It was serendipity that brought Lara Zink from Vancouver to the University of Western Ontario (now Western University) and the keen interest she developed in politics in grades 11 and 12 led her to study political science. “I visited a great aunt in London while in high school and thought the Western campus was amazing,” says Lara.
Lara’s journey, from graduating with an Honours BA degree in political science to working as part of the federal government team that negotiated the NAFTA agreement to a long and successful career in finance, was a non-traditional one. Her experience makes her a role model dedicated to helping women overcome barriers to entry and to ensure that leadership, representation, and gender equity exist within the finance industry.
Lara’s degree in political science and experience working with the Young Conservatives as a teenager led to a role as political assistant to federal Member of Parliament Michael Wilson, then Minister of International Trade and Industry Canada. “I loved my two years working in Ottawa,” says Lara. “I was able to speak with members of Parliament and their staff about the benefits of NAFTA to Canada and traveled to Washington for the final stages of negotiation of the agreement.”
After two years on Parliament Hill, Lara wrote the GMAT exam and applied to business schools, including the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto where she ultimately earned her MBA. Although she had hoped to return to Vancouver after graduation, job opportunities were more plentiful in Toronto. After considering options in marketing and private wealth, Lara chose to enter a corporate lending training program with RBC in Toronto. She started in business banking and moved to another lending group in RBC’s financial institutions group before embarking on a 20-year career in global equity sales and trading on the trading floor at RBC Capital Markets.
When she left RBC in 2019, Lara paused and considered her next career move. “While exploring job opportunities during the pandemic lockdown, I threw my name in the hat for the position of President and Chief Executive Officer of Women in Capital Markets,” says Lara. She joined WCM, the largest network of women in finance whose mission is to accelerate equity, diversity and inclusion in finance, in 2021. Lara led WCM in developing programs to unite the finance industry in supporting EDI in capital markets and delivering research, programming and strategic value to the organization’s sponsors, members and stakeholders.
Lara left WCM in September of 2023 to join a woman-led asset management company, Delaney Capital Management, where she currently serves as Vice President of Client Service and Development.
Lara’s commitment to embracing equity and helping women succeed, both in the finance sector and as company founders, is reflected in her role as a member of the board of Canadian Women’s Network, where she will work to help Canadian female founders grow and secure funding. She recently joined Sherry Shannon-Vanstone and Deborah Rosati to create Women Funding Women (WFW), a collective aimed at addressing the persistent funding gap faced by women founders in North America.
WFW, which will launch on February 7 in Toronto, brings together organizations and resources committed to empowering women, offering gender equality, and catalyzing economic growth by increasing access to seed funding for women-led ventures. Lara’s vast experience in capital markets and her passion for driving change and ensuring women’s success is key to the work that WFW will do to increase access to funding for women founders.
Lara’s professional success in the finance sector, her belief that strategy and culture differentiate organizations, and her work as a leader and mentor for women – as entrepreneurs, funders and investors – have made her an influential champion for equity, diversity and inclusion, and a powerful initiator of change for women’s access to venture funding.
International best-selling author, loss prevention officer, research consultant, supportive housing program coordinator, community organizer and journalist. Through these roles, Leigh Zachary Bursey has engaged with vulnerable people and worked to amplify their voices to produce social change.
Leigh has never shied away from tackling challenging social topics such as homelessness, mental health, harm reduction and allied support for the LGBTQIA – and for him, this work is personal. “My mother and I dealt with homelessness while I was in high school, giving me an early education in trauma and desperation,” notes Leigh. “As a result, I understood early on that I wanted to help people.”
It was while standing calf-deep in snow at a bus stop in Brockville, Ontario and realizing that this was a daily experience for many people that Leigh decided to run for city council. “I used my punk rock ethos, music background and big mouth to go out and make a difference,” says Leigh.
During his three terms as Brockville city councillor, Leigh participated in important discussions about social justice issues including gender equity, homelessness, mental health, harm reduction and affordable housing. “I was tagged as the punk rock councillor and was called by people in crisis to help. That experience provided powerful, hands-on experience in dealing with the circumstances and traumas of others,” he said.
Leigh’s passion for community development and helping those who are often marginalized and in need of support is reflected in his work. In addition to his role as a city councillor, Leigh has served as Vice-President of the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association, and as a Child Protection Support Worker for Family and Children Services of Lanark, Leeds and Grenville, and for Cornerstone Landing Youth Services in Lanark County. He has worked in youth homeless shelters and adult warming centres, advocating for naloxone training and increased harm reduction supports, and has been a vocal supporter of increased public transit hours and of adding operating dollars to local library budgets.
A highlight of Leigh’s career was speaking at the International Journal on Homelessness Symposium in Chicago in 2023. “I presented case studies that told the stories of rough sleepers – putting a name and a face to homelessness. Some of the rough sleepers I’ve worked with are the most incredible people I’ve known. I have come to understand that my lived experience is trivial in comparison,” says Leigh.
Leigh has shared his research findings as a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Canadian Rural and Remote Housing and Homelessness Symposium, the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness Conference, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention National Conference and the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association National Congress.
