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THE CANNON Skule’s Newspaper since 1978

cannon.skule.ca

DECEMBER 2017, Volume XL

Unexpected Nanotechnology A Modern Technology, Centuries in the Making SAM PENNER Cannon Senior Editor Materials science can be found everywhere, and its applications are wide reaching. From advanced alloys for aerospace to scaffolds for tissue engineering, materials science, and more specifically nanoscience, is being used to build the world of tomorrow. The ubiquity of materials science in the world around us may not be surprising, however, few may know that nanotechnology was also used to build the world of our distant past. The behavior of materials between approximately 0.1 nm and 100 s of nm is the general domain of nanotechnology. At these size

ranges neither classical nor quantum mechanics can be solely used to describe the material properties of particles. In Richard Feynman’s talk at an American Physical Society meeting in 1959, he spoke of ‘manipulating and controlling things on a small scale.’ Despite sounding like science fiction, recent research is finding nanotechnology incorporated into manufactured materials all the way back to the bronze age. Walter, P. et al. provide examples including hair dyes containing nanocrystals used by pharaohs in ancient Nanotechnology continued on page 5

Ancient use of nanotechnology Credit: Michael D Hill

Gradstudents?!: Learning PATRICK DIEP Cannon Senior Editor A simple Google search tells us that learning is the acquisition of knowledge and skills through experience, study, and instruction. A useful model to understand the process of learning is Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning as shown in the triangle. I want to compare how undergraduates and research-based graduate

students learn, and suggest why you might be scoring poorly in your courses, if you are. Undergraduate programs in STEM focus on remembering and understanding material, and then applying that to problems given to us. In the first half of a B.ASc, you need to learn calculus by remembering basic derivative/integration rules, understand how these rules can be manipulated to solve

Self Checkouts Stealing Jobs? page 7

equations, and then start applying that understanding to equations parameterizing real-life phenomena. In this process, these problems are given to us by professors and TAs. The material that we need to know and understand is given to us by professors through lecture, textbook readings, lab instructions, etc. In late-third and fourth year, we start analyzing and evaluating problems and scenarios in

order to concretize learning material. This is especially the case during the capstone project. In analysis, we criticize pieces of information given to us; in evaluation, we use this criticism to help us understand how to approach more complex problems (i.e. real-world problems). Together, analysis and evaluation is what allows us to develop capstone projects designed to address these issues. And from this

process, we are able to learn about the nuances of certain topics that can’t be tested via simple multiple choice and short answer questions. An issue I had during my undergrad was the lack of courses that taught and tested material using levels beyond application, which I think others may strongly Learning continued on page 6

Bus Rapid Transit in So You’re Failing First Year... Toronto? page 11

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2 • THE CANNON

DECEMBER 2017

THE CANNON Masthead EXECUTIVE TEAM EDITOR IN CHIEF

Dale Gottlieb

DESIGN & LAYOUT

Rick Liu

ONLINE DIRECTOR

Sarp Kavalcioglu

PHOTORAGHY EDITOR

Fletcher Clugston

SENIOR EDITORS Patrick Diep Ahnaf Ferdous Najah Hassan Samuel Penner Dilan Somanader WEBMASTER Ishraque Chandan

Letter from the Editor This past year has been a great learning experience for me. I’ve started a new role in my life, and for the first time in almost 20 years, I’ve left the life of student and started working in a company. I’ve been learning a lot about the changes between work and school, and the types of experiences which one needs to cherish from their time in university. I miss the daily all-nighters in the lab with friends. I don’t miss submitting the report that follows the all nighters. I’m sure everyone reading this is going through similar experiences. From learning how to start a new life in a new school and possibly a new city, to learning how to pursue your dreams after you graduate. Either way, we’re all in engineering for the same reason. We all love the pursuit of knowledge. Therefore, the theme for this issue of The Cannon is about learning. We have so many great writers in The Cannon with so many experiences, and I think it’d be a great opportunity to hear from them. From the transition from undergrad to grad school, to using origami as a creative outlet, hopefully this issue of The Cannon will read as a lesson in life. The photo on the right is of me during casting of the Concrete Canoe, which became my favourite annual event in university. The design of the canoe was a great learning experience, and I believe every student should try their hardest to participate in a club during their undergrad. This is the theme of this issues center spread, which I hope you all enjoy.

About CONTRIBUTORS

STATEMENT

WRITERS Eileen Lau Nathan Hilker Dr. Mahbod Hajighasemi Taeho Kim

The Cannon is the official (serious) newspaper of the University of Toronto Engineering Society. Established in 1978, it serves the undergraduate students of the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, with a circulation of up to 2000. Submissions are welcome by e-mail. Advertising and subscription information is available from the Engineering Society at 416-978-2917.

PHOTOGRAPHERS Adrienne Lamb SPECIAL THANKS Iron Dragons Concrete Canoe Concrete Toboggan Skule Choir CSChE Human Powered Vehicle aUToronto Spark Design Team Blue Sky UTAT Seismic Design Team

DISCLAIMER The views expressed in this newspaper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the Engineering Society unless so indicated. The editors reserve the right to modify submissions to comply with the newspaper’s and the Engineering Society’s policies.

