UVic’s fast-growing faculty celebrates the role of women


MESSAGE FROM THE DEAN

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Peter Wild, Acting Dean, Faculty of Engineering

It’s a pleasure to launch UVic Engineering and Computer Science News, a revisioning and rebranding of the faculty’s newsletter. This edition is special for a few reasons.

For starters, it’s the faculty’s first email-only newsletter, paper copies not being in keeping with our commitment to create solutions to real-world problems that make an impact on the lives of people, places and the planet. The previous newsletter was called EngineeRing, a nod both to the road that encircles campus and the Iron Ring worn by many Canadian-trained engineers. The new name is more inclusive of our large and highly regarded Computer Science Department, where undergrads earn a Bachelor of Science rather than a BEng. Read more


The significance of 30

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The terrible events of Dec. 6, 1989, have always stood out in Michelle Mahovlich’s mind. Over the past 30 years, while Mahovlich pursued a successful career, her thoughts turned back, again and again, to the 14 young women who were gunned down in an engineering class in Montreal and to the paths they never had the chance to travel.

“It’s one of those things that has always stood out in my life, especially in a field where there’s not very many women,” says Mahovlich, who is Director of Engineering at the City of Langford. “There are those of us who are privileged enough to have been able to practice in engineering, while those young women never got that chance.”

To mark the 30th anniversary of Montreal and, at the same time, recognize the 30 by 30 initiative of Engineers Canada, Mahovlich decided to establish an endowment that would provide an award for a young woman entering UVic Engineering every year in perpetuity. Read more


Message to girls: engineering and computer science are options

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Last month, 30 bright, energetic teens descended on UVic to take part in the faculty’s first Women in Engineering and Computer Science (WECS) Day for high school girls.

The four-hour event on Oct. 2 included technology challenges led by four UVic engineering clubs, a pizza dinner, and a panel featuring a group of successful, engaging women who work in industry and academia.

“It was great — we had an enthusiastic group of girls, volunteers and professionals in the room and their energy made it a success,” said lead event organizer Camille Zimmer, a first-year PhD student in Civil Engineering. Read more


30 years of inspiration

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Thirty years after graduating from UVic’s Electrical Engineering program, Patricia Dijak still feels a deep sense of gratitude — for her university experiences with her classmates, for the opportunities her degree made possible, and for the meaningful impact her work has had over the years.

When she graduated in 1989, Dijak was the only woman in a class of 33. At that time, Electrical and Computer Engineering were the only engineering programs at UVic and her class was only the second to graduate. She remembers her class as being creative, fun and collaborative. Read more


Humans of UVic Engineering and Computer Science

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Meet Aria Poutanen: computer scientist, radio DJ and Bandcamp developer.

Poutanen was the first student to be featured in an ongoing series of stories posted on the faculty's social media accounts and website. Borrowing from the title of the popular “Humans of New York” blog, this series gives readers a glimpse into the human side of UVic Engineering and Computer Science — the diversity of our students, why they choose their fields, how they overcome challenges and what they’re most passionate about.

While the series will occasionally feature our alumni, faculty and staff, the emphasis will be on students, beginning with Poutanen, a fourth-year Computer Science student whose love of music landed her a very cool co-op position. Read more


RESEARCH

Shaping the future of intelligent transportation

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Photo credit: Martin Lipman, NSERC

The future of safe and efficient self-driving vehicles relies on the instant transmission of accurate information to avoid accidents, reduce congestion and air pollution, and improve fuel efficiency.

But our current system of wireless networking isn’t adequate.

Lin Cai, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UVic and recipient of a 2019 E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship, is developing what she calls an “elegant solution” to the complex challenges of creating a safe and seamless wireless network connecting vehicles, roadside infrastructure, pedestrians and the “cloud.” Since its launch in 1965, Cai is the first female recipient of this prestigious award in the field of electrical and computer engineering. Read more


Researcher’s smart dressing for wounds closer to commercialization

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A UVic biomedical engineer’s “smart dressing” for wounds will soon be produced in the thousands for testing, thanks to an award that helps researchers commercialize their innovations.

Mohsen Akbari recently won the Michael Smith Foundation’s Innovation to Commercialization Award to further his work on GelDerm, an advanced dressing embedded with tiny sensors that change colour when wounds become infected. GelDerm’s ability to monitor pH levels, detect bacterial growth, and localize antibiotic treatment means potentially life-threatening infections are identified and treated quickly. Read more


UVic lab a step closer to marketing drug-screening tool

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Thanks to a recent funding boost, a UVic researcher is closer both to commercializing her lab’s “neuro-bioink” product and to printing living tissues that could vastly improve the way drugs are tested for Parkinson’s disease and other conditions.

This month Stephanie Willerth, Canada Research Chair and Professor of Biomedical Engineering, received the Michael Smith Foundation’s Innovation to Commercialization Award. Willerth and her team have spent the past few years developing neuro-bioink, a printable substance comprised of living human cells and critical nutrients that support their growth. At the same time, her lab has been working on printing tiny amounts of diseased and healthy 3D tissue models for use in screening drugs. Read more


Groundwater pumping threatens world’s rivers and streams: study

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Researchers from UVic, Germany and the Netherlands have collaborated on a study that provides an alarming glimpse into the future of the world’s rivers and streams – if humans keep pumping groundwater at the current rate.

According to the study, which includes a global-scale hydrological model, almost 20 per cent of the catchment areas where groundwater is pumped suffer from a flow of streams and rivers that is too low to sustain their freshwater ecosystems. That number is expected to increase to 50 per cent by 2050.

Contributors to the study include Tom Gleeson, of UVic’s Civil Engineering Department. Read more


Students use new lab to build and operate satellite

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A new, high-tech lab is enabling 60 students who are passionate about space the chance to build a flight-ready satellite, which will be launched from the International Space Station and operated from UVic.

The two-room lab includes a satellite integration lab and an operations centre. Outfitting the adjoining rooms was recently funded through a grant from the federal government.

“Having this new lab is like a dream come true,” said Alex Doknjas, a recent graduate who manages the lab and coordinates student involvement in the satellite project. “The lab will have everything we need to design, build and operate a CubeSat.” Read more


Faculty celebrates four recent teaching awards

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In recent months, four faculty members have been recognized for their outstanding contribution to teaching.

Brad Buckham, of the Mechanical Engineering Department, was awarded the Medal for Distinction in Engineering Education by Engineers Canada, while Rishi Gupta, of the Civil Engineering Department, was awarded the Teaching Award of Excellence from Engineers and Geoscientists of BC.

During 2019, the faculty presented two Awards for Teaching Excellence, which recognize and encourage outstanding instruction, curriculum development and innovation in the classroom and laboratories. This year, the awards were given to Daniela Damian, a Professor of Software Engineering in the Department of Computer Science, and Min Sun, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering. Read more


Faculty’s clubs excel internationally

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The faculty’s many student clubs and teams were busy building, testing, training and competing throughout 2019.

The clubs, which compete in areas such as rocketry, robotics, aerospace and biomedical engineering, provide students with the opportunity to incorporate more hands-on experience into their studies, while being part of dedicated, passionate teams.

There were two particular standouts during the international competitions of 2019: UVic’s Formula Hybrid and Submarine Racing clubs. Read more