The focus of Leigh’s work has been to represent marginalized people in order to communicate their challenges and share their ideas for change to develop scalable solutions that can be replicated across borders. He has challenged stigmas and amplified the voices of the people he works with through outreach and engagement. “When asked what I do, I often say that I love people who are sometimes hard to love,” says Leigh. “I encourage people to make better decisions.”
Leigh’s dedication to advocating for the most vulnerable in the community is exemplified by his philosophy in life: “Kindness is free and a very underutilized form of currency that we should all exhaust.” Profound Impact is honoured to share the story of Leigh’s work and its impact and to recognize his accomplishments as an Impactful Action Awards finalist in the Young Leader Category.
You can see more about Leigh’s career and impact in the visualization below.
Lynn Smith has fond memories of walking through the jack pine forest of the Peavine Métis Settlement in northern Alberta, of which she is a proud member, with her grandmother to pick blueberries and of camping with her family in those same forests. In her current role as Regional Planning Coordinator within the Consultation Department in the Settlement, developed in partnership with NAIT (the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology), she is leading her community through a significant change to take control of monitoring the impact of climate change on their land and waterways.
“Indigenous people have been stewards of the forests and waterways for generations,” notes Lynn. “I am now in a position to make changes to bring things back, as closely as possible, to the way they were when I was a child, when my cousins and I could drink directly from the river and streams in our community.”
Lynn works with compassion and perseverance in collaboration with community members to build knowledge and achieve data sovereignty in order to better hold industry and all levels of government accountable for how their actions impact Indigenous lands. She has developed an environmental monitoring program managed by a team of community-based environmental monitors and data technicians that deliver real benefits to the Settlement. This mentoring model ensures that the skills of those monitors and technicians are retained within the community.
Lynn regularly initiates, enables and sustains collaborations with a broad range of stakeholders, including Elders, traditional hunters and fishers, NAIT staff and students, all levels of government, and companies from the energy, forestry, and environmental consulting sectors. She reaches out to people and organizations with different experiences and expertise and enables her team to weigh in on decisions to achieve her community’s goals – all while demonstrating her compassion and strong interpersonal connections.
Although Indigenous peoples own, occupy, or use about a quarter of the world’s surface, they safeguard 80% of the world’s biodiversity. Attempts in the past by those communities to set up environmental monitoring programs have suffered from a lack of knowledge, thereby hindering the development, sustainability, quality and viability of the programs. Lynn has developed innovative partnerships between the Indigenous community and Western scientists, to teach Indigenous ways of knowing and to share Western-based methods of doing science with professionals who create environmental monitoring programs in her community. Lynn is also breaking new ground by communicating her learnings in setting up environmental monitoring programs to the scientific community by participating in the upcoming Chemical Society of Canada conference – a first for a non-traditionally trained scientist.
The sharing of knowledge and learnings with other Indigenous communities suffering from similar environmental challenges is a vital element of Lynn’s work. She works with communities to build competencies in their consultation teams to autonomously monitor their land, generate and interpret data, and implement management programs.
Lynn has been recognized for her achievements by being asked to represent her community on the Board of Directors of the Lesser Slave Lake Watershed Council, which works to improve and maintain a healthy watershed through education, planning and implementation of shared initiatives supporting communities and ecosystems throughout the region.
Lynn is mother to three young adult children and, when not working for the Settlement, owns and operates, along with her husband, Jesse Smith, three businesses: P’J’s Eavestroughing, Lynn and Jesse Grain Farm and D’Vine Trap Range. The trap range evolved from her love of the sport of trap shooting, where she was named the 2019 Canadian Ladies Champion. She is currently and has been, for the last 5 years, the reigning Alberta Provincial Ladies Champion.
“I’ve never thought of myself as a pioneer,” says Lynn about her work. “This is the best job I’ve ever had!”
Profound Impact is delighted to showcase Lynn’s important work and its incredible impact on the Peavine Métis Settlement and across Indigenous communities.
You can see more about Lynn’s career and impact in the visualization below.
It was during a Grade 8 field trip to a television station where a classmate’s father worked that Tabatha Laverty decided that she wanted to be a journalist. “I really didn’t consider another career until I graduated from Seneca College’s Television Broadcasting program, just as journalism as a business model was changing,” says Tabatha. “I realized that there wasn’t as broad of a variety of career options as I would have liked and ended up at a Big Four accounting firm, working in administration and marketing.” She was drawn to the storytelling aspect of journalism and discovered that marketing and communications would offer her the opportunities to tell those stories.
Tabatha’s career journey from project management, marketing, communications and community engagement to her current role as an acclaimed non-profit leader and award-winning marketer has seen her develop a passion for workplace equity and inclusion and an understanding of the vital importance of mentorship.
As VP of Marketing and External Relations at the Accelerator Centre in Waterloo, Ontario, Tabatha has spearheaded the organization’s EDI Action Plan, resulting in significant progress in creating a more inclusive and equitable innovation organization and tech community ecosystem. Most significantly, when women-led start-ups account for approximately 17.5% of all private-sector businesses in Canada, over 63% of the Accelerator Centre’s most recent program launch are women-led businesses, with 26% being led by newcomers to Canada, and 5% by indigenous entrepreneurs.
