Recent News

U of T assesses, upgrades classroom ventilation as it plans for in-person learning this fall

April 30, 2021

March 24, 2021 – Paul Van Den Enden checks the operation of the HEPA air purifier in a classroom at Sidney Smith Hall. (Photo by Johnny Guatto)

The University of Toronto is assessing the ventilation in its classrooms and making upgrades to heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment where necessary to ensure a high standard of safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As U of T plans for an eventual return to in-person classes subject to relevant public health guidelines and government regulations, classrooms used for in-person teaching across all three campuses will be equipped to allow at least six equivalent air changes per hour – the same standard applied to health-care settings such as patient examination rooms and walk-in clinics. U of T consulted external experts when adopting the standard, which reflects the current consensus in the field about optimal ventilation for such spaces. While most classrooms are expected to be able to achieve the standard with minor adjustments to existing ventilation systems, those that can’t will be fitted with local air filtration devices equipped with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to achieve the standard, otherwise they will not be used. The university has chosen air purifiers that are highly rated, quiet and effective to ensure that they don’t interfere with other classroom equipment and teaching. More than 100,000 such units have been installed in U.S. public school classrooms, as well as in classrooms across Ontario, since the onset of the pandemic, according to the manufacturer. Ron Saporta, U of T’s chief operating officer, property services and sustainability, said the classroom assessments and upgrades are part of the university’s ongoing review of pandemic response protocols. “The guidelines around ventilation have evolved throughout the pandemic and we’ve made sure to stay abreast of them,” Saporta said, adding that the university is paying particularly close attention to classroom ventilation. “Unlike offices where it’s one person or a small group of people – and you know exactly who – you don’t have the same element of control in classrooms, so we have to put in other measures to account for the larger number of people coming in and out of classrooms compared to other spaces. “Some other spaces, including teaching labs, research labs and clinics, are held to more rigorous ventilation standards due to the nature of the space and the activities they support.” Saporta noted that high-quality ventilation is one of many precautions U of T is taking to curb the spread of COVID-19 once in-person classes can safely resume. Others include changing physical layouts to facilitate physical distancing, increasing the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting and mandating the wearing of non-medical masks in indoor spaces. “HVAC can play a role in helping reduce the spread of COVID-19, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle,” he said. “It’s vital that members of the U of T community continue to heed public health guidelines such as wearing a mask, physical distancing and staying home if you feel sick.”

March 24, 2021 – St. George campus staffer Dan changes out the filters at Sidney Smith Hall for upgraded HEPA filters. (Photo by Johnny Guatto)

Jelena Vulovic-Basic, senior manager, operations and maintenance at U of T Facilities & Services, said U of T staff and external engineering professionals assessed classrooms’ existing ventilation standards based on guidelines published by the leading HVAC authority, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), and a review of other guidelines and standards. “We needed to calculate how many equivalent air changes per hour we have in our classrooms with current systems,” she said. “We did this by measuring air flow in classrooms and assessing each of the air-handling units.”

March 24, 2021 – Jelena Vulovic-Basic, senior manager, Building Mechanical Services at the University of Toronto St. George campus stands in front of Sidney Smith Hall (Photo by Johnny Guatto)

The classroom HVAC assessments are the latest measure put in place by U of T to try and reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 by ensuring its spaces meet public health and industry standards. For example, the university upgraded its air filtration systems last summer by replacing MERV-8 filters with higher-rated MERV-13 filters. A higher MERV rating, or Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, indicates a filter’s ability to capture a higher percentage of smaller particles from the air. In addition, U of T’s ventilation systems undergo regular maintenance and inspections to ensure the air distributed into indoor spaces is clean, fresh and flowing properly. “In the context of the pandemic, we’ve been on top of recommended COVID-19 ventilation safety measures,” Vulovic-Basic said. Vulovic-Basic praised U of T staff for their work behind the scenes. “This has been an enormous undertaking with a tremendous amount of effort, with everybody bending sideways and backwards to help get the classrooms ready,” she said.   By  Rahul Kalvapalle   This article originally published by U of T News Read More

CECA U of T Team Participates in the Electrical Contracting Innovation Challenge

April 26, 2021
By: Mahia Anhara (Year 3, CivE on PEY), Co-Project Manager of CECA U of T Student Chapter

 

CECA U of T is the student chapter for the Canadian Electrical Contractors Association. Our student-led club brings together like-minded students, who are interested in finding sustainable building solutions.

We are participating in the annual international competition called the Electrical Contracting Innovation Challenge (ECIC), where students are challenged to design an innovative electrical system for a new residence hall on our respective university campuses that will meet the needs of the building occupants. This competition is organized by the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). 

The U of T ECIC team consists of over 35 students from various programs, such as engineering and architecture. The team is further divided into five sub-teams, each focusing on a unique aspect of this competition: Lighting, Building Energy Management, Smart Building Design, Building Information Modelling, and Project Management. The sub-teams have worked very hard in the last three months to propose innovative and cost-effective electrical solutions for a potential U of T dorm.   

The Lighting team has proposed 11 different fixtures of LED lights for the entire building. The lights can be dimmed and timed due to the integration of KNX building automation systems, leading to energy savings. 

The Building Energy Management team has proposed rooftop solar panels for on-site electricity generation, an all-electric variant refrigerant flow (VRF) HVAC system for heating/cooling, and smart temperature meters to regulate the internal environment. These systems contribute to the sustainability and net-zero goals of the building. 

The Smart Building Design (SBD) team proposed several technologies to provide residents with an enhanced occupant experience. The areas they focused on are security, access control, communication, hands-free control, and building automation systems. Examples of the SBD systems include smart card technology for accessing dorm rooms, IP addressed security systems, wide coverage mesh router system for reliable internet connection, and various app-based touchless technologies. 

The Building Information Modelling team has produced a 3D model on Revit of the electrical solutions consisting of symbolic components for over 50+ fixtures. This team has also created construction drawings and shop drawings as a part of the proposal.  

The Project Management team has developed the cost estimate for the proposed systems accounting for material, labour, equipment, and indirect costs while adhering to the project budget of $2.3 million USD. In addition, the PM team has created a detailed construction schedule for the proposed work that meets the client’s timeline.         

