Posts Categorized: Community Spotlight

Community Spotlight: Victoria Vastis (MechE 2T3)

Victoria Vastis (left) and the finished cyber shredder. (Photo: Submitted)

After completing a four-month internship at Tesla, Victoria Vastis (MechE 2T3) found herself with some unexpected free time.

“I was meant to start another work placement, but it just didn’t feel like a good fit, I wasn’t getting the growth opportunities I was looking for,” says Vastis. “I ended up quitting after a couple of weeks and started thinking about how I wanted to spend the next four months.”

Vastis considered the areas she wanted to gain more experience in, like industrial and electronics design, and came up with a project that would combine her engineering skillset with her long held passion for music: building a guitar.

“I’ve been a musician since before I was an engineer, so it felt really natural to bring these two areas of my life together. I was starting to explore more punk and metal sounds in my music and I decided I wanted a guitar to fit the new genre I was creating in – that’s when the idea of the cyber shredder was born.”

As Vastis began envisioning the cyber shredder she knew she would have to get creative with the materials since she didn’t have experience with woodworking. Drawing on her experience at Tesla, Vastis decided on sheet metal to build the body of the guitar. Her internship experience also helped influence the design of the unique guitar – the cyber shredder took inspiration from Tesla’s distinct Cybertruck.

The design process started with Vastis putting what was in her head onto paper – lots of rough sketches and gathering her inspiration in one place. Next, she created CAD models of her design before creating a 3D-printed prototype.

Victoria went through a thorough design process to create the cyber shredder,  from rough sketches and a CAD model to a bristol board prototype. (Photo: Submitted)

“Everything looks perfect in a CAD file,” says Vasits, “but I knew I wanted to prepare a prototype before investing in all the metal pieces. By assembling the prototype I was able to see which parts were having trouble fitting together and also get the opportunity to interact with my design and make adjustments so the guitar would be comfortable to use.”

Once Vastis received the metal parts, she spent every spare moment outside of her internship at Lucid Motors working on assembling the guitar and developing a sound-reactive LED system. The final product is an impressive silver, angular guitar that draws a lot of attention.

“I really got to push myself when I was programming the LED strips. I created five different sound-reactive light modes and I’m really happy with how it all turned out. I was even able to get the guitar chrome plated!”

The cyber shredder has made the rounds on campus, being played by friends, former bandmates, and even turning up in Dean Christopher Yip’s office.

“This is my favourite part of product design and being an engineer; something I created is bringing a smile to someone’s face. It’s easy to get caught up in the technical aspects of engineering, but I like to focus on the human side,” says Vastis.

For other U of T Engineering students Vastis has a key piece of advice:

“Explore ways to learn outside of the classroom – join a design team, combine the engineering skills you want to develop with other passions, use the theory you’re learning to solve your own problems – the more you can tailor your learning to your interests the more opportunities you’ll find to grow. And don’t be afraid to ask for help! Upper year students and your professors are here for you, we have the same interests and will be excited to help you figure out a challenge.”

-Published November 22, 2022 by Lynsey Mellon

Community Spotlight: Melissa Ma, MechE 2T4

Melissa Ma at the SMASIS 2022 Conference.

Melissa Ma (MechE 2T4) makes a point of seeking out as many hands-on learning experiences as possible as she completes her Mechanical Engineering degree at the University of Toronto. Now in her third year, Melissa has discovered she is primarily interested in mechatronics and sustainable energy, is the Leader of the Braking System Team for the U of T Hyperloop Team and recently presented at her first academic conference.

“The best part of being an engineering student are all the opportunities to get involved with learning outside of the lecture hall,” says Ma. “I love being a part of a design team and my desire to expand my knowledge outside of the classroom is what led me to seek out a research position as an undergraduate student.”

After completing her first year, Melissa was able to find a summer research position in the Decisionics Lab led by Professor Fae Azhari (MIE). As a Summer Research Intern, she supported the work of PhD students who are investigating the use of sensors in prosthetic joints to help inform healthcare decisions.

“I’m very interested in smart materials and the Decisionics Lab is doing fascinating work in the area of composite sensors,” says Ma. “I worked closely with Professor Azhari and Amin Jamshidi (MIE PhD Candidate) on this research project and even presented our preliminary findings at the UnERD (Undergraduate Engineering Research Day) in 2021. It was a great experience and I won the Top Researcher Award, and Best Podium Presentation in the Materials category, and Best Podium overall.”