Tabatha was also instrumental in developing the Accelerator Centre’s cleantech incubation program, a first for Waterloo Region. In 2020, the programming was expanded to support all entrepreneurs working on solutions that support the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, adding resources for med-tech, ed-tech, smart city and social innovation-focused start-ups and supporting nearly 100 start-up companies.
Tabatha’s commitment to the advancement of women in the workplace includes her participation in the Waterloo Region Chapter of Women in Communications and Technology (WCT-WR) as a board director. “I love this community. The Kitchener Waterloo area has been such an incredible place for my family to live and work, and I’m passionate about giving back. Serving on the WCT-WR board is one way I can do that. I look forward to doing amazing things with this incredible organization and increasing access to networks, mentorship, and community for women across the region,” says Tabatha.
In addition to her role on WCT-WR’s board, Tabatha serves as a mentor in the organization’s Mentoring Circles program. She participates in monthly meetings with a fellow mentor and 5-6 mentees in similar career stages to share stories, provide guidance and help build mentees’ skill sets. “Mentoring is very important,” notes Tabatha. “It’s essential to reach out to people who have accomplished something you want to accomplish. And it’s important to get out of the echo chamber by including mentors from different backgrounds. For me, that was learning about finance, strategy, and EDI from people more accomplished in those areas than I am.”
In addition to the wisdom gleaned from her mentors and career champions, Tabatha has broadened her skill set through post-graduate certificates in social media management, fundraising, digital marketing, stakeholder management and non-profit and voluntary sector management. As a wife and mother of three, Tabatha prioritizes making time for herself and her family. “I wouldn’t say I am an expert in work-life balance, or that I have it figured out,” she says. “But I am lucky to work at a place that values flexibility, and I do my best to find a balance that works for me and my family.”
In 2021, Tabatha received the Global Women in Leadership Award issued by the Global Council for the Promotion of International Trade and, in 2022 was nominated for DMZ Women of the Year Award. Profound Impact is proud to have designated Tabatha as a finalist in the Young Leader category for this year’s Impactful Actions Awards in recognition of her work as an accomplished leader and active community champion.
You can see more of Tabatha’s career and impact in the visualization below.
“Be a ladder, be a lamp or be a lifeboat.” This is Stephanie Thompson’s motto in her work as a passionate engineer and community leader who increases awareness for engineering, manufacturing and skilled trades careers for young women.
Stephanie grew up as the oldest of four children in Ottawa. Her interest in a career in science was sparked by an invitation by Mrs. Williams, her Grade 11 physics and chemistry teacher, to an overnight trip to the Chalk River Laboratories in Deep River, Ontario, where she saw nuclear physicists at work. “My teacher had a profound effect on me by recognizing my potential in science,” says Stephanie.
Stephanie liked chemistry and chose to study chemical engineering at the University of Waterloo after doing her research and learning that engineers had the best capacity for earning. Although successful at the traditional model of learning in high school, she found university to be humbling. “I had to figure things out. How to be creative and inventive and how to learn. And this prepared me for work after graduation,” she notes.
During her 22-year career at General Motors in St. Catharines, Ontario, Stephanie has worked in a range of engineering roles, including Launch Process Engineer, Process Engineer and Production Group Leader, and was the first woman to serve as an Engineering Manager. “I have been most successful when surrounded by talented and smart people, allowing me to find my space in a way that nobody else was doing.”
Through her extensive community outreach, Stephanie promotes engineering and other STEM fields as a storyteller, problem solver and a breaker of barriers. It is through these skills that she allows others, especially women, to see what they do not see in themselves.
In 2019, Stephanie launched the social enterprise STEM by Steph. STEMbySteph.com offers a range of activities, including a workshop series that brings women together to explore STEM careers. These workshops are led by women and focus on topics including Chemistry, Automotive, Environment, Space, Robotics, and Electrical. STEM by Steph also offers pro-bono career coaching for high school students.
Stephanie believes that a major barrier for girls pursuing trades and STEM fields is the lack of female STEM role models. In response to that need, STEM by Steph workshops offer a frequently sold-out social event where other female STEM professionals join Stephanie to teach young women and their mothers in a fun, camaraderie-filled atmosphere. “If you want more young women to be interested in non-traditional roles, involve their mothers,” notes Stephanie. “You cannot be what you do not see, and a major influence in every girl’s life is her mother.”
As a FIRST Robotics Mentor, Stephanie has run FIRST Robotics teams at local schools since 2005 including leading the Niagara FIRST Lego League as Tournament Director. She recently connected engineers and electricians from General Motors with over 200 students from across Ontario for a day-long workshop on Design Thinking about the future of automotive.
In addition to her mentoring and community outreach work, Stephanie is active in the Niagara Region as a member of the Brock University Board of Trustees, a member of the Niagara College Industrial Automation Program Advisory Committee, the inaugural Chair of the Brock University Engineering Industry Partners Committee and Director of Innovate Niagara.