The competition has been extremely rewarding for the team. We asked some of the participants about their experience. Here are some of their answers:

 

 

We would like to say thank you to every member of the CECA U of T team for all their hard work and dedication this year and ELECTRI and NECA for giving us the opportunity to participate in this rewarding competition.

U of T ECIC team members participating in the virtual competition kickoff meeting

Editor’s note: CECA U of T will submit its proposal on Friday, April 30, 2021

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Prof. Brenda McCabe receives Award of Excellence

April 16, 2021

CivMin Professor Brenda McCabe has been honoured by the University of Toronto with an Award of Excellence (AWEX).

 

The program recognizes staff, students, faculty and alumni who demonstrate an above-and-beyond commitment to enhancing the university experience and who make a significant impact on U of T through their efforts. McCabe has received the Vivek Goel Faculty Citizenship Award, given to a faculty member for their leadership and meaningful contributions in diverse spheres of the University.

“Professor Brenda McCabe made exceptional contributions to the Faculty and to the University as a leader, mentor and role model,” says Chris Yip, U of T Engineering Dean. “On behalf of the Faculty, I congratulate this community member on this well-deserved recognition.”

McCabe is honoured for her career-long service to U of T, championing the student experience, representing the engineering profession with distinction, and advancing environmental sustainability.

McCabe joined the Department of Civil & Mineral Engineering (CivMin) in 1997. Appointed Associate Chair, Undergraduate in 2004, she created guidelines for instructors still in use today. In 2006, McCabe became the first woman to serve as Vice-Dean, Graduate Studies for the Faculty, where she championed new courses that brought professional and management learning to the Master of Engineering (MEng) program.

In 2008, McCabe was appointed Chair of CivMin — the first woman to lead any department in the Faculty’s history. She integrated a significant focus on sustainability, she encouraged the creation of student clubs that promote environmental issues, and championed the redevelopment of the Gull Lake Survey Camp facilities.

As chair, McCabe created five new scholarships, named for the first five women to graduate from the department. She also encouraged the heads of other civil engineering departments across Canada to do the same.

Prior to her retirement in December 2020, McCabe distinguished herself in many other leadership roles. She served as academic director of the Engineering Career Centre and provostial advisor on student enrolment, and she played a major role in the development of the Myhal Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

Currently president-elect of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineering, McCabe was elected a Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada in 2018 and named one of Canada’s Clean50, a recognition for leaders in sustainability in 2012. She was voted Professor of the Year by Civil Club students three times, and received U of T’s Joan E. Foley Quality of Student Experience Award in 2015.

By Carolyn Farrell

The story originally published in full by Engineering News

The announcement first published, with the full list of award winners, by Alumni News

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CivMin grad students in team placing second at Water Environment Association of Ontario design competition

April 14, 2021
Left to right: Menghong (Freya) Wu (CivE MASc candidate) and Yucong Shi (ChemE 1T9 + PEY, CivE MASc candidate) with Yourong Li (ChemE MEng candidate) and  Shuyi (Yvonne) Zhang (ChemE 1T9 + PEY, MIE MEng candidate)

A multidisciplinary team of U of T Engineering alumni and students, including two graduate students from CivMin, placed second in the 2021 Water Environment Association of Ontario student design competition.

Menghong (Freya) Wu (CivE MASc candidate) and Yucong Shi (ChemE 1T9 + PEY, CivE MASc candidate) with Yourong Li (ChemE MEng candidate) and  Shuyi (Yvonne) Zhang (ChemE 1T9 + PEY, MIE MEng candidate) took high honours against schools from across the province to address a real-world challenge: retrofitting the Port Dalhousie Waste Water Treatment Plant to prevent the release and overflow of untreated sewer water.

To address this challenge, the team proposed implementing storage tanks for overflows in the treatment plant and identified locations for constructing catch basins and a storm water management pond in the upstream collection system. The design is flexible, economically feasible, and eliminates the threat of combined sewer overflows at the Port Dalhousie Wastewater Treatment Plant.

This story originally posed by ChemE.

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Lucia Stafford recognized with Silver T award for track & field success

April 12, 2021

“Lucia Stafford will go down in the record books as one of the best Varsity Blues athletes of all time.”


The University of Toronto recognized 19 Varsity Blues student-athletes with Silver T awards on Monday, April 12. 
 
The prestigious Silver T is awarded to Bronze T holders in their graduating year for outstanding athletic performance.
 
In years past, the awards were handed out at the annual President’s Reception, however, the University of Toronto campuses remain closed as we play our part to ensure the health and wellbeing of our community during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
Nevertheless, U of T President Meric Gertler understands and values the exceptional accomplishments and contributions of these U of T students to the university and Varsity Blues program.


 

Lucia Stafford (Year 4 CivE) will go down in the record books as one of the best Varsity Blues athletes of all time. She was named the OUA and U SPORTS female cross country rookie of the year in 2016, helped the Blues to the 2017 national team title, earned OUA first team all-star and U SPORTS first team all-Canadian honours in all three of her cross country seasons, including winning both races to be named OUA and U SPORTS female athlete of the year in 2019.

On the track, Stafford is a four-time OUA all-star and three-time U SPORTS all-Canadian. In her first season with the Blues, the civil engineering major from Toronto was named the OUA rookie of the year and U SPORTS female performer of the meet, leading the Blues to the 2017 national title. The following season, Stafford was named the winner of the Dr. Wendy Jerome Trophy as the OUA female most valuable performer.

Internationally, Stafford represented Canada at the 2016 U20 world track and field championships, and also earned two fifth-place finishes in the 1500m and 4×400 relay at the 2019 FISU Summer Universiade in Naples, Italy. She was named U of T’s female rookie of the year across all sports in 2016-17, while also being named U of T’s T-Holders’ female athlete of the year and the OUA female athlete of the year across all sports in 2019-20.