Melissa continued working with the Decisionics Lab into her second year and saw the project evolve into a research paper that was accepted for publication in Materials Letters and for presentation at the recent SMASIS (Smart Materials, Adaptive Structures, and Intelligent Systems) conference.

“The lab team asked me if I would be interested in attending the conference to present our research and even though I felt a little unsure I was experienced enough to take this on, I knew I had to take advantage of the opportunity,” says Ma.

Melissa and the other event volunteers and PhD student presenters.

The conference took place over three days and featured talks from top researchers, networking events and the opportunity to explore the latest innovations in the field of smart materials. Melissa was also involved as volunteer and helped to organize student events at the conference.

“My first conference experience was great! It was really inspiring to see experts from the field come together in one place and share their research,” says Ma. “I was a little nervous when it was my turn to present but I was able to share our research and represent our lab well. It was really cool to present to an audience of people who were interested in the same research areas as me and I loved hearing all the discussions and being able to network with researchers from around North America.”

“I really encourage other undergraduate students who are participating in research to look for these opportunities. If you get a chance to attend a conference or be involved with a publication, go for it! You will gain so much from the experience. I’ve developed my presentation skills, networked with professionals from industry and connected with a community of researchers in my field.”

-Published October 17, 2022 by Lynsey Mellon

Community Spotlight: Michael Mohan (PhD Candidate)

Michael Mohan (MIE) is a PhD candidate supervised by Professor Edmond Young (MIE) in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. He joined the Department in September 2017 to begin a Master’s degree and quickly became inspired to continue his graduate studies in order to pursue cancer research.

Michael’s current research focuses on recapitulating key features of the pancreatic cancer tumor microenvironment using microfluidic technology. He hopes that this technology can be used to better understand characteristics that influence treatment resistance in pancreatic tumors.

Outside of his PhD studies, Michael is a steelpan musician performing with many bands in and around Toronto and recently performed at the Pan Alive and Grande Parade events as a part of the Toronto Caribana festival.

“After completing my undergraduate degree at University of Guelph, I was excited to return to Trinidad and finally obtain a steelpan of my own,” says Michael. “The steelpan is Trinidad’s national instrument and it served as a connection to my culture when I returned to Toronto to begin my graduate studies.”

When Michael first arrived in Toronto, he struggled to find community and feel like he belonged. It felt challenging at times to make connections and fit into a new culture. It was only when he connected with a Toronto-based steelpan tuner in October 2019, Michael discovered the vast network of Caribbean people and musicians here in Toronto.

“I did some research to find a professional tuner in Toronto and when I took my instrument in, I asked if he knew of steelpan groups that needed more players, that’s how I connected with a group that played on Tuesday evenings,” says Michael. “Suddenly I had a whole community of people from my culture that shared my passion for the steelpan.”

Through this group of steelpan musicians Michael became a member of the Afropan Steelband and had the opportunity to perform at the Caribana Festival in July 2022.

“It was such an amazing experience to perform at Caribana,” says Michael. “We rehearsed every evening throughout the summer and it was truly an honour to be able to share our culture and music with Torontonians. I felt like I had been transported back to Trinidad! It was a fantastic celebration of Caribbean culture.”

As we welcome new and returning students to campus this fall Michael hopes others can learn from his experience.

“It can be overwhelming starting a new program in a new city and it’s really easy to feel isolated. The best advice I can give to others who might be feeling this way is to be courageous – reach out to others and seek connections,” says Michael. “You can start with your lab mates or classmates, they will have similar experiences as you and may even be feeling the same way. There are so many ways to build community, start with following your interests and see what you find.”

-Published August 22, 2022 by Lynsey Mellon,

Community Spotlight: Newsha Haghgoo (CivE 2T0, MEng Candidate)

Photo of Newsha Haghgoo in a lecture hall.

Newsha Haghgoo is an MEng candidate in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.

Newsha Haghgoo (CivE 2T0, MEng Candidate) recently attended the International Astronautical Congress (IAC), the world’s largest gathering for the space community, where she met her favourite astronaut, Christina Koch.

