Fixing broken hearts and building stronger communities
One is an international leader in cardiac tissue engineering. Another is a budding entrepreneur and dynamic volunteer, while a third has worked for decades to bring clean water and better sanitation to remote communities around the world.
All three are members of the U of T Engineering community and each was among those recognized with Engineers Canada awards for their contributions and achievements in engineering.
Professor Milica Radisic, undergraduate student Saksham Uppal and alumnus Anna Dunets-Wills (CivE 7T6) received their awards on June 2 at a ceremony in Niagara Falls.
Radisic, appointed to the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry, received the Young Engineer Achievement Award. A leader in the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, Radisic has achieved international recognition for developing patches of engineered tissue that mimic a beating heart. She was the first to use electrical stimulation during cellular growth, with the result that the developing tissue behaves in the same manner as normal heart tissue.
"As a result of Professor Radisic’s research, one day soon patients who suffer from a heart attack can achieve a full recovery by replacing coarse scar tissue with natural beating heart tissue,” said Professor D. Grant Allen, Chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry. “She is literally repairing broken hearts.”
Radisic was also co-inventor of a completely novel cell-protective peptide known as QHREDGS. This peptide may be capable of enhancing cardiac regeneration, bone regeneration or wound healing, by directing cell response. Radisic was named one of the world’s Top 35 Innovators Under 35 by MIT's Technology Review in 2008 and received the 2011 Ontario Professional Engineers Young Engineer Award.
Engineering Science student Saksham Uppal (EngSci 1T2), who garnered the Student Gold Medal Award, was celebrated for his leadership and volunteerism.
“Saksham has demonstrated leadership in several capacities, in particular through the development of organizations that encourage his peers to develop their business savvy, social awareness and sense of volunteerism,” said Lisa Romkey, Senior Lecturer in the Division of Engineering Science.
Uppal has created several avenues for his peers to engage in leadership and volunteerism, both within the university community and beyond. His interest in innovation and entrepreneurship, plus his passion for creating positive change, led him to develop the Nspire Innovation Network and its flagship event, the National Business and Technology Conference. He also created the Take Action! Organization which works to contribute to the community while developing socially aware youth leaders. This organization now hosts two university chapters (at Queens and U of T) and has more than 400 members.
A soon-to-be graduate, Uppal is currently working as an intern with the United Nations World Food Programme in Rome. In 2011, Uppal was selected to participate in The Next 36 – a national entrepreneurship program – where he tied for the highest marks in the program.
Anna Dunets-Wills (CivE 7T6) received the Meritorious Service Award for Community Service, which recognizes service and dedication through voluntary participation in community organizations or humanitarian work.
For more than 30 years, Dunets-Wills has been using her expertise in water and sanitation systems to help remote communities. Dunets-Wills has worked with urban planning and design firm planningAlliance and its sister practice, rePlan, to create best practices for international organizations operating in developing nations. She is credited with pioneering strategies for the effective long-term local management of both public and private infrastructure systems.
Over the past five years, Dunets-Wills has been involved with a local NGO called RAMBIA, in western Uganda, concentrating on water, sanitation and other infrastructure projects in the region. In 2011, she received the Ontario Professional Engineers Citizenship Award.
“I am extremely proud that Engineers Canada has chosen to honour three such deserving members of our community,” said Yu-Ling Cheng, Acting Dean, Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. “These prestigious awards are representative of the many ways in which our faculty, students and alumni contribute to the profession and to society.”
Engineers Canada is the national organization of the 12 provincial and territorial associations that regulate the profession of engineering in Canada and license the country's more than 250,000 members of the engineering profession. Established in 1972, their national awards honour the contributions of Canadian engineers to their profession, their community, and to the safety and well-being of Canadians.