CONTACT The Cannon 10 King’s College Road Sandford Fleming Building Room B740 Toronto, ON M5S 3G4 cannon.skule.ca cannon@skule.ca facebook.com/cannon.news


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DECEMBER 2017

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Origami: A Convenient Learning Aid EILEEN LAU Cannon Contributor Origami is an ancient activity with a long history. Many know it as the Japanese art of paper folding, but ‘pure’ origami follows some precise rules. Pure origami models are normally created with a single piece of uncut, square paper that is not stretched and does not use adhesives to hold its shape. This may seem limiting, but the fact is that there are an infinite number of models that can be created, and these rules simply create a challenge for those designing the model. It is remarkable how a two-dimensional piece of paper can form surfaces which appear curved or spherical. Evidently, there is a lot of trigonometry behind origami to learn about, but there are also other educational applications related to origami that can be discussed. My first introduction to origami was when I was in Grade 2. A friend left a pack of origami paper at my home, and being a curious child, I wanted to try using it. After giving him a phone call to get his permission, I folded my first origami crane. Origami became my favourite hobby. Using books that my mother purchased, I attempted different types of origami, such as the less traditional modular origami, as well as complex models inspired by wildlife, and more geometric models such as tessellations. Fast forward to after high school, and I did not do much origami, but projects throughout university often required some type of modelling or prototyping using paper. During my first year of university, our structures and materials course required us to build a prototype of a bridge using a limited rectangle

of matboard. In order to maximize the load that could be carried by the bridge at two point loads as well as a distributed load, we were expected to add more layers to segments of the bridge. Glueing parts of the bridge required making tabs, which resulted in less material at our disposal. Folding the bridge was necessary in some parts in order to save material. Because our final bridge was over a metre in length, we could use a proportionally smaller sheet of paper to plan out the cuts. Using the paper helped us visualize and allowed us to theoretically test different possible configurations of the bridge. Since paper is readily available and relatively inexpensive, it is a great material to use for prototyping. People who are proficient in this paper art are also aware of its ability to form curvatures, and will be able to use this to their advantage when making models. On a slightly different note, people can use origami to better absorb information in the classroom. In fact, it is recommended by teachers to make sketches before solving math problems, depending on the problem. Graphing calculators or online tools can be used for this purpose, but sometimes 3 dimensional objects can still be difficult to visualize. Origami or just paper modelling in general is an alternative method that also allows people with visual impairments to be able to learn about lines, planes, and shapes. Not only does using a paper model allow people to see the desired shapes, but they see how it comes together when they create the model. Those who prefer to learn by looking and those who prefer to learn through performing an activity will benefit from paper modelling. Aside from the

classroom, people in the engineering field benefit from designing functional machines inspired by origami. For example, folding solar panels have been designed in order to remove the need of assembly when sent to space. Another popular of example of an application of origami floating around social media is the foldable bullet shield. Specifically, applying origami is useful when the main objectives of the device include portability and deployability. However, origami can also be used to understand concepts which as difficult to contemplate, such as dark matter. Another application is in doing DNA origami, which can be used to design enzymes and nanorobots. The fields in which origami can be applied is large, although it is a fun activity which anyone can partake in. Practicing the paper craft itself can be challenging but it is definitely something to try out as it is very rewarding in the end. The community of paper folders is quite enormous, and there are many organizations which hold workshops to learn the basics or further techniques of paper folding. In my opinion, origami is worth trying, even if it is just to unwind from a long week of midterm exams.

Paper Cranes Credit: Fletcher Clugston


4 • THE CANNON Nanotechnology continued from page 1 Egypt, the Greeks, and the Romans. Reibold, M. et al. found that thousandyear-old Damascus steel contained carbon nanotubes that gave it its famous mechanical strength. One can imagine approaching a town in continental Europe as a megalithic structure rises from the pastoral scenery. The churches of Europe were the skyscrapers of the middle ages. A towering gothic cathedral could be seen dwarfing every other manmade structure for miles. The secret to the beauty of medieval architecture was not just the grand scale, but also at the nanoscale. It would be difficult to think of a medieval church without its stained-glass windows. The brilliant colours splashed across the sanctuary as the afternoon sun afternoon sun pours through stainedglass windows. This beautiful display is an

DECEMBER 2017 nanoparticles. According to Stockman, the downward movement of light produces the imagery of blood slowly flowing downward, likely intentionally exploited by the designer. The optical properties of this metal colloid are attributed to the combined effects of electronic resonance of the bulk material, but modified by the boundary conditions of the nanoscale particle. This effect is both metal and shape dependent. Modern understanding of nanoscale materials science is allowing researchers to not only understand our past, but use gold nanoparticles to shape our future. Applications include targeted cancer treatments and its use as a coating for high resolution SEM images. The world of materials science from the noble metal at Stockman, a professor at on the angle at which it is is the world around us; and the nano-scale. This can Georgia State University viewed. The windows in sometimes the technology have very interesting opti- describes glass in the CE the Sainte Chapelle in Paris of the future is rooted in the cal properties at sizes less Lycurgus cup in the British catch the light at sunset past. than 10 nm. At these sizes, museum as looking green to produce a red glow gold’s melting temperature in reflected light, but then produced by the grazingdecreases dramatically with appearing ruby red when angle scattering by gold example of early uses of nanotechnology in the form of gold-nanoparticles. In a Chemical Society Review, Emil Roduner explains how although well known as a bulk material, gold behaves very differently

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size, and ceases to be noble. Nanoparticles in the 2-3 nm size range exhibit magnetism and are still metallic, but smaller ones behave like insulators. In an article published in Physics Today, Mark

transmitted. This property is apparent with it containing less than 1% nanocrystals. Furthermore, unlike glassstaining ions like chromium or copper, metallic nanoparticles transmit light intensity which is dependent

The ubiquity of materials science in the world around us may not be surprising, however, few may know that nanotechnology was also used to build the world of our distant past.


