Posts Categorized: Students

In-person Capstone presentations for LME students

Lassonde Mineral Engineering students hold the first in-person fall Capstone presentations in three years.

Larry Smith, an industry judge, listens to the presentation of Team 1 students at the Mineral Engineering Capstone presentations on Tuesday, November 29, 2022. (Photo by Phill Snel)

Fourth-year Min students recently held their fall Capstone presentations, the first in-person fall event in three years.

The annual rite of passage involves completing a group project to solve a mine design challenge, of a formerly active mine in the Yukon, with environmental legacy issues. The results must be summarized in an engineering design report and an in-person oral presentation with a display, in the form of a poster. “The main goal is to give the students the challenge to see if they can apply all the skills and knowledge they have learned in the previous three years of courses, in a real life scenario,” says Prof. Kamran Esmaeili.

As with many academic quandaries, explains Esmaeili, “There is no right or wrong answer – it’s an open-ended question. You could accomplish a successful design in multiple different ways, but which one is the optimum design from both safety and project economics perspectives?

Students celebrate the completion of their Capstone presentation with fist bumps. (Photo by Phill Snel)

The exercise is structured to simulate not only real-world technical issues, but also, “learning about working together as a team, accomplishing the tasks together, dividing up the tasks among among themselves. And they also learn to use lots of their communication skills – interpersonal communications, writing communication skills and presentation communication skills. These are other important outcomes of this particular course.”

Of the ten presenting students, many have participated in the Professional Experience Year Co-op Program, known as PEY Co-op. Asked if he thinks there’s a difference in approach to the assignment for those who do, or don’t, pursue a PEY, Esmaeili says, “I think so. I think it makes a significant difference in the way that you look at a  mining design project, because you understand the limitations and restrictions of a real-world mine operation. Also, it can give you a better understanding of the challenges and the potentials to improve a mine operation. So, yes, certainly it has a significant influence on how you look at the whole project.”

L to R: Brian Buss, Prof. Kamran Esmaeili and Larry Smith consult after fourth-year Lassonde Mineral Engineering students presented their Capstone projects. (Photo by Phill Snel)

Overseen by industry judges Brian Buss, P.Eng. and Larry Smith (CivE 7T2), along with Prof. Esmaeili, the three teams were subjected to rigorous questioning to justify their recommendations. Smith has been involved in this Capstone project for many years, and is a well-known expert in mining finance, mineral economics, as well as giving detailed lectures on cash flow analysis, cost estimation, commodity price forecasting and beyond. First-time guest judge, Buss, is a well-known expert in mine planning and design.

At times the questions could be philosophical in nature, asking if a given legacy environmental issue is an opportunity or a liability. Sometimes the answer is “both” as there is opportunity to use new methods to minimize environmental and social impacts, but there can be retained resistance in a community due to what has happened historically. “If we do the same mine today, how these problems could be avoided is something an opportunity for them to learn from. Learn from what happened in the past and propose something that could minimize these impacts,” says Esmaeili. Further adding, “In the winter term, in the second Capstone, they look at the environmental and social impacts of the mining project. And now that they are aware of these environmental problems, they should think about what can be done differently to avoid or minimize the environmental impacts.”

Min students, TAs, professor and industry professionals sit down for a family-style lunch after Capstone presentations. (Photo by Phill Snel)

After the Capstone presentations were completed, the close-knit cohort of assembled students, professor, TAs and industry professionals sat down for a well-deserved family-style lunch together in the atrium on the fourth floor of the Lassonde Mining Building.

By Phill Snel



Capstone posters

Poster by Team 1: Shaan Hudani, Alec Gilvesy, Komal Mann, Joseph Persaud

Poster by Team 2: Raphael Beekmeyer, Kyle Wong, Shi Kai Li

Poster by Team 3: Andriy Kalatskyy, Michael McCulloch, Shivan Singh

Summary of the project assigned:

The information on a polymetallic (lead-zinc-gold-silver) ore deposit located in Yukon, Canada, has been provided in the form of a block model (ore grades, rock types, etc.). In addition, some geotechnical information (geotechnical borehole logging data, geotechnical laboratory data) for the main rock units encountered in the area of the project has been given. You should perform a conceptual/pre-feasibility study of developing an open pit mine for the ore deposit. The following components will be analyzed in detail for the project:

  • Geotechnical rock mass characterization and classification
  • Pit slope stability analysis 
  • Pit design and optimization
  • Long-term production planning
  • Waste rock dump design

The results must be summarized in an engineering design report and an oral presentation (in the form of a poster).