This story originally published by Varsity Blues

 


Previous stories include:

 

CivMin’s Stafford named OUA Female Athlete of the Year

CivMin’s Stafford named female Varsity Blues Athlete of the Year

Lucia Stafford named OUA Athlete of the Week

Lucia Stafford breaks Canadian U23 1500m record

National champion: Lucia Stafford strikes gold in Kingston

 

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CivMin professor and alumni receive Ontario Professional Engineers Awards

April 7, 2021

Professor Baher Abdulhai (CivMin), recipient of the Engineering Excellence medal, speaks to students in the Intelligent Transportation Systems lab at the University of Toronto. This photo was shot prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Laura Pedersen)

A CivMin professor and two alumni are among the two U of T Engineering professors and three alumni who have been honoured by the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) and Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) with Ontario Professional Engineers Awards. These awards recognize professional engineers in Ontario who have made outstanding contributions to the profession and to society  

Professor Baher Abdulhai (CivMinwon the Engineering Excellence medal, recognizing overall excellence in the practice of engineering. Professor Eric Diller (MIE) garnered the Young Engineer Medal, for an early-career engineer who has demonstrated professional excellence as well as service to the community. Alumnus Hugo Blasutta (CivE 7T7, MEng 7T8received the Management Medal, for innovative management contributing significantly to an engineering achievement. Alumnus Peter Halsall (CivE 7T7) won the Gold Medal, recognizing public service, technical excellence, and outstanding professional leadership.  Alumna Sandra Odendahl (ChemE MASc 9T0) received the Citizenship Award, given to an engineer who has made significant volunteer contributions to the community. 

These recipients illustrate the amazing depth and breadth of the contributions being made by U of engineersspanning research, management, entrepreneurship, professional leadership, and service to the profession and to the community,” said U of T Engineering Dean Christopher Yip. “On behalf of the Faculty, my warmest congratulations to these outstanding engineering faculty and alumni on this well-deserved recognition.” 

 


 

Baher Abdulhai conducts leading-edge research aimed at reducing traffic congestion and enhancing efficiency and sustainability. His achievements include the establishment and leadership of the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Centre and the iCity Centre for Transformative Transportation Systems, as well as the invention of two patented traffic signal control systems, which have been licensed by major technology firms.

He has authored and co-authored 65 journal papers, 146 refereed conference papers, and 12 book chapters. Abdulhai’s research team has won several international awards, including the International Transportation Forum Innovation Award in 2010 and best dissertation awards at the IEEE ITS and INFORMS conferences. The ITS Centre garnered the Ontario Showcase Merit Award of Excellence and the National Bronze Medal Award in 2005. In 2014, Abdulhai received the U of T Inventor of the Year Award. He held a Canada Research Chair from 2005 to 2010. Abdulhai has led the teaching of intelligent transportation systems at U of T since 1998, receiving an early career teaching award from the Faculty in 2002. He is an elected fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and the Engineering Institute of Canada, and received the 2018 Canadian Society for Civil Engineering Sandford Fleming Award for contributions to transportation engineering. 

 


 

Hugo Blasutta has more than 40 years of high-level management experience in the consulting engineering industry. His numerous executive roles include Partner at Yolles Partnership Inc., CEO of MMM Group Limited, and President and CEO of WSP Canada Inc. In these roles, he energized the organizations, developing a high-performance culture, recruiting and developing leading technical and business talent, and developing and implementing ambitious strategic plans. Through enhanced development opportunities and performance incentives, Blasutta ensured that young engineers in these firms could develop their technical and managerial skills and advance in their careers.

He also spearheaded technical and business innovations which put the companies he led at the forefront of the industry and resulted in significant business improvements, including employee engagement, client satisfaction, and financial performance. His management of these firms advanced the Canadian consulting engineering industry. Blasutta has served on several industry boards of directors and advisory boards. He is currently a member of the Industry Advisory Board for the Department of Civil & Mineral Engineering, providing guidance to support the department’s collaborative research activities with industry and enhance opportunities for experiential learning for students. 

 


 

As Chairman/CEO of the Halsall group of companies, Peter Halsall led the integration of sustainability into all aspects of its businesses and services and its growth to over 350 employees. After Halsall’s sale to an international company, he was responsible for creating the company’s global sustainability program. As Executive Director of the Canadian Urban Institute, Halsall led the development of Solutions for a Low Carbon Future. He has co-founded Synergy Partners, a building restoration firm, and Purpose Building, a sustainable building company.

Throughout his career, he has ensured that sustainability is the central tenet of the organizations he leads. Through the Halsall Family Foundation, Halsall has supported several community organizations providing opportunities for disadvantaged youth. He has served on advisory boards for U of T and McMaster University, as well as community organizations such as Evergreen Cityworks, and has led many efforts to design a greener city. Halsall’s work has been recognized with Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Canada Green Building Council, Sustainable Buildings Canada and the Ontario Building Envelope Council. He has been inducted into the U of T Engineering Hall of Distinction and received a U of T Arbor Award for his service to his alma mater.  Halsall was elected a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering in 2011. 

 

 

By Carolyn Farrell

This excerpt from the article originally published in full by U of  T Engineering News

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CivMin profs win Skule™ Student Choice Awards

April 7, 2021

 

 

Created by the University of Toronto’s Engineering Society, in order to recognize instructors who went above and beyond during this global health crisis,
the Student Choice Awards are the first to be fully curated and operated by students.

CivMin was recognized with eight of 29 total mentions of recognition, and two of the six titles offered by Engineering students.

 

Two CivMin professors received Skule™ Student Choice Awards, as announced at Faculty Council on Tuesday, April 6:

 

In the six categories there were several CivMin contenders:

  • Prof. Michael Seica, Qualifying Runner-up for Best First Year Instructor and Qualifying Runner-up Best Online Learning Experience
  • Prof. Ron Hofmann, Qualifying Runer-up for Best Upper Year Instructor
  • Prof. Daniel Posen, Qualifying Runner-up for Supporting International Students and Qualifying Runner-up Best Upper Year Instructor
  • Prof. Eric Miller, Qualifying Runner-up for Supporting Student Mental Wellness

 


Background on the SCA
from the Skule™ website:

What are the Student Choice Awards?