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SKULE SURVIVAL GUIDE

Why do I Want this Degree Again? NAJAH HASSAN Cannon Senior Editor When you tell someone that you are studying engineering, they usually say things like “Wow, you must be so smart!”, “You’re going to make a fortune when you graduate” and “Good decision! You’ll be all set in a few years.” If engineering is really that promising, why do so many of us struggle? We worry about our GPAs, our summer internships, our PEY placements and grad school. We put ourselves through four years of having no social life and spending every waking moment studying for some test or the other. After you graduate, you end up in a job where you know very little, and have to spend a lot of time trying to catch up and learn about a new subject that you can apply to

your work. Majority of the knowledge you use in your job is all new material. Only a small portion of it will be things you actually studied as part of your engineering education. So, why do I really need this degree? Why am I putting myself through all of this if I will have to relearn things in the future anyway? To find the answer to the this, I had to look a little deeper into the differences between studying and learning. We can look at the example of learning a language. When you try and learn a new language, you cannot just memorize around 100 words and start using them in sentences and claim to know the language. It takes practice and perseverance. You have to learn the grammar, sentence structure and more, and put in the time needed in order to reach a level where you

can begin conversing with people. I think engineering is a language of it’s own. You cannot study the necessary concepts and call yourself a good engineer because you “know the language”. You need to learn it. And learning it takes time. So, what is the difference between the two? Studying, in this context, is equivalent to memorizing. It means that you study things on a need to know basis, write your test and then forget all of it. Now, I’ll admit that I am guilty of this myself. But, I have come to the realization that there’s so much more to your undergraduate education. Studying things on a need to know basis might get you the marks you want, although that is rare. But learning helps you acquire the skills you need! And when you are out in the industry, it

is not going to be about how much information you memorized as part of your undergrad. It’s going to be about how you apply your knowledge and skills in practical applications. Your engineering education will teach you how to develop the skills you need to be able to learn things at a faster pace in the real world. If you do not have a solid foundation in calculus or programming or materials, then this learning process is going to be much harder for you in the real world. And if you simply memorize things on a need to know basis and then forget them, you will have a harder time in the work industry. So, what does this process of learning involve? It involves practice, time and failing. You have to ensure that you are understanding things and this doesn’t happen over night. And failing

is not the worst thing in the world. You may have failed, but you are not a failure. Learn from your mistakes, see where you went wrong and think about how you can fix it. It will help you more in the long run. So, the answer to the big question? The purpose of your engineering degree is to help you learn how to learn. It is to help you acquire skills and experiences that will shape you professionally and personally. Learning is what helps us appreciate our education and get the most out of it. And this doesn’t just apply to math and science. Learn the things you love and have an interest in. Take philosophy or arts or learn a new instrument. It’s this diverse set of knowledge, backgrounds and skills that make life interesting!

Stock Photo


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Heirarchy of Learning Creating

Evaluating Analyzing Applying Understanding Remembering Credit: Rick Liu

DECEMBER 2017 Learning continued from page 1 relate to. It resulted in me receiving lower grades, and this was partly because I didn’t have the motivation to do well in them. Or rather, I didn’t have something in my life that needed all this knowledge about proteins, organic chemistry, or atomic structure. The solution I figured would help was to seek relevant research projects in labs, as an extracurricular, to complement the learning I had in courses. This was effective. It gave me a purpose to going to class. I didn’t study bioinformatics because I needed a biology course, but because I had an experiment to design that needed me to look at patterns in DNA and protein sequences. By fourth year, I had a number of completed and ongoing research projects, and my GPA per term went up a lot. PEY also has the same effect. Research based graduate school requires a very different style of learning. Based on your application and acceptance to your program, principle investigators (PIs, usually professors) will assume you already have a strong foundation for remembering, understanding, and applying the knowledge you’ve been taught in your research area. And if your project is in a very different field, your PI expects you to already have the competence to pick up new material fast, given that you’ve mastered those lower levels of learning. I think most graduate students would agree with me when I say that we learn the most by attempting to create new knowledge: to demonstrate a new chemical process can produce a pure enantiomer of a pharmaceutical, or to show that this formulation of concrete is far superior than any other formulation for this given condition for example. In trying to prove a hypothesis that creates new knowledge, we learn information through multiple

iterations of analysis and evaluation. This manifests as repeating experiments, troubleshooting errors, redesigning experimental plans, and so forth. The insight I want to specifically impart from this article is that people don’t have to be outstanding at the lower levels of learning to be outstanding in the higher levels of learning. In the same breath, your undergraduate performance does not necessarily dictate your success in graduate school if you choose this path. Some students learn material better when they are thrown into a situation where they need to start analyzing the knowledge they already have, and using that to determine the best approach to a complex problem. This process allows students to remember and understand information better because they are able to contextualize it with a problem they’re facing. This is graduate school. You might be an undergraduate performing poorly in your courses, and this might be because you’re not putting enough effort into the lower levels of learning, but it might also be because you have different needs for learning that can only be addressed at higher levels of learning – this was my case. It’s counterintuitive because it doesn’t follow the linear progression of Bloom’s Taxonomy, but I think there’s truth in it that’s worth reflecting on. Consider industry or research positions during your studies or summer term to help contextualize what you’re learning in your courses. That might be the solution you need to boost your marks. Or just stop scrolling through memes on Facebook and Instagram.


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WHAT GRINDS MY GEARS

What Grinds my Gears: Self-Checkout DALE GOTTLIEB Cannon Editor-in-Chief Kids these days always seem to think technology is the solution to every problem. If a car is too environmentally damaging, the best answer is to develop better electric cars. If the batteries in electric cars are too difficult to dispose of, develop better technologies to recycle them. The development of new technologies is always the forefront of problem solving and the definition of progress. However, in the case of self-checkout machines, a technology was developed to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. I have never gone to a grocery store and thought that I could scan and bag items faster than the cashier – somebody who works 8 hours a day scanning and bagging items. The self-checkout machine as just another example of pushing the cost of hiring and training an expensive employee onto the consumer. If you follow my What-Grinds-My-Gears series, you’ll know that I spoke about this before with hotels telling their guests to hang up their towels. This really isn’t about saving the environment, and is instead about saving costs on towel laundry. Self-checkout systems are clearly less expensive to operate since they don’t require an employee to run, and they also take up less space, so you can have more counters. However, they may also be linked with increased spending by the consumer. In 2004, McDonald’s reported that 30% more customers order supersized meals at the self-checkout counters. This is likely caused by people not feeling judged by the cashier. I know I feel less judged by the machine. One time

