The Profound Impact team is looking forward to announcing the 2023 Impactful Action Award winners on September 14th during Profound Impact Day. This annual virtual event honours the late Professor Scott A. Vanstone and celebrates the impact and legacy of collaboration and innovation developed through the Profound Impact community.
Profound Impact Day 2023 will commence at 12 noon EDT on Sept. 14th and feature a fireside chat with past Impactful Actions Awards winners Dr. Feridun Hamdullahpur, former president of the University of Waterloo, and Kehkashan Basu M.S.M., Founder of Green Hope Foundation.
The Profound Impact team had a productive time at the NCURA (National Council of University Research Administrators) annual meeting in Washington, DC last month. There was tremendous interest in Research Impact and everyone loved the Canadian maple syrup candy! We also conducted a survey of attendees about their areas of concern regarding research funding and industry partnership. We will analyze the responses and make the report available on our website soon.
As Profound Impact continues its growth in the Canadian market and expands into the United States and internationally, we are pleased to announce that the company surpassed our goal of raising $3 million in two tranches this summer, for a total of $3,125,000. A group of female investors, including many who were first-time investors, led the way for Profound Impact’s pre-seed round of financing, which closed on May 5, 2023 and August 4, 2023 respectively. The participation of first-time female investors sends a clear message of confidence in Profound Impact’s vision and the team’s leadership.
We’re excited about how we continue to connect great people to do great things and look forward to seeing you at our noon event – Profound Impact Day on September 14.
Thank you for connecting with us and the Profound Impact community!
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.
You can see more from the Lifetime Achievement finalists here:
The Profound Impact team is proud to announce the finalists for this year’s Impactful Actions Awards. We were inspired by this year’s nominees and are excited to recognize two recipients for the first time this year (listed below in alphabetical order).
The finalists in the Young Leaders category are:
Leigh Zachary Bursey
Hui Huang Hoe
The three Lifetime Achievement finalists are:
Thank you to everyone who submitted nominations. The winner from each category will be announced on Profound Impact Day on September 14.
Canada is renowned for having brought important innovations to the world, including Banting and Best’s discovery of insulin at the University of Toronto, the development of the IMAX camera projector, and the Canadarm robotic arm used in space shuttle orbiters. Less known is Canada’s fundamental role in the development and evolution of computer animation and visual effects. This month’s Impact Story introduces you to Marceli Wein, who came to Canada in 1952 after surviving Nazi Germany as a hidden child, became an “accidental graduate student” at McGill University, and, with his colleague Nestor Burtnyk and director Peter Foldes, created the first fully computer-animated film in 1974.
Canada’s computer science departments and software companies are responsible for much of the technology behind the computer animation and special effects seen on today’s screens. You’ll read about those contributions, including the pioneering researchers and software developers whose work is used in major studios around the world, in this issue’s Research Spotlight. And in the Researcher Spotlight you’ll meet Mark Jones, the educator, producer, and writer who has spent more than two decades working to train many of those award-winning artists.
This issue also features results from the survey of polytechnics, colleges, and universities across Canada conducted by Profound Impact to gather feedback on information sharing between partners, understanding grant funding and partnership opportunities, and helping build grant partnerships.
Thank you for connecting with us and the Profound Impact community!
Toy Story. Up. Monsters Inc. Shrek. Finding Nemo. WALL-E. Ice Age. The Incredibles. Ratatouille. Cars. Frozen. Inside Out. These fully computer-animated feature films have been nominated for and won Academy Awards and have transformed animation from a medium previously reserved for Saturday morning cartoons to one used by filmmakers to tell stories for people of all ages. Canadian researchers and software companies have played a significant role in developing the tools used by animators to tell those stories. Many of those animators are graduates of renowned computer animation programs from colleges and universities across Canada.
As noted in this month’s Impact Story, 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. After its release in 1974, Hunger/La Faim was 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. In 1997, Wein and Burtnyk received Technical Academy Awards in recognition of the impact of their work on computer animation in the film industry.
In 1984, The Adventures of André & Wally B., a computer-animated short produced by the Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Project, the predecessor of Pixar, was released at the annual SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference and sparked the film industry’s interest in computer-generated films. The technical lead for the film was Bill Reeves, a founding member of Pixar and a graduate of the Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Waterloo and the Dynamic Graphics Project at the University of Toronto.