The Student Choice Awards (SCA) seek to acknowledge instructors in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering (FASE) who demonstrate excellence through a set of student-defined criteria, including teaching methods and skill excellence, community involvement, EDI, and more. Each academic year, students can nominate instructors to be recognized in several categories. Nominations are carefully evaluated by an appointed committee of students and award recipients will be invited to a ceremony at the end of the school year to celebrate their achievements and lasting impact on the Skule™ community. Students who nominate winning instructors may be invited to present the awards. Take a moment today to recognize the hardworking instructors in your life and help promote the values that are important to you in teaching!

Why have these awards?

We want to recognize and give thanks to the instructors who went above and beyond as educators. We are all part of a larger community of education and this is an opportunity to express our gratitude to those who’ve made an impact. These awards aim to promote an atmosphere of high-quality teaching, student-oriented support and ethical practices. By recognizing these attributes when they appear in our instructors we can encourage other instructors to exhibit the same.

While other teaching awards and accolades already exist within the FASE, the SCA are the first to be fully curated and operated by students, giving us direct control over what we wish to recognize in our instructors.

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CivMin YouTube video sees March surge of interest

April 5, 2021

 

Over 500,000 views within a two-week period provides spotlight to Structures Lab video

A video posted on CivMin’s YouTube channel nearly seven years ago has received a sudden surge of interest during the month of March.

The 2014 posting titled “Beam test…watch beam failure in slow-motion!” has garnered over a half-million views in recent weeks. Over the last several years the video has received moderate attention, but suddenly surged to almost 1.4 million total views, the majority of which occurring over the last two weeks of March. A peak of nearly 46,000 views in a single day stood out on March 26.

A graph shows the viewing audience for the CivMin YouTube video “Beam test… watch beam failure in slow-motion!” during March 2021, with over 500,000 new views. (YouTube)

Speculation abounds as to the reason the nearly seven-year-old video has bloomed in popularity. A suggestion offered was it might be the time of year in many engineering courses when it is usual to discuss different ways that concrete members can fail, and maybe they added our video to their online class. Perhaps a professor made a list of useful videos to watch, and this was one.

Team members assemble for a group photo.

 

The testing was done June 2014, as part of the annual Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) Big Beam Contest by Team University of Toronto, in the Structures Lab.  Participants include Rami Mansour (CivE MASc 1T6), Amos (Mengyuan) Chen (CivE 1T3, MASc1T6), Karl (Bingyue) Shao (EngSci 1T3, CivE MASc 1T6) and Xi Li, with faculty advisor Prof. Paul Gauvreau.

The concrete span was tested to failure (when the reinforced concrete beam could no longer carry the load). The strands started to yield at approximately 156KN. Strands yield when the load reached 157.8KN. The U of T team’s entry placed fourth in the Zone 7 grouping for the 2014 competition.

~CivMin~

The online video description reads:

Each year, the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) challenges students to design, fabricate and test a prestressed concrete beam. Each beam is judged on a number of criteria including cost, efficiency, practicality and accuracy of predicted behaviour. Teams from all around the world compete in this international competition. The 2014 team from the University of Toronto includes Rami Mansour, Amos Chen, Karl Shao and Xi Li. The rectangular, variable depth beam is post-tensioned with harped strands.

For the test, the beam was supported at it’s two ends with two incrementally increasing loads at midspan. It is interesting to note that the majority of the beams deflection occurs after the steel tendons have yielded. In addition, the explosive failure is a result of the concrete crushing at the top of the beam.

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Civ Club wins discipline club of the year from EngSoc

March 30, 2021

“Thank you to the Awards Committee and EngSoc for recognizing our achievements. I want to give a huge shoutout to all the discipline clubs for all their hard work this year to improve the student experience with everything online.

This year has been different, to say the least, and everything Civ Club has done was a team effort. From our first mentorship event back in May to our final dinner dance event, everyone has put in countless hours for not only our social events but also for our student resources such as our academic calendars, PEY blog, and health and wellness. Civ Club wouldn’t have been able to accomplish all that we did without a dedicated group of leaders who wanted to provide memorable events despite the pandemic and its limitations. I am really proud of the Civ Club team for all their efforts and motivation, so thank you to Kent, Awale, Emanuele, Nina, Polina, Fahd, Christian P, Bo, Tanin, Naveen, Thomas, Michael, Mahzabin, Christian C, and Mahia because, without you guys, there would be no Civ Club.

I also want to say thank you to the Civ/Min department for their continued support and to both Skule and the civil engineering community for allowing us to serve as the 2020-2021 Civ Club, and for allowing me to serve as your Civ Club Chair. It has been an absolute honour and pleasure, thank you!”

– Karen Chu, Civ Club Chair 2T0-2T1 (Year 4, CivE)

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World Water Day 2021: Focus on CivMin’s water research

March 18, 2021

Monday, March 22 is World Water Day
– this year’s theme is Valuing Water. 

To celebrate, we’re highlighting the incredible research our
CivMin faculty and students are leading to preserve and value water. 

~

Prof. Jennifer Drake is a co-researcher at the Daniel’s Geen Roof Innovation Testing Laboratory (GRIT Lab). She’s currently working on connecting a greywater system that reuses storm water to irrigate the GRIT Lab’s green roof, reducing the embedded energy and carbon.

Prof. Jennifer Drake

My group specializes in green infrastructure and works on urban drainage issues. While focus the three big technologies: permeable pavement, green roofs and bioretention system.

 

We’re getting ready to try to connect a greywater system to the Daniel’s Geen Roof Innovation Testing Laboratory (GRIT Lab) to re-use stormwater for irrigation. This month we’ll be tracking the water quality in the cistern before connecting the system to our green roofs in May

Daniel’s Geen Roof Innovation Testing Laboratory (GRIT Lab).

 

The work is connected to the DesignLIFES’ CREATE Network. I am the lead investigator of this network which includes professors at UofT, UTSC, Ryerson University, Saint Mary’s University and University of Saskatchewan. The goal of DesignLIFES is to train the next generation of living and green infrastructure professionals.

 

Green roofs are a great technology but require irrigation to support plant growth. Most roofs are irrigated with drinking water! By re-using stormwater, we can significantly reduce the embedded energy and carbon associated with this technology.