CivMin professor and student receive EAN Awards

CivMin Chair Prof. Brent Sleep (L) with Prof. Marianne Hatzopoulou and third-year student Amy Bagrin at the EAN Awards on Thursday, November 3, 2022. (Photo by Phill Snel / CivMin)

CivMin’s Prof. Marianne Hatzopoulou (CivE PhD 0T8) and undergraduate student Amy Bagrin (CivE Year 3) were recognized by the Engineering Alumni Network (EAN) at their annual EAN Awards event held Thursday, November 3 at Hart House.

Prof. Marianne Hatzopoulou at the EAN Awards Thursday, November 3, 2022. (photo by Phill Snel / CivMin)

Prof. Hatzopoulou was recognized with the 2T5 Mid-Career Achievement Award, with Bagrin receiving the EAN Scholarship.

Hatzopoulou’s award recognizes a graduate (11-25 years from undergraduate graduation) who has earned respect within the profession as well as the broader Canadian community. She completed her PhD at U of T in 2008 in Transportation Engineering in Civil Engineering, and has been a professor in the Department since 2015 having first started at McGill in 2010.

Currently, Hatzopoulou leads the Transportation and Air Quality (TRAQ) research group studying the interactions between transportation, air quality, climate, and health. She published over 140 publications on these topics. She is also the Director of Positive Zero Transport Futures, a living lab ecosystem for testing transport decarbonization innovations with positive societal outcomes. She received funding from provincial, federal, and international agencies to conduct integrative research in transportation engineering and public health. Prof. Hatzopoulou held a Tier2 Canada Research Chair in Transportation and Air Quality (2013-2021) and a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Discovery Accelerator Supplement (2016-2019). She is on the Canadian team that received the 2021 NSERC Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering. She serves on the Transportation Research Board standing committee on Air Quality and Greenhouse Gas Mitigation as the committee research coordinator. She is also an associate editor of the journal Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment.

Amy Bagrin (CivE Year 3) is flanked EAN President Safdar Mahmood (ElecE 0T3) and Engineering Dean Prof. Christopher Yip (ChemE 8T8, R) at the EAN Awards Thursday, November 3, 2022. (photo by Phill Snel/CivMin)

Bagrin’s award is presented to a part-time or full-time student in good standing, proceeding to second, third or fourth year in any program in the Faculty. Recipients are selected based on the demonstration of a passion for engineering-related design, creativity and innovation as exhibited by involvement in the Skule™ community through design-related extra-curricular activities, co-curricular involvement and/or entrepreneurial pursuits.

She is a third-year Civil Engineering student, currently pursuing a minor in Engineering Business. During her time at U of T, she has grown as a leader and gained a love for the Skule™ community at large. She aims to deliver equitable and accessible F!rosh Week programming to the incoming first-year engineering students through her work for the finance portfolio of the Orientation Committee, starting as a subcommittee chair and moving on to be the Vice-Chair Finance. She also organizes events and initiatives for her peers through her work for the Civil Engineering Club (aka Civ Club). As the former Social Director and acting Vice Chair, she engages and strengthens the Civil Engineering student body, representing their interests to the department and faculty. In 2022, Amy served as a captain on the U of T Troitsky design team, leading her team to victory at the national Troitsky Bridge Building Competition. Upon graduating, Amy hopes to continue her work in drinking water treatment through the water resources management stream or further explore business in the construction management industry.


Meet your 2022-23 CivMin club leaders

CivMin club leaders (left to right): Civ Club Chair Kent Straky, CivMin GSA President Sheida Saffari, and Min Club Chair Alec Gilvesy.

The leaders of CivMin’s student clubs are on a mission to boost levels of student involvement while continuing to support undergraduate and graduate students in their academic, professional and personal journeys here at the University of Toronto.

We recently chatted with each club leader to discuss their goals for the year and to get to know them a bit better.

Meet your 2022-23 CivMin GSA President Sheida Saffari

Meet your 2022-23 Civ Club Chair Kent Straky

Meet your 2022-23 Min Club Chair Alec Gilvesy

Meet your 2022-23 CivMin GSA President Sheida Saffari

Sheida Saffari (CivE PhD candidate) Civ Min GSA President. (photo by Galina Nikitina, CivMin)

 We’re checking in with the newly elected leader of CivMin Graduate Students Association. Here’s our Q&A with GSA President Sheida Saffari (CivE PhD candidate), who secured her position with the October 5 election of executives.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I am Sheida Saffari, and I started my master’s program one year ago at U of T. However, I switched my program to the PhD stream recently. I am pursuing my PhD under the supervision of Professor Daeho Kim, with the focus of our research on robotizing and digitizing the construction industry. More specifically, I am working on construction equipment.  