Groundbreaking research and technology
The Computer Graphics Lab at the University of Waterloo and the Dynamic Graphics Project at the University of Toronto are two of the most influential computer graphics research laboratories in Canada.
Kellogg S. (Kelly) Booth joined the Computer Science Department at the University of Waterloo in 1977 and John Beatty in 1978, and in 1979, they began a research group in Computer Graphics and Interaction. Together with Richard Bartels who joined the department in 1981, they formed the Computer Graphics Laboratory (CGL), one of the first in Canada. Marceli Wein was an adjunct professor of computer science in the lab.
Graduates of CGL, including Rob Krieger and Paul Breslin, would go on to win Academy Awards.
The Dynamic Graphic Project (DGP) at the University of Toronto was founded in 1967 by Leslie Mezei. In 1972, He was joined by Ron Baecker, who coined the name Dynamic Graphics Project in 1974. DGP’s alumni are now on faculty at top universities around the world and at major industrial research labs, and, like Bill Reeves, have won Academy Awards for their ground-breaking work.
Tony de Peltrie, the first computer graphics animated character with synchronized speech, was first shown at the SIGGRAPH conference in 1985. The short film, which was produced by four young programmers at the University of Montreal, shows the first animated human character to express emotion through facial expressions and body movements and received more than 20 international awards. John Lasseter said about the film, “Years from now Tony de Peltrie will be looked upon as the landmark piece, where real, fleshy characters were first animated by computer.”
Daniel Langlois, one of the creators of Tony de Peltrie, was an artist and programmer trained as a designer and computer animator for film. After the completion of the film, Langlois founded the company Softimage in Montreal. Softimage’s 3D animation package became an industry-standard in the 1990s, used by major visual effects studios and in films including The Matrix and Jurassic Park. Softimage was also used extensively in the computer gaming industry and the company, along with Tony de Peltrie, is credited as one of the reasons Montreal has become one of the global centers of the computer gaming industry.
Recognition of the quality of computer animation by the film industry first came in 1988, when Pixar’s Tin Toy, became the first computer-animated film to receive an Academy Award. And history was made again in 1991 when computer-generated image (CGI) backgrounds were fully integrated with hand-drawn animated characters using software from Toronto’s Alias Research in the ballroom scene in Beauty and the Beast.
Alias Research was founded by Stephen Bingham, Nigel McGrath, Susan McKenna and David Springer in 1983 with initial funding from scientific research tax credits, the founders’ personal funds, and a $61,000 grant from Canada’s National Research Council. Alias 1, the company’s first software package, was released in 1985 and in 1989, Alias 2 was used to produce The Abyss, which won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. In 1990, Alias’ PowerAnimator software was used to produce Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in 1991. Alias’ industry standard product, the 3D modeling and animation package, Maya, was delivered in 1998 and is recognized as the world’s premier 3D animation software, used on every film winning the Best Visual Effects Academy Award since 1997.
Toronto is also home to Side Effects Software (SideFX), founded by Kim Davidson and Greg Hermanovic. Davidson and Hermanovic joined Omnibus, a pioneering company in the then-emerging world of computer graphics, in 1985 and immersed themselves in production by writing their own software and creating visual effects.
They founded SideFX in 1987 and released the PRISMS software package, which was succeeded by Houdini 3D animation software. Houdini is used by major visual effects companies and film studios for the creation of visual effects for films including Fantasia 2000, Frozen, Zootopia and Rio.
SideFX technology and developers, including Kim Davison, Greg Hermanovic, Paul Breslin and Mark Elendt, have been recognized by the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences five times for Houdini and its technology, in 1998, 2003, 2012, and in 2019, where SideFX received the Award of Merit. In 2019, SideFX was awarded a Technology & Engineering Emmy Award.
Developing the next generation of animators
In addition to producing award-winning films and industry-standard 3D animation software, Canadian colleges are renowned for their work in graduating some of the best practitioners in the visual effects and computer animation business.
Sheridan College in Ontario houses the Faculty of Animation, Arts & Design (FAAD), Canada’s largest art school. Sheridan animation alumni have a long history of success at the Academy Awards, including Domee Shi, the first female director of the Pixar short, Bao, which received the award for Best Animated Short in 2019.
The Ian Gillespie Faculty of Design + Dynamic Media at Emily Carr University of Art + Design (ECU) in British Columbia offers the Bachelor of Media Arts (BMA) Program with two animation streams: 2D + Experimental Animation and 3D Computer Animation. Graduates of these Animation BMA Programs have been recruited by major studios and organizations including DreamWorks Animation, Pixar, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), Universal, and the National Film Board of Canada.