The Meadoway in Scarborough is a is a world-class example of innovative and forward-thinking land management. By re-introducing meadow vegetation within the Hydro corridor important ecosystem services are restored. This includes flood control, reduced urban heat island effects, urban biodiversity and, most of all, multi-functional public green space.

 

 

Drinking Water Research Group

The Drinking Water Research Group (Profs. Susan Andrews, Robert Andrews and Ron Hofmann) examines all aspects of drinking water. One area of research is in the removal of microplastics in drinking water as well as their occurrence in lakes and rivers.

From top left: Profs. Robert Andrews, Susan Andrews and Ron Hofmann

  • Municipal drinking water treatment: Finding ways to address emerging contaminants and to protect the public, but more economically and effectively.
  • Examining treatment requirements to convert municipal wastewater directly into drinkable water. This is the wave of the future in many parts of the world. A lot of places are running out of water (e.g. Cape Town last year), so recycling the wastewater directly into drinking water is going to become more common. Technologically it’s feasible, it’s just very expensive, and we need to find the best and cheapest way to do it.
  • Investigating means to incorporate sustainable “green” technologies into drinking water treatment including the use of biological processes (biofiltration) in lieu of chemical addition.
  • Assessing the occurrence and removal of microplastics in drinking waters as well as their sources (lakes and rivers). A recent Toronto Star article reported, plastics in the environment are considered to be the greatest threat after global warming.
  • Optimizing treatment methods including the use of ultrafiltration membranes for some of the largest cities in Canada.

 

Prof. Ron Hofmann: A lot of small projects looking at how to best use current assets in Canadian drinking water treatment plants to be more effective and cheaper. Also, looking at how they might be able to address newly identified contaminants, such as PFAS or microplastics (this last one is Prof. Andrew’s work).

My own work focuses on activated carbon (the same stuff as the black charcoal in aquariums), and on using UV light to disinfect the water and to destroy chemicals. UV is relatively recent and is very cheap and effective. I have a small project on harnessing sunlight to drive photovoltaic-based UV water treatment for remote and resource-poor parts of the world.

Prof. Susan Andrews: My research interests are somewhat eclectic, but they generally include some aspect of the chemistry of drinking water treatment processes or distribution systems. For example, we are beginning some work on some small-scale water mains to see if we can improve the way that chlorine protects the treated water as it travels from the treatment plant to our taps.

Many of the largest water providers in Ontario (Toronto, York, Peel, Durham, Peterborough, Barrie, London, Ontario Clean Water Agency)

 

The three professors in the DWRG (Profs. Robert Andrews, Susan Andrews and Ron Hofmann) and approximately 30 personnel (Undergraduate students, Graduate students, Post-doctoral fellows, Research assistants).

 

Improving drinking water quality, learning more about emerging contaminants that we should address through new regulations.

 

 

 

Ground & Surface Water

Prof. Elodie Passeport’s research explores the environmental remediation of contaminated surface and groundwater, primarily working on two types of green infrastructure: Constructed wetlands and bioretention cells. Her goal is to improve the reliability of green infrastructure.

Prof. Elodie Passeport

 

My research focuses on environmental remediation of contaminated surface- and groundwater in urban, agricultural, and industrial settings. My approach is to characterize the transfer and transformation mechanisms that govern the fate and removal of contaminants in natural and engineered aquatic environments. Human activities use thousands of chemicals that reach stormwater, wastewater, and our freshwater aquatic resources. Some of these chemicals have known impacts on human and environmental health, but many are still to be discovered or are unregulated due to lack of knowledge about their toxicity.

The goal of my research is to improve the design and implementation of remediation measures. To this end, my research seeks to evaluate the efficiency of natural attenuation in contaminated groundwater and green infrastructure. I primarily work on two types of green infrastructure: constructed wetlands and bioretention cells. In support of this goal, my research group also develops new analytical methods based on stable isotopes.

Green infrastructure is a cost-effective and energy-efficient approach to water treatment but must become more reliable before it sees widespread adoption. While in principle wetlands and bioretention cells can eliminate a significant portion of contaminants, their present-day performance is highly variable. My objective is to improve the reliability of green infrastructure by advancing our understanding of their internal processes.

 

There are a few exciting projects in my group on two main topics: 1) Microplastic Research and 2) Stable Isotope Analysis.

  • Microplastic research

Microplastics are small plastic particles, in the 1-5000 µm range, that are widely distributed in the environment, and whose toxicological effects are mostly unknown. In collaboration with Prof. Chelsea Rochman (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) and Prof. Jennifer Drake, our PhD student Kelsey Smyth has conducted the first comprehensive study of microplastic fate in bioretention cells. This two-year long field work showed an 84% decrease in median microplastic concentration between the inlet and outlet of a bioretention cell. Her work showed that atmospheric deposition was a significant source of microplastics – especially microfibers – in urban stormwater, and urban stormwater was a significant pathway of microplastics to downstream aquatic ecosystems. Green stormwater infiltration systems like bioretention cells have great potential to limit this pollution.

Future research will evaluate if existing total suspended solids models can be used to characterize the fate and removal of microplastics in bioretention cells to better understand if accumulation in the cell is a significant issue.

Figure 1: graphical abstract from Smyth et al. 2021.

Compound Specific Isotope Analysis (CSIA) is now an accepted diagnostic tool for identifying and quantifying the transformation of traditional contaminants, e.g., toluene and chlorobenzenes, in groundwater. My group is developing new analytical methods for stable isotope analysis of non-traditional contaminants (e.g., trace organic contaminants). We are also developing new applications of CSIA in less explored environments such as surface water.

Figure 2. CSIA to distinguish transfer and transformation mechanisms

Langping Wu, a postdoctoral fellow in my group is investigating the reaction mechanisms that govern the aqueous phototransformation of benzotriazole, a corrosion-inhibitor present in urban stormwater and wastewaters. Using stable carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen isotope analysis, we found a pH-dependence of benzotriazole direct photolysis which can be explained by a complex contribution of different reaction mechanisms. With PhD student Suchana Shamsunnahar, we have developed a novel method for CSIA of NO2– and NH2-substituded chlorobenzenes. These are common groundwater contaminants that raised significant concern for human and ecosystem health. We are working on a complex highly contaminated industrial site in Brazil with multiple academic and private partners and have proposed a novel method based on passive integrative samplers to conduct CSIA down to very low concentrations.

