Posts Categorized: Faculty

CivMin professor and alumni receive Ontario Professional Engineers Awards

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

CivMin profs win Skule™ Student Choice Awards



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.



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
  • 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.

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

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

Prof. Jeffrey Siegel | How to keep the air in your home cleaner this winter, and why it’s so important

January 15, 2021 | CBC Life

Prof. Shoshanna Saxe among five U of T Engineering researchers awarded Canada Research Chairs


Professor Shoshanna Saxe (CivMin) is among this year’s Canada Research Chairs.

Work is underway in Professor Shoshanna Saxe’s (CivMin) lab to create the world’s largest detailed database of construction materials used in buildings and transport infrastructure.

“Materials are the biggest driver of cost and environmental impact on a construction project,” explains Saxe, whose work investigates ways to align infrastructure provision with sustainability. “But we tend to do a pretty weak job of both understanding what materials we use, and of designing infrastructure projects to increase efficiency.”

Saxe’s team hopes to use the database to find policy and sustainable design opportunities for future projects at a range of scales, from an individual building to a whole neighbourhood, or even an entire city.

“Thoughtful design would make a big impact towards reducing material use, and in becoming better caretakers of both our natural and built worlds,” adds Saxe, who is among five U of T Engineering researchers to be awarded Canada Research Chairs (CRC) today.

Established in 2000, the federal program invests in recruiting and retaining top minds in Canada. It supports research in engineering, natural sciences, health sciences, humanities and social sciences. U of T’s total allotment of research chairs in the CRC program is the largest in the country.

As the new Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Infrastructure, Saxe says the title enables her to accelerate the database project.

“It has allowed me to build out a team of great researchers from the undergraduate, postgraduate and postdoctoral level — all working together towards a shared vision of a more sustainably built environment,” she says, “It will also, I hope, attract more people to work with us.”

Professor Ali Hooshyar (ECE)’s research also focuses on finding sustainable solutions — his work investigates renewable energy systems and smart grids.

Power generation has been consistently ranked as the largest driver of global greenhouse gas emissions. A major obstacle in reducing its environmental impact is remedying the key differences between wind/solar energy and conventional power plants.

“These differences can render the control and protection devices of power grids ineffective, and so they have led to major disturbances and outages in the past few years,” says Hooshyar. “This undermines the future viability of power grids using renewable energy — unless a complete overhaul of control and protection devices are carried out.”

Hooshyar’s team is developing the next generation of control and protection devices to ensure compatibility with green energy systems. And as the new Canada Research Chair in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Hooshyar says his title will help raise awareness beyond the power system protection community about the operational challenges of integrating renewable energy sources.

“It will also facilitate recognition of our research group within industry,” adds Hooshyar. “And the financial resources of the CRC program will help to attract gifted researchers to our group.”

The five U of T Engineering researchers to have new or renewed Canada Research Chairs are:

  • Birsen Donmez (MIE), Canada Research Chair in Human Factors and Transportation (renewed)
  • Ali Hooshyar (ECE), Canada Research Chair in Electrical and Electronic Engineering (new)
  • David Lie (ECE), Canada Research Chair in Secure and Reliable Systems (new)
  • Radhakrishnan Mahadevan (ChemE), Canada Research Chair in Metabolic Systems Engineering (new)
  • Shoshanna Saxe (CivMin), Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Infrastructure (new)

“The Canada Research Chair program opens up opportunities for innovation and industry collaboration, making it possible for our researchers to improve the lives of Canadians, and beyond, in areas such as sustainability and data privacy,” says Ramin Farnood, Vice-Dean, Research at U of T Engineering. “I congratulate our new and renewed CRCs.”

