Feb. 7, 2014

From toothbrushes to EOR: Polymers on the menu at EAP breakfast

Dr. U.T. Sundararaj discusses cutting-edge research

About 80 engineers, students and faculty from the Schulich School of Engineering came out to mingle with each other as well as learn a little more about polymers at the Engineering Associates Program (EAP) breakfast, February 7.

The breakfasts are part of a series of events that give EAP members an opportunity to meet their peers and engineering students as well as learn more about cutting-edge research from within the Schulich School of Engineering.

Dr. U.T. Sundararaj, the head of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and an expert in polymers—long chemical chains of identical molecules—talked about everything from toothbrushes to enhanced oil recovery in his lively and informative presentation. “Over the course of the day, two thirds of everything we touch is made of polymers,” he says.  

Sundararaj, whose has worked with the oil and gas industry and automotive manufacturers, has researched the visualization of polymers breaking apart and he showed several videos of the “funky type of break up mechanisms you see in polymers that you don’t see in regular systems.”


His research group is also working with the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton to explore using polymer stents instead of metal ones for babies. The polymer device could be absorbed into the child’s body instead of surgically removed—a process that could be “much safer” for tiny patients, Sundararaj says.

“It’s such a broad field it’s interesting to hear all the different things you can do in engineering,” says Scott Preston, one of about 10 undergraduate students who attended the breakfast. The first-year student and Schulich Scholar is undecided about his specialization, but he’s leaning toward chemical and petroleum engineering. “It’s nice to have an opportunity to talk to people and learn what they’re doing,” he says.

The interim dean, Bill Rosehart, welcomed everyone to the breakfast and introduced the head table which included Brad Gibson, principal, Electrical Engineering, Integral Group, Heather Herring, Manager Innovation, Laricina Energy and Martin Humphreys, VP Engineering, SNC Lavalin.

Ian Herring, VP Nexen (retired), university senator and member of SSE Alumni Executive, urged attendees to get their tickets for the Distinguished Speakers Panel March 12: Moving Canadian Oil to Market. “You can’t open the paper any morning without reading about pipelines or railing oil to market,” he says. The panel of expert speakers will include remarks by the Alberta Minister of Energy, Diana McQueen, and President Elizabeth Cannon.

Learn more about the Alumni Association

Learn more about the Engineering Associates Program