineering lecturer and doctoral candidate, are dreaming up new ways to make it happen.

Undergraduate student, Systems Design Engineering Catherine Denis

Catherine Denis

Undergraduate student, Systems Design Engineering

They say a scholarship can take you places. For Catherine Denis, a scholarship took her to another continent.

Winning the inaugural Engineers Without Borders scholarship sponsored by the Professional Engineers of Ontario allowed Catherine to spend the summer of 2006 in Mali on an EWB internship.

Catherine worked with the Micronutrient Initiative, testing different ways of fortifying flour with a vitamin and mineral powder to identify which one would work best in Mali.

Keith Hipel

Professor, Systems Design Engineering

Keith Hipel has some simple words of advice for anyone pursuing an education or career: always surround yourself with good people.

Vanessa Bohns

Professor, Management Sciences

Vanessa Bohns was attracted to Waterloo Engineering by its unique management sciences department.          
“I thought it was amazing that there was a department in engineering that is so interdisciplinary and connected to the people-side of getting out your ideas,” says the new management sciences professor.

Photo of Sandor Weinacht

Sandor Weinacht

Alumni Mentor Co-ordinator

Contact information

Email: sandor.weinacht@uwaterloo.ca

Graduate student Prem Gururajan

Prem Gururajan

Graduate student, CBET

Prem Gururajan wants to put his company’s cameras above every blackjack table in the world.

Prem Gururajan wants to put his company’s cameras above every blackjack table in the world.Of course, there are cameras there already: casinos have been using “eye in the sky” systems to record table play for decades. But Prem’s company, Tangam Gaming, goes a crucial step further: its software analyzes data in real time. Tangam’s system sends out instant alerts on errors and cheats, issues reports on dealer activity, and calculates player skill levels and strategies.

Undergraduate student, Environmental Engineering Kyle Murray

Kyle Murray

Undergraduate student, Environmental Engineering

That first co-op job can be a doozy. When Kyle Murray landed his at BHP Billiton Diamonds, he had to leave his cozy Waterloo life and head north – almost 5000 kilometres north, to the EKATI diamond mine.Kyle spent his winter on the isolated tundra, 300 km northeast of Yellowknife, working in EKATI’s environment department. He assisted with a variety of field, lab, and office activities, such as extracting water samples and documenting spills.

Prof. Marc Aucoin

Marc Aucoin

Academic Director, WatPD Engineering

Marc Aucoin is standing at an exciting crossroad, a place where chemical engineering and virology intersect.

The Waterloo chemical engineering professor’s interest in biology is specific to viruses because of their ability to take over the control of cells. He believes chemical engineers, with their background in design and process, are well suited to study viruses and their potential uses. Viruses and virus-like products, says Marc, often need to be mass-produced for use in vaccines.

Lin Tan

Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Google the words “program comments” and a paper written by Lin Tan appears first on the list of hits. It even beats out a “yourdictionary.com” definition.

Her ranking is a testament to the new electrical and computer engineering professor’s expertise. Program comments are written in natural language and used by programmers to explain what they’re trying to accomplish. Tan’s research looks at finding ways to use those comments to detect software bugs and make software more reliable.

Nancy Fritsch

Student Services Advisor

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Students have access to a wide variety of services here at UWaterloo which help to provide a high quality undergraduate student experience. I’m here to offer advice and direction for undergraduate-related questions in the Faculty of Engineering.

Graduate student Jennifer Bauman

Jennifer Bauman

Graduate student, Electrical Engineering

Jennifer Bauman believes that fuel-cell vehicles could be the cars of the future – but only if they can be made affordable.

Jennifer has a long history of work with fuel cells at Waterloo, first as a member of the Alternative Fuels Team and then as a doctoral candidate in electrical engineering. But she can sum up her years of work in one sentence: “I’m trying to make fuel-cell cars cheaper.”

Undergraduate student, Mechanical Engineering James Forbes

James Forbes

Undergraduate student, Mechanical Engineering

For some, a good design blossoms early.

“The day I turned 14,” mechanical engineering student James Forbes remembers, “my dad told me to go get a SIN card and a part-time job.” He spent his teenage years in a bicycle shop, taking apart hydraulic suspensions, balancing wheels, and repairing welds. “That’s what tied me into engineering, especially mechanical: the elegance of a good design.”

Alumnus and Graduate student Matt Rendall

Matt Rendall

Alumnus, Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering and Graduate student, CBET

Many students dream of hopping a plane to backpack across Europe or relax on an exotic beach. Not Matt Rendall, a Waterloo mechanical and mechatronics engineering grad now an MBET student who packed his bags this summer and traveled to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Frank Gu

Professor, Chemical Engineering

For Canadian soldiers fighting in hot, arid conditions, a case of severe dry eye can mean the difference between life and death.