I went to the grocery store to buy milk and cereal, but I was too embarrassed to approach the counter with my obvious meal. Instead, I walked around the store and bought all the ingredients to cook pasta – which I never did. If the store had self-checkout, I might be more willing to make grown up decisions of eating captain crunch in chocolate milk for dinner… more often. But this detracts from the human aspect of living. An integral part of life are those awkward situations at the register. Call me a luddite but I think we’re getting too distracted from social interaction. Andthenthere’stheproblem of the economic impact of widely implementing this device. Tens of thousands of cashier jobs are at risk of just disappearing and not being displaced to another industry. Unlike manufacturing technologies which displaced industries but opened the doors for new job fields, like office work, the selfcheckout counter does not create any new roles. The software is not complicated enough to hire new professionals to program, and the manufacturing process is like regular checkout counters. There’s literally nothing added to the economy by implementing these registers. The one possible advantage I will admit is that it allows brick and mortar stores to compete in times when online stores are taking over, which does employ more people. However, the savings are not passed on to the consumer at all. Instead, the prices stay the same and the margins earned by the store simply increase. Clearly, the self-checkout counter is not saving the industry. A lot of new technology it seems is simply detracting from modern society and

the economy. With the loss of mechanical machines and the rise of computers, entire industries can be replaced by a small team of software engineers. Gone are the days when the jobs migrate from manufacturing to engineering. Now, they’re just gone. Unlike self driving cars, where the loss to the economy is possibly outweighed by the benefit of saving lives, the selfcheckout machine really

creates no benefit. It’s a great case study in runaway technology completely disrupting an industry, and people seem to be buying right into it. If they offered any tangible benefits, I might understand their popularity, but it’s a poorly implemented, half-assed solution to a problem that never existed. Hopefully, the type of progress in technology that we’ve been seeing over the past decade slows

down a little and we keep at least a small amount of the interactions which make life human. The selfcheckout counter is a small example of a larger problem in modern society. It’s the needless implementation of a software fix in an industry that works fine without one, shows the draw of technology for young people regardless of how useful it is, and destroys the fundamental base of the economy.

Mindless cogs in the machine of capitalism sitting idle. Credit: Fletcher Clugston


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DECEMBER 2017

Learning beyond Skule

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1. Seismic Design Team posing with their structure 2. UTAT team preparing for the second launch of their rocket in New York 3. The Blue Sky Solar Racing team at the finish line of the 3,000km race in Australia 4. Spark design club with its first display of the year - Battleship 5. HPVDT won first place overall at WHPSC 2017 6. CSChE members attending annual chemical engineering conference in Edmonton Credits: Adrienne Lamb

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7. Concrete toboggan team competing at annual national competition, taking place in Waterloo this year 8. Concrete canoe team at the Canadian National Concrete Canoe Competition in Quebec City 9. Iron Dragons crossing the finish line in first place in the Toronto Island University Final 10. Skule choir after concert performance in UofT concert hall 11. aUToronto members are working towards turning this Chevrolet Bolt into an autonomous vehicle over the next three years


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DECEMBER 2017

GRADSTUDENTS?!

Gradstudents?!: Depression NATHAN HILKER Cannon Contributor PATRICK DIEP Cannon Senior Editor During my undergrad, I remember thinking that a number of my TAs were geniuses. They spoke eloquently; explained approaches to problems creatively and effectively; and by virtue of being a graduate student, they must have had amazing credentials in some form. Sometimes I looked up to them as superheroes in their own right, resistant and immune to my own undergrad problems, but by becoming a graduate student I realize the mental health issues my peers and I may have encountered do not vanish by entering graduate school. Nathan Hilker is a friend of mine, and a PhD student in Professor Greg Evan’s Lab (ChemE). Nathan’s research

pertains to traffic-related air pollutants. Here is his reflection on depression during his time as a graduate student. -What time is it? What does it matter what time it is? I have not accomplished anything lately, so what difference does it make what time I fall asleep and what time I wake up? No one cares what I do on a given day. I want to fall asleep and never wake up. 01:30 Why am I never able to go to sleep at a normal time, like 23:00? I envy those whose minds are calm. Or do I? All of my life people have congratulated my mind, as if it is some great gift. They cannot begin to fathom the hidden aspects of it—how it is always analyzing and replaying past experiences, over and over, endlessly without cessation. Who are they, and why can they not fathom this? Are they

not also human? They do not exist; they are merely constructs of my mind. All of reality exists within three pounds of cerebral matter. Nothing is real. If I were to end myself, reality would die in an instant. I just want to sleep. Ancient civilizations believed that all health stemmed from mental health. No wonder I developed Crohn’s Disease—my mind has given up. It does not matter how physically active I am…to spend two hours in the gym each day combined with 16km of cycling, it is really all for nothing. What have I done to deserve this disease? What have I done to deserve this life? I never asked to be born. The universe was a calm ocean without me, a blank slate, as it shall be once more when I am dead. 01:52 Is my mind broken? Can it ever be fixed? These thoughts are omnipresent. They have grown out of control, and

now my mental faculties are being overrun. I remember when it used to not be like this. I remember everything. I was once a prodigy and am now a failure. I do not have to accept this. How easy it would be to end my cognition permanently; two steps forward at the TTC platform, a bag of inert gas fastened to my head, a bullet through the brain… is this my only solace? How have I ever managed to sleep? Is it any wonder why things did not work out with her? I was always lost in thought, overthinking everything, never fully in the present moment. The little things were lost on me. Like that time I… Remember what you learned. Try to focus on breathing. You will always have that much. In. Out. In. Out. In… Out…

I went through a rather severe depressive phase during my graduate studies that lasted for the better part of a year. Social isolation, compounded with having been diagnosed with a lifelong disease, led to distressing thoughts that only increased in frequency and severity over time. My productivity was waning and my social interactions were diminishing. It was not until I told my supervisor what I was going through that I began to actively seek help. The University of Toronto’s Health and Wellness Centre offered group sessions in guided meditation, which I made full use of. Practicing self awareness has been the single most useful tool in breaking out of my depression, and has allowed me to make positive changes in my life moving forward.