What do you do in your spare time? 
As an international student who lives alone here in Toronto, I can hardly find any spare time. Life gets super busy, especially when I am studying. I would say that in my spare time, cooking is my favourite task to do. I also work out several times during the week. That helps to maintain my mental health apart from my physical health.

Why did you choose U of T?
U of T is ranked as the best university in Canada. Country-wise I chose Canada, as it is known for the exceptional quality of the education system. Therefore, I chose Canada and U of T.  

What is your favourite place in Toronto?
I am in love with downtown Toronto. You can see the multi-nationality of people living here. As an immigrant, the diversity of languages, cultures, foods, and beliefs give me a very good feeling to be here and spend a couple of years here in Canada.  

What are your favourite spots on campus?
I would say I like spending a lot of time in couple of libraries here on campus. Hart House Library and University College Library are my favourite spots ever. I am in love with architecture and design, and both libraries provide modern services inside historical buildings. 

Could it tell us about the CivMin GSA?
CivMin GSA is an abbreviation of the Civil and Mineral Graduate Students Association. It is a co-curricular activity for graduate students that focuses on students’ professional development. 

Over the years spent at the University, Engineering students develop technical skills. However, what we do need, and what we lack, are soft skills. We need them when we enter to the job market after graduation. Participating in student associations as a volunteer gives a sense of the soft skills required in teamwork.  

What are some of your goals for the year as GSA president? 
We will do our best to have all our events in person this year. I would say I wish to focus more on Industry Night because it was a very fruitful event for graduate students last year. It is an event where professionals from industry meet our graduate students in an informal and friendly environment. Students can network and ask experts about their journey from being students to becoming professionals. This event also helps graduate students to create an amazing network to find jobs.  

Additionally, we are going to hold a lot of social events for all graduate students of the Civil and Mineral Engineering Department. As graduate students, we are super busy, and we hardly can find any time to socialize with other students. These events are helpful for mental health support, as they let participants escape from the stress of school, meet new people, and spend some time together. 

Civ Min GSA is going to host a lot of in-person pub and game nights that graduate students can participate in; these are also things we lacked last year. All graduate students are invited to gather in one of the pubs we cooperate with and have an opportunity to talk to people from other research specializations they hardly had a chance to meet during working hours in the department.  

Let me tell you a short story of mine which shows how networking could be life-changing. I was looking to switch my program [MEng] to a thesis-based stream because I really wanted to go into research and continue working in academia. For a while, I was unsuccessful in finding the right supervisor who works in my field of interest. During one of the CivMin GSA pub night events, I had a chance to talk to people who I never met at school, and ask for their advice. One of the participants eventually became my college. It was the very first time we met and started talking about our specializations, what are our research goals, and what we are looking to do in our journey here at U of T. Later, he introduced me to my current supervisor. I believe that these amazing opportunities could happen to everybody. 

How can people get involved with GSA? 
People can be in touch with us via LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and e-mail ( They can contact us if they have any questions or if they wish to participate in any of our events. Following our social media and, more specifically, our LinkedIn is an amazing platform to get in touch with students were members of CivMin GSA and now are the professionals in the industry or the companies who cooperated with our association.  

However, if they wish to get involved as a member, every year we have an election and voting period during September, and that is the right time to get involved as a member of CivMin GSA. 

By Galina Nikitina


Full list of 2022-23 CivMin GSA Executives:

President: Sheida Saffari (PhD candidate)
Finance Director: Devang Bhadra (MEng candidate)
Communication Director: Tabassum Masoodakhtar Saheb (PhD candidate)
Academic Director: Amirhossein Babaei Ravandi (PhD candidate)
Social Directors:
Emily Zhang (MEng candidate)
Ali Tohidifar (PhD candidate)
Andria Liu (MEng candidate)
Bhabishya Khaniya (PhD candidate)
External Director: Julio Martinez Uribe (MEng candidate)
Athletic Director: Tianyu Shi (PhD  candidate)
Julio Martinez (MEng candidate)
Andria Liu (MEng candidate)
Kevin Kuriakose Joseph (MASc candidate)
Tianyu Shi (PhD candidate)
Devang Bhadra (MEng candidate)
Emily Zhang (MEng candidate)
Ammarah Zahid (MEng candidate)

Scholarship winners Othman and Torbatian present at CAA Board Meeting

head shot of Kareem Othmanhead shot of Sara TorbatianCongratulations to Kareem Othman (photo, left) (CivMin PhD student) and Sara Torbatian (photo, right) (CivMin PhD candidate) on receiving CAA Graduate Scholarships in Transportation Engineering.

