As our population continues to grow, age and deplete natural resources, engineers are increasingly looking to the natural world as both an inspiration and a challenge to innovate.

The University of Toronto is uniquely located in Canada’s largest city, home to some the nation’s premiere hospitals and research centres. This central hub, combined with U of T’s own state-of-the-art resources, provides an ideal environment for life-changing research, multidisciplinary collaboration and bio-inspired innovation.

Learn more about a few of the remarkable projects happening right now:

A New Kind of Plastic

Professor Elizabeth Edwards in the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry is the director of BioZone, the Centre for Applied Bioscience and Bioengineering. There, she leads a team of researchers who are pioneering new materials and solutions derived from natural components.

Among several initiatives, researchers at BioZone aim to develop alternatives to petroleum-based materials like plastic that are both sustainable and environmentally friendly. They are using biomass as a naturally occurring source of diverse and valuable materials.

Engineering a Healthy Heart

Professor Milica Radisic, a researcher in both the Institute for Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry, is a world leader in the field of cardiovascular tissue engineering. The Royal Society of Canada cited her for her innovative techniques in designing and developing new heart tissue derived from stem cells.

Her work focuses on creating samples of both healthy and diseased human heart tissue to use as models for drug discovery and testing, though she ultimately hopes to see stem cells used to replace heart tissue. Her team recently discovered a way to create beating heart cells from stem cells using electrical pulses to mimic the heart rate of fetal humans.

Optimizing Healthcare Systems

Professor Timothy Chan in the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering is the new director of U of T Engineering’s Centre for Healthcare Engineering (CHE). This collaborative hub brings a highly interdisciplinary, systems engineering approach to drastically improve how health care works.

Researchers at CHE are optimizing systems in healthcare that can decrease wait times and lead to significant cost savings. Their research focuses on optimizing health-care delivery, decision-making and policy. They collaborate directly with industry partners, lead fundamental research and also focus on educating the next generation of health-care engineers.

Some of the projects currently underway at the Centre for Healthcare Engineering include Professor Dionne Aleman’s novel method for radiation delivery that targets cancerous tissue while limiting the damage to healthy cells, and Professor Chan’s collaboration with healthcare professionals in Dhaka, Bangladesh to improve emergency medical care. They are developing models that use GPS data from cell phones to depict how traffic is moving in real time and recommend the best routes to an emergency scene.