Stephanie’s professional and community work has been recognized by the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce as the 2018 winner of the Women in Business Award for Science and Technology. She was awarded the 2020 Alumni Achievement Medal for Community Service by the University of Waterloo and was included in the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023, when she was inducted into the Hall of Fame
Stephanie’s impact on the community is perhaps best summarized by Nancy Watt, Advisory Board member for the internationally recognized magazine, Enterprising Women. “When I asked Stephanie to help build a STEM event on behalf of the Young Enterprising Women Foundation, I had no idea she was about to deliver a record-breaking, precedent-setting, multi-media-covered event that garnered an article in Enterprising Women. Stephanie is a connector. She sees potential and opportunities in others, puts them together and watches synergy take hold. She puts forward-thinking strategy to use, analyzing and achieving the best possible outcome for those who know her.”
You can see more of Stephanie’s career and impact in the visualization below.
It was the influence and encouragement of a high school science teacher and the chemistry set handed down by his older brother that first triggered Dr. Harald Stöver’s interest in science. “I had a tiny lab in our house where I carried out chemical reactions and experimented with fireworks – including an unsuccessful attempt to blow up a tree stump. My parents were very supportive of my hobby, except perhaps for that tree stump. My mother even helped me conduct science experiments in the family kitchen,” recalls Harald.
Harald Stöver had completed three years of undergraduate chemistry study at the Technische Universitat Darmstadt in his native Germany when he decided to move to Canada for a year. His plan was to complete his degree at the University of Ottawa and return to Germany. However, his academic advisors in Ottawa noted that Harald’s undergraduate work from Darmstadt qualified him to enter graduate school. He became the first graduate student of the late Christian Detellier and completed his Ph.D. at the University of Ottawa. “Canada was now my home. They captured me!” says Harald.
During his time at the University of Ottawa, Harald established a connection with Professor Jean Fréchet, a professor in polymer chemistry. When Professor Fréchet moved to Cornell University as IBM Professor of Polymer Chemistry, he invited Harald to join him as a postdoctoral fellow to start research on a new technique. “We did great work together. I felt comfortable setting up new labs. After all, I had practiced in my mother’s kitchen,” says Harald.
Harald is currently a professor of chemistry and chemical biology in the Faculty of Science at McMaster University. During his tenure of more than three decades at McMaster, he has established a reputation as a leading researcher in polymer hydrogels, bio-relevant macromolecules and the delivery of biologics. His research and work with industry has been recognized by being named an NSERC/3M Industrial Research Chair, receiving Canada’s National Macromolecular Science and Engineering Award, and his appointment as Director of the NSERC Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) Program in Biomaterials.
When McMaster University decided to expand its focus on teaching and research to include entrepreneurship, Harald’s experience and affinity for working with industry made him a clear choice for the university to invest in transferring his research to market. Allarta Life Science, a pre-clinical life science company that develops next-generation biomaterials for immune-privileged delivery of cells, stem cells and biologics, was launched in 2019 by Harald Stöver and Maria Antonakos, a senior executive with a broad range of experience managing innovation, and with an equity investment by McMaster.
Allarta Life Science’s work is poised to fundamentally change the way that patients with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D), a chronic disease that comes with a host of potential complications, including increased risk of stroke and heart attack, receive treatment.
Patients with advanced T1D are eligible for islet cell transplants from the pancreas of a deceased donor. However, this alternative to multiple daily injections of insulin to manage blood sugar comes with costs to patients’ health. Because the body identifies the transplanted cells as invaders, patients must take immune suppression drugs for the rest of their lives. The solution being developed by Allarta Life Science is an immune-protective polymer gel, not recognized by the body as foreign material, to encapsulate the islet cells while still allowing the cells to receive nutrients and release insulin by diffusion. Harald likens the gel to a diver’s shark cage that protects a human from attack while allowing water to pass through. Ultimately, this therapy will reduce or eliminate the need for current immune suppression drugs that leave patients at risk for infections.
As a vertically integrated company, Allarta Life Sciences also works with partners who develop stem cell-based therapeutic cells that would eliminate the need for donor transplants. Fewer than a dozen other companies work in this area. Some develop new cells not recognized by the immune system, others focus on the immune-protective barrier. Allarta is unique in that their work covers all bases by producing hydrogels that contain islet cells, allow diffusion of insulin and deflect the immune system. “We expect to work with human subjects in clinical trials within two years,” notes Harald.
In October 2023, Allarta announced news of an award from JDRF, the leading global T1D research and advocacy organization, to fund the company’s ongoing work. “The JDRF award will help us advance these therapies further towards the clinic,” Harald says.
Harald is excited to be part of McMaster University’s evolution of academic focus to include building the entrepreneurial sector. “This brings fundamental science developed in university labs to clinical settings. It’s good for undergraduate and graduate students and for faculty and gives back to the community,” he explained.
Harald Stöver has come a long way from the experiments he conducted in his home science lab and his mother’s kitchen. His ground-breaking research at McMaster University and the work of Allarta Life Sciences are poised to make a profound impact by improving the lives of Type 1 Diabetes patients worldwide.