Kareem and Sara gave presentations on their research at the CAA Annual Meeting at the invitation of CAA’s Board of Directors on October 6, 2022.Kareem presented “Advanced real time transit management strategies in mixed traffic on arterials,” and Sara presented “Contribution of diesel trucks to climate and air quality and implications for environmental justice.”Read more about these award-winning researchers and the CAA Graduate Scholarships in Transportation Engineering.

This story originally published by Mobility Network

CivMin students crack top spots at TimberFever

Israel Castro (Left, CivE Year 3) was on Team 14, which took third place, and Asim Ahmad (Right, CivE Year 2) was on Team 8, which took first place in the Timberfever competition. (Courtesy Israel Castro)


CivMin students participating in teams for this year’s TimberFever competition took first and third place, as well as winning a Public Vote Award.
The design competition for architecture and engineering students, has teams gather to design and build structures which are then put on display. Over 90 participants from over 10 universities, from around Canada and the U.S., joined this three-day event taking place September 15 to 18. This year’s objective was to create a pavilion that encourages urban gardening and a sense of community.
Asim Ahmad (CivE Year 2) on Team 8, which took first, and Israel Castro (CivE Year 3) on Team 14, which took third place in the competition. As well, Chielotam Agbatekwe (CivE Year 3) on Team 11 won the Public Vote Award.

Left to right CivMin team members who won at TimberFever 2022: First place awarded to Team 8, with Asim Ahmad (CivE Year 2), Ascend Garden Pavillion; Third place awarded to Team 14, with Israel Castro (CivE Year 3), Paraboloid Garden; Public Vote Winner awarded to Team 11, with Chielotam Agbatekwe (CivE Year 3) Raid the Radish!

“TimberFever was a great experience which allowed us to deal with all stages of design and construction while collaborating with architecture students, learning from industry mentors and gaining knowledge of where sustainability within structural engineering is headed, says Castro. “Definitely looking forward to participating again next year!”

Ahmad offers a reflection of the competition,”TimberFever was a great opportunity to connect with students, mentors and professionals in the field of Civil Engineering and Architecture. As an Engineering student, my personal favourite aspect of this competition was the firsthand experience of working with Architects. Going through the design process, sharing ideas, learning from each others’ experiences and bringing our design to life was a greatly rewarding experience. Another important takeaway from this event is the importance of sustainable building practice, by promoting the idea of sustainability and use of materials that can regenerate naturally (such as timber). Can’t wait till next year!”

The competition involves, as the name implies, building timber structures with participants first give a design brief and limited time to complete. Engineering and architecture students collaborate to design, build and present their creation to industry professionals.

by Phill Snel

More photos available on the TimberFever Instagram feed





Student researchers break new ground

An excerpt from the original article highlighting our CivMin student Emma Blewett

Would free, unlimited transit provide youth experiencing homelessness with more opportunities?

Emma Blewett

Noah Kelly, a U of T graduate, and Emma Blewett, a third-year civil engineering student, are researching how free, unlimited transit access can improve the quality of life for Toronto youth who are experiencing homelessness.

TAP (Transit Access Project) for Youth is a student-led transit equity research project that seeks to reduce barriers to transit access. It was founded by five undergraduate students as part of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) at U of T, the largest student chapter of the Canadian non-governmental organization that takes strategic action to tackle global poverty in local communities.

Working with two Toronto-based homeless shelters and one transitional youth home, the team gave free PRESTO cards to 36 participants between the ages of 16 to 24 earlier this year. Each one came pre-loaded with a monthly pass. From there, the TAP team documented participants’ experiences with transit before and after receiving the card. This included interactions with transit authorities and riders, safety and social inclusion.

“Transit equity ensures the right to mobility,” says Kelly, co-founder of TAP. “Public transit access in Toronto is vital in exiting the cycle of homelessness because it enables youth to have job opportunities in the urban landscape, which would otherwise be limited to walkable areas.”

With $2,000 support from the Small Grants Program awarded by the School of Cities – an ISI which brings interdisciplinary urban-focused researchers, students, institutions and the public together to build equitable and sustainable cities – the group was able to hire a social worker to attend the interviews to inform youth of any programs or supports to help with their needs.

Guided by Steven Farber, an associate professor in the department of human geography at U of T Scarborough, and Stephanie Begun, an assistant professor in the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, TAP is funded in partnership with Metrolinx, the City of Toronto’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Office and the Toronto Shelter Network, along with other stakeholders.

With a final report set to be published early next year, TAP’s data aims to fill a gap in scholarship and inform City of Toronto and TTC policy frameworks on conversations surrounding transit equity.

The project is a replication of a similar initiative that brought free transit to all people experiencing homelessness in Edmonton, Alta, in 2013. While transit discount programs do exist in Toronto, several hurdles make them insufficient, the group says.

