Awardees

The 2021 Ontario Professional Engineers Award Winners

Professional Engineers Gold Medal

As Chairman/CEO of the Halsall group of companies, Peter Halsall led the integration of sustainability into all aspects of its businesses and services and its growth to over 350 employees. Halsall Associates delivered structural engineering, building evaluation/restoration and green building engineering. Halsall also started three other companies within the Halsall Group: BuildingWeb (a software service for managing building data); Pivotal Projects (a building project management company); and Loop Initiatives (a corporate sustainability advisor).

After Halsall’s sale to an international company, he built the company’s global sustainability program. After leaving he was Executive Director of the Canadian Urban Institute. While there, Halsall led the development of Solutions for a Low Carbon Future, leading projects such as implementing LED street lighting, preparing municipal green development standards, creating a national infrastructure report card, and managing waste soil for municipalities.

Halsall has also helped establish two firms with co-workers from Halsall: Synergy Partners, a building restoration firm, and Purpose Building, a company committed to accelerating real estate to planet positive performance, where he currently works. He also helped found Purpose Analytics, a non-profit working to make data analytics available to the non-profit sector, where he acts as Board Chair.

Since becoming president of Halsall in 1995, sustainability has been central to the organizations which he leads. Through the Halsall Family Foundation, Halsall has supported several community organizations providing opportunities for disadvantaged youth. He has served on advisory boards for the University of Toronto and McMaster, as well as community organizations such as Evergreen CityWorks. He served for 5 years on Design Review Panels for each of the City of Toronto and Waterfront Toronto. He is currently the volunteer Executive Director of the Toronto 2030 District, a collective action initiative to create a low carbon downtown.

Halsall’s work has been recognized by Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Canada Green Building Council, Sustainable Buildings Canada and the Ontario Building Envelope Council. He has been inducted into the UofT Engineering Hall of Distinction and received a UofT Arbor Award for his service to his alma mater. Halsall was elected a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering in 2011.

Engineering Medal – Engineering Excellence

Dr. Baher Abdulhai is a professor in the Department of Civil and Mineral Engineering at the University of Toronto where he develops intelligent transportation systems—artificial-intelligence-based traffic control and solutions to major urban transportation management problems.

Dr. Abdulhai’s work on traffic control using reinforcement learning and deep learning has resulted in patented technologies, including his MARLIN smart traffic lights control software—a machine-learning-based control software system for self-optimized traffic lights that reduces delays at intersections without requiring infrastructure expansion. The software enables traffic light systems to self-learn and collaborate with neighbouring traffic lights wirelessly and reduces motorist delays at intersections by an average of 40 per cent. Recently, Dr. Abdulhai created a new system—MiND—which considers both traffic and public transit to minimize delays for all users. The system prioritizes public transit and combines deep learning (convolutional neural networks) and reinforcement learning with modern detection systems such as video, radar, and connected vehicles to self-learn how to understand the traffic situation, transit included, and produce optimal signal control actions. It is patent pending in North America, Europe and China, and was licensed for commercialization outside North America.

Dr. Abdulhai has established several transportation research centres at the University of Toronto, starting with his founding of the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Centre in 2000, which became the core facility of the UofT Transportation Research Institute. He has trained generations of students in advanced areas of traffic management and modeling, with most of these students moving on to positions in academia and industry.

Dr. Ishwar K. Puri is dean of the Faculty of Engineering and professor of mechanical engineering at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. At McMaster, he is also an associate member of the departments of engineering physics and materials science and engineering, school of biomedical engineering, as well as founding academic director of the Computing Infrastructure Research Centre (CIRC).

He is recognized for experiential learning programs. At McMaster, all first-year engineering students follow an innovative project-based curriculum delivered through a year-long thirteen-credit course that integrates core engineering curricula across all engineering disciplines and. places human-centred engineering design and ethics at the centre of engineering curricula. By developing solutions for Grand Challenge problems, students learn early that engineers must establish, maintain and develop standards of professional ethics.

Dr. Puri’s engineering research is globally recognized, with inventions ranging from a facile 3D printer for human cells and tissues to a novel “1U” heat exchanger that can be directly mounted in computer racks in data centres. This latter research led to a startup, NanoSpin, which invented the first cooling system for computers and electronic devices using a liquid dispersion of magnetic nanoparticles to dissipate waste heat.

He is also a founder of Celerite Labs, an Ontario startup that uses a magnetic 3D printer to print tissues and organoids. Based on this technology, printed segments of the human lung and liver are being used as alternatives to animal testing to develop therapies for liver cirrhosis.

A structural engineer by training and a PEO-designated consulting engineer, Ted Tandon’s body of engineering design work can be seen throughout Hamilton and the Golden Horseshoe, including standout projects such as the Pearson International Airport Control Tower, the Institute for Applied Health Sciences and the Mathematics Centre, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, the Transport Canada Aircraft Hangar in Mt. Hope,  General Motors Canada, East Engine Plant Addition in St. Catharines, the Chrysler Canada, Casting Plant Addition in Etobicoke, and the Nestle Purina, Pet Food Plant in Clarkson, to name a few.

Over the course of his long and successful career, Tandon progressed from a site engineer in North Bay to a design engineer, manager, and member of the board of directors at C.C. Parker in Hamilton. Upon Stantec’s acquisition of C.C. Parker, he became a group manager at Stantec before moving to JNE Consulting. As industrial division manager at JNE, he was responsible for the delivery of complex, multi-discipline engineering on projects for a diverse industrial client base, including renewable fuels, food and beverage, chemical, automotive, and steel industries. Tandon has been instrumental in JNE’s growth—particularly in the company’s diversification across different industries.

As a leader and mentor, Tandon is also known for his guidance and career development of engineering students and young JNE engineers. For many years Tandon has participated in McMaster University’s Professional Liaison Program (PLP) to educate second-year civil engineering students, delivering lectures on engineering practice and welcoming students to the JNE office each year to expose them to “real world” practice.

Engineering Medal – Management

Hugo Blasutta is a professional engineer and business executive with more than 40 years of management experience in the consulting engineering industry. His numerous executive roles include Partner at Yolles Partnership Inc., CEO of MMM Group Limited, and President and CEO of WSP Canada Inc. In these roles, he revitalized these organizations, instituting a high-performance culture, recruiting and developing leading technical and business talent, and developing and implementing ambitious strategic plans.

Through enhanced development opportunities and performance incentives, Blasutta ensured that young engineers in these firms could develop their skills and advance in their careers. He also spearheaded technical and business innovations which put the companies he led at the forefront of the industry and resulted in significant improvements in performance and profitability. As a whole, Blasutta’s management of these firms tremendously advanced the Canadian consulting engineering industry.

In 2020, Blasutta formed HJB Advisory Group Inc., through which he provides management advisory services to engineering firms in Canada and the United States.

Blasutta currently serves on the Industry Advisory Board for the University of Toronto’s Department of Civil & Mineral Engineering, providing guidance to support the department’s collaborative research activities with industry and enhance opportunities for experiential learning for students. He has served on several industry boards of directors and advisory boards, and is currently the Chair of the board of directors for McIntosh Perry Consulting Engineers and Chair of the Advisory Board for Comtech Group Inc.  As a volunteer with the United Way, Blasutta led successful efforts to broaden its base of industry partners and increase donations.

As the Chief Engineer & Executive Director in the Engineering & Construction Services (ECS) Division for the City of Toronto, Michael D’Andrea is a professional engineer and leader who has improved the lives of Torontonians with some of the city’s most complex municipal projects.

D’Andrea currently leads the Engineering & Construction Services (ECS)—a team of more than 600 professional and technical staff providing engineering design and construction services to both internal and external municipal clients.

A sample of major projects D’Andrea has led include the:

• City of Toronto’s Wet Weather Flow Master Plan, a multi-facetted and industry leading plan to mitigate the impacts of stormwater runoff and combined sewer overflow discharges and improve water quality.

• Gardiner Expressway Strategic Rehabilitation Plan, estimated at $2.3B, uses an accelerated bridge construction approach to rebuild the elevated expressway section, to reduce the overall construction schedule and traffic impacts.

• Development of the Don River and Central Waterfront Project, estimated at $2.5B is aimed at “delisting” Toronto as a polluted Area of Concern in the Great Lakes Basin.

• Basement Flooding Protection Program – Toronto’s climate change adaptation plan to address the urban flooding impacts of more frequent extreme storms.

D’Andrea demonstrates engineering leadership, having led the transformation and development of the ECS team, strategic planning to address the challenges of a growing population, aging infrastructure, traffic congestion and the impacts climate change is having on a densely populated city. He has established strong collaborative relationships with elected officials, staff across the City of Toronto and external agencies, the consulting engineering and construction industry.

Engineering Medal – Research and Development

A professor of chemical engineering at Queen’s University and Ontario Research Chair in Green Chemistry and Engineering, Dr. Michael Cunningham’s contributions in sustainable engineering, replacing solvent-based processes with water-based processes, and developing sustainably sourced materials have had significant environmental, health and economic impacts on society, and influenced the thinking and work of his peers.

Dr. Cunningham has spent over 25 years studying how to reduce the environmental and health-related impacts of processes used to make polymeric materials, which comprise a major segment of the global materials market. His focus has been on replacing environmentally harmful processes that employ organic solvents with environmentally benign water-based processes. At Queen’s University, he leads a research program that has developed: (1) water-based alternatives to VOC-based processes; (2) new composite materials based on renewable natural polymers, and; (3) new stimuli-responsive polymer materials that use CO2 as a benign trigger. Much of his pioneering research has focused on developing innovative materials, adapting these new reactions to water-based processes instead of using organic solvents.

He is a passionate educator in academia and industry. He received the 125th Anniversary Queen’s Engineering Excellence Faculty Award for engineering and teaching excellence, and the Queen’s Research Excellence Prize—the university’s highest recognition for research excellence.

Dr. Cunningham has over 200 publications in refereed journals, 30 patents or patent applications. He began his career at the Xerox Research Centre of Canada where he developed water-based coatings to replace existing solvent-based processes, for which he received 26 US patents.

Over two decades of visionary and impactful research, Dr. Moncef L. Nehdi made transformative, multi-sector contributions to engineering R&D.

In the early 1990s, his research triggered the emergence of Portland limestone cements in North America, reducing the cement production carbon footprint by about 15 per cent. He also developed the use of cement kiln dust and class C fly ash to mitigate acid mine drainage, the largest environmental liability of Canada’s mining industry.

Dr. Nehdi is also a global leader in research on machine learning and computational intelligence modeling of civil engineering materials and structures. His use of drones equipped with infrared tomography for remote sensing of bridge decks received the American Concrete Institute’s NDT award. His trailblazing research on stimuli-responsive materials, self-healing concrete and nano-fibers incorporating phase change materials for energy storage won the 2019 CSCE Holt Lepholz Medal and the Ontario Premier’s Research Excellence Award.

Dr. Nehdi has applied his research to several world landmark projects, including solving challenges in the construction of the world’s next tallest building (Kingdom Tower, 1008-m tall), the world’s third tallest building (Makkah Clock Tower, 603-m tall), and the world’s deepest and second largest wastewater pumping station. His research also empowers capacity building in developing countries, including a low-cost processor to produce rice husk ash cement additive in rural construction, currently used in Egypt and India. He developed simple technology allowing the sugarcane industry, which produces 80% of Brazil’s green electricity, to use their by-product bagasse ash in concrete production with added value.

Engineering Medal – Young Engineer

Dr. Eric Diller, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, has made a name for himself bringing magnetic wireless small-scale robots from an untested concept to application.

He has developed new capabilities for actuation and control of biomedical microdevices, and has developed new devices such as miniaturized surgical tools—tiny robots which can be wirelessly controlled and moved and enable a new approach to non-invasive medical procedures. Dr. Diller shrinks the mechanical and electrical components of robots down to micrometer size and uses magnetic fields and smart materials to make these small mechanisms functional. He is currently collaborating with a neurosurgeon and company to develop a new class of miniaturized neurosurgical tools using his techniques. Current neurosurgical tools limit minimally invasive procedures, as they cannot be miniaturized to the size required for use inside the human brain. Dr. Diller’s new minimally invasive surgical tool is half the size of existing tools, and is driven by magnetic fields to grasp and cut brain tissue.

Dr. Diller is also developing a wireless ‘smart pill’ which takes bacteria samples from anywhere inside the intestine. The pill is swallowed by the patient, and the body moves the pill through the gastrointestinal tract. The pill location is tracked using magnetic fields, and at the right position an on-board trap door is opened for sample collection and later analysis.

Dr. Diller has published 68 peer-reviewed publications in top journals such as Science Robotics, Nature Communications and Advanced Functional Materials, and his papers have been cited around 2700 times.

Professional Engineers Citizenship Award

Since obtaining her MASc. in Chemical Engineering, Sandra Odendahl has championed sustainability and innovation in industry and finance, leveraging her knowledge of environmental science and engineering to enable sustainable and socially responsible innovation in the financial sector.

Currently, as Vice-President, Social Impact & Sustainability for Scotiabank, Sandra leads the team responsible for developing strategies and executing programs in corporate sustainability, global donations, employee engagement, and ESG reporting.   Previously, as CEO of CMC Research Institutes, she helped secure partnerships to scale up carbon-reducing technology for industry.  Earlier in her career, she held several pioneering sustainability and social innovation roles at Royal Bank of Canada.  In all cases, Sandra was described as a catalyst, changemaker, and problem-solver, to which she credits her engineering training.

Sandra’s volunteer contributions are wide-ranging and exceptional. She presently serves as Board Director for the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices, the Transition Accelerator, and NEXT Canada. She previously served as Board Director and Chair of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, and recently completed a 4-year term as a Board Director and Audit Committee Chair at the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA). In addition to serving on not-for-profit boards, Sandra has accepted several appointments over her career to national committees and advisory panels related to the environment, clean innovation and/or sustainable finance.

She has also been an active volunteer and advocate for both her alma maters, the Universities of Ottawa and Toronto, mentoring students, speaking at student conferences, and participating in advisory roundtables.

Sandra’s contributions to the community have been recognized by inclusion in the Canada’s Clean50 list for her efforts to promote sustainability, and she has received awards for volunteerism from Ryerson University and the University of Toronto.

In her free time, Sandra is an avid runner and practices Karate.  She lives with her husband and two children in Toronto.