You can learn more about Harald in the visualizations below.
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2023 Impactful Actions Award Winner – Lifetime Achievement
“Community is my energy. It’s my fuel. It invigorates and inspires me,” says Mike Farwell, a relentless community builder who turned the grief of losing two sisters to cystic fibrosis (CF) into the largest annual fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis Canada. The 2023 Impactful Action Award Lifetime Achievement Award winner’s Farwell4Hire campaign has raised over $1.25 million in unrestricted funds over the last decade, supporting research, advocacy, and clinical care for people around the world living with CF, the most common fatal genetic disease in Canada.
Mike was born in Kitchener, Ontario as the middle of five children. He aspired to be a radio announcer, but not believing that this was a real job, he attended the University of Waterloo, earned a degree in Arts and went on to teach high school. “After one year as a teacher, I decided that this wasn’t the job for me,” says Mike. He enrolled in Conestoga College’s television and radio broadcast program and graduated with two career ambitions: to work as a radio music DJ and as a hockey announcer. He began his radio career in Salmon Arm, British Columbia, where he was a music DJ and also had the chance to report on the local hockey team. Mike moved from Salmon Arm to work in communities across Canada for several years before returning to the Waterloo Region.
Mike’s second dream job, as a hockey reporter and announcer, came about as the result of responding to an open casting call by Rogers for a daytime talk show host position in Kitchener. The casting director noticed that Mike had listed experience in sports reporting on his resume. “We need a sports guy,” she told him. Within a week, he was on camera for the first time as a field reporter for university sports including football, basketball, and volleyball. Mike now has more than 20 years of radio and television broadcasting experience, works with Rogers Radio in Kitchener as the host of the Mike Farwell Show, and is the play-by-play voice of the Kitchener Rangers on CityNews 570.
Mike created Farwell4Hire to honour Luanne and Sheri Farwell, the two sisters he and his family lost to CF. Luanne died in the fall of 1993 at the age of 24 and, just nine months later, Sheri succumbed to cystic fibrosis at the age of 18. “Farwell4Hire was started by accident,” says Mike. “I’m really bad at asking for things. I’d rather do.” Prior to launching the campaign, Mike had raised money through stunts, including jumping out of an airplane, sitting in (and getting wet) in a dunk tank and participating in a boxing match. The odd jobs Mike has performed as part of Farwell4Hire have ranged from the routine, like washing windows and mowing lawns, to the more exotic, like cleaning a horse’s sheath.
Farwell4Hire is an excellent example of community collaboration. Small business owners, associations and larger companies across Waterloo Region come together each May in support of Mike’s efforts. The campaign is a fundraiser with absolutely no overhead. Managed entirely through the efforts of volunteers, every dollar donated to Farwell4Hire is a dollar donated directly to CF.
When asked how he finds the time to write, produce, execute and edit his daily radio show, travel with the Kitchener Rangers to do play-by-playing reporting on their games, and run an annual month-long fundraising campaign, Mike again points to the importance of community to his life. He quotes fellow Waterloo Region broadcaster and public speaker, Neil Aitchison: “Community service is the rent you pay for the space you occupy.” Mike continues, “I don’t think I could possibly give back to the community what it has given to me.”
Mike is delighted with the ongoing progress in CF research and with how the $1.25 million raised for research through Farwell4Hire has contributed to massive impacts in extending the lives of Canadians living with CF. When Mike started fundraising as a teenager, the estimated lifespan of a child with CF was less than 12 years. In 2023, a baby born with CF today has a median life expectancy of 57 years. And Trikafta, a new drug with the potential to treat up to 90% of Canadians with CF, doesn’t just treat symptoms. This transformational treatment targets the basic defect from specific genetic mutations that cause the disease.
Mike was struck by a statement made by Roberto Clemente, the late National Baseball Hall of Famer who has an award for sportsmanship and community involvement named for him in recognition of his charity work in Latin American and Caribbean countries during the off-seasons. “Roberto said that a person who can help others and fails to do so has wasted his life. I don’t want to waste my life. I want to help if I can. And the work I do is the way I can do my part,” Mike adds.
Profound Impact is proud to present the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Impactful Action Award to Mike Farwell, a remarkable leader who has worked tirelessly to build community and to raise funds for Cystic Fibrosis research, impacting lives in the Waterloo Region and around the world.
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2023 Impactful Actions Award Winner – Young Leader
As record temperatures were set in the northern hemisphere during the summer of 2023, people in locations as diverse as Canada, Europe and Hawaii experienced the severe effects of climate change in the form of ocean storms, wildfires, floods and droughts. For Hui Huang Hoe, this was not a new phenomenon. He had experienced the effects of climate change while growing up in Malaysia as ever-rising temperatures and extreme weather fluctuations resulted in floods and droughts. Hui Huang moved to Canada to attend the University of Toronto, and, in part, to escape the heat of Southeast Asia.