The Faculty of Art at Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD U) in Toronto features an Experimental Animation Program that combines Contemporary Art with Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR), 2D and 3D, Digital Compositing, and Stop Motion.
Université Laval in Quebec is home to the Faculty of Planning, Architecture, Art and Design (FAAAD), which houses the School of Design, where two courses of animation study include the Bachelor of Animated Arts and Science (BASA) and the Certificate in the Art and Science of Animation (CASA).
The School of the Arts, Media, Performance, and Design (AMPD) and Lassonde School of Engineering at York University in Toronto offer a Digital Media Arts (DMA) Program. Digital Media Arts is Ontario’s only degree program that integrates Art, Engineering, and Computer Science.
The School of Creative Arts & Animation at Seneca Polytechnic has several paths to study animation including the Animation Diploma and Graduate Certificates in 3D Animation and Game Art & Animation.
Moviegoers and animation lovers everywhere benefit from the ground-breaking accomplishments of award-winning Canadian computer scientists, artists, educators, and animators. Canada has made major contributions to the field of computer animation. From the production of the revolutionary Hunger/La Faim, to innovative research conducted in computer graphics labs in universities across the country, and software used by visual effects and film studios around the world, Canada is truly a major player in the world of computer animation.
Researcher Spotlight: Mark Jones
As a teenager in suburban Toronto in the 1980s, Mark Jones spent his evenings participating in rehearsals for school plays and musicals or avoiding homework by programming video games on his Atari 800 computer. Today, Mark is an award-winning 25-year veteran of the creative communications and digital technologies industries who has worked as a college teacher and administrator, producer, artist, and writer. And those high school interests have endured as themes in both his education and career paths.
Mark enrolled in the Theatre Program at York University, but left after two years when he understood that his future didn’t include a career as an actor. He joined Addison-Wesley, a publisher of textbooks and computer literature, where he received training in sales, customer service, marketing, and publicity. Mark also learned how to publish, which led to the launch of CyberStage Communications, a consumer arts magazine that he founded in 1994. CyberStage evolved from a printed publication, that Mark’s parents helped to place in bookstores across Toronto, to an internationally-available digital publication that featured original material that focussed on the intersection between art and technology.
In 2000, Mark shifted his focus to digital arts education in his role as Executive Director of OnTarget, an Ontario-wide initiative that provided career development and education support programs for the digital technologies industries. He also continued his studies by completing his undergraduate degree at York University and earning an M.A. in Communication and Culture from Toronto Metropolitan and York Universities.
Through OnTarget’s partnerships with colleges, Mark started to teach courses on Interactive Media Business and Interface Design on a part-time basis at Seneca College in 2001. Mark’s background and experience in education, media, animation, and digital content and his focus on the connection between art and technology led to positions as Coordinator of the school’s Animation Centre, Associate Chair, and now Chair of the School of Creative Arts and Animation, overseeing programs in animation, new media, graphic design, photography, acting and music.
Seneca’s program features a cross-disciplinary model that recognizes the changing conditions in the industry, with a focus on developing student ability in animation art for anyspecialization rather than for a specific type of production. Under Mark’s direction, Seneca has worked with industry to understand the need for graduates to have traditional art skills as their foundation. The School of Creative Arts and Animation at Seneca operates as art school that teaches animation using technology as appropriate rather than a school that teaches animation software. In addition to his role as Chair of the School of Creative Arts and Animation, Mark was also integral in founding and is Director of the Seneca Film Institute (SFI), which operates within Seneca’s Faculty of Communication, Art & Design. SFI will work with students across more than 30 programs, providing them with the skills and experiences that will allow them to thrive in Canada’s film industry.
From his participation in theatre and computer gaming as a high school student, to his studies in and writing about culture and communication, his work at OnTarget, and his successful career at Seneca as a teacher, producer, and administrator, Mark has been immersed in the digital media industry for decades. He is a founding board member of The Toronto Animation Arts Festival International (TAAFI) and was an executive producer of the animated short Subconscious Password, which won several awards including the Grand Prix at Annecy in 2013 and the Canadian Screen Award in 2014 for Best Animated Short. His work has been recognized by industry awards including the ITAC Hero of the Year Award and the Canadian New Media Award as Industry Advocate of the Year.