In Toronto, the Fair Pass Transit Discount Program offers a 21 per cent discount on an adult monthly pass, which costs approximately $123 instead of the regular price of $156. To be eligible, applicants must be 20 years old or more and prove enrollment in Ontario Works,  the Ontario Disability Support Program, a Child Care Fee Subsidy (through Toronto Children’s Services) or the Rent-Geared-to-Income Subsidy – programs that researchers say aren’t by themselves enough to help youth experiencing homelessness access job opportunities.

“We have to think about setting youth up for success after they enter a shelter or transitional home,” says Blewett, financial lead at TAP for Youth. “What keeps me going in this project is being a part of research that will help young people live their lives as they should be.”

By  Tina Adamopoulos
This story originally published by U of T News

This article is part of a multimedia series about U of T’s Institutional Strategic Initiatives program – which seeks to make life-changing advancements in everything from infectious diseases to social justice – and the research community that’s driving it.

Student profile: Hannah Hermanson (CivE Year 3)

Changing lanes in academic pursuits and sports

Hannah Hermanson (CivE Year 3) poses in the SF Pit with her Engineering leather jacket sporting 2T3 on the sleeve. (Photo courtesy Hannah Hermanson)

Hannah Hermanson is a third year Civil Engineering student currently employed during her Professional Experience Year (PEY) in Calgary. As a student-athlete she has been a member of the U of T Varsity Blues swim team for four years and has now switched to water polo. Academically, she switched lanes too, changing from a path in math and physics to one in Engineering.

This interview was conducted at the end of the school year, then updated recently to add her PEY experience.

Can you tell us just a little bit about yourself?
I’m Hannah Hermanson in third year Civil Engineering and I’m also planning on doing a minor in business. I’m originally from Hawaii, but both of my parents are Canadians, and I have dual citizenship. That’s kind of what pushed me to come to U of T.

I’ve been swimming competitively for 16 years. I started when I was super young and, since we were living in Hawaii, it was more because of safety concerns that my parents got me into swimming. We were always at the beach, and they didn’t want us to drown, so it was mandatory swimming lessons if you’re going to go to the beach.

Since then, I’ve been swimming everywhere we lived. We moved to Spain when I was 12, so wound up swimming competitively there for three years, then we came back to the States, to North Carolina for high school, and was swimming there. Then I came to U of T and I’ve been swimming the past four years with the [Varsity Blues] team here.

Were you born in Hawaii? It’s a big weather adjustment here in Canada from there.
Yes, I was born in Maui. It’s very different being here, especially in April when it’s still snowing.

Why U of T? What attracted you specifically to this institution?
My mom’s from Alberta, and my dad is originally from Ontario, so there was a tie to Ontario, but I was mostly just attracted to U of T for the academics and the programs.

And why Engineering at U of T?
Originally, in my first year, I was in math and physics in the Arts and Science program – that was what I got into U of T for.

Then I thought if I was going to be doing all the work for math and physics, and all the calculations and everything related, I wanted it to have some real-world application. So, midway through the first semester in math and physics, I thought, “You know what? I need to do a more applied discipline.” I applied to transfer into Civil Engineering, then finished my first year in math and physics and got into engineering that summer.

Hannah Hermanson (CivE Year 3) swimming the backstroke in competition for the U of T Varsity Blues swim team.

Engineering is known to be rigorous, academically, and you’re also a Varsity athlete. How do you maintain balance with that and keep some sort of personal life?
For swimming it was set up pretty nice – we have 11 practices throughout the week and we need to go to a minimum of six of them.

There’s morning practices and afternoon practices so, depending on your class schedule, you can make your own schedule. Since I’ve been at U of T, I’ve mostly been going to morning practices because I have classes all afternoon.

To make the morning practices, I’d go to bed pretty early; it’s all about time management. I feel like I would finish courses, have two hours to do homework and then I needed to start winding down to go to bed to wake up early enough to go to practices. Usually, I would stop work around 9 p.m. and be asleep by 10 p.m. and then morning practices are usually at 6:30 a.m., sometimes 7 a.m.

In high school, classes started so much earlier than the usual 9 a.m. here at U of T, so I would have to wake up at 4 or 4:15 a.m. for practice. Then, when I came to U of T, I thought, wow, swimming is an enjoyable sport again. I really started to love it again just because of the great atmosphere and the coaches are so much more relaxed. They’re like, “You’re an adult – you can come to practice if you want to. If you don’t, we really don’t care, we have so many other athletes to attend to.” The whole staff is great. Everyone from Byron MacDonald [Head Coach], Linda Keifer [Assistant Head Coach] and Doug Vanderby [Assistant Coach] is simply spectacular.