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Credit: Patrick Diep


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TRANSPORTATION IN TORONTO

Integration of Rapidways on Toronto Roadways AHNAF FERDOUS Cannon Editor Many TTC routes can turn into quite a long and dreadful commute if unfortunate circumstances arise. Winter can be especially terrible for commuters needing to either reach their destination by bus or depart/ arrive from another link in their commute such as the subway system. Although major roadways such as Yonge, Finch, and Dufferin are prioritized for snow plough clean up early in the morning on days of heavy snowfall, problems still arise. Despite the roadways being free from obstruction due to snowfall, the buses and the other vehicles sharing the road, have to drive cautiously. Braking, accelerating, deaccelerating, turning and even switching lanes can become quite troublesome during inclement weather situations. Likewise, every commuter dreads the long commute, especially if they tend to live in the outer parts of the GTA, and needs to get downtown every day of the week. The main reason is particularly due to lack of

public transit connections from their suburban neighbourhoods outside of the downtown core, to get to their destinations located in the densely packed urban centre of downtown Toronto. While, for the routes that are available to ‘longdistance’ commuters, the routes are becoming extremely packed over capacity and inefficient as well. This is turning into a reality on a daily basis, as commuters are cramming onto these infamous bus routes like a pack of sardines. If the current trend continues, bus capacity will only get worse as well as the population continues to increase in suburban developments, with no new routes or increased service is being introduced, rising bus demand will create major issues in the future for transit systems. Fortunately, there are many possible pathways to a plausible solution to this turmoil, for commuters who have to traverse long distances away from the densely packed regions of the GTA. One of which has been widely implemented internationally the past couple of years, and has

seen great returns from its performance. Bus rapid transit. Bus rapid transit, or BRT, is basically a roadway which can only be used by buses which allows buses to operate with no traffic for long distances, rather than being delayed from surrounding traffic. The buses would only have to stop to pick and drop off passengers at designated bus stations located along the route, thus proving a far more efficient and faster system than conventional busing (i.e. TTC bus routes). In particular, a project has been started over the years with York Region Transit/ VIVA in York Region, within the GTA. These bus rapid transit routes are specifically deemed as the VIVA Rapidway construction project. Traditionally, cities within the York Region such as Markham, Richmond Hill etc. were more or less undeveloped farmland or non-urban suburban housing. Now, there has been a change in the traditional thinking of York Region planners, as they wish for the region and its inhabitants to shift from the typical ‘suburban car culture’, to a more integrated

transit hub. Unfortunately, not all citizens are completely on board with this ‘cultural reinvention’. Many are accustomed to and comfortable with, commuting to and from work at their own ease with a personal vehicle, instead of sitting/standing tightly packed with strangers for over an hour. However, some could say this reinvention is actually, truly a step in the right direction. Ultimately, it has to do with land use planning. With this suburban mindset, municipalities within the York Region have seen a huge rise in population due to rapid developments, but these developments have been mainly composed of single-use residential dwellings. The problem with these developments is that these dwellings take up a lot more space for fewer people, in comparison to highrise apartment dwellings which can take up less land in order to accommodate a lot more people. All in all, these bus rapid transit routes will help link York Region to major business districts and urban centres such as downtown Toronto, in an

attempt to promote ease of access for commuters to shift to public transit rather than personal vehicles. The VIVA Rapidway project is a viable attempt to shift perspectives on commuting in an attempt to provide an overall benefit to the region. As such, this project should serve as an example for the TTC. Many commuters from outer regions of the TTC network, such as residents in Scarborough or North York, have a far distance to travel everyday in order to get to work/school. With a bus rapid transit route, it can provide a faster way for buses to link to the TTC subway network as well. Although, rapidways can prove expensive and unfeasible to construct due to large constructions costs and required space, it can serve as a viable alternative to expensive subway extensions which ultimately may not service commuters as well (*cough* Scarborough Subway Extension *cough*).

Examples of VIVA Rapidway Bus Rapid Transit in the York Region Credit: Youngjin Ko, YRT


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DECEMBER 2017

Engineering in Biology: From Theory to Practice to Theory: Views on Collaborative Learning MAHBOD HAJIGHASEMI Cannon Contributor TAEHO KIM Cannon Contributor PATRICK DIEP Cannon Senior Editor

technology. It is important for engineers to have control over components of the system being investigated. With this, science is all about surprises, though engineers would hate to be surprised TK: Personally, the fundamental difference between engineering and science is the value of ‘efficiency’ or ‘productivity’ in each field of study. Where I studied in Korea, there was a saying that engineering is what we do with established knowledge to make money, while science is to use money to build novel knowledge. In terms of practicality and applicability, improving

This articles serves two functions. The first is a comparison of science and engineering to better understand the purpose of synthetic biology (synbio); the second is a meditation on collaborative learning. I bring two guest writers from my lab (Yakunin Lab, ChemE) to help me address three relevant questions. After their answers for each question, I contemplate how they relate to synbio. Dr. Mahbod Hajighasemi (MH) is a microbiologistsby-training and explored plastic-degrading enzymes in his PhD. Taeho Kim (TK) is a chemical engineerby training and explores biofuel-producing enzymes in his current PhD program. Each of them is from ChemE and brings a scientific and engineering pointof-view to each question, efficiency and productivity respectively. is much more important in What is the difference engineering than in science. between science and On the other hand, science is not particularly ruled by engineering MH: By definition, the logic of economy and science is the state of more focused on the pure knowing; however, this understanding of nature. PD: Synbio is an interplay term is mostly used to refer science and to experimental science. between engineering. TK suggests Controlled experiments are conducted to verify a that the difference between hypothesis in an unbiased the two is the value of manner, hoping to shed efficiency and productivity. light on unknowns. The MH suggests that the “unbiased” nature of the difference lies in the research motivation, work is key; the experiments project’s whether it be the intrinsic are run regardless of the potential outcome. In value of knowledge (i.e. the contrast, engineering takes epistemological gain when the outcomes forward. new data supports theories) It’s about applying the or it be the extrinsic value scientifically proven facts of knowledge (i.e. the to design a new system economical gain when or improve an existing the application supports