Altogether, these results demonstrate the potential to use CSIA as a diagnostic tool to monitor contamination and remediation in the field.

 

 

Cleaning up water using passive remediation solutions (green infrastructure such as bioretention cells, constructed wetlands) and developing new diagnostic tools to monitor remediation.

 

 

Warren Lab

Mining, Water and Environment

Prof. Lesley Warren’s research examines the largely unexplored bacteria present in mine wastes and impacted waters to generate innovative new technologies that will enhance the environmental practices of the mining industry.

Prof. Lesley Warren, Director of the Lassonde Institute of Mining

The Mining Wastewater Solutions (MWS) Project is developing better tools for reactive sulfur compounds management. Funding for this project come from our mining partners and  Genome Canada and  Ontario Research Fund – Research Excellence (ORF-RE).

My group is also leading a project to constrain sulfur risks to oxygen levels in Syncrude Canada’s first pilot wet reclamation project, Base Mine Lake (BML). Funding for this project comes from Syncrude Canada and NSERC.

 

For the MWS project, we are working with Glencore Sudbury INO, Hudbay Minerals, Rambler Metals and Mining, Ecoreg Solutions and Ecometrix Consulting Companies.

For the BML project, we are working with Syncrude Canada and COSIA.

 

I am the Principal Investigator on both projects (both international).

For the MWS project there are three professors from three institutions, three research scientists, one field researcher, 10 students, four post-doctoral fellows and two research assistants involved. 

For the BML project there are three professors from three institutions, one field researcher, 12 students and three post-doctoral fellow involved with the project.

Researchers collecting samples

Mining requires huge amounts of water to extract valuable commodities and generates massive amounts of wastewater that must be cleaned according to strict environmental standards before being discharged.  This wastewater also provides an ideal habitat for microbes, and studying these can help reduce wastewater treatment costs and the environmental footprint of the mining industry.

My research focuses on identifying the microbes that occur in these contexts and how they drive changes in water quality or waste stability. These new discoveries  are leading to new models and tools that tackle the underlying root causes of potential risks to the environment.

 

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Grasselli’s Geomechanics Group receives new CNC mill with PETRONAS donation

March 16, 2021

 

A new computer numerical control (CNC) mill facilitated by PETRONAS Canada’s donation of $25,000 to Grasselli’s Geomechanics Group. (Photo by Johnson Ha)

 

A donation from industry to CivMin has allowed for the acquisition of specialized machinery used in preparing rock samples for testing.

PETRONAS Canada’s donation of $25,000 to Grasselli’s Geomechanics Group, led by Prof. Giovanni Grasselli, has resulted in the purchase of a new computer numerical control (CNC) mill. The CNC mill is used to precisely prepare rock samples in the Concrete and Materials Preparation Lab in the Galbraith Building.

An interior view of the new computer numerical control (CNC) mill. (Photo by Johnson Ha)

Previous attempts at preparing rock samples with Claraia fossils with existing equipment were fraught with frustration and disappointment, when some 240 attempts to prepare samples were met with no success. Now, after the November 2020 donation for the new equipment, a 45-minute milling process results in ideal testing specimens.

The computerized manufacturing process, in which pre-programmed software and code controls the movement of the production equipment, allows the delicate layered rock to be prepared without the use of the usual cooling liquids. Instead of using water during coring, which can make the rock unstable and fragile, the gentle and dry process results in competent samples. Typically, rock is prepared into cylindrical samples to be tested for its physical properties such as strength and stiffness which are ultimately used in engineering design and numerical modelling.

An interior view of the milling progress in the CNC mill. (Photo by Johnson Ha)

Grasselli explains, “The rock formation [Montney] is known to swell when exposed to fresh water and to exhibit weak structural laminations. The water sensitivity and fragility of the material makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to prepare testable samples using conventional sub-coring methods which requires the use of water.”

A before (left) and after view of a layered rock sample subjected to water. (Photo by Johnson Ha)

Measuring mechanical properties of the rock formation at depth for engineering purposes is crucial. With intact specimens now readily available, testing is accomplished by recreating stress conditions from one kilometre to two kilometres below the surface. These stress conditions are known to impact the behaviour and response of the rock. The ability to have intact samples will push this research and will help Canada in its goal to reduce GHG emissions, as we can better use our underground resources, such as geothermal, natural gas and carbon sequestration.

“In our current research, we are investigating industry problems related to wellbore stability, microseismicity, nuclear waste storage, and hydraulic fracturing design,” he adds. “A proper undertaking of the characterization of the material will better inform our numerical models and help our industry partners improve the social, economic, and environmental impacts of their operation.”

Benefits of the new equipment extend beyond Grasselli’s Geomechanics Group, with its 25 faculty, staff and research students. Others at U of T, from Physics and Earth Sciences, use the lab’s machinery to prepare samples for a broad array of research as well. “We expect this equipment to be of continuous use to U of T for at least the next 20 years,” predicts Grasselli.

Acknowledging others, Grasselli offers, “I want to really offer a big thanks to those we had tremendous help from. The leadership of Matthew Adams [Interim Director at Unconventional Center of Excellence (UCOE)] and Nicole Deyell [VP Development at PETRONAS Canada], were instrumental in getting this donation. Without them, this wouldn’t have been possible.”

By Phill Snel

 

 

 

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Reeddi powers up: CivMin alum’s startup brings portable, renewable electricity to rural areas

March 11, 2021

A Reeddi power capsule, shown at right, provides affordable and sustainable electricity for short-term needs. A startup created by Olugbenga Olubanjo (CivE MASc 1T9) is piloting the technology in Nigeria. (Photo: Leke Alabi Isama /GGImages /Proof Africa)

Only two years after its creation, U of T Engineering startup Reeddi, Inc. (pronounced “ready”) is well on its way to fulfilling its mission to bring sustainable, affordable electricity to places where reliable power is hard to come by.

“Right now, our technology serves a combined 600 households and businesses monthly in Nigeria,” says Olugbenga Olubanjo (CivE MASc 1T9), founder and CEO of Reeddi. “We have plans to increase that number.”

In 2017, Olubanjo’s first year at U of T, he would make phone calls to family and friends in Nigeria, where he grew up. Often, these calls would be disrupted by power outages that are all too common in that part of the world.

Those who can afford them buy diesel generators, but these units and the fuel needed to run them are costly, and they produce harmful emissions, including greenhouse gases.

Olubanjo knew that the cost of solar power had plummeted in recent years, and he wanted to make this technology more accessible to rural Nigerians. The solution he hit upon was a solar-powered “electricity bank” where portable power packs could be rented on a short term basis.

In its current iteration, a Reeddi bank contains 20 capsules, each of which holds about 250 Watt-hours of energy, enough to charge three mobile phones or power a laptop for four hours. Capsules are rented for 24 hours, after which they can be returned to the bank to recharge in the sun.

Olubanjo developed the company with support from U of T’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, including The Entrepreneurship Hatchery at U of T Engineering. He quickly started attracting attention: in 2019 alone, Reeddi won awards at the Cisco Global Problem Challenge, the MIT Clean Energy Prize competition, and the IEEE Empower a Billion Lives competition.

The past year has brought even more accolades. Last summer, Olubanjo and his team placed in the top three at ISHOW USA, a competition organized by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The win netted them a $10,000 seed grant, as well as the $1,000 “fan favourite” prize.

“We benefitted from fantastic insights from the ASME judges,” says Olubanjo. “We are equally excited to explore the potential networking and advisory opportunities that come with the prize to scale our venture for global impact.”

Olubanjo and his team have enrolled in Third Derivative, a technology accelerator focused on clean energy. The team also received a $25,000 award from the Nigeria Off-grid energy challenge and are currently among the finalists at the Royal Academy of Engineering African Prize. They have presented their innovation to a World Energy Council Panel group and at the Africa Indaba Energy Conference.

“Our current efforts are directed at upscaling local operations and manufacturing more Reeddi capsules for our customers in Nigeria,” says Olubanjo. “The future is bright.”

By Tyler Irving

This story originally published by Engineering News

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U of T Entrepreneurship Week: Four engineering startups to watch

March 10, 2021

From left: HOPE Pet Foods; Xesto; Themis; and, Reeddi

With nearly a dozen startup incubators and accelerators spread across its three campuses, the University of Toronto is a thriving hotbed of entrepreneurial activity – even amid the pandemic.

U of T Engineering entrepreneurs and their startups are finding innovative solutions to pressing problems – all while creating jobs and strengthening Canada’s innovation ecosystem.

As U of T’s virtual Entrepreneurship Week kicks off, here are four exciting U of T Engineering startups to keep an eye on in 2021:

Reeddi

Olugbenga Olubanjo (back row, second from left) poses for a photo with members of the Reeddi team, local community members and his startup’s power-providing capsules during a pilot project in Ayegun, Nigeria (photo courtesy of Olugbenga Olubanjo)

Clean energy startup Reeddi has developed a portable tool that provides clean and affordable electricity to individuals, households and businesses in energy-poor regions of the world.

Founded by Olugbenga Olubanjo (CivE MASc 1T9), who has personal experience of growing up in energy-poor communities in Nigeria, the company provides portable energy via compact capsules that are charged at solar-powered stations located in communities. Customers rent the capsules at an affordable price and are incentivized to return them on time by earning credits that can go toward future rentals.

For Olubanjo, who earned a master of applied science in civil engineering at U of T, helping and giving back has always been central to his entrepreneurial outlook.

“At the end of the day, it’s not only about making money. Anyone can make money, but it’s about the happiness that you give people,” says Olubanjo. “Just knowing that my innovation could have a positive impact on people’s lives – oh my God, there’s no feeling like that in life.”

HOPE Pet Foods

Sofia Bonilla, a U of T post-doctoral researcher who is preparing to launch a line of alternative-protein pet foods, already has her dog Snuffie gobbling up insect-based treats (photo courtesy of Sofia Bonilla)

Bugs aren’t on most dog and cat owners’ pet food shopping lists, but U of T Mississauga’s HOPE Pet Foods is looking to change that by using insects and other alternative sources of protein to produce pet foods that are both eco-friendly and nutritious.

Founded by postdoctoral researcher Sofia Bonilla (ChemE), HOPE Pet Foods is producing dog food made with insect proteins and cat food made with algae-based proteins.

Bonilla, the mother of two small children and owner of an enthusiastic insect-protein-eating dog named Snuffie, was recently a semifinalist in Scotiabank’s Total Mom Pitch Competition. HOPE Pet Foods also picked up the second place prize in the Adams Sustainability Innovation Prize and has received support from U of T’s Lo Family Social Venture Fund.

“What we think we can bring to the market is an evidence-based, scientific approach, where we are really looking at the evidence behind dog nutrition and the best possible protein is the one with all the amino acids, but is also sustainable,” Bonilla recently said, adding that HOPE Pet Foods’ products will also appeal to consumers who care about their products being cruelty-free.

Xesto

Using the iPhone’s TrueDepth camera, Xesto offers a free app that allows users to take pictures of their feet in order to obtain an accurate shoe size (image courtesy of Xesto)

The iPhone’s TrueDepth camera may have been designed with facial recognition in mind, but U of T startup Xesto has developed a way to use the technology so you can find perfectly fitting footwear.

The UTEST startup, whose co-founders worked with researchers in The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE), offers a free app that allows users to take pictures of their feet in order to obtain an accurate shoe size. The Xesto Fit app then references the output with the sizing guidelines of over 150 shoe brands.

Xesto has been granted one patent for its process and has another pending, with CEO and co-founder Sophie Howe saying the startup’s involvement in UTEST was a big step forward.

“It was our entry to the U of T startup community, which has provided us with an incredible amount of resources and a launchpad that enabled our growth,” said Howe.