Mark is most proud of Seneca’s happy, successful students who talk about their experience at Seneca as delivering high-quality education, and, as importantly, a supportive community. Through his work at Seneca, he has played an extraordinary role in training animation and special effects professionals working around the world, including alumni who have worked on films including Coco, The Shape of Water, Toy Story 4,and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – all of which have won Academy Awards for animation or special effects.
Mark will continue his work in education in his new position as Dean of the Faculty of Animation, Arts & Design (FAAD), effective Aug. 28. Sheridan College, Canada’s largest art school, is internationally recognized for outstanding programs that train performers, animators, filmmakers, designers, and artists and Mark looks forward to working with the students, faculty, and staff in this role.
Mark’s career path and his experience working with students lead him to provide advice regarding careers in the digital arts. “If you’re a parent, and your son or daughter is expressing an interest in a career related to media, design, or art, support it and discover it with them. The most persistent job myth in Canada today is that a career in these industries is not a route to prosperity.”
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.
Do you have an Impact Story to share? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to have your story featured in an upcoming newsletter!
June has been an exciting and busy month for Profound Impact!
I am thrilled and grateful to welcome a group of female investors, including many who are first-time investors, into our network as part of our latest funding round. Women need opportunities to invest and grow their portfolios, and I’m proud that so many made the decision to make their first-time investment in Profound Impact, sending a clear message of confidence in the company’s vision and the team’s leadership!
We are also pleased to announce the launch of Profound Impact’s inaugural Board of Directors, composed of distinguished business leaders with a wealth of skills and diverse backgrounds. Joining me, as founder, president and CEO of Profound Impact, this experienced board, which will help guide the company toward its next phase of growth and success, includes:
Board Chair – Deborah Rosati, FCPA, FCA, ICD.D, GCB.D, CCB.D: An award-winning corporate director and entrepreneur and founder of Women Get On Board.
Board Director – Sharon Castelino, MBA, LLM, ICD.D: An award-winning financial services executive and corporate director with three decades of experience in multiple sectors and across global jurisdictions.
Corporate Secretary – Kasia Malz, CPA, CA, MAcc.: In addition to her role as CFO, Kasia will serve as corporate secretary for the board of directors.
We were excited to present and demonstrate our Research Impact product at Collision in Toronto from June 26 to 29. As this conference brings together global technology leaders and companies, high-potential start-ups and top journalists to participate in more than 20 content tracks, Collision was the ideal venue for showcasing Research Impact’s capacity to serve as a matchmaker for collaborators and researchers to connect with industry partners and government granting agencies. In addition to demonstrations in our booth, I was pleased to present the benefits of Research Impact along with Deloitte partner Jigna Shah on the AWS StartUp Loft Theatre stage. You can learn more about Research Impact and our participation in Collision in this newsletter.
This month’s Impact Story profiles Shann McGrail, Chief Executive Officer of the Haltech Regional Innovation Centre. You’ll learn how Shann uses both her extensive experience in the technology sector and her improv skills to lead Haltech in its mission to serve as a strategic connector and educator for start-ups in Halton and across Ontario.
Finally, we have received impressive nominations for the Impactful Action Awards. Thanks to all who let us know about incredible people around the world making a great impact!
Thank you for connecting with us and the Profound Impact community!
Profound Impact Presents Research Impact at Collision 2023
This month’s Research Spotlight focuses on Research Impact, Profound Impact’s research matchmaking product. As the company that connects great people to do great things, Profound Impact was proud to present and demonstrate our Research Impact product at Collision in Toronto on June 26 – 29, 2023. The annual Collision conference brings together global technology leaders and companies, high-potential start-ups and top journalists to participate in more than 20 content tracks that cover topics including corporate innovation, health, finance, sustainability, start-ups, venture capital and the future of work.
Profound Impact had the opportunity to participate in the Alpha Startup Program which connects early-stage companies with outstanding potential to the world’s most influential people and companies. Our CEO, Sherry Shannon-Vanstone, was selected to participate in the PITCH competition and was chosen to advance to the top ten from over 500 startups! Sherry also teamed up with Deloitte partner Jigna Shah on the AWS Collision stage to present the benefits of using Research Impact to meet the challenges of making those connections.