businesses). Underpinning both suggestions is monetary value. If science is to use money for discovery as TK states, then industrial funding for synbio’s exploration of genetic circuits qualifies it as science. If engineering is to use discoveries for money, then synbio’s development of enhanced metabolic engineering of biofuels with the genetic circuits for better systems control qualifies it as engineering. This range of research forms a cycle of money flow where industries can invest in better metabolic engineering, and the valuable product/service

science-to-engineering direction, but its modus operandi is actually the reverse: engineering-to-science. And this is where synbio is often misinterpreted. Synbio uses pre-existing scientific knowledge to develop non-natural biological stuff. It acknowledges that we don’t have every piece of information to definitively show GMO X will function a certain way, but it will try to make GMO X anyways. Every piece of evidence to show that it will and will not work is considered, yet suggesting GMO X will perform a specific task may be still considered absurd to pure scientists who want

There was a saying that engineering is what we do with established knowledge to make money, while science is to use money to build novel knowledge. generated from this rational design produces more profit that can fuel more synbio research for the same industries. This cycle is not special to synbio, but it is an especially tight cycle with frequent interplay between synbio academia and industry. This cycle of money is telling of the purpose of synbio – not exactly the flow of dollars, but the flow of knowledge. Scientific theories providing a foundation to develop technology is common. For example, understanding antibodies has lead to improvements in immunotherapy; understanding concrete behavior has lead to structural improvements in buildings. Synbio does operate in this

empirical evidence for every logical piece of the rationale. This is a fair evaluation. Nevertheless, there doesn’t need to be absolute proof to suggest GMO X will function for a synthetic biologist to move forward, just sufficient proof, maybe with mathematical modelling predictions. And so they do, with success occasionally, and other times it fails. That failure, however, helps guide the development and analysis of new and old theories, and this is the unique value of synthetic biology. It generates creator’s knowledge; that is, it helps scientists understand biological entities and systems by making them. Instead of a reductionist approach where we analyze a complex thing

by studying its constituent parts, we try to functionalize that something and the end result feeds into our understanding of the previous theory. Knowledge from creating and reducing biology are complementary approaches to theory generation, not conflicting competitors. From theory, synthetic biologists attempt to apply, and in the mistakes and failures, they may weaken or strengthen previous theories. As an engineer/ scientists, what issues have you encountered with someone from “the other side?” MH: Black box is a common term coined by engineers to define the unknown components of a system. There are two ways to deal with a black box: (1) trying to open it to see what is in there, so it’s not black anymore, or (2) trying to apply that black box in a way that meets demands, one way or another. The former is a scientific approach, and the latter is an engineering approach. It would make perfect sense for an engineer to put the black box on the floor and go on top of it to reach up to a top shelf, as long as it works. What is going on in that box is not the main concern; the engineer will draw a circle around it and do a mass/ energy balance on it via input-output analysis… as long as it works. Most engineering problems are solved with assumptions and iterations. However, scientists can only rely on experimental evidences to move forward step by step. TK: When it comes to communicating with people from other fields of study, the hardest part is the ‘language’ of each side. Every field of study has its


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DECEMBER 2017 own primary concepts and approaches to academic matters, and it is sometimes not easy to resolve the issue of compatibility or understanding other perspectives. Therefore, it isn’t just flexible thinking that is necessary, but also grasping basic concepts and ‘languages’ of other fields that is a requirement for a scientist to facilitate the interaction with colleagues from various background. PD: Synthetic biologists are largely scientists- and engineers-by-training, often with overlap. MH suggests the main issue between the two is their approach to problems. TK suggests the main issue is the language used by the two. These are two major pitfalls to

about the biochemistry and physiology of said bacteria, the bacteria remove heavy metals in a predictable manner so you can model it with Langmuir isotherms. The bacteria are blackboxes with characteristics that can be mathematically modelled. A biochemist may agree that this adsorption works effectively, but they may want to use accumulation of the heavy metals inside of the cells because it offers higher specificity and eliminates the need to constantly produce large batches of cells that eventually die in the adsorption-desorption process and need to be replaced. To accumulate the metal, they want to characterize transport proteins, then genetically engineer your bacteria

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teams. Sticking to using your respective language can maximize the progress for your approach to a problem, but this may limit the success of your approach because it doesn’t explore the advantages of other approaches. Helping each other understand your respective terminology and logic for arguments increases the likelihood that these different advantages are understood, which enables technology that combines these advantages to have a synergistic effect. Should engineers and scientists collaborate more than they already do? Why? MH: In my personal experience, the most

Every scientist should communicate and collaborate with others more than before...I personally believe that interdisciplinary collaborations and communications would not be an option but a requirement in every research area.

Mahbod And Taeho Credit: Patrick Diep

collaborative learning: a situation where two or more people are actively attempting to learn something together. Collaborative learning is frequently seen in interdisciplinary research, or during projects that require multiple fields to address a hypothesis/problem. Capstone projects are classic examples of collaborative learning. Say you have a special capstone project where you have fourth-year biochemistry students on the team. Your team wants to use bacteria for wastewater treatment. You as an engineer learned about adsorption theory from thermodynamics and although you may not know a lot

to employ these transport proteins for enhanced metal uptake. In other words, they want to look into this blackbox and make it even better at wastewater treatment. You disagree because of time constraints, so you’re throwing around thermodynamic terminology with your engineering buddies. The biochemists disagree because of the huge potential in accumulation, so they’re throwing around genetic engineering terminology with their biochemistry buddies. This sort of disagreement is seen extensively in synbio, and it undermines collaborative learning between colleagues and

efficient way to train scientists and engineers to collaborate would be through emphasizing the differences of the two groups, helping them understand how these differences are significant, and teaching effective collaboration strategies. For several reasons, it would not be possible to gather both points-of-view in one person; instead, we can teach the researchers in each field to collaborate with other side while maintaining their own approaches to problem solving. So, I believe that Biology continued on page 14


