Where a wall poster can open the door to a great career

uOttawa engineering students showcase their ground-breaking research
UofO - Faculty of Engineering student
UofO - Faculty of Engineering student

By Leo Valiquette

When he sees judges handing students their business cards, Ioan Nistor, Vice-Dean Graduate Studies and Professor, knows the University of Ottawa’s Engineering and Computer Science Graduate Poster Competition is doing its job to connect talent and hard work with opportunity.

“This competition is a great way for students to make contacts in industry and R&D ventures - for potential employers this is a great opportunity to see the cutting edge research underway at the graduate level,” said the Vice Dean of Graduate Studies.

First-time judge Dr. Iosif Viorel Onut agrees. He has a unique perspective on the intersection of research and commercialization. He serves as an Adjunct Professor at uOttawa, and as Principal R&D Strategist with oversight of all research projects at IBM Canada’s Centre for Advanced Studies.

“The Poster Competition is a great initiative that’s reached the point where it has a reputation in industry,” he said. “It’s a great networking event for students.”

Now at its ninth edition, the Poster Competition allows students to showcase their research to the experts and public alike, often for the first time. Most of the judges are experts from industry and Ottawa’s world-class R&D organizations or sometimes investors with a trained eye for breakthrough ideas. Along with demonstrated expertise in their chosen fields, students must also know how to sell their ideas and market their research.

Getting to market 

Wowing a judge can lead to internships, job placements, capital investments, government research grants and entrepreneurial support.

With this year’s crop of 67 posters, many students have moved beyond fundamental research to projects with ready-market applications.

“Many of these projects could quickly find their way into further development for commercialization, or move to market almost immediately,” Prof. Nistor said.

Given uOttawa’s focus on increasing the representation of women in the engineering sciences and other technology fields, he is also pleased by the growing level of participation by female students. In fact, fully a third of the projects this year are by women.

Three posters that demonstrate the variety of innovative research undertake by graduate students are typical examples of the development of leading technologies:

Printing titanium

Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, involves much more than just plastics. Metals are being printed, too. Titanium is an excellent candidate. Despite its widespread uses, it is an extremely difficult metal to work with using conventional processes.

3D printing titanium could be the answer. But existing 3D printing methods for titanium have two problems – they are very slow, and the printed object is too porous – it must be compressed with heat and pressure, adding to the cost and complexity of the manufacturing process.

Mechanical Engineering PhD student Daniel MacDonald is developing a new 3D process using the cold-spray techniques traditionally used to apply coatings. His novel process overcomes those two key challenges with existing 3D printing methods for titanium, with substantial savings in time and cost.

Protecting fish habitats

Civil Engineering PhD student Parna Parsapour-Moghaddam wanted to build on her undergrad degree in river engineering, to improve environmental stewardship of our waterways.

Her research focuses on creating 3-D numerical models that predict how interactions between erosion, sedimentation and changes in the landscape can impact the riverine habitat for flora and fauna. Her goal is to enable more accurate and comprehensive modeling, to help river keepers more effectively predict, plan for and address issues that can impact habitats for aquatic life, and develop effective restoration plans to improve the stability of river and creek channels.

Helping people walk again

Spinal cord injuries can have a dramatic impact on a person’s life, leaving them with partial or even complete paralysis. The challenge is how to help damaged neurons repair or regenerate themselves.

Chemical and Biological Engineering PhD student Taisa Regina Stumpf is working on how hydrogels could be used as a tissue scaffold to help a spinal cord repair itself. Hydrogels are either natural or man-made networks of polymer chains that are highly absorbent (they can contain 90 per cent water). This absorbency gives them characteristics similar to natural tissue. For her research, Stumpf is using bacterial cellulose, a natural hydrogel produced by some forms of bacteria. 

And the winners are ….

Students competed for first, second and third prizes of $300, $200, and $100, as well as other sponsored awards by professional and scientific organizations.

In the end, expert judges had to make some hard choices. In many cases, it came down to how well a student could articulate real-world applications for their research.