Hui Huang was inspired at an early age to study science after reading Stephen Hawking’s book, The Universe in a Nutshell. He went on to exhibit a keen interest and talent in science and math during high school, where he won the national Physics and Chemistry Olympiads Championships. Motivated by this success, he decided to pursue a career in chemical engineering, with a focus on sustainable energy and environmental engineering. He was awarded a scholarship to study in Canada and enrolled in the Chemical Engineering program at the University of Toronto, where he earned an undergraduate degree with High Honours as the top student in his class, venerated by the Society of Chemical Industry Merit Award.
Hui Huang considers himself lucky to have received exposure to research in the summer following his first year of study, through his award-winning work on energy-efficient fuel with Professor Ya-Huei (Cathy) Chin, now a Canada Research Chair. In his third year, he was granted a senior fellowship to work with Professor Donald W. Kirk, another of his mentors, on carbon-free zinc-air fuel cell research. Hui Huang produced an award-winning thesis (such as Mackay Hewer Memorial Prize, as the best chemical engineering thesis related to environmental studies) on converting carbon dioxide into fuels powered by renewable electricity. As part of his graduate research work, the carbon dioxide conversion was expanded beyond fuels into useful products. The University of Toronto recognized Hui Huang’s work with numerous awards and filed a patent, Electrochemical Carbon Dioxide Utilization, related to his research.
Hui Huang went on to establish elerGreen, a cleantech start-up company that addresses waste remediation through the recovery of polymers, metals and chemicals from waste and renewable electricity in an economical and eco-friendly way. For elerGreen’s key differentiator, he invented and patented a unique electrochemical reactor of moving electrodes against stationary blades to continuously harvest solid products. Interestingly, he conceived elerGreen moving electrode reactor with an Eureka moment while exercising on a treadmill!
elerGreen moving electrode reactor facilitates the conversion of pollutants, including tailings and petrochemical waste, into valuable metals, polymers and feedstocks, powered by renewable electricity. As a result, elerGreen converts CO2 or its derivatives into useful products, while replacing fossil fuel combustion in chemical or manufacturing plants, which is more energy-efficient. In layman’s terms, elerGreen cleantech is like Tesla’s electric vehicle, but for chemical or manufacturing plants.
Hui Huang’s leadership extends far beyond his work in cleantech. In addition to being a serial inventor in green electrochemistry, Hui Huang has been recognized for teaching excellence and for his work coaching students. He also wrote and published Mathematica Particularis, a book on engineering mathematics that is offered free of charge to students.
Hui Huang believes strongly in giving back to the community. In 2022, elerGreen partnered with Venture for Canada (VFC) to collaborate on the VFC Intrapreneurship Program, an experience offered to foster Canadian youth entrepreneurship and innovation. As part of this program, he coaches students, teaching them about clean technologies, educating them on intellectual property protection and making them aware of the importance of corporate social responsibility.
Hui Huang works to integrate elerGreen’s core principles of profitability and sustainability while contributing to society by developing cleantech technology and expertise and shifting the mindset of how society supports the cleantech sector. To support these goals, elerGreen has become a certified Ontario Made company and a member of Ontario Clean Technology Industry Association. “What we do at elerGreen can be summed up as Electrification Done Green,” Hui Huang says.
Hui Huang Hoe’s passion and success as a researcher, inventor and founder, his ongoing work to develop the next generation of cleantech entrepreneurs through his coaching and teaching and elerGreen’s commitment to equity, accessibility and inclusion for underrepresented people and newcomers to Canada truly make him a young leader deserving of the 2023 Impactful Action Award.
Finally, the Impactful Action Award comes with a donation by Profound Impact to a charity, and Hui Huang Hoe and elerGreen have nominated Parkdale Centre for Innovation. This donation to Parkdale Centre for Innovation would further support public awareness and social entrepreneurship on equity, accessibility, and inclusion for underrepresented people, including women, Black, Indigenous, people of color, and newcomers to Canada.
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Leigh Zachary Bursey is an activist, journalist, former three-term municipal politician, singer-songwriter, recording artist, writer and champion for the homeless. He has a long history of tackling challenging social topics including homelessness, mental health, harm reduction and allied support for the LGBTQIA community. While serving as a city councillor for Brockville, Ontario, he came out as a suicide attempt survivor and an advocate for the federally tabled National Suicide Prevention Strategy private member’s bill.
Leigh has worked in youth homelessness shelters and adult warming centres, advocating for naloxone training and increased harm reduction supports and has been a strong advocate for increased public transit hours and operating funds for local libraries. He focuses his speaking, research and journalism on amplifying marginalized people and sharing their ideas for change and resolutions to community challenges. Through his work, he has amplified these voices by helping them deliver meaningful messages and by challenging stigmas.
Hui Huang Hoe
Hui Huang Hoe is a serial inventor in green electrochemistry. He founded elerGreen, a cleantech start-up that recovers valuable polymers, metals and chemicals from chemical waste. elerGreen places an emphasis on giving back to the society through mentorship of student entrepreneurs in Venture for Canada (VFC) Intrapreneurship projects. elerGreen exposes students to diversity, equity, inclusion and corporate social responsibility through these projects and by hiring visible minorities, people with disabilities, youth, newcomers to Canada and survivors of violence and the criminal justice system.