Newsha joined MIE in January 2021 to begin the MEng program where she is taking courses like systems engineering to further explore her areas of interest; making spaceflight safe for women and the use of Cube Satellites to study the relationship between climate change and the earth’s oceanic activities.

“I’ve always been interested in space, and I started exploring ways to get involved in that community outside of my studies. By talking to others who shared the same interests I was introduced to the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC),” said Newsha.

The SGAC is a non-profit organization that works to pair students with an interest in space with research opportunities. Newsha began attending SGAC networking events where she was able to meet others to form project teams. One of her current projects with SGAC is titled Safe Spaceflight for Women-Examining the Data Gap and Improving Design Considerations.

“We are at the beginning of making spaceflight more inclusive, but with only 11% of astronauts being women there is a huge data gap on the impact of spaceflight on women,” said Newsha. “I recently presented my project team’s research on safety for women in space at the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety (IAASS) conference and won the Special Recognition Award. The selection committee felt that this was a particularly important and timely research topic.”

Newsha’s next conference presentation will be in Paris at the 12th European CubeSat Symposium which is being held at École Polytechnique University. Newsha and her team have been working on designing a multispectral and multi-temporal Cube Satellites system that will analyze the relationship between climate change and oceanic activities. The satellites feature sensors that can take measurements like surface water temperature, salinity and sea level to gather data that may help with disaster forecasting.

“Space tech is not only used for outer space exploration purposes; it has an important role in understanding our planet Earth as well,” said Newsha. “These Cube Satellites could help us better understand what is going on in our oceans and how that activity impacts climate change. Hopefully, this information will help us predict disasters like flooding and prevent a lot of destruction and loss of life.”

The opportunity to travel and present the projects she has been working on this fall has been very memorable for Newsha. Having the chance to connect with others in the space community and meet her favourite astronauts is a direct result of the effort she put into expanding her community at U of T and beyond.

“I really encourage students to go to as many events that are related to your interests as possible. Put yourself out there and network, that’s how you’ll build a supportive community. You never know what type of opportunities will come from exploring your interests.”

-Published November 8, 2021 by Lynsey Mellon,

Community Spotlight: MIE U of T Hyperloop Team Executives

The University of Toronto Hyperloop Team (UTHT) brings together students from many disciplines including engineering, architecture and business.

The University of Toronto Hyperloop Team (UTHT) is one of the most diverse student clubs on campus and includes students from across engineering as well as those who are studying business or architecture. The UTHT Executive Committee includes MIE students Phil Cuvin (MechE, Structures Co-Lead,), Mohammad Diab (MechE, Fusion 360 Integrations Lead), Cecilia Rozario (IndE, Business Development Director) and Melissa Ma (MechE, Braking Lead) who took some time to share what makes UTHT so unique and what the club is hoping to achieve over the course of the next year.

What drew you to UTHT and made you want to join?

Mohammad: Initially it was a combination of the hype of first year engineering and looking at design teams and the work they do at the career fair. Ultimately though, it was a friend of mine at UTHT who motivated me to join, he would always talk about the cool stuff they were working on and that inspired me to get involved.

Melissa: I saw the recruitment posting for UTHT the summer before first year. As someone who likes doing hands-on things, I knew that I wanted to join a design team to provide me with the opportunities to learn practical skills and work on cool projects outside of class.

What initially drew me to Hyperloop was the idea of engineering an innovative and sustainable train-like pod that could propel passengers from Toronto to Montreal through vacuum tubes in under an hour! This cutting-edge concept really spiked my interest and I applied to the team right away.

Phil: For me, it was that UTHT is doing something very different than traditional design teams that are focused on a single vehicle or particular product. UTHT isn’t just a design team – we’re designing both the pod and the system for it to work on as well as developing a business plan and working towards making hyperloop technology a reality.

What is UTHT looking forward to achieving this year now that we’re back on campus?

Phil: The team has a number of goals for the year. First, we want to finish up Pod 1, this is the first pod created at U of T. Next, we’ll start working on the design and manufacturing of Pod 2, which will be powered by magnetic levitation. Ours will be the first design team at U of T to explore this cutting-edge technology.

We’re also planning on working with other design teams and professional groups to recruit to members and get the wider community excited about hyperloop technology. Keep a look out for workshop and other events hosted by UTHT!

UTHT features students from many different disciplines. What kind of roles are available on the team and how is the team structured?

