This story originally appeared on U of T Engineering News.
Professors Penney Gilbert (IBBME) and Marianne Hatzopoulou (CivE) have been named Tier 2 Canada Research Chairs (CRCs) in an announcement made today by federal science minister Kirsty Duncan at the University of Toronto Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.
The two U of T Engineering researchers are among the 25 U of T faculty members to receive CRC appointments. They join 216 current chairholders across the University of Toronto.
“I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to the new and renewed Canada Research Chairs. The Government of Canada is proud to support talented researchers whose hard work will improve our scientific understanding and strengthen Canada’s reputation for research excellence,” said Minister Duncan, who is herself a U of T alumna. “The Chairs’ efforts will also provide us with the evidence needed to inform decisions that help us build a vibrant society and a strong middle class.”
Professor Hatzopoulou holds the CRC in Transportation and Air Quality for her research into how emissions are generated by on-road vehicles, dispersed in urban environments and who is exposed. Through her collaborative work with epidemiologists and health scientists, Hatzopoulou is working to better understand how traffic patterns, road design and characteristics of the built environment can be modified to improve urban air quality and help vulnerable individuals reduce their exposure.
“Receiving this appointment is an opportunity to advance research in an area of growing concern for rapidly expanding world cities,” said Hatzopoulou. “It will also help provide scientific evidence for the often controversial decisions on urban transportation system expansions and their effects on the air we breathe.”
“I am very honoured by this appointment, and for the recognition of my research team’s efforts toward unlocking the secrets that permit the human body to heal itself,” said Gilbert, who was named the CRC in Endogenous Repair. She received the appointment for her research into the cues that “wake up” muscle stem cells and direct them to repair skeletal damage. Along with her team, Gilbert hopes to decipher these cues and inform the development of new drugs, therapies and treatments that restore strength to muscles that are wasting as a result of aging or disease.
“We’re extremely proud of the leadership and research excellence demonstrated by Professors Hatzopoulou and Gilbert, and I am pleased to congratulate them on this recognition,” said Professor David Sinton (MIE), interim vice-dean, research for the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. “We’re also grateful for this investment in our Faculty as our researchers continue to work across disciplines to address the world’s most pressing challenges.”
The CRC program was launched in 2000 to help the country attract and retain research leaders in engineering and the natural sciences, health sciences, humanities and social sciences. Tier 1 Chairs last for seven years, and recognize outstanding researchers acknowledged by their peers as world leaders in their fields. Tier 2 Chairs are for exceptional emerging researchers and last for five years.
This story originally appeared on U of T News.
Cyclists face a difficult dilemma: on one hand, cycling is good for your health and the environment; on the other, cyclists are more exposed to risks such as accidents and air pollution. New research from U of T Engineering is helping cyclists map cleaner routes to minimize this exposure.
“In general, the benefits of cycling certainly outweigh the risks,” says Professor Marianne Hatzopoulou (CivE). “If you are a healthy person, you are better off to continue cycling than stop.” Nevertheless, when it comes to air pollution, cyclists are at a disadvantage.
“Studies have shown that the concentration of air pollutants tends to be higher inside vehicles than outside them,” says Hatzopoulou. “However, cyclists have a higher breathing rate, which means that they inhale more of these pollutants, and they go deeper into the lungs.”
Such pollutants include ultra-fine particles, as well as nitrogen oxides. Hatzopoulou cites studies associating increased exposure to these pollutants with respiratory problems and certain types of cancer. Her own research has shown that they can even have immediate, measurable effects on the cardiovascular system.
To help address this challenge, Hatzopoulou has created a tool called the Clean Ride Mapper for both Toronto and Montreal. It is essentially a Google Map with an extra layer representing the average concentration of pollutants in a given area, as measured by her team and collaborators. Using this data, algorithms can be constructed to work out not only the shortest route between two points, but also the one that exposes the cyclist to the lowest levels of air pollution.
Hatzopoulou intends to further refine the maps — for example, by incorporating real-time pollution concentrations instead of static data — but lately she has been pondering another question: are such tools actually useful to cyclists?
“There are a lot of factors that influence the choice of a cycling route besides pollution,” she says. “For example, there is safety, separation from traffic, elevation, distance, etc. Which ones would cyclists be willing to trade off in order to decrease their pollution exposure?”
Sabreena Anowar (CivE), a post-doctoral researcher on Hatzopoulou’s team, is working on an answer. She’s designed a survey that proposes several different cycling routes and asks cyclists to choose which one they would prefer.
“No route is perfect,” says Anowar. “They all vary in terms of traffic volume, pollution, elevation, travel time and other attributes.” By measuring which routes people would choose for either a recreational ride or a commuting ride, Anowar and Hatzopoulou hope to better understand how cyclists factor the risks of pollution into their activities. This in turn can help improve the design of tools like the interactive maps.
The survey was launched in Toronto, Montreal, Orlando, Austin, New York in collaboration with researchers in those cities. It will be open at least until June, and Anowar and Hatzopoulou are hoping to get at least 3,000 participants. In addition to their own research, Anowar says that the data could also be useful for city planners. “It will help identify how people value road infrastructure like separated lanes or signage,” says Anowar. “If we build more infrastructure like this, perhaps we can encourage people to cycle more.”
This story originally appeared on Engineering News.
Professor Eric Miller of the Department of Civil & Mineral Engineering addressed a crowd of more than 80 University of Toronto alumni and friends on March 28 as part of the U of T in Your Neighbourhood lecture series.
Few topics are more relevant in Torontonians’ neighbourhoods than transit. Plans have been proposed, promoted, approved, denounced, scrapped, revived and altered in recent years, and Miller’s work on transit modelling may inform where the city goes from here.
At the talk, Miller told the group that wherever we go, Toronto needs to think long-term. “We argue too much about our current transit situation,” he said. “We should be planning for our children and our grandchildren.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory asked Miller, head of U of T’s Transportation Research Institute, to study his SmartTrack proposal and analyse its ridership potential. Miller’s report was released at City Hall in January 2016, and sparked extensive debate among citizens and in the media.
Miller thinks those discussions can only be a good thing: “Citizens starting informal debates [about issues such as transit] and giving politicians space to consider these things can help bring the conversation forward,” he said.
Catch up on the latest topics in industry and hear from engineering and business thought leaders at BizSkule, U of T Engineering’s alumni networking series.
With files from Sara Franca.
This week, U of T Engineering received $16.9 million from the Government of Ontario to advance 13 innovative research projects. Awarded through the Ontario Research Fund (ORF), three of the most significant grants build on the Faculty’s established research excellence in sustainable combustion for aircraft, city building and solar energy.
Read the full article at U of T Engineering News.