By Liz Do

This story originally posted on Engineering News

Half a world away, but heading home for the holidays

Prof. Oh-Sung Kwon displays his certificate for completing the Seoul Trail in Seoul, South Korea October 2020. (Photo courtesy Prof. Oh-Sung Kwon)

Prof. Oh-Sung Kwon is coming home to Toronto this week, on Saturday, December 19, after a six-month research leave. “It has been a long six months,” shares Kwon. “I look forward to seeing my family in December and meeting my students in person after the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The research leave was planned long before the current health crisis was known – it just added a few more twists. Like any other CivMin professors, he has been keeping in touch with the structural research students he supervises via video meetings. Teams chats are the new norm for just about everyone during the pandemic since in-person contact is strictly limited to lab work at U of T. The difference, however, is he’s nearly half a world away in Seoul, South Korea.

“Even though I spent six months in Korea, there has not been much difference in having meetings with my students. The only difference is the meeting time; it is either early in the morning or late in the evening due to the 14 hours of time difference.”

Since departing Toronto on June 19 for Seoul, Kwon has maintained regular contact with research students at both U of T and Seoul National University (SNU). He has spent his research leave in Korea to progress a few collaborative research projects there.

“Back in 2016, I hosted an international workshop at the University of Toronto, inviting researchers and professors from several research institutions in South Korea to promote international collaborations. Since then, we have developed a few research projects. Including myself, five professors in the Structures section have collaborated with or closely interacted with Korean researchers. In the past four years, three PhD students visited my group from Seoul National University. My graduate students spent 26 person-months at the Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT) and Korea Atomic Energy Research Institue (KAERI). I recruited one PDF from SNU, with another one joining in January 2021.”

One of Kwon’s primary research focuses is on developing realistic simulation methods for structures subjected to extreme loads such as earthquake, wind, and fire. Through the research collaborations of the institutions, his group can access unique testing facilities, such as a wind tunnel and fire testing facilities, not available at U of T.

He says, “During my stay, I have been co-supervising one graduate student and one PDF at SNU to implement the real-time aeroelastic hybrid simulation (RTAHS) method for bridge deck models in their wind tunnel facility. I co-supervised one Ph.D. student in the past four years on the development of deep neural network (DNN) models for nonlinear response predictions. The student will complete his doctoral degree soon. Also, during my stay in Korea, I have been developing a new project with KICT to run more conventional fire endurance tests and hybrid fire tests at their fire testing facility in 2021.”

Prof. Oh-Sung Kwon (L) with the student and the PDF who are working on RTAHS of a bridge deck section model. Real-time aeroelastic hybrid simulation testing setup for a bridge deck section model at SNU. It is replicated from the design that Prof. Kwon’s group developed at U of T (Photo courtesy Prof. Oh-Sung Kwon)

Prof. Oh-Sung Kwon takes in the view on the Seoul Trail. (Photo courtesy Oh-Sung Kwon)

For personal recreation, as well as beneficial exercise, he has stayed active with regular hikes around Seoul on the well-known Seoul Trail. The 157 km trail winds up and down hilly terrain, providing a varied and sometimes challenging Saturday trek. Kwon began his ambitious sojourns in July and completed the final section October 31. Recognition, in the form of a certificate, allowed him to realize a lifelong goal.

A map of the Seoul Trail’s circuitous route around the city with Prof. Oh-Sung Kwon’s hike segments.

A planned break to see his family simply was not to be, as quarantine measures in both countries were found to be too restrictive. “Originally I was planning to go back to Toronto for two weeks in late September to spend Thanksgiving with my family. But I realized the two weeks of isolation upon return to South Korea were very strict. And, also, two weeks of quarantine in Toronto is also restrictive. In total I would need to spend one month in isolation if I travelled back and forth, so I decided to stay here and just leave at the end of my recess.”

Throughout the summer, and early fall, South Korea held COVID-19 at bay with extremely low case counts. Kwon recounts the open access to facilities, such as libraries, while everyone kept to wearing masks as a matter of course. “I think Korea flattened and reduced to the curve very quickly. I think a great example of taking control and I think there’s also in the country more of a personal feeling of responsibility, or obligation.”

The number of cases in all of South Korea, with a population of 52 million, is currently starkly better than even the lone province of Ontario (pop. 16 million) or the City of Toronto’s three million. “We see the third wave of COVID-19 situation in Korea with 451 new cases for today [November 30]. There are further restrictions imposed to a few businesses (bars, cafes, gyms, restaurants, etc.), but not as strict as in Toronto. For example, all restaurants are still open until 9 p.m.,” he says.