Phil: One of the highlights of UTHT is working with students from other disciplines. Our team draws on every skillset in engineering and beyond to achieve our goals. With such a diverse group we have worked hard to develop a positive team culture and make use of everyone’s skills. We also have a number of sub-teams within UTHT that allow for students to focus on their strengths and interests while moving towards our shared goals.

Melissa: UTHT really does have a role for everyone! When I joined, I was nervous about my lack of engineering knowledge and experience as a first-year student. However, the braking sub-team had great upper-year leaders that taught me skills such as Computer-Aided Design, component selection, and manufacturing— all of which I never would have imagined learning so early on. UTHT is a great place to grow along with students from all disciplines and backgrounds.

Do you have any tips for students who are concerned about balancing clubs activities with their studies?

Mohammad: The most important thing to keep in mind when considering joining design teams is that everyone in that team is a student just like you, they have their own lectures to attend, assignments to do, and midterms to study for. We won’t put too much on your plate! If you can’t make it to a meeting, for example, just let it us know. We understand because we’re all in the same boat.

As for tips to help balance clubs and studies, I would say join clubs with your friends instead of joining alone, and if you can’t get a friend to join a team you like that’s okay! Because you can always make more friends in those design teams. Get out of your comfort zone and we’ll be there to support you!

Phil: I think it’s helpful to think about how your involvement in clubs directly benefits your learning as an engineer in class. Don’t think of time spent on clubs as taking away from your studies, instead realize that you are gaining hands-on experience solving real engineering challenges. You get to put what you learned in class to use in clubs and in my experience, it helps to reinforce the engineering concepts you’re studying.

UTHT is also a very supportive and flexible team. We can adjust your role or involvement to meet your individual skill level and goals, we want to encourage lower-year students to get involved and bring their fresh perspective, so you don’t have to wait until you think you have enough experience to join, there is a way for everyone to get involved.

Learn more about UTHT and keep up with their activities by following the group on Facebook and Instagram.

-Published October 12, 2021 by Lynsey Mellon,

Community Spotlight: Tanishq Singh (IndE 2T1+PEY) and Minnie Menezes (MechE 2T2)

As we prepare for the start of a new academic year we wanted to introduce you to Tanishq Singh (IndE 2T1+PEY) and Minnie Menezes (MechE 2T2), the Indy Club and Mech Club Chairs for 2021-2022.

We’ll be back on campus in a few weeks to start the new academic term. How’s your summer been?

Tanishq: I returned to Deloitte this summer for my second term with them of my four PEY internship placements. I’ve been doing systems engineering consulting and have spent the summer working on three separate client projects. I’ve had the opportunity to work as both a full-stack developer and a functional consulting analyst at the firm. I’ve also spent a lot of time getting ready for the new school year and making plans to set Indy Club up for success.

Minnie: I’ve spent this summer as a research student in the McGuigan Lab in the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry which focuses on tissue architecture, patterning and microenvironment design. I plan to go to grad school after completing fourth year and set my schedule up so I can gain some research experience in the summers. It’s my first time doing research and it’s been awesome to get a feel for what it’s like to be part of a lab team.

Tell us a little about how you became a student leader.

Minnie: I first got involved in second year. I spent first year managing the transition to university and building a group of supportive friends. During first year, I helped my friends find clubs they were interested in and solved problems together and that inspired me to put my energy into helping the wider Mech community. I decided to run for second year rep and really enjoyed that experience so I did the same for third year. While we were completely online, I realised I had lots of ideas on how I could help develop Mech Club so I decided to run for Chair.

Tanishq: I made it a goal in my first year to meet as many other first year Indy students as possible. I was active in different leadership positions in my high school and decided to run for first year class rep. I had a great experience and loved knowing I could make a positive impact so I stuck with it. I’ve also served as Social Director and Vice Chair.

What plans do you have for the upcoming year as Mech/Indy Club Chairs?

Minnie: After spending so much of the last year and a half online I can see how important it is to have good communication to build strong connections. I want to focus on building open lines of communication between the Executive Committee and student reps and also between the students and their reps so Mech Club can serve them best. I’m looking forward to working with the team to make Mech Club approachable – I want our undergrads to know they are part of a friendly and open community.