Electrical Engineering 

1st: Thiago Eustaquio, Alves de Oliveira – Multi-Modal Bio-Inspired Tactile Module

1st: Danial Nakhaeinia – Object Detection, Tracking and Interaction under Integrated RGB-D Visual Guidance and Proximity Sensing

2nd: Azadeh Dastmalchi – VitalTracer: Smart Health Watch to Monitor all Vital Signs Continuously

Computer Science

1st: Thais Bardini Idalino – Locating Modifications in Signed Data for Partial Data Integrity

2nd: Yue Dong – The Gram Matrix of Feature Maps in Convolutional Neural Network Evaluated on Texture-less Images

3rd: Meng Zhou – Vibration Extraction Using Rolling Shutter Cameras

E-Business Technologies and Systems Science 

1st: Ahmad Teymouri – Application of Dynamic Pricing in Postal Services, Online Retail Store Parcel Volume Delivery

2nd: Pilar Mata – A Development Methodology for a Stroke Rehabilitation Monitoring Application 

3rd: Arya Rahgozar – Poetry Classification by Machine Learning

Honourable Mention: Nihan Catal – An Interface between a BPM Suite and a Model of an Interdisciplinary Healthcare Team

Honourable Mention: Prasadith Gamaarachchighe – Uplift Modeling for Online Gaming

Chemical and Biological Engineering 

1st: Lu Gao – Feasibility of Using Polyphosphate from Wastewater Sludge for Phosphorite Production 

2nd: Owen Alfred Meville – Engineering Novel Poly-based Polymers by Nitroxide Mediated Polymerization for Orthogonally Processable Hole Transport Layers

3rd: Taisa Regina Stumpf – Development of a New Platform for Spinal Cord Injury Recovery

Mechanical Engineering

1st: Alex Steeves – Characterization and in Vitro Bioactivity of Poly (Dopamine)

2nd: Daniel MacDonald – Additive Manufacturing of Titanium Using Cold Spray

3rd: Ruben Fernandez – Deposition and Simulation of Thick Copper Cold Spray Coatings on Steel for Used Nuclear Fuel Repository Using Nitrogen and Pulsed Waterjet Surface Preparation

Honourable Mention – Maxime-Alexandre Ferko – Effects of Cobalt Ions from Hip Implants on Inflammasome Activation in Macrophages in Vitro 

Civil Engineering

1st: Amir Gharavi – Numerical and Experimental Study of Surface Bouyant Jets Discharging into the CR

2nd: Parna Parsapour-Moghaddam – 3D Hydro-Morphodynamic and Fish Habitat Modeling 

3rd: Patrick M. D’Aoust – Hydrogen Sulfide Production in Ice Covered Stormwater Ponds

Masters of Engineering 

1st: Rami Sweidane – Marketing Strategy: Makerspace Ottawa

2nd: Aditi Khandelwal – Navigation Guidance to the Visually Impaired Using a Programmable Robot

3rd: Omotayo Oluwanifemi Akinbode – Voice Authentication System 

Honourable Mention: Moradeyo Onamusi – Energy Management System – Optimizing Photovoltaic Systems with Integration of Modern Storage Technologies. 

IEEE Awards

Electrical Engineering: Thiago Eustaquio, Alves de Oliveira – Multi-Modal Bio-Inspired Tactile Module

Computer Science: Jose Gonzalez Barrameda – A Novel Statistical Cost Model and an Algorithm for Efficient Application Offloading to Clouds

Mechanical Engineering: Jean-Michel Guay – Metals Colorization and its Application: Using Picosecond Pulses

Canadian Society for Civil Engineering (CSCE) Awards

Structural Design: Ahmad Shahroodi – Changes in Electrical Properties of Concrete as an Indicator for Cement Hydration

Mechanics / Materials: Shuai Yang – Design, Modeling and Testing of a Two-Term Mass Device with a Variable Flywheel

Environment and Sustainable Development: Patrick M. D’Aoust – Hydrogen Sulfide Production in Ice Covered Stormwater Ponds

Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Best Female Presenter

Azadeh Dastmalchi – VitalTracer: Smart Health Watch to Monitor all Vital Signs Continuously 

Catriona S. Czyrnyj (Honourable Mention) – A Semi-Automated Approach to the Measurement of Urogenital Kinematics in the Sagittal Plane

Get involved

To learn more about graduate studies in engineering and computer science at uOttawa and how you can join its 1,600+ master and doctoral students, please contact the Graduate Studies Office at engineering.grad@uOttawa.ca or watch the video here.