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.

Morita’s research goals integrate different pieces of information and create the tools that can influence the level of trust within a workplace team. He is specifically looking at work flow among pediatric workers in intensive care units. His goal is to determine what information needs to be conveyed through a tablet device that will allow a physician working remotely to confidently diagnose a patient and prescribe a course of action.

“Plinio’s work can make a difference to Canada and the world,” says Catherine Burns, professor of systems design engineering and Morita’s graduate supervisor.

Morita earned his bachelor of engineering degree in electrical engineering and a master of science degree in Biomedical Engineering/Clinical Engineering from Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP) in Brazil. He says his decision to come to Waterloo in 2009 for his PhD was an easy choice.

“The Human Factors Engineering Research Group at the University of Waterloo is extremely strong and known in the research community,” he says.  “A common colleague connected me with Professor Burns and I started my academic journey at Waterloo.”

So far, his academic journey has included going above and beyond working on his doctoral degree.

Since early 2010, he has worked part-time as lab manager providing support to the Advanced Interface Design Lab, one of four labs in the Human Factors Research Group. He is a graduate instructional developer in the Centre for Teaching Excellence where he “TAs the TAs”. He is president of the Systems Design Engineering Graduate Student Association, vice president of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Student Chapter at the university, and a member of the Graduate Student Planning Committee or Vision 2015 in the Faculty of Engineering.

At the end of his email signature Morita uses the following quote: “The only impossible things are the ones that we haven’t tried hard enough,” which seems to sum up what he’s all about.

“It has always been a great fit to my personality and the way I deal with challenges,” he says. “It is a reminder that every challenge in your life is attainable and that with enough effort and passion for what you are doing, there are no limits to how far you can go.”