Tanishq: I really want to focus on developing our mentorship program. I had two mentors in first year who helped me make connections and find my place in the community. I want develop training that will help build meaningful relationships between first and upper year students. I also want to focus on the international student community. We’ve added an International Relations Director to our team as we realized there can be circumstances that are unique to international students where they may need additional support.

What advice do you have for first year students or those who may be joining us on campus for the first time?

Tanishq: The number one thing is don’t hesitate to reach out when you need help. It’s okay to be stressed, it’s okay to struggle, you might feel like you’re the only person going through it but that’s not the case.

Minnie: Exactly – reach out if you need help. There are so many resources out there and people to help you find them if you’re not sure where to start. You can go to the Undergrad Office, the First Year Office, your peers – especially those of us in Mech/Indy Club – or even your professors. Everyone wants you to succeed and people are often way more willing to help than you might expect. Start that conversation and see where it takes you. Don’t hold in your questions, worries, or experiences, share them with those around you and you’ll be surprised what can come from that.

Tanishq: And attend events! Even if it’s a little outside of your comfort zone, push yourself and get involved. You’ll gain new skills, friendships and opportunities by attending events both within MIE and the wider Skule community. Make the most of your time here!

You can reach out to Tanishq and Minnie on LinkedIn to learn more about Indy & Mech Club or the MIE community. Don’t forget to follow @indyclubuoft and @mechclub on Instagram to stay up to date.

-Published August 31, 2021 by Lynsey Mellon,

Community Spotlight: Maeesha Biswas (IndE 2T1+1+PEY)















Maeesha Biswas (IndE 2T1+1+PEY) discovered early on that she thrives on community and creativity. While the last year and a half has been challenging, the pandemic didn’t slow her down on seeking out opportunities to explore new projects and connect with those around her.

Currently, Maeesha is working as a software engineer for her PEY placement at PocketHealth, a U of T alumni-founded start-up that enables medical image sharing between patients and providers.

“I’ve been enjoying my time at PocketHealth, their mission really resonates with me. I’ve been in the position as a patient where it was difficult to access my own medical records and I am happy to be a part of the solution,” said Maeesha, “I like knowing I’m contributing to patients being able to advocate for their own health.”

Before starting her PEY in May 2021, Maeesha had a busy third year. While there was plenty of uncertainty to deal with as well as the challenges of adapting to online learning, Maeesha also accomplished some amazing things with her peers including organizing an undergraduate research conference, starting a podcast, presenting at an international conference and winning a student video contest.

“It’s been challenging to be apart from our peers and professors, and I really made it a goal of mine to see where we could foster community in this virtual reality,” she explained, “working with other students to bring UnERD (Undergraduate Engineering Research Day) online was a great experience and gave us a space to grow the undergrad research community.”

It was on the UnERD Organizing Committee that Maeesha met Jennifer Wang (ChemE 2T1+PEY) who she launched the 1% Inspiration podcast with.

“During the stay at home order in Ontario Jennifer brought up how we are missing the organic on-campus interactions we had with our peers. Without those opportunities, we could see students losing out on access to research relationships and resources. We started brainstorming ways we could help bridge that gap and came up with the 1% Inspiration podcast,” Maeesha said, “Our goal was to create a podcast that would serve as almost a surrogate mentor and permanent knowledge repository for undergraduate students.”

On the 1% Inspiration podcast Maeesha and Jennifer interview individuals within the research community and learn about the untold and overlooked stories behind their success. A few recent guests include 2020’s youngest U of T grad, Maddy Zhang, former EngSoc president Laura Berneaga and U of T Engineering’s Dr. Mikhail Burke. With six episodes so far, the podcast is just getting started and Maeesha already has great ideas for where it could go.

“We were fortunate to receive funding from the Hart House Good Ideas Fund to help get the equipment we needed to launch the podcast. With funding from the U of T Global COVID 19 Student Engagement Award we hope to move beyond a podcast and develop a toolkit full of resources for students to achieve their own successes.”