That’s why Frank Gu is working with Waterloo’s School of Optometry to develop new eye drops using non-irritating nanoparticles. Unlike today’s drops, Gu’s would be used only once a day.

Photo of Christine Moresoli

Christine Moresoli

Associate Dean, Co-operative Education and Professional Affairs

Contact information

Location: E6 4010
Email: engadcepa@uwaterloo.ca

Graduate student Mahsa Tavassoli

Mahsa Tavassoli

Graduate student, Management Sciences

Grand River Hospital has a problem with pumps. Mahsa Tavassoli is trying to help the hospital solve it.

At $5,000 a piece, IV diffusion pumps are too expensive for each ward to have a few sitting in a storeroom. But a floating inventory system has drawbacks, too: when a patient needs a pump, it is sometimes a scramble to find one. Staff try to avoid this by tucking pumps away – a solution that actually makes the problem worse.

Undergraduate student, Systems Design Engineering Kayan Ma

Kayan Ma

Undergraduate student, Systems Design Engineering

When she was still an undergraduate, Kayan Ma — people call her Kayley — used a Hollywood-style motion-capture system to create virtual humans that can interact with simulated environments in real time. Her work could transform everything from assembly line design to telemedicine.

On her co-op terms at the National Research Council’s Virtual Environment Technologies Centre, and later as a leader of a fourth-year design team, Kayley worked with a multi-camera, large-volume motion-capture system, familiar to many as the system that animated Gollum and King Kong.

Alumna Erin Bourke-Dunphy

Erin Bourke-Dunphy

Alumna, Electrical Engineering (’98)

You would think as a manager at Microsoft Corp. that Erin Bourke-Dunphy would have more than enough to keep her busy.

But the busy Waterloo electrical engineering graduate makes the time to work towards increasing the number of women entering engineering. Erin mentors young women, helped establish a scholarship for women choosing academic careers in math and engineering, and remains connected with Waterloo Engineering through her work with the faculty’s Women in Engineering committee.

Professor Catherine Burns

Catherine Burns

Systems Design Engineering Professor

When patients go to Credit Valley Hospital complaining of sore joints, there’s a chance their care will involve a rheumatology tool developed by Catherine Burns.

The systems design engineering professor, along with doctoral candidate Tom Robinson and three co-op students, began working on the software tool in May 2009. Its purpose is to eliminate extra paperwork so rheumatologists can spend their time treating arthritis patients. The tool also helps track how patients respond to treatment.

Jimmy Chu

Scheduling and First-Year Engineering Assistant

Contact information

Location: E2 1778F
Email: hc2chu@uwaterloo.ca

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Mojgan Daneshmand

Graduate student, Electrical Engineering

Mojgan Daneshmand wants to make switches smaller. A lot smaller.

“For a multifunctional system, you need so many switches,” she explains. “Size becomes an issue.” It’s a particular problem in portable devices, like cell phones, or in ones where weight is critical, like orbiting satellites, which are Mojgan’s particular interest.

Undergraduate student, Computer Engineering Sonya Konzak

Sonya Konzak

Undergraduate student, Computer Engineering

Most of the children in rural Ghana don’t speak much English. One phrase they do know: digital divide. Undergraduate computer engineering student Sonya Konzak spent four months there in the summer of 2004, helping to bridge that gap.At home in Waterloo, Sonya served as president of the University of Waterloo chapter of Engineers Without Borders, an international development organization that promotes human development through access to technology. Every year, EWB sends student volunteers on internships abroad.

Alumnus Dan Donovan

Dan Donovan

Alumnus, Computer Engineering (‘02) & MBET (‘07)

Dan Donovan graduated from Waterloo with a BASc in computer engineering and landed a job as a machine control and robotics specialist. He liked it – but something else was at the back of his mind.

“Starting a company really appealed to me. And I thought I should do it now, before children and a mortgage came along.”

Dongqing Li

Dongqing Li

Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering Professor

The next time you offer an arm to give vials of blood for tests, think about Dongqing Li, a mechanical and mechatronics engineering professor.

Li develops various microfluidic devices, one of which requires only a tiny sample of blood to get results. How tiny? “Instead of millilitres, we’re using nanolitres,” he says.

Administrative officer Liz Bevan

Liz Bevan

Administrative officer, chemical engineering

Looking to boost your chance of success as a student, faculty member or visitor in Waterloo’s chemical engineering department? Stop by Liz Bevan’s desk because she has the key. Literally.

Liz, the department’s administrative officer, not only supervises staff, does the  financial reporting, and answers students’ questions, she also greets long-term visitors and new graduate students – and gives them their keys to labs and offices to get them settled.