Profound Impact launched as a data and analytics company to work with universities to empower their alumni and students on their career journeys. Research Impact was developed to help those universities connect with industry partners and government granting agencies. Connections between industry and universities are essential as researchers seek industry partners for research programs and industry looks to researchers for insight into long-term research directions to develop strategic development road maps. On average, it takes 17 years for fundamental research to move to commercial practice. Global issues like climate change, water contamination, public health, energy, food insecurity and cybersecurity can’t wait more than a decade for the application of groundbreaking research results. A different approach, featuring collaboration between researchers and industry, is required to accelerate innovation.
Over $300 billion in global research funding is available annually for 8.8 million researchers and hundreds of thousands of industry partners around the world. But there are challenges in making connections between researchers and industry partners, knowing where to look for the right funding programs and understanding eligibility requirements.
How do companies navigate the challenges of finding academic research partners and applying for grants? How do researchers find all of the funding programs relevant to their areas of expertise? Without effective tools, many hours are spent researching available funding programs, attempting to reach out to funding agencies and submitting applications for grants in programs that are oversubscribed and competitive without necessarily meeting eligibility requirements.
What if there was an automatic way to match academic and industry researchers to each other and to funding programs? Research Impact combines private and public data using Al and data analytic tools to optimize research funding opportunities.
As demonstrated by the Profound Research team at our booth at Collision, Research Impact features an easy-to-use dashboard that manages researcher areas of focus, funding opportunities, grant deadlines, historical funding matches and industry projects. The tool’s automatic loading of grant programs and researcher profiles, streamlined and targeted communication with researchers and the use of AI and machine learning to make appropriate matches greatly simplifies the process for applying for research funding. The increased efficiency and resulting additional access to funding opportunities can save as much as 80% of the time previously spent by academics, university funding offices and industry researchers.
Profound Impact’s presentations of Research Impact’s power to provide research organizations and industry partners with an increased share of grant funding and a resulting boost in institutional rankings were met with great interest and enthusiasm by Collision’s national and international audience. We look forward to working with universities, research institutions, industry researchers and funding partners to deploy Research Impact in their organizations.
As Chief Executive Officer of the Haltech Regional Innovation Centre, the go-to strategic connector and educator for start-ups in Halton and across Ontario, Shann McGrail’s job is to grow opportunities for technology innovators and entrepreneurs and to harness the immense and growing opportunities in the region. Shann’s understanding of the power of partnership and mentorship was developed through her career in technology enterprise sales, where she helped companies educate customers and tell their stories.
Shann grew up in Amherstburg, Ontario, a small town outside of Windsor, as one of two daughters. Her mother always worked outside the home, providing a powerful role model for her daughters. Her father bought Bobby Orr lunchboxes for Shann and her sister and taught them to play hockey. He also encouraged them to thoughtfully and effectively express their opinions when he challenged them with statements about what women couldn’t do. The communications training and professional development Shann received throughout her career sharpened these skills, leading her father to comment that she was really getting good at debate.
Shann graduated from the University of Windsor with a major in Commerce and a minor in French. Although she had no intention of starting a business – entrepreneurship was not a focus in university curricula at the time – she believed that business and commerce were good platforms for a new graduate. Shann launched her career with a position in sales at Digital Equipment Canada, a major hardware manufacturer, and soon realized that enterprise sales provided valuable training, including opportunities to understand how business works and to work and communicate with clients to solve problems and bring about innovation.
Prior to joining Haltech in 2018, Shann worked in the technology industry for over 25 years, including 17 years at Microsoft. She and a partner founded, and continue to operate Devreve, a consulting firm that works with technology companies to develop and implement strategic programs and solutions that drive business results.
But the skills that Shann brings to Haltech result from more than her business experience. When her job at Microsoft relocated her to Toronto, she found that she missed the teamwork, camaraderie and creative outlet she had experienced through her participation in community theatre in Ottawa. She enrolled in a series of improv classes, met people and participated in performances – all of which led her to appreciate the value of improv skills to business and other aspects of life. Shann notes that improv sharpens observational skills and is about empathy, listening, responding and communication with freedom from the inner self-critic. The “yes, and” premise of improv provides opportunities for business people to enter discussions with the mindset of listening to people and their ideas. And, as Shann points out, “Our job at Haltech is to make sure we find and provide the supports for our clients. Sometimes that means just listening.”