Hui Huang encourages youth entrepreneurship by coaching students in Venture for Canada. He has also published a free book, Mathematica Particularis, written to complement the syllabus of engineering mathematics, particularly for B.A.Sc. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Toronto.
Tabatha Laverty is an acclaimed non-profit leader and award-winning marketer with a passion for workplace equity and inclusion. As VP of Marketing and External Relations at the Accelerator Centre, she has been instrumental in leading the organization in rebranding and cementing the centre’s status as a global innovation ecosystem leader.
Through Tabatha’s leadership, the Accelerator Centre has made significant progress in its mission to create a more inclusive and equitable innovation ecosystem. After only one year of work under the action plan, the centre has nearly achieved its objective of gender parity and 30% representation from traditionally underrepresented groups across its stakeholder groups. This includes the Accelerator Centre’s board, mentorship team, staff, and the founders. In addition, the centre’s most recent program launch boasts over 63% of its participants being women-led businesses, 26% being led by newcomers to Canada and 5% by indigenous entrepreneurs.
Tabatha was instrumental in developing the Accelerator Centre’s cleantech incubation program, a first for Waterloo Region. In 2020, the programming was expanded to support all entrepreneurs working on solutions that support the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, adding resources for med-tech, ed-tech, smart city and social innovation-focused start-ups, supporting nearly 100 start-ups.
You can see more from the Young Leaders and their impact below:
Lifetime Achievement Finalists
Mike Farwell is a relentless community builder who turned his grief of losing two sisters to cystic fibrosis (CF) into the largest annual fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis Canada, raising over $1.25m of unrestricted funds supporting research, advocacy, and clinical care for Canadians living with CF.
Between his day job at CityNews 570, his night job calling games for the Kitchener Rangers junior hockey team and his philanthropic work with organizations across Waterloo Region, Mike Farwell’s name and voice are synonymous with leadership in the Waterloo Region. In 2014, he began the Farwell4Hire fundraising campaign, which has raised more than $1.25m for research to find a cure for cystic fibrosis. After many years of soliciting donations, Mike thought it was time for a different approach and offered to do work in exchange for donations. From weeding gardens to washing windows, Farwell4Hire has raised $1.25m since its launch, allowing CF Canada to bring a new transformational drug (Trikafta) to be widely adopted across Canada in 2022. Trikafta is considered the single greatest innovation in the history of cystic fibrosis, treating 90% of Canadians with CF by addressing the causes instead of managing the symptoms and potentially preventing irreversible damage caused by this progressive disease. It is now publicly available and insurable to all CF patients in Canada six years of age and older, with advocacy in place for younger patients.
For his tireless efforts on this annual fundraising campaign, and his genuine support of building community through his talk radio show, Mike is a true example of one person making a huge impact on the lives of many.
As a proud member of Peavine Métis Settlement, Lynn Smith is leading her northern community through a significant change to take control of monitoring the impact of climate change on their land and waterways. Through compassion, perseverance, engagement, and collaboration, she is guiding her community on the path to being able to once again drink the water from their rivers and streams; an act not experienced since her own childhood because of pollution. She is doing this by enabling her community to achieve data sovereignty, and building knowledge in her community so that they can better hold Industry and all levels of Government accountable for their actions that impact Indigenous lands.
Lynn’s exemplary leadership has created a program of environmental monitoring that delivers real benefits to her community. Her mentorship model has built a team of community-based Environmental Monitors and Data Technicians whose skills and talent are retained in the community for the benefit of the community. At the same time, Lynn practices inclusion in how she shares her knowledge and learnings with other Indigenous communities suffering from similar environmental challenges. She is doing this by showing the way for communities to build competencies in their consultation teams to autonomously monitor their land, generate and interpret data, and enact management programs. Lynn is also a builder of inclusivity, partnering with scientists outside of her community, teaching indigenous ways of knowing, and sharing Western-based methods of doing science with professionals who have participated in creating environmental monitoring programs in her community and beyond.
Lynn has been recognized for her achievements by being asked to represent her community on the Board of Directors of the Lesser Slave Lake Watershed Council, which works to improve and maintain a healthy watershed through education, planning and implementation of shared initiatives in support of communities and ecosystems throughout the region.
Stephanie Thompson is a passionate engineer and community leader who actively pursues new and innovative ways of promoting science, technology and learning in the Niagara Region. “Be a ladder, be a lamp or be a lifeboat” is Stephanie’s motto, which she uses to inspire the women in Niagara and online.
In 2018, Stephanie launched her social enterprise, STEM by Steph, developed on the notion that the lack of female role models prevents girls from considering careers in the trades and in STEM fields. Following the principle that STEM is best tackled by connecting women with knowledge with those who need support in breaking barriers, the organization offers STEMbySteph, a frequently sold-out social event in the Niagara Region where Stephanie and other women teach mothers and their daughters about STEM subjects in a laughter-filled atmosphere focused on camaraderie.