 You seem very capable of assessing your situation and changing direction on the fly. You went from math and physics to Engineering; you went from swimming, an individual sport, and moved to water polo, a team sport. How very adaptable.
Yes, changing and testing it out. I tend to make the decision and then, deal with the aftermath as it comes. Whether I have doubts, or not, I just deal with it as it comes. But I do definitely feel like I have made some pretty big changes.

It’s amazing to have that kind of confidence, some inner strength. Kudos to you. Now you’ve wrapped up competitive swimming and now you’re doing water polo at U of T. Does it require a different set of skills, because instead of individual events it’s now as part of a team?
It is very different. I’ve only been doing water polo for four weeks. I’m still very new there, so they’re teaching me how to throw, how to hold my hand, how to do the eggbeater kick. I’m still learning the basics. It’s very different from swimming, but super fun.

How does that work now for your schedule and balancing academics, athletics and personal time?
They only have six practices a week and they offer and their practices are from 7 p.m. at night to 9 p.m. On Wednesdays they’re from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. So when I’m usually winding down, they’re just starting. It’s a very,  very different thing for me to get used to. My day has usually been over by 9 p.m., but now it doesn’t really start until then for water polo practices. I get home at 11 and, well, I don’t fall asleep for at least another two hours.

Have you played any matches as it in water polo now, or just been practicing?
No, I’ve just been trying to learn the basics. Their season ended in December, so everything they’re doing right now is just practicing and a few scrimmages.

Do you think having these two very arduous time commitments has kept you very disciplined and structured for the use of your time?
I’m definitely not able to procrastinate assignments, because I just don’t have time to procrastinate them. I feel pretty thankful I’ve always had a time crunch with my schedule. I only ever have an hour or two at a time to work on things, so I can’t put it off till that night. I just don’t have time. It’s what really helped me throughout high school and in general.

You’re in third year right now. Did you go to Camp at the beginning of the year?
I’m actually doing my PEY this year and then I’m planning to do Camp the following summer. 

Are there any professors or other people at the University, and particularly in Engineering, that you think fondly of, or who have made an impact on you? Maybe somebody you want to give a little shoutout to?  
I thoroughly enjoyed the course APS301 – Technology in Society and the Biosphere, taught by Prof. Robert Irish I absolutely loved that course.

Also, Prof. Susan Andrews’s course CIV220 Urban Engineering Ecology, Pedram Mortazavi (CivE PhD candidate) in CIV312 too – Pedram was our instructor for CIV312 last year.

You’re three years in now – did you start first year in person?
Yes, my first year of Engineering at U of T was all in-person classes, until about March 2020 when everything went downhill. I was happy to have one whole year with everyone before we had to spend a year with remote learning.

So are you are you glad to see in-person classes come back, even though there’s been some, restrictions on gatherings and you have to wear mask?
Yeah, I definitely think so. Last year I was in Hawaii for most of it. There’s a six-hour time difference, so I was doing a lot of my 9 a.m. Toronto time classes by waking up at 4 a.m., depending on daylight savings. I would just be sitting there at my desk at home and nobody else was awake but me. That part I really don’t miss.

I did like when you could watch lectures at your leisure and rewatching lectures was super useful, but I definitely prefer in person. As well, seeing my friends and going to lectures together just helps build this sense of community. I feel like it’s such a big part of helping you get through Engineering. Sure, the courses are hard, but the people make it better.

During the pandemic you made the decision to go back home to your parents in Hawaii.
I went home in March 2020 and then I came back the following fall because training for swimming was happening, and we were hoping things would open up. So I came back with high hopes. But then, around Thanksgiving, it kind of just shut down and then it just got more closed from there on. I went back and stayed home for the whole next semester.

Now you’re back to classes and Varsity sports full time.
I live right along Bloor, 10 minutes from campus, with three other swimmers and two track athletes. It’s a house of six girls, all athletes, so they train a lot in the AC [Athletic Centre] too. It only takes about 10 minutes to get ready in the morning – we leave exactly seven minutes before we have to be at the pool. We have it down to a science and we all convene in the hallway at 6:07 a.m. – we never leave on an even number. Then we get to the pool exactly when we need to be there, not a minute wasted.

Do you have any places on campus that you say this is my go-to spot on campus or maybe an off-campus place you go?
I go to Sid Smith quite a bit, since it’s so close to the pool. If I finish practice and have an odd hour between when classes start, I would just go to Sid Smith. And New College – the lounge in New College is where swimmers just end up doing work after or before practices, as it’s so close to the AC.