Community and collaboration are behind many of Maeesha’s own successes. As part of a team of IndE students Maeesha had the opportunity to present at an international conference where the clinical deterioration solution they designed, Nura: A Postpartum Mental Health Tool, won the Patient Safety Design Competition. Together with EngSci student Yue (Kathy) Zhuang (Machine Intelligence 2T2+PEY), Maeesha created a video highlighting the ways in which U of T Engineering students were adapting to the virtual world and won first place in the American Society of Engineering Education Student Video Contest.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this year reflecting on where I am and how I got here. I’ve been writing letters and reaching out to people who have had an impact on my journey. It’s really cool to think about how things I learned from my music teacher in elementary school played a part in my engineering education,” Maeesha said. “We are supported by so many individuals in our lives and I think it’s important to recognize both the big and small ways we are impacted by our relationships. Find your community, give back to your community, and you will find your own version of success.”

If you’d like to connect with Maeesha to learn more about her projects or experiences, you can reach out to her on LinkedIn.

-Published July 20, 2021 by Lynsey Mellon,

Community Spotlight: Seif Elashry (IndE 1T9+PEY)

Seif Elashry at the Our Winning Shot vaccine clinic at Scotiabank Arena on June 27th, 2021.

On Sunday, June 27th, 2021 the city of Toronto administered 26,771 vaccines, breaking the North American record for the most COVID-19 vaccines administrated in one day at a single clinic. IndE alumn, Seif Elashry (IndE 1T9+PEY), an Improvement Analyst at Michael Garron Hospital, was part of the team that made this record-breaking clinic possible.

Seif joined the team at Michael Garron Hospital in September 2020. In his role he aims to help the hospital run as efficiently as possible from both a patient safety and care perspective. This involves identifying where improvements can be made and developing quality improvement plans to be put into action.

“I originally hoped to pursue a master’s degree in healthcare engineering after graduating, but knowing that in-person learning may not have been possible due to the pandemic I opted to gain some work experience instead,” Elashry explained. “Professor Michael Carter (MIE) really inspired me to pursue a career in healthcare after I spent the summer working on a project with him. I saw this position at Michael Garron Hospital where I would be able to put to use everything I learned in my undergrad and it all fell into place.”

As vaccines began to be distributed in Canada in December 2020, Seif reached out to his director to express his interest in assisting with the roll-out. He has been a part of the huge endeavor of getting vaccines into arms since mid-December.

Michael Garron Hospital first hit a vaccination milestone on May 16 when 10,471 vaccines were administered in a single day at the Thorncliffe Park Community Hub clinic which broke the Canadian record. As vaccine supply continues to increase, the plan to host another record-breaking clinic began to form.

In less than two weeks the City of Toronto, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), University Health Network and Michael Garron Hospital planned a mass vaccination clinic to take place at ScotiaBank Arena with the goal of vaccinating 25,000 people.

“We had 10 days to organize the clinic. While in many ways it was a natural progression from what we were already running at Thorncliffe Park, there were still a number of logistics to account for,” said Elashry, “My role mainly involved looking at the plans from a flow perspective and looking out for any red flags. I also worked with other analysts and another hospital to build a booking system that would automatically send out confirmations to those who registered.”

On the day of the clinic it was all-hands-on-deck as volunteers, vaccinators and support staff found their rhythm. Despite a slow start and some initial challenges in the process, the team were able to administer an average of 1,000 shots every 30 minutes and shatter the North American record. Elashry himself was pulling numbers from the COVAX system and watching the vaccination count go higher and higher throughout the day.

“It was truly an amazing day to be a part of. I really feel as though I have found my niche in healthcare engineering and at Michael Garron Hospital. I feel so inspired to continue on this path and help identify gaps in our system and bring greater equity, inclusivity and process improvements to the Canadian healthcare system.”

We want to get to know you! Do you have a story to share with the MIE community? Reach out to to be featured in the Community Spotlight.

-Published June 29, 2021 by Lynsey Mellon,

Community Spotlight: Max Glidden (MechE 2T0+PEY)

Max Gliddens (MechE 2T0+PEY) pathway to convocation this June wasn’t as straightforward as he imagined it would be when he first arrived at U of T in the Fall of 2015. As he moves on from MIE and looks forward to beginning a career in the aerospace industry he can safely say that while things don’t always go according to plan it doesn’t mean your goals can’t be achieved.

Max started his first year at U of T as an EngSci student and while there were lots of opportunities to get involved while living on campus, he found his first year to be really difficult academically. After taking a short break, he opted to transfer to mechanical engineering and completed his first year as a part-time student. It was starting over in a new program with new peers that inspired Max to get involved as a student leader.