Stephanie holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in Chemical Engineering, a Certificate of Professional Management from Brock University, and is a Professional Engineer in Ontario.
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The first fully computer-animated film was not produced by a Hollywood studio but by the National Film Board of Canada. Hunger/La Faim was directed by Hungarian-born Peter Foldes using technology invented by two Canadians: Nestor Burtnyk, an electrical engineer and Dr. Marceli Wein, a physicist. Marceli’s journey from WWII Poland, where he was a Holocaust hidden child, to a Los Angeles stage in 1997, where he and Burtnyk were presented with Academy Awards for technical achievement, is one that he credits to good luck and the opportunities presented to him along the way.
Marceli was born into a Jewish family in Krakow, Poland. A 4-year-old when World War II started in 1939, he and his family were forced by the Nazis to move to a walled-in ghetto. In 1943, Marceli was sent to a ghetto hospital to be treated for scarlet fever. When his father learned that the hospital would be shut down and all patients killed, he smuggled 9-year-old Marceli out in a blanket and delivered him to a woman who changed his name and hid him, first in a flat in Krakow and subsequently in Warsaw. He was later devastated to learn that his brother, Jerzy, had been shot and that the ghetto his family lived in was liquidated. Both of Marceli’s parents were sent to concentration camps. Only his father survived. Marceli was raised as a Roman Catholic. He still has photos from his First Communion.
Marceli reunited with his father after the war ended and lived with him and his stepmother and step-brother in Poland and later in Germany. During this time, Marceli learned German while going to school and English by listening to the U.S Armed Forces Radio Network and through tutoring by a Polish soldier who had served in the British army.
Marceli and his family received permission to travel abroad and spent two years as refugees in Munich. Germany. “Canada accepted us”, says Marceli. Another stroke of good luck, as was choosing Montreal as their new home, where they landed in 1952. Marceli finished high school there and, although his marks in English and History were poor because of his basic English language skills, his high marks in Science and Mathematics resulted in scholarships to McGill University. He graduated in 1958 with a degree in engineering physics with honours in electrical engineering.
His first job was at Marconi, where he worked with magnetrons used in rockets and radar and later designed television sets. Marceli’s run of good luck continued when he went to McGill one June afternoon in 1959 to ask a friend to lunch and instead, ran into one of his physics professors who thought Marceli was there to see him. Marceli received a tour of the Stormy Weather Group and, by the end of the afternoon, was accepted into the M.Sc. program. “I accidentally became a graduate student”. It was while completing his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees that he worked on transferring images to film – critical to his later pioneering work in computer animation.
After completing his PhD, Marceli accepted a job as a Research Officer in computing at the National Research Council (NRC). It was here that he met colleagues Nestor Burnyk and Ken Pulfer and worked with them on interactive computer graphics, with a focus on how non-technical people worked with computers. In 1969, Burtnyk attended a conference in Los Angeles where one of the speakers was a Disney animator who suggested that computers could be used to generate the cels in between those produced by animators for use in filmmaking. Upon his return to Ottawa from the conference, Burtnyk wrote a program that generated the in-between frames for beginning and ending two-dimensional images drawn on a tablet.
Rene Jodoin from the French Animation Section of the National Film Board of Canada, who was visiting NRC, thought that this technology was suitable for a script that had been submitted by Peter Foldes, an animator in France who had submitted a script for Hunger/La Faim to the Film Board in Montreal. Foldes traveled regularly to Ottawa to collaborate with Marceli and Burtnyk and with Jodoin at the National Film Board.
Hunger/La Faim, which was about greed and gluttony, was made in 18 months, cost $38,893 ($240,747 in 2023 dollars) and was released in 1974. It became the first computer-animated movie to be nominated for an Academy Award, in the Animated Shorts category, and received many other international film awards including the Prix du Jury at the Cannes Film Festival.
Hunger/La Faim was an inspiration for a new generation of Canadian computer animators, leading to the formation of research and training programs in computer graphics and animation and new production companies across Canada and internationally. At the 1996 Festival of Computer Animation at the Ontario Science Centre, Burtnyk and Marceli were recognized for their individual contributions and were each designated as a Father of Computer Animation Technology in Canada.
Toy Story, the first computer-animated feature film, was released by Pixar Animation Studios in November 1995. Ed Catmull, then president of Pixar, nominated Burtnyk and Marceli for a Technical Academy Award to recognize the impact of their work on computer animation in the film industry. And so, two years after his retirement, Marceli and Burtnyk were called to the podium by Helen Hunt to be awarded Technical Academy Award for their pioneering roles in developing computer animation.
Although Marceli trained and worked as a scientist, his advice to young people is to learn to write in order to tell stories. “The current emphasis on STEM education neglects the need to be able to write and to communicate”.
The computer animation industry and film lovers everywhere benefit from the luck and opportunities that allowed Marceli Wein to survive the Holocaust, emigrate to Canada, complete his studies at McGill, and collaborate with outstanding colleagues at the National Research Council and the National Film Board of Canada.
You can see more of Marceli’s impact in the visualizations below.
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