MIE Grads to Watch 2022

With the University’s Convocation ceremony on June 16, 2022 U of T Engineering students mark the end of one journey and the beginning of another.

Having enriched the U of T Engineering community as undergraduate and graduate students, they will join our vibrant, global network of Skule™ alumni, where they will continue to address pressing challenges around the world and inspire the next generation.

This year’s 14 “Grads to Watch” — selected by their home departments and institutes — embody the spirit of U of T Engineering. Their stories illustrate the creativity, innovation and global impact that define our community. Watch their next steps!

MIE’s students are highlighted below – visit the U of T Engineering News site to see all 14 “Grads to Watch”!


Valerie Ajayi (MechE 2T1 + PEY)

Valerie Ajayi. Photo: Regis Zhao.

Between working part time and commuting two hours each way from just outside of Brampton, Ajayi found it difficult in her first year to participate in Skule™ life, especially on weekends. But she did not let that challenge stand in her way for long.

“There are so many opportunities across a campus as large as St. George and a community as passionate as Skule™,” she says. “I wanted to take advantage of it as best as I could.”

Ajayi eventually found a place closer to campus and joined the Skule™ Orientation committee, becoming its vice chair, finance. She placed first in her categories in both the CUBE Biomedical Engineering Competition as well as the U of T Engineering Kompetitions (UTEK). Her experience representing Skule™ at the Ontario Engineering Competition inspired her to lead UTEK the following year as its director. She currently serves as vice-president, finance of the U of T Engineering Society.

“It’s been great to have the chance to work with so many incredible students as we navigate what has been an uncertain and challenging time for all,” she says. “I’m very proud of the projects we were able to advance this year.”

Thanks to the PEY Co-op program, Ajayi is graduating with work experience at Bombardier and Comtek Advanced Structures under her belt. She plans to pursue an MASc degree focused on the solid mechanics of new materials, with applications in safety and sustainable production of composites for automotive and aerospace components.

“I have learned so much about leadership, discipline and passion through my extracurricular involvements,” says Ajayi. “I am certain that these will help me succeed in my future endeavours.”

“I’d like to thank all the people I have had the opportunity to work with, both academically and through EngSoc, including my Orientation co-chairs, co-officers in EngSoc, UTEK leads, U of T Engineering Business Manager Rhonda Meek, teammates on projects and supervising professors.  I am incredibly grateful for all they have shared with me, and I hope I have given them something in return.”


Laura Berneaga. Photo: Shevien Rhule.


Laura Berneaga (Mech MASc 2T2, Mech 1T9 + PEY)

Laura Berneaga works on problems at the intersection of engineering and humanity.

Her thesis revolves around the manufacturing of ventilators, one of the earliest healthcare bottlenecks exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We focused on the controller since it is the most complex component, responsible for all the major decisions the ventilator makes,” she says.

“Today, the code for the controller is highly dependent on the specific hardware components. We created a framework for an open-source design, one that could be adopted by manufacturers anywhere in the world, helping them quickly scale up in a crisis.”

An experienced student leader, Berneaga served as the president of the U of T Engineering Society during her undergraduate degree and as president of the Graduate Engineering Council of Students during her master’s degree.

“Both roles presented me with opportunities to advocate for better experiences for the students, and it was extremely rewarding to see initiatives I pushed for come to life,” she says.

“But I equally valued my involvement in projects such as Fr!osh Week and Skule™ Nite. I’ve always believed that you shouldn’t have to choose between the technical aspects of engineering and the more artistic and creative parts of your personality.”

This summer, Berneaga moved to Germany to take up an internship at the Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin. She is designing and implementing improvements to a highly sensitive X-ray spectroscopy machine, a piece of analytical equipment used across a wide range of disciplines.

Berneaga says that two big lessons she took from U of T Engineering were to never be afraid to follow your passion, and to take initiative for the things you want to achieve.

“It’s easy to go with the flow, but it’s so much more rewarding to take charge and pursue the things you want, the way you want them.”

I would like to give a huge shoutout to Rhonda, our business manager in EngSoc, as well as my officer team — AlexNajahZahir, and Zach, and my Vice-Chair Daire— for making EngSoc and GECoS such fun yet rewarding experiences, and for keeping me sane even in the most insane moments!”


– This story was originally published on the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering News Site on June 13, 2022 by Safa Jinje and Tyler Irving

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