Is there any other place, even off campus, where you seek out a familiar or comforting dish? Perhaps something that tastes like home?
No. I’ve tried a few poke bowls here, but they hardly compare to the ones back home. I’d say Zaad, this Mediterranean place on Bloor me and my roommates go there all the time.

I guess it’s been pretty short term for you living in Canada really, but is there anything that you found here that you go, oh, we just don’t have that at home?
Definitely ice skating in my first year – I really took advantage of the family skate times on Sundays. That was super fun. I bought my first pair of skates, as I was really thinking I’d need to embrace the Canadian side of me. So, I’ve been trying to learn how to skate, and every time I go home to Hawaii, I think, oh, I wish we had skating rinks here to cool off.

Is there any food here that is unique. To hear that you found that you go oh, shoot when you don’t have that in Hawaii.
I absolutely love poutine. I’ve had to make that a couple of times at home just because it’s so good. And Timbits every time. We’ve come to Canada before, as I have relatives in Alberta, and every time we come I always get Timbits. It’s a running joke inside my family that every time you go to Canada, Hannah needs to get Timbits. So Tim Horton’s and poutine, the most stereotypical Canadian snacks.

Do you have an unusual or a different kind of a hobby, or some other talent that somebody may not know about, except that we’re asking you here now?
I do quite a few other sports outside. When I was 12, my dad taught my sister and I to kite surf, so every time I’m in Hawaii we kite surf quite a bit. There was a pretty big learning curve there for that. I love rock climbing, and snowboarding.

And I’m kind of a grandma in some ways, as I really like to knit and crochet.

Your next step, as you already said, is you’re going to do a PEY. Can you say where you’re going to go work this summer?
I’m going out to Calgary, Alberta – as I said most of my family is in Alberta – and I just loved snowboarding. I thought the mountains are there, my family is there, it’s cheaper to live there and I like the job. So, I’ll be in Calgary for 12 months with Enbridge. It’s an enterprise asset management position.

Can you give us some updates on the PEY Co-op Position? (added after the original interview)
It’s a super-great environment. The first couple of weeks it felt like I was drinking from a fire hose, because there was so much information to learn in a very short period of time. Now that it has been a couple of months I am much more in the groove of things.

It’s a very self-directed position, so I have a lot of freedom to explore different areas in the company and talk to people about what they do. I’ve been going on a lot of coffee chats to see all the different career paths that other engineers have taken. It’s fascinating how many turns people take and changes they make in their careers.

Calgary has been wonderful, I’ve tried to go to the mountains as much as possible, camping, hiking, I even got a day of summer skiing in on the July long weekend. It’s also nice being near family, they’ve made the transition much easier.


By Phill Snel


Bridging communities in Bolivia

U of T Engineers in Action (EIA) students team up to connect separated communities in rural Bolivia.

The finished bridge linking communities in Quinamara, Bolivia. (Courtesy Engineers in Action)

Thanks to efforts by students, a remote Bolivian community previously divided by a ravine with a seasonal river, sometimes making a land crossing impossible for months at a time, is now united with a pedestrian crossing, ensuring access for everyone to vital services.

U of T Engineering students from the all-volunteer group Engineers in Action (EIA) have once more completed a bridge-building project for a deserving community in need. The EIA U of T Student Chapter joined forces with their counterparts at the University of Alberta (U of A EIA) to successfully design and build a suspended footbridge linking the rural residents of Quinamara, Bolivia.

The interdisciplinary group, including students from ECE, MechE and CivE at U of T, combined their skills with guidance and support from Arup and faculty advisor Prof. Brent Sleep.

“We have a parent organization, Engineers in Action, and each year they apply for a project to build a bridge and assign us a location. Then we’ll just go about designing it,” explains Jun Rong Zhao (CivE 2T1 + PEY), the team’s president. “Then in the summer, if we get the chance, we’ll get to also go and build it.”

Sharing the responsibilities, the U of T team took the task of design, with the U of A team travelling for the on-site construction of the bridge.

“The bridge is located in Quinamara and it now serves two communities divided by a ravine. About 350 community members and 30 children now have access to local health care, health posts, schools and markets,” Liah Scott (Year 3 CivE) says. “Because there’s now the bridge for them to cross the river, almost 400 community members have year-round access to vital services. Otherwise, the river made it impassable for 120 days of the year.”