“Part of my role is to welcome everyone,” she says. “It’s really a lot of fun.”

Undergraduate student, Chemical Engineering Mailiis Metsis

Mailiis Metsis

Undergraduate student, Chemical Engineering

Mailiis Metsis is a chemical engineering student who’s just finished up a couple of co-op terms in the research and development laboratory of a surprising company: Estée Lauder.

When bench chemists create new formulas for, say, lipsticks, it’s up to chemical engineers like Mailiis to develop the manufacturing processes. What looks simple in a beaker may be difficult on the factory floor.

Alumna Toni Carlisle

Toni Carlisle

Alumna, Mechatronics Engineering (BASc ‘08)

“I think you need a good balance of social life and academics or work,” muses Toni Carlisle. “You need outlets for energy, ways to take a break, meet people or give back to the community.”

Toni pursued a number of activities during her time at Waterloo – the Women in Engineering Committee (WIE), the Varsity Nordic Ski Team and intramural soccer. Toni learned of soccer through friends and joined varsity sports and WIE during orientation week. She credits each activity with helping her to “develop skills like leadership, organization, planning and stress management.”

Fatma Gzara

Management Sciences Professor

Whenever Fatma Gzara passes a “no trucks permitted” road sign, her own wheels start to turn.

The management sciences professor knows the sign is intended to keep trucks carrying dangerous goods, also known as HazMats, off the route and to keep people living and working in the surrounding area, safe. But how will the trucking company respond to the request?

Civil and environmental engineering technologist Terry Ridgway

Terry Ridgway

Civil and environmental engineering technologist

Terry Ridgway, a technologist for Waterloo’s civil and environmental engineering department, is a “glass half full” kind of guy. He is proud of it too.

“I was born and raised on a farm in Saskatchewan. I learned you can’t let things get you down,” he says.

In charge of the hydrology lab, Terry runs the fluid mechanics and open channel hydraulics labs as well as teaching a short surveying course for students transferring into the department. Picking up accolades over the years, he’s also one of the 2008 winners of the Dean of Engineering Outstanding Staff Performance Award.

Professor Ada Barlatt

Ada Barlatt

Management Sciences Professor

Work anytime, anywhere. That’s the promise technology has brought to workers who want to trade in office cubicles for home offices.

But how do you ensure that employees receive valuable office time with coworkers when everyone telecommutes on different days? That’s the question management sciences professor Ada Barlatt is attempting to answer.

Alumna Cat Coode

Cat Coode

Alumna, Electrical Engineering (BASc ‘01)

“When I was little, there were commercials with video phones, and I thought they were the coolest thing ever,” says Cat Coode.  “I wanted to make them.  I have to say, I’m surprised by how close to my dream I ended up.”

After studying electrical engineering at Waterloo, Cat went to work at Research In Motion – RIM – the company that makes the popular BlackBerry.  A hand-held phone, e-mail and web-browsing device, the BlackBerry is the 21st-century equivalent of the cool video phones of the 1980s.

Boxin Zhao

Chemical Engineering Professor

Here’s a head-scratcher for you: What do geckos and Post-it notes have in common?

Stumped? Boxin Zhao, a chemical engineering professor, isn’t. For over five years he has been researching the amazing adhesive properties of lizards’ tiny footpads to find out exactly why geckos’ feet can stick to any surface – rough, smooth, dry and wet – and detach in milliseconds.

Armed with an understanding of the footpads’ physical and chemical nature, he’s now moving on to material design, aiming to engineer a new reversible and responsive adhesive.

Undergraduate Student, Civil Engineering Sarah Legg

Sarah Legg

Undergraduate Student, Civil Engineering

During a conversation with a friend a few years ago, Sarah Legg had a revelation. The tag on her clothes read “Made in Cambodia.” She ate food grown in the U.S. And the building materials she used in class? She questioned where they actually came from.

“Every action has an impact somewhere else. As engineers, we are working in fields that are connected through policy and materials,” the fourth-year civil engineering student understands now.

Professor Dana Kulic

Dana Kulic

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor

For Dana Kulić developing algorithms that teach robots how to imitate humans is no longer science fiction – it’s reality.

If the robot has the ability to understand and learn from observing human motion, it can be taught by simply demonstrating the task to be learned, even by users who are not trained in robotics or robot programming. By using Dana’s algorithms, robots would actually improve their performance throughout their lifespan while learning how to adapt to changes in their environment.

Alumna Claire Tomlin

Claire Tomlin

Alumna, Electrical Engineering (BASc ’92)

Claire Tomlin is officially a genius.

A 1992 Waterloo alumna from electrical engineering, Claire is a bright young electrical engineer, specializing in aviation, with faculty appointments at both Stanford and Berkeley and more than 120 papers to her name.

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