Themis

The team from Themis uses AI to create a Microsoft Office add-in that saves hours of time drafting legal papers. The students’ startup pitch took home the grand prize at this year’s Demo Day (photo courtesy of Themis)

Themis, a startup whose co-founders include U of T Engineering students Cindy Chen (Year 4 EngSci) and Amardeep Singh (Year 3 ChemE), has developed an AI program that helps significantly reduce the time it takes to draft legal contracts.

The company’s AI-powered Microsoft Word add-in automatically builds a library of clauses from a lawyer’s precedents and makes those available within Word.

Last September, Themis took home the $20,000 top prize at Demo Day, the culmination of an intensive four-month entrepreneurship and mentorship program at the Entrepreneurship Hatchery at U of T Engineering.

“There are no competitors who provide this fully integrated solution out of the box,” said Rishi Dhir, one of two lawyers – alongside Jey Kumarasamy – who co-founded the company with Chen and Singh.

Going forward, Themis is looking to continue to test its prototype and partner with small law firms across Canada to garner feedback.

By: Rahul Kalvapalle
Original story published in U of T Engineering News Read More

Disaster-proof: Major CivMin lab upgrade lets engineers design structures that can better withstand earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis

March 5, 2021

Funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation will be used to acquire an adjustable,
multi-dimensional loading module and other equipment for the Structural Testing Facility

 

A new adjustable multi-dimensional (AMD) loading system will soon be added to U of T Engineering’s Structural Testing Facility. (Image: Myron Zhong)

An upgraded facility at U of T Engineering — one that is unique in the world — will let engineers test next-generation infrastructure designed to be resilient in the face of natural disasters, from hurricanes to earthquakes.

A grant announced today from CFI’s Innovation Fund 2020 will fund a suite of new tools and equipment to be housed within U of T Engineering’s existing Structural Testing Facility. They will be used to design everything from elevated highways to high-rise residential buildings to nuclear power plants, including replacements for legacy structures across North America.

“Much of our infrastructure is decades old and needs to be replaced,” says Professor Constantin Christopoulos (CivMin), the project leader and Canada Research Chair in Seismic Resilience of Infrastructure.

“The scientific and engineering communities, along with governments and the private sector, are becoming increasingly aware of the inherent vulnerability of our infrastructure. We also need to design new structures to address new pressures, such as a rapidly growing Canadian population, and more frequent extreme weather scenarios due to a changing climate.”

The centrepiece of this new development is the world’s first fully movable, adjustable multidirectional, large-scale and large-capacity loading frame.

“This unique piece of equipment will allow structural elements and structural systems to be tested under more realistic loading conditions,” says Christopoulos. “We’ll be able to better simulate the complex effects of extreme loading events, such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes or tsunamis.”

The adjustable, multi-dimensional loading module will be capable of applying up to a total of 2,000 tonnes of force in six translational and rotational directions for specimens of up to eight metres tall and thirty metres long.

The project will also include new state-of-the-art sensing equipment and the redesign of 500 square metres of lab space. Construction is expected to begin in 2022.

To make full use of it, Christopoulos will be working with a large team of experts from within and beyond U of T Engineering. Project partners include U of T Engineering professors Oh-Sung KwonEvan BentzOya Mercan and Jeffrey Packer (all CivMin). This team is also collaborating with a team of structural engineering and large-scale testing experts at other leading North American facilities to develop, commission and use this unique equipment. Collaborating institutions include:

  • Western University’s WindEEE and Boundary Layer Wind Tunnels
  • University of British Columbia
  • University of Sherbrooke
  • Polytechnique Montreal
  • University of Illinois

Once completed, the new facility will be used for research by 10 professors from U of T and their national and international collaborators. It is also expected that it will allow for dozens of unique graduate student research projects and industry tests every year once it is fully operational.

Together this team will be able to carry out a technique known as “distributed hybrid simulations.” This means that full-scale portions of real structures — such as concrete pillars or steel beams — will be tested simultaneously in each of these labs across North America.

By integrating all of these physical tests into a single numerical model, they can use the experimental feedback of each of the large-scale elements to more realistically simulate the response of the entire infrastructure system to extreme loading conditions. The data from the physical experiments will be integrated in real-time with models run using high-performance computers and the UT-SIM integration platform.

“This facility will enhance our capabilities not only here at U of T, and across Canada, but will position Canadian engineers as global leaders in the area of structural resilience” says Christopoulos. “It is a critical step toward designing the resilient cities of the future.”

By Tyler Irving

This article originally published on Engineering News

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U of T Engineering places among global top 20 in QS World University Rankings 2021

March 5, 2021

U of T Engineering is Canada’s top-ranked engineering school and among the best in the world. (Photo: Daria Perevezentsev)

U of T Engineering remains Canada’s top-ranked engineering school and is now in the global top 20, according to the QS World University Rankings by Subject for 2021.

The rankings, released March 4, placed U of T Engineering 18th globally in the category of Engineering & Technology. This marks an increase from last year’s position of 22nd and the fourth consecutive year where the institution improved its ranking. Among North American public universities, our closest competitors, U of T Engineering now ranks 3rd.

“Our rankings and reputation are a direct result of the hard work and dedication of our community: faculty, staff, students, alumni and partners,” said Dean Chris Yip. “From the world-leading impact of our research to the richness of our student experience – including opportunities to develop leadership and global perspectives – we can all be proud of everything we do to shape the next generation of engineering talent.”

In terms of overall institution-level rankings, U of T placed 25th in the world. It also placed first in Canada in 30 out of the 48 specific subjects on which it was measured, and in the global top 10 internationally in areas ranging from education (third) to anatomy and physiology (sixth).

“This latest international subject ranking reflects the University of Toronto’s strength across a wide array of disciplines, from the humanities and social sciences to medicine and engineering,” said U of T President Meric Gertler.

“It is also a testament to our unyielding commitment to research, innovation and academic excellence.”

Quacquarelli Symonds evaluates universities by looking at five broad fields – Arts & Humanities, Engineering & Technology, Life Sciences & Medicine, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences & Management – and 51 specific subjects. The results are based on four measures: academic survey results, employer review survey results, citations per faculty and an index that attempts to measure both the productivity and impact of the published work of a scientist or scholar.

By: Engineering Strategic Communications
This article originally published on Engineering News Read More

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