Arup’s Maxime Bellefeuille (right) and Sara Albouz, on site of the 2019 build. It was the last U of T build before the pandemic. (Photo courtesy Maxime Bellefeuille)

The U of T group received the guidance of Senior Engineer in Bridges and Civil Structures at Arup, Maxime Bellefeuille, along with several of his colleagues. A total of six working engineers were providing valuable insight and feedback. “I think the students did a very, very good job. I think even EIA were extremely impressed with the work the U of T and University of Alberta students have produced,” offers Bellefeuille. Continuing with the feedback received from EIA, “They kept repeating these were amazing reports and they would share them with every team, making them templates for them to follow in the future,” then offers direct praise himself, “I think that’s all the power to you. You did very, very thorough work.”

Bellefeuille has a history with assisting the U of T EIA team, “A co-worker of mine, who used to work in Toronto, knew I had been involved with Bridge to Prosperity in the past, so he forwarded me the details and I got interested, so I started helping out on the first-year’s project. Then it bloomed into what we have now – a six-year partnership.”

The process is long and involved during the academic year. Along with the team in Toronto and Edmonton, coordination with an in-country program manager from the parent organization helps keep an eye on the project site and conditions before boots hit the ground.

Luna Amador (Year 3 CivE) explains the use of technology to virtually visit the remote site, “We get the profiles they send in and the surveys, but we would also use Google Maps [satellite view] to view the surrounding area and terrain. For instance, I know last year there was an issue where the bridge we were building there was a dam downstream, which would affect the level of the water. You have to keep an eye out for the type of thing that wouldn’t be in the survey, because it’s outside of the immediate area where the bridge would be, but might still impact it.”

“We know what we’re building on – it’s not always an easy site and it’s not perfect. Sometimes there’s boulders in the way we have to manage, or trees and other obstacles. But we always have someone on the on the ground who can go to the site if we have questions, such as about the soil conditions,” says Scott.

A plaque on the newly constructed bridge joining communities in Quinamara, Bolivia. (Courtesy Engineers in Action)

Multiple reports and revisions are the norm. “During the first report, the preliminary report, I think the students did a very good job of identifying all the potential issues ahead of time. They identified concerns such as a mill next to one abutment and we didn’t know if it would be in conflict,” Bellefeuille recounts. “If it is in conflict, then we will need to revise the abutment design. There are ways of mitigating this, so the students asked the in-country staff team to confirm its position and confirm whether or not there’s an issue ahead of time. The teams were as proactive as possible and I think it helped. They completed the bridge ahead of time, so I think everything went well in country.”

Asked of the sustainability and durability of the project, Bellefeuille beams,“It does meet a lot of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, SDG’s, and it’s an amazing project. I think these projects are incredibly sustainable to start with – they use local materials and their environmental footprint is very low. There’s almost no mechanical equipment, as we know, since it’s mostly manual labour that goes into them.”

Zhao includes, remarking on the lasting impact of the work, “Hopefully the bridge lasts about 30 years. The bridge manual we follow does mention some maintenance is required beyond 30 years.”

This summer Liah Scott and Luna Amador are taking their respective Professional Experience Year (PEY). Jun Rong Zhao convocated in June.

By Phill Snel

Engineers in Action (EIA) is an international non-profit organization whose mission is to support development of sustainable systems and infrastructure with underserved communities, local experience, and global partners. Since 2006 in EIA’s Bridge Program, hundreds of students from 30+ universities across the globe have designed and built 80+ footbridges alongside rural communities in 11 countries. Through their work, they have helped connect nearly 150,000 previously isolated people to essential resources.




CivMin’s Bo Zhao shares Best Architecture Award at 2022 Seismic Design Competition

Bo Zhao (Year 3 CivE) and Adela Hua (with their certificates for Best Architecture Award at the 2022 Seismic Design Competition at Salt Lake City, Utah.

A University of Toronto student team took top honours for architecture at an international competition. Congratulations to design and architecture lead Bo Zhao (Year 3 CivE) from the Department of Civil & Mineral Engineering, currently on PEY, and architecture lead Adela Hua a third-year student from the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, who won the Best Architecture Award at the 2022 Seismic Design Competition at Salt Lake City, Utah. The event is held by the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI). 

The team designed a building titled “Tomorrow’s Tower” for the competition. View the score sheet here.

“They placed first out of 32 international teams and this is the best achievement in our team’s history, proving U of T has the best,” says U of T Seismic Design Team captain Eliza Van Weerdhuizen (EngSci 2T1). 

A rendering of the U of T entry titled Tomorrow’s Tower.

The team managed to present their project at the in-person event, with three members attending, but without any model to show. “Tragically, our model actually got lost in the airline and never made it to the competition on time. It is still somewhere in transit/storage with no news on when it will return home,” says Hua. The team persevered Hua recounts,”We were, however, still able to participate in all other parts of the competition, including the poster and power-point presentation where all components of the design were shown, including the model’s digital simulation, build process, and cost estimation.”

© 2022 Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering