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Big Ideas for a Changing World

Big Ideas for a Changing World

By McMaster Engineering
Exploring innovative research in the Faculty of Engineering at McMaster University, Canada’s most research-intensive university. With sustainability in mind, our researchers are helping to find solutions to the world's greatest challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Hosted by John Preston, Associate Dean of Research, Innovation and External Relations in the Faculty of Engineering.
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Managing flood risk in Canada and advocating equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) at McMaster with Paulin Coulibaly
McMaster Civil Engineering and School of Earth, Environment & Society Professor, Paulin Coulibaly talks about managing flood risk in Canada, working with Global Water Futures and advocating for EDI at McMaster. Coulibaly leads FloodNet, a nation-wide research network funded by NSERC to enhance flood forecasting and management capacity in Canada. Coulibaly is also affiliated with the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health and is developing a more advanced hydrologic modelling tool in Canada as part of the Global Water Futures project. Coulibaly is part of the African Caribbean Faculty Association at McMaster (ACFAM), a group that advocates for EDI at McMaster. ACFAM has a mentorship program for black graduate students and researchers and are now putting together a mentorship document for new Black faculty hires as part of an initiative launched this past November, to appoint up to twelve emerging and established Black academics and scholars in each Faculty. Read more.
April 08, 2021
Will McMaster return to campus this fall? (Part 2 with Ishwar K. Puri and Susan Tighe)
In Part 2 of this conversation, we reflect on more lessons learned in virtual teaching and learning, and McMaster's Provost Susan Tighe answers the question that's on all our minds: Will we return to campus this fall, and how? Joining John Preston, Associate Dean for Research & External Relations are Ishwar K. Puri, McMaster’s Dean of Engineering; and Susan Tighe, McMaster’s Provost and Vice-President, Academic, and also a member of the Faculty of Engineering. Produced by Jessie Park. Edited by Dan Kim. Follow @mcmastereng on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn for more updates.
February 18, 2021
Lessons learned in 2020 and plans for 2021, with Ishwar K. Puri and Susan Tighe
In the first episode of 2021, we reflect on the biggest lessons McMaster Engineering learned in 2020 in online teaching and learning. Joining John Preston, Associate Dean for Research & External Relations are Ishwar K. Puri, McMaster’s Dean of Engineering; and Susan Tighe, McMaster’s Provost and Vice-President, Academic, and also a member of the Faculty of Engineering.   Stay tuned for Part 2, where we discuss what the future of engineering education holds, and our Provost answers the question that’s on all our minds: will we return to campus in the fall, and how? Produced by Jessie Park. Edited by Dan Kim. Follow @mcmastereng on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn for more updates.
February 04, 2021
What PPE experts want you to know about cloth face masks
What’s the best cloth mask for the public to use? How can PPE be made to be more sustainable? Can imperfect use of imperfect masks still reduce COVID-19 spread? Four experts from McMaster’s Centre of Excellence in Protective Equipment and Materials (CEPEM) answer frequently asked questions about cloth masks, and how they’re working with industry partners to improve the next generation of PPE in Canada: Catherine Clase – Associate Professor, Medicine, McMaster University; Nephrologist, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. Charles De Lannoy – Assistant Professor, Chemical Engineering, McMaster University. Myrna Dolovich – Professor, Medicine, McMaster University and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. Zeinab Hosseini-Doust – Assistant Professor, Chemical Engineering, McMaster University. CEPEM is Canada’s first and only research hub dedicated to developing, testing and validating PPE, from improving cloth masks for the general public to rethinking the design of PPE for healthcare workers. Visit for up-to-date information on the most effective cloth masks for public use, mask cleaning and more. This website is co-led by Catherine Clase and Juan Jesus Carrero from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.
December 14, 2020
Testing COVID-19 medications using novel drug delivery technology for the eyes
What if eye drops and injections used to treat eye diseases could be made to last longer in the eye, improving patient outcomes and reducing visits to the doctor? What if this drug delivery method could be applied to the lung, potentially improving outcomes for COVID-19 patients? In Episode 8, hear how McMaster engineers at the Sheardown Lab are doing just that. Guests: Heather Sheardown, a professor in Chemical Engineering and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Opthalmic Biomaterials Fran Lasowski, the executive director for the C20/20 Innovation Hub and PhD graduate in Chemical Engineering
November 27, 2020
The future of engineering education, according to global experts
What are the challenges and advantages of e-learning? How will innovation culture shift? How can we make the most of the transformations to education that were required by the pandemic, but may carry on into the future? In this episode, we play back a virtual panel discussion led by John Preston during this year's Global Engineering Deans Council (GEDC) Industry Forum. Special thanks to our panelists for their insights, and GEDC and Petrus for organizing the GEDC Industry Forum in partnership with McMaster Engineering. Guests: Joris Melkert, Director of Education in the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at TU Delft in the Netherlands; Charlette N’Guessan, Co-founder and CEO of the BACE GROUP, an African digital identity software company, and 2020 recipient of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation; Colin Tan, Director of Operations at TusPark UK, a growing science and tech incubator. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @mcmastereng. Read more at
November 06, 2020
The road to making 1 million face shields, with MMRI and Whitebird
Hear how the McMaster Manufacturing Research Institute (MMRI) and Hamilton-based packaging company, Whitebird, teamed up to swiftly produce face shields for thousands of Canadian frontline workers since the start of the pandemic.  Guests:  Simon Oomen-Hurst, MMRI’s program manager Peter Tamminga, Whitebird’s operations manager Interviewed by: John Preston Produced by: Jessie Park Edited by: Dan Kim
October 20, 2020
Simulating virus spread and campus reopening using network science
What if we could create digital twins of cities and test how different re-opening scenarios will affect the city's population and infrastructure systems? Using network science, machine learning, systems analysis and optimization, McMaster researchers have created CityDNA, a technology that can do just that. They recently received funding from McMaster's COVID-19 Fund to use this technology to inform McMaster's re-opening plans. GUESTS: Wael El-Dakhakhni, professor in civil engineering and the McMaster School of Computational Science and Engineering. Zoe Li, assistant professor in civil engineering. Interviewed by: John Preston Produced by: Jessie Park Edited by: Dan Kim Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @mcmastereng. Read more at
September 23, 2020
Vaccine delivery: Getting stable, cost-effective vaccines to remote parts of the world
Last year, a team of McMaster researchers made headlines with their invention which allows vaccines to be stored safely and affordably for weeks at a time at temperatures up to 40C. Now, Carlos Filipe, co-author of the research paper is part of a five-person startup company called Elarex Inc. bringing this technology to market, opening the doors for life-saving anti-viral vaccines to reach remote and impoverished parts of the world. He is also the chair of Chemical Engineering at McMaster University. Research Engineer Sahar Esmaeili Samani also shares her journey from graduate student to starting her work with Elarex in March 2020, right when the pandemic hit.  Interviewed by: John Preston Produced by: Jessie Park Edited by: Jin Lee and Dan Kim Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @mcmastereng. Read more at
August 28, 2020
Virus-repellent surfaces made possible with Repel Wrap
What if frequently touched surfaces like food packaging, door handles and bus railings could be coated with a plastic that repels bacteria and viruses? McMaster engineers Leyla Soleymani and Tohid Didar, the lead creators of a self-cleaning plastic wrap called Repel Wrap, are working towards making this technology widely available. After confirming its effectiveness against viruses similar in structure to COVID-19, the team of engineers and health scientists are now testing the surface with the COVID-19 virus. Guests: Leyla Soleymani, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Miniaturized Biomedical Devices, Department of Engineering Physics  Tohid Didar, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering and the McMaster School of Biomedical Engineering Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @mcmastereng. Read more at
August 14, 2020
Creating an accurate COVID-19 antibody test, and 3D-printing cells for drug research
Since March, a team of researchers have developed and advanced two novel technologies which have applications during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. They're aiming to make them widely available for research and community use soon. Guests: Ishwar Puri (Dean of Engineering, Professor of Mechanical Engineering) and Rakesh Sahu (Research Associate, Adjunct Assistant Professor in Materials Science and Engineering). 
July 20, 2020
Innovating masks and protective gear for healthcare workers
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, engineers at McMaster joined forces with physicians upon realizing the urgent need for local solutions to personal protective equipment shortages. Just months later, McMaster University is now home to an established network of engineers, clinicians, local manufacturers and companies dedicated to advancing personal protective equipment products in Canada. How did this collaboration get off the ground, and what's next for advancing PPE in Hamilton and Canada? Guests: Ravi Selvaganapathy, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and McMaster School of Biomedical Engineering Dr. Alison Fox-Robichaud, Professor in the Department of Medicine at McMaster and a critical care physician at HHS Host: John Preston, Associate Dean of Research and External Relations, Faculty of Engineering
June 29, 2020