The relatively better situation is met with caution,”With greater population density, it can spread a lot quicker here, so we all have to be more careful.”

Kwon returns home to his wife and three children in Toronto, though he has enjoyed his time visiting extended family while back in South Korea, “I have a big family in Seoul. If we get together with my three sisters and their family, we have about 18-19 family members.”

During his time away from home there have been several notable academic recognitions:

Kwon reflects on his six-month research leave as an excellent opportunity for him to wrap up a few projects and develop a few more for the next few years.

By Phill Snel

Smart Freight Centre launches new research collaborations on safer, cleaner and more efficient transport of goods in the GTHA

A new set of research collaborations will look at innovative ways to improve the movement of goods across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. (Photo: Markus Spiske via Unsplash)


From take-out pizza to online shopping — which nearly doubled in Canada this year— the  use of home delivery has greatly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But according to Professor Matt Roorda (CivMin), what happens between clicking “add to cart” and picking up a package on the doorstep is a complex process, one that could really benefit from some fresh ideas.

“Our whole economy and way of life depend on freight transportation,” says Roorda. “COVID-19 has highlighted some key issues, but the need for innovation was clear before the pandemic and will continue after it’s over.”

Roorda chairs the Smart Freight Centre (SFC) a centre of excellence for goods movement. SFC is a collaborative network established in 2019 by the Region of Peel, McMaster University DeGroote School of Business, York University Lassonde School of Engineering and the University of Toronto Transportation Research Institute (UTTRI).

“Approximately $1.8 Billon goods move through Peel on daily basis, accounting for 43% of jobs in Peel Region,” says Peel Regional Chair Nando Iannicca. “But with strong growth pressures and the current pandemic situation, businesses are becoming increasingly challenged and need even greater support. This partnership is key to helping us find innovative solutions for safe and efficient movement of goods and ultimately creating more jobs for Canadians.”

This fall, SFC received an NSERC Alliance Grant to fund a new research initiative — CLUE: City Logistics for the Urban Economy. More than $3 million in NSERC funding is matched by contributions from the institutions and partner organizations for a grand total of over $11 million in direct and in-kind support.

“Goods movement hasn’t been studied as extensively as people movement but interest is growing as it becomes clear just how much we rely on an efficient goods movement system,” says Dr. Judy Farvolden, Executive Director of UTTRI.  “CLUE addresses issues of significance to Canadians and this collaboration of public and industry partners further strengthens our chances of success.”

The CLUE initiative includes 24 separate research projects on a wide range of topics, from driver training and supply-chain resilience to automated delivery of goods and the impact of local bylaws.

“The goal is to provide efficient goods movement while minimizing the negative impact on neighbourhoods in terms of safety, noise or pollution,” says Roorda.

For example, last year SFC completed a pilot study on off-peak delivery, in which industry partners at Walmart, Loblaws and LCBO stores shifted key deliveries from daytime hours to the early morning (before 7 a.m.) and late evening (between 7 and 11 p.m.)

Preliminary results showed that the change increased the average speed of trucks by 18 percent, with associated reductions in key air pollutants of between 10 percent and 15 percent. The team plans to conduct a larger and more detailed study as part of the CLUE initiative.

Another research direction looks at what is known as “curbside management.”

“The curbside is a very busy place with many competing needs: parking, bicycle lanes, loading zones and even outdoor dining,” says Roorda. “We can use cameras to study how these spaces are being used now, and leverage this data to model how they could be used more efficiently in the future.”

Other CLUE projects will examine alternative modes of local delivery. These could include electric trucks, pedal-powered vehicles, autonomous robots or even the use of commuter vehicles, a concept known as “crowdsourced delivery.”

“There are companies trying these strategies out today, including here in Toronto,” says Roorda. “What our research can provide is rigorous scientific analysis of what works and what doesn’t. That should help everyone make smarter decisions going forward.”


By Tyler Irving


This article originally published by Engineering News

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