14 • THE CANNON Biology continued from page 13 collaborations between scientists and engineers should be expanded more, but the quality of this collaboration is especially important because they need to bring their own perspectives to the table. TK: Yes. I think not just in between ‘scientists’ and ‘engineers’, but every scientist should communicate and collaborate with others more than before. Present knowledge is expanding not just by number of individual academic research projects, but also by itself, via meta-analyses. Tons of data and novel results are being poured onto digital

DECEMBER 2017 academic space every single day, and individual academic findings rarely ever make significant breakthroughs in respective science an engineering. As the world of understanding and scientific knowledge is expanding, a lot more information and data analysis than before is required to further broaden the limits of understanding. I personally believe that interdisciplinary collaborations and communications would not be an option but a requirement in every research area.

TK mentions. Its definition can change depending on your project and research theme. What is important is that the scientists and engineers of synbio continue actively cooperating through mutual understandings of each other’s pointof-views, jargon, and approaches to problems. As MH points out, young scientists and engineers should be explicitly taught how differences between science and engineering can be capitalized on to drive creativity and innovation in the field. And as TK points PD: I think the reason out, scientists and engineers synbio is difficult to should strive to specialize define is because it is an in the research area, but interdisciplinary field like also have an understanding

of relevant fields to make collaborations more streamlined. Whenever you are placed in an interdisciplinary group, identify who has what specialty and depend on them to bring out the best in your part of the work. By understanding the interplay between theory and practice in synthetic biology, I believe scientists and engineers will be able to arrive at a single unifying definition of this field: the creation of nonnatural biological entities/ systems, via manipulations to genes/genomes, designed to perform in a modular and predictable manner. By creating, synthetic biologists guide the development and analysis of new and old

theories in ways beyond the classical reductionist approach. With one agreedupon definition, I believe scientists and engineers will have a solid framework to contextualize their research in relation to other groups, thus improving how these synthetic biology practitioners collaborate.

the course so hard, the department axed MAT196 the following year (which they did). But the truth is, I didn’t. In a surprising turn of events, I passed first year calculus by a slim margin after doing abysmally on the final (less than 50%, even with a generous bell curve). But that’s beside the point. Whether I passed the course or not, having the proverbial rug yanked out from under me was a rude but necessary awakening. My tumultuous first year shattered a long held belief I had that doing well in high school had somehow made me immune to failure. I realized, for the first time, that from here

on out, academic success was not going to come easy. Unless I was prepared for MAT196: The Sequel, it was crucial that I stopped falling back on assumptions I had about my abilities and put in some hard work for once. It took a complete overhaul of my approach to university, from study habits to time management, to turn my grades around for second year onwards. I’ll venture to guess that you’re too stressed out to even think as far as second semester, let alone second year. What you need to do is to survive the next month, and so I offer you this simple but potent piece of advice:

So You’re Failing First Year... DILAN SOMANADER Cannon Editor For most students, the first year at university marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter—filled with tremendous promise and endless possibilities. For others like you and me, first year plays out more like a slow-motion train wreck. The formative months of our undergraduate careers are replete with enough stress, tears, and heartbreak for seven lifetimes. Any moments not sitting in class are spent watching our grades fall like autumn leaves; curling up by the dumpster fires that are our futures; contemplating just how fast our ancestors would spin in their graves if they ever saw our transcripts. Like you, I entered my first year with the highest of hopes. It was the fall of 2013: after having freewheeled my way through the Ontario public school curriculum and left a dazzling trail of A+’s in my wake, I couldn’t help but feel invincible at the outset. But sure enough, by the time midterm season rolled around, the rigors of first-year engineering had

already done its number on my wildly misplaced sense of confidence. High school success may have gotten me through the door, but it didn’t guarantee me much beyond that. I managed to stay afloat in some courses with B’s (and the very rare A’s), while spiralling out in others. One course in particular, MAT196 (Calculus A), was a white-knuckle ride from start to finish. I quite literally had no idea what was going on. The lecture material flew right over my head, along with any chances of doing even remotely well, and I was left scraping by with C’s and D’s. To put it mildly, I freaked out. The feeling of having no control over my academic success was so foreign to me at the time that I simply froze. In hindsight, I could’ve easily sought out help from an academic counsellor or a professor, or even put a greater effort into teaching myself the material. Unfortunately, I was too disillusioned and in denial to do anything but fantasize about crawling under my bed with a box of Ritz crackers

and never coming out. So it came as no surprise that I flat-out failed the final exam. Those two-and-a-half fateful hours are mostly a blur to me now. What I do remember are the feelings of soul-crushing dread and utter helplessness that washed over me every time I flipped a page, or butchered an answer, or desperately scrawled “SORRY, DIDN’T FINISH” under an unfinished question. I left the exam room that day certain that I was doomed to repeat Calculus A, and the idea made me want to throw up. It might’ve been a fitting conclusion to my tale of woe if I told you that I failed

Unfortunately, I was too disillusioned and in denial to do anything but fantasize about crawling under my bed with a box of Ritz crackers and never coming out.


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DECEMBER 2017 Whatever you do, don’t do nothing. I can’t stress this enough. It’s easy, after a string of failures, to resign to the fact that you’re not cut out for U of T Engineering; to sit just sit there, marinating in your self-pity until the academic equivalent of natural selection weeds you out. But in a situation where you risk running your GPA into the ground and derailing your future, you can’t afford to be apathetic. What I urge you to do instead are the things I wish I’d done in my first year. First, climb out of your pit of despair for a moment and try to calm down. Take an hour or two for yourself and do something that puts you at ease, whatever that may be: going to the gym, taking a warm bath, watching four episodes of The Joy of Painting back-to-back. Once your head is sufficiently clear, ease back

into real life and confront those quizzes and midterms you’ve done terribly on. You’ll be struck by a familiar panic upon the sight of them, but you should neither dwell on nor hide from the feeling. While it may sound crazy, listen to them. They’re saying: “Hey, you! What you’re doing right now isn’t working; find something that does.” The good news is that it’s not too late to find a way to salvage your semester. There’s at least a couple of weeks between you and your finals, and considering they usually count for half your grade, that’s a hefty chunk of your course mark still up for grabs. But before you can fix your problem, you must, as they say, admit that you have one. It’s essential at this point that you be completely honest with yourself and take full responsibility for every failure that has come

to pass. Ask yourself why you haven’t been doing so well. Are you not understanding the material as well as you’d thought? Perhaps you’ve turned out to be a serial procrastinator? Maybe you tend to get extremely nervous during tests and totally screw them up? Once you’ve established your problem, fix it! Easier said than done, you say. And you’re probably right, but at this point you have no other option but to try. Don’t understand the material? Stop skipping lectures and pay attention to the professor. Still have trouble understanding what they’re saying? Drop by their office hours and ask them what the heck is going on. Still have no idea what’s going on? Get on YouTube and watch one or all of the many informative tutorials covering your topic (and if you can’t find one, you’re not looking

hard enough). Having difficulties doing tests under pressure? Do your practice problems in a quiet room under a time limit. Is your Netflix subscription getting in the way of your academic success? Cancel it. Sometimes, the answer is not that straightforward. If you think your problem can’t be solved with a little extra self-motivation and you simply have no idea what to do, make full use of campus resources. Drop by the academic success centre and book an appointment with a learning strategist if you think your learning habits could use a bit of work. Go to the health and wellness centre if you’re having trouble coping with the mental stresses of first year. And if you’ve completely exhausted your will to try any harder and simply want out of your program: spill your heart out to an academic advisor.

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They’ll walk you through your options and will no doubt leave you feeling like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. Whatever it is, don’t just sit there and do nothing because you think it’s the end of the world. I can assure you that it’s not. (Yet, at least.) What you have before you right now is the perfect opportunity to turn all of this around and make your first year a lot less miserable than it has to be. Use it.

Memes Are Always A Reliable Way To Get Pity Marks Credit: Rick Liu


16 • THE CANNON

DECEMBER 2017

Basics of Summer Research RICK LIU this scholarship guarantees Cannon Design and Layout a position, and having a scholarship on your resume Every year, thousands of will always be impressive, engineering students spend even if it barely pays your the spring to hunt down bills for the summer. summer internships or eSIP Often times, if you have a placements. I remember the good enough relationship anguish at seeing postings with a professor, a GPA with only 1 job available, above average, and if the and fighting with 10 people professor feels generous for the single position. What (there are surprisingly a lot is more frustrating is the of professors like that), they 10s of hours spent hunting will still pay you out of their positions on company own funding, usually part websites and preparing time but sometimes full multiple cover letters. What time, even without a NSERC most students don’t realize award. If you feel really that University offers many desperate for engineering positions to students, and experience, you can offer applying to them is a lot to volunteer to do research, easier than searching for though McDonalds jobs. In my class, roughly may honestly be better. 33% got the NSERC USRA However, the type of work scholarship and about will vary depending on how 50% in total were doing you are paid. Volunteers paid summer research. are often assigned boring At UofT, this percentage menial tasks such as walking is a lot higher than other around the city carrying universities such as in air pollution monitoring my hometown university backpacks, swapping out of University of Calgary, SD cards from gauges, where they only offered 5 counting cars, building NSERC positions for the concrete masonry walls, entire civil engineering or washing beakers. Paid class. This is one of the research may involve menial only aspects where UofT work, but they can expand truly justifies its position as to other types of work like the number 1 engineering making databases of data, school in the country. running finite element There are a few types of models, running MATLAB summer research. The simulations, or running traditional type is the other types of engineering NSERC USRA. This is software. NSERC awardees a scholarship offered by can be expected to do all the National Research of the above, and may also Council of Canada for include coding models, Undergraduate Summer devising algorithms, and are Research. Most professors treated almost like a graduate are reluctant to commit their student. Depending on own funding to students so the relationship with the teaming up with a professor professor and how engaged for this scholarship is key you appear to be, the for a lot of summer research professor can even help you positions. The rules for this write a research paper and is pretty rigid: 16 weeks pay you to go to a conference for a total of $5,600, and within North America. getting this award is heavily It is far easier to get any marks based; the committee position with a professor often discounts any other that knows you. Showing up experience/extracurricular to class 80% of the time is and only check if they always a good start. Going to have a minimum 3.5+ office hours when you need GPA. However, getting help, or even to show interest

in their research, and asking further questions after class about their research will show you are engaged and makes you more likely to get the position without getting the scholarship. For professors that don’t teach you a class, emailing them and expressing interest and scheduling an appointment to talk about their research is always a good idea. For NSERC applicants, the application is divided into the professor’s section and the student’s section. For the professor’s part, it is up to the professor to find a suitable project for you that will get you approved to receive the scholarship.

In any of the scenarios, getting a high GPA is the biggest factor. For 90% of students, there is no valuable experiences that can realistically transfer over to the position. While summer internships rely on the interview, most professors don’t have formal interviews for positions and heavily rely on a 3.3+ GPA for paid positions. First years are not allowed to apply to NSERC USRA, and most third years do PEY, so the prime time for getting research positions is the summer between second and third year. Professors will take on first years, but rarely for paid positions.

In any case, paid summer research is a great way to create engineering experience. In my case, it was the direct reason for me scoring my PEY position, and is a key stepping stone to get into graduate school by building relationships and paper citations and credits.

If you feel really desperate for engineering experience, you can offer to volunteer to do research, though McDonalds may honestly be better... Volunteers are often assigned boring menial tasks

The ITS Transport Lab where Grad and Summer Research Students Work Credit: Rick Liu

The Cannon December 2017  
The Cannon December 2017  
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