“It was a bit of a change when I first started with MIE, the friends I made previously were mostly in EngSci and a year ahead of me. I remembered how important the student leaders had been in building connections in my first year and opted to run for Second Year Class Rep to help get to know my new classmates,” Max recalled, “I’ve been involved in student government ever since.”

During his time at MIE, Max has remained focused on building connections and trying to enhance the experience his peers have both within the department and the wider Skule community.

“One of the most memorable things I’ve done over the last 6 years was help to run the student pub. I really focused on making the space more inclusive so it could appeal to a wider range of students,” Max said, “Outside of that, I also developed as a leader and learned valuable project management skills that helped me succeed during my PEY placement.”

Engaging with and advocating for his peers has been a big part of Max’s experience at MIE. He has served as a Class Rep and Vice-Chair of the Mech Club, acted as a Frosh leader and has capped off his final year as the Mech Club Chair.

“It was challenging to move all of our activities online, but I’m really proud of the events that we organized and the support we could provide Mech students throughout the pandemic,” he said.

Now that Max has wrapped up his degree he’s been busy with interviews to launch his career in the aerospace industry. Looking back on his journey to graduation Max has two key pieces of advice for current and future engineering students:

“Find something you love and make time for it every week. It doesn’t have to be related to academics, for me it was climbing, but it gives you an opportunity to clear your mind and de-stress. Most importantly, remember your education is not a race and your path can look different from someone else’s. When things don’t go how you planned, that’s okay. Be kind to yourself and find a new way forward,” he says, “At the end of they day you’re doing this for you, so take your time and make the most of the experience.”

We want to get to know you! Do you have a story to share with the MIE community? Reach out to to be featured in the Community Spotlight.

-Published June 29, 2021 by Lynsey Mellon,

Community Spotlight: Kimberly Lai (MASc Candidate, EngSci 1T9+PEY)

Kimberly Lai (MASc Candidate, EngSci 1T9+PEY) didn’t originally plan on pursuing a Master’s degree after graduating last year but with COVID-19 limiting job prospects in the aerospace industry and some encouragement from Professor Alison Olechowski, she is now working towards her graduate degree and completing research she is truly passionate about.

Kimberly’s research is in the relatively new field of model-based systems engineering (MBSE). She first discovered her interest in this area during her PEY placement with Safran Landing Systems. Kimberly is now advancing her MBSE research with Safran as her industry partner.

“When I first started my PEY placement I wasn’t familiar with MBSE. I spent a lot of time getting up to speed to succeed at my job. I essentially completed a crash course on MBSE in the first couple of months, I spent a lot of time doing readings, watching videos and building up my knowledge,” said Kimberly.

Her work at Safran provided inspiration for her undergraduate thesis which recently won the Best Student Paper Award from the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE). The paper explored how safety analysis could be integrated into model-based systems engineering for aircraft systems and was very well-received by Safran which prompted discussions for further work.

“It was during my undergraduate thesis that I first connected with Professor Olechowski and the Ready Lab. I ended up helping out on a summer project and learned about the opportunity to complete a research project with an industry partner,” Kimberly explained, “It was the perfect opportunity to continue working on something I’m really passionate about while addressing industry needs.”

Kimberly has plenty of good advice for fellow engineering students to make the most of their time at U of T and explore their interest in research. As an undergrad she was very involved with the Engineering Athletics Association, was a member of the Varsity tennis team, part of the Varsity board, an executive director of the Blues Engineering Organization and the director of the last in-person grad ball. She was also a recipient of the U of T Student Leadership Award in recognition of her contributions.

“I definitely recommend students get involved, not only will you get more out of your university experience, you will also learn a lot of transferable skills such as leadership, communication, and time management. These are all skills that help me stay on top of my research and present my work to stakeholders.”

If you’re interested in exploring research during your undergrad Kimberly recommends exploring the different lab group websites or faculty bios to find the research areas you are interested in and then reaching out to both the professor and graduate students in the lab.

“As graduate students we can try reply to your email a little quicker and may be able to give some advice about what type of research opportunities might be coming up,” Kimberly explained, “Most importantly, pursue something you are excited about. Research projects take a lot of time and effort – you need to enjoy doing it!”

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-Published June 8, 2021 by Lynsey Mellon,

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