Research on Infection Control

A tragic statistic tells us that of all the people admitted to hospitals for various reasons, about 10% will get sick from an infection picked up in the hospital, something called a Healthcare Acquired Infection (HAI) or nosocomial infection.  Of these, about 5% will die from it, which corresponds to about 10,000 Canadian deaths per year.  The additional costs of treating these infections add up to between $4 and $5 billion in Canada.  The consequences are proportionately similar in other regions such as the U.S. and Europe.  The increases in antibiotic resistance in bacteria are adding to the problem.

Hospital infection control has traditionally focused on hand-washing, isolation, and cleaning and disinfection protocols to minimize the spread of “germs”.  However, there is a limit to how far these can go, since they rely on consistent human behaviour, which is naturally inconsistent.  Therefore in recent years there has been more focus on “engineered” approaches to infection control.  To this end, my research group and I have been working with the Coalition for Healthcare Acquired Infection Reduction (CHAIR) to help develop and test materials, processes and devices that may help in the fight against HAIs.

One project we finished tested the effects of an automated ultraviolet light (UV) disinfection device placed in patients’ bathrooms to control the background bacterial contamination between uses.  The paper can be read on this website.  The data indicated that it was possible to dramatically lower bacterial contamination levels with this device, which was nice to see.

In other work, we’ve been collaborating with Aereus Technologies to develop new antimicrobial materials and coatings for use on hospital “high-touch” surfaces and equipment.  This doesn’t eliminate the need for surface cleaning and disinfection, but it helps to kill the germs that land there between cleanings and thus reduce the chance for spread of infections.

In other more basic research, we’ve been collaborating with various other professors here at Waterloo to identify novel antimicrobial materials or detection methods for contaminants.  For example, with Prof. Michael Tam’s group we’ve published a couple of studies on antibacterial cellulose materials (abstracts are available here and here).  We recently published another paper on detection of bacterial contamination in water using an interesting combination of enzymology and nanotechnology.

If you’re wondering what this has to do with Chemical Engineering, well basically this is chemical engineering.  Working with production and characterization of materials, interactions of materials, life science and biochemistry…those are all part of chemical engineering education and possible career paths.

Hopefully over the next few years this HAI problem will begin to see some progress and we can continue to contribute to the solutions.

Waterloo researchers help launch autonomous car

(interesting story about a hot topic)  Source: Friday, January 6, 2017 | Daily Bulletin

A research team at the University of Waterloo played a key role in the development of a highly autonomous vehicle that Renesas Electronics America unveiled this week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Using sensors and powerful computers, the car is capable of detecting and responding to other vehicles, stop signs and traffic lights to provide a safer driving experience. For example, vehicle-to-infrastructure communications allow the vehicle to detect in advance when a traffic light will change. Continue reading

Engineering breaking ground today for new building

Exciting news about the start of construction for our new building, as well as support for automotive research and education, design, and entrepreneurship.

The University of Waterloo breaks ground today on Engineering 7, an $88-million building that will feature some of the best engineering research and teaching facilities in the world.The ground-breaking event will take place on Thursday November 12, at 1:30 pm at Engineering 5 on the University’s east campus.The new Engineering 7 (E7) facility will feature an additive manufacturing—or 3D printing—laboratory and an indoor flight arena for testing autonomous and robotic vehicles.It will also accommodate growth from Waterloo’s new biomedical engineering program and the expansion of the Faculty of Engineering’s highly popular mechatronics engineering program. It will house the Faculty’s new teaching innovation, the multidisciplinary Engineering Ideas Clinic™, where undergraduate students will integrate classroom theory with hands-on learning as they design, build, test and refine ideas.Part of the funding for E7 will come from the Educating the Engineer of the Future campaign, a $70-million fundraising effort that will help the Faculty of Engineering achieve its goal to become a world-class engineering school.Earlier this week, GM Canada announced $1 million in funding to support the Educating the Engineer of the Future campaign. This support will fund a Research Chair in advanced materials while also sponsoring Waterloo Engineering’s Capstone Design projects involving software development, which is key to GM Canada’s work on “the connected car.”E7 will also become the new home for the Conrad Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology Centre. It will have dedicated study and social spaces for students, lecture halls and entrepreneurial support areas, along with areas for student teams to prototype their Capstone Design projects.

Source: Thursday, November 12, 2015 | Daily Bulletin

Leapfrogging ahead of competition with engineering research partnership – Waterloo Engineering

I’ve always intended to write about some research work, but never find the time.  However, here is a link to a write-up by one of our staff writers.  And a picture of me with a couple of my graduate level (i.e. Masters) researchers.

Waterloo Engineering’s chemical engineering research gives manufacturer a global advantage.

Source: Leapfrogging ahead of competition with engineering research partnership – Waterloo Engineering

Sunscreen warning markers earn top grades at Women Entrepreneurs Bootcamp

Sunscreen warning markers earn top grades at Women Entrepreneurs Bootcamp.

Here is an interesting story about some of our Nanotechnology Engineering students, who used their creativity and expertise in materials science to develop a business idea for a compound that warns you when you need to re-apply sunscreen.  They won a $15,000 prize to help carry on building their start-up company.

There was another story a while ago about nanotechnology engineering graduates who were developing an improved de-icer compound for use in frost removal or control.  Just a couple of examples of what nanotechnology engineering students do in the area of entrepreneurship.

Fireworks and Air Quality

English: The New York City fireworks over the ...

English: The New York City fireworks over the East Village of New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we approach Canada Day (July 1) and Independence Day in the U.S. (July 4), our thoughts turn to the pyrotechnics that are a typical part of the celebrations.  For a chemical engineer, pyrotechnics are a fascinating topic because they rely on rapid combustion reactions and the presence of various elements that give rise to the different colours.  However, my research interests are in air quality and I’m at the Air & Waste Management Association conference in Chicago, so I’m going to review the air quality impact instead. Continue reading

Our New 3D Printer

Our new 3D printer, a Fortus 360mc rapid prototyping machine, was officially launched today in our Engineering 5 building.  I haven’t actually seen it, but there is a website link that describes what it is and how it works.  I will certainly have a look in the near future, because I can already think of a few custom parts I could make for my research projects.  I just need to teach myself AutoCAD first.

Apparently the 3D printing costs are some of the cheapest available, and anyone can submit a job, whether faculty, staff, or students.  Some of the student design teams have already been using it, and I bet it will be popular with a lot of student research and design projects.

Meeting Your Waterloo – Quantum-Nano Centre

Today was the official opening for the new Quantum-Nano Centre (QNC) on the Waterloo campus, sponsored in-part by the co-founder of RIM and the Blackberry, Mike Lazaridis.  This will be the new “home” for our Nanotechnology Engineering students, with classrooms, teaching and research labs, faculty offices, and meeting spaces where people can collaborate.  The opening ceremonies had the usual speeches, which were actually quite inspirational.  But the biggest excitement was generated at the start when Prof. Stephen Hawking from Cambridge delivered the opening address! Continue reading

University Rankings: Round 1 – ARWU

The first set of university rankings has been released for this academic year.  This is the ARWU (academic ranking of world universities) put out by Shanghai Jiao Tong University.  I’m going to focus on the rankings of “Engineering/Technology and Computer Sciences” category, since that’s most relevant to my interests, and they can be found at this link.  Since prospective students and parents sometimes spend a lot of time and effort pondering on the meaning of these rankings, let’s go through them together. Continue reading