With offices in Burlington and Milton, Haltech helps companies, from start-ups to large global corporations, advance their technology-based innovations to market or scale up their business. Halton Region’s population and client base have both grown exponentially over the last several years. Technology companies continue to move to the region and expand. Post-secondary partners, including Sheridan College, Wilfrid Laurier University and Brock University all are established in or are in the process of expanding their campuses to Halton. This growth of client base, combined with a population that includes both young people and executives, 75% of whom have a post-secondary degree and 20% of which are STEM-based, creates immense opportunity for technology innovators and entrepreneurs.
Shann is a champion of supporting women entrepreneurs. Under her management, the percentage of women-owned businesses working with Haltech has grown from 10% to over 40%. Much of this growth is due to Shann’s involvement with the Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy, run by the federal government to increase women-owned businesses’ access to the financing, talent, networks and expertise they need to start up, scale up and access new markets.
Shann reflects that it was during high school that she first understood the lack of equal opportunities for women. She can pinpoint the first time she addressed that injustice as when she challenged her French teacher, who also served as the golf coach, about the unfairness of the lack of a women’s golf team at the school. He responded by creating a women’s team on the spot, with Shann as the organizer. She recruited four friends to establish the team and points out that this experience taught her two important lessons:
Don’t issue a challenge unless you’re willing to do something about it.
Rely on like-minded people to help make things happen.
Mentorship is a key element of Shann’s work in promoting opportunities for women in business. She worked on WCT’s (Women in Communications and Technology) National Mentorship Program and founded the WCT Protégé Project, Canada’s only cross-sector career sponsorship program that matches influential, powerfully positioned C-suite executive champions with senior female protégés to support protégés to move into even more senior leadership positions. Shann notes, “I was lucky to have great sponsors and supporters throughout my career. I focus on women entrepreneurs to ensure that everyone can have the same opportunities.”
When asked what’s on the horizon, Shann points to growing and harnessing the immense opportunities in the Halton Region. Technology companies continue to locate in Halton to take advantage of proximity to key strengths in the region, including advanced manufacturing and proximity to the US border and to Pearson International Airport. In addition, 20% of Haltech’s clients are located outside of Halton and have joined to work with one of the organization’s programs or advisors.
Shann’s advice to young people at the start of their careers is to learn to listen to and trust your gut. “Pay attention to your instincts,” she says. “They almost never are wrong.” She also notes the importance of being responsible and engaged with the mentors in your life. “Don’t neglect the opportunities presented to you.”
When asked about measuring the success of Haltech, Shann says, “A client will tell you what you’re there to do.” She points to a conversation with a client that had leveraged the services at Haltech, making it possible to expand their business, pivot and hire 20 new people. The hires were new Canadians and the jobs provided their first work experience in Canada and the opportunity to develop their language skills. “Haltech helped connect the dots and that’s changing lives.”
You can see more of Shann’s impact in the visualizations below.
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Health Informatics – Digital Health Research and Applications
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, sending the world into lockdown. After just over three years, 5 million cases and over 52,000 deaths from COVID-19 confirmed in Canada, the WHO downgraded the pandemic on May 4, 2023, determining that COVID-19 is now an established and ongoing health issue that no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.
As the country dealt with a record number of hospitalizations, ICU capacity crises, scarcity of PPE for healthcare workers, and ongoing lockdowns, the innovative delivery of healthcare in Canada became vital. In its report, Onward and Upwards, Digital Talent Outlook 2025, ICTC, the Information and Communications Technology Council, notes that Canada has experienced a significant increase in the adoption of digital healthcare since the advent of COVID-19. And in 2020, the federal government announced an investment of $240.5 million to accelerate the use of virtual tools and digital approaches to support Canadians to meet healthcare needs.
The Canadian Medical Association defines three classes of health technology: virtual care, analysis of large amounts of health data to support diagnoses and treatment decision-making, and the use of technology in the delivery of healthcare. Telehealth services, centralized electronic healthcare records, wearables and sensors, cloud technology, and the use of big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence are becoming core elements of healthcare in Canada. When lockdowns necessitated virtual care sessions with physicians, visits to doctors’ offices in Ontario declined by almost 80%. Virtual care accounted for 70% of all primary care physician appointments, establishing virtual healthcare as a norm.
Information and communication technologies are key to the management of all aspects of healthcare, including patient records, laboratory and radiology information systems, physician order entry, and clinical monitoring. And an extraordinary amount of complex data is generated as the health technology sector becomes more digitized. According to the Competition Bureau of Canada, approximately 30% of all data in the world is generated by the healthcare industry. With this expansion of the use of technology and resulting data comes the need for health information users with the expertise to make the best use of the data and ensure its reliability and security.
The National Institutes of Health Informatics (NIHI), Canada’s first national organization dedicated to fostering Health Informatics innovation, research, and education, notes the need for fundamental and applied research in Health Informatics on “the definition of the content of the electronic health record, mechanisms for deriving, representing, and executing care guidelines, usable technologies for knowledge-guided order entry, effective and usable clinical decision support systems, methods for customizing interactive systems to different user-types and individuals, automated chart extraction, medical literature summarization, and hundreds of other areas.” Also required are prototypes, effective user interfaces, and an evaluation of the applications of Health Informatics to innovative delivery methods and clinical systems.
At the University of Toronto, the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation (IHPME) conducts research and offers professional graduate degree programs that focus on evidence-based research in Health Informatics. The program, which is recognized by the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence, offers a professional Master of Health Informatics which provides graduates with expertise in clinical information and communication technologies and prepares health informaticians to bridge the gaps between clinicians and ICT professionals.
The University of Toronto IHPME research team focuses on topics including the impacts of utilizing technology to transform healthcare delivery, the role of digital health in improving health outcomes, workflow, and process design, clinical decision support using AI and machine learning, data-driven personalized medicine, ubiquitous sensors and the design of health technologies.
At the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary, the Centre for Health Informatics (CHI) research and innovation centre was launched in 2018 to improve health and healthcare through data-driven innovation and collaborative research. Research within CHI focuses on the development of efficient and accurate handling of digital health data for personalized disease prevention and treatment and the identification of comorbidities and adverse events in electronic medical record (EMR) data. Researchers are also working to use linked data to develop a clinical decision support tool to both reduce heart failure hospital readmissions and predict readmission for heart failure patients. And CHI researchers with expertise in qualitative data analysis and natural language processing are developing methods to automate qualitative analysis of large amounts of free text data, including patient interviews.
Carleton University’s Department of Health Sciences was founded to conduct interdisciplinary research via the integration of knowledge and methods from across disciplines, including biomedicine, mathematics, and environmental and political sciences. Researchers from across fields of expertise work together on three main research themes: life course approach to health, environmental and global health, and big data. The department’s Science, Technology and Policy program, designed to meet a growing need for interdisciplinary health research, and skills in knowledge translation and data analysis, provides graduate students with the opportunity to conduct major research projects to develop solutions to critical and timely issues like health care for rural communities and the development and deployment of vaccines.
Health Informatics is one of the research focus areas of the School of Public Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo. Researchers with expertise in statistics, engineering, the social sciences, rehabilitation science, mathematics, and computer science work to develop and use information and communication technologies to support and advance individual and community health.
In the school’s Ubiquitous Health Technology Lab (UbiLab), the research team studies wearables and zero-effort sensors for remote patient monitoring, the use of IoT (Internet of Things) technology for large-scale, population-level studies and the use of big data, AI, and health data analytics to evaluate the technology. The Professional Practice Centre in Health Systems works with client partners, including major teaching hospitals, community hospitals, public health units, community-based agencies, physician groups, pharmacies, government agencies, and NGOs on real-world health information technology problems. Projects have included the design and implementation of a pharmacy nomenclature standardization program, the implementation of an information system to automate data extraction and reporting, the creation of a data migration strategy and specification for a major hospital information system, and the prototyping of medical devices and applications.
As Canada’s population ages, with those aged 85 and older being one of the fastest-growing groups, the research conducted in the school’s Aging and Innovation Research Program (AIRP) becomes more relevant. AIRP research focuses on the acceptance and adoption of innovations, including technologies for the assessment and management of risks of going missing in persons living with dementia, by older adults, their care partners, and healthcare professionals. The goal of this work is the development, application, and evaluation of strategies to advance dementia-friendly communities.
Canada Health Infoway, an independent, not-for-profit organization established and funded by the Canadian federal government, works with governments, healthcare organizations, clinicians, and patients to make healthcare more digital. The organization’s goal of ensuring that all Canadians have online access to personal health information, test results, prescriptions, and appointment booking services are central to ensuring that technology is as transformative to the country’s health system as it has been to all other aspects of daily life. Digital health initiatives include collaborative projects on virtual care, accessibility of health information, e-prescribing, standards in patient record data, privacy and security, and the adoption and use of innovative technologies.
COVID-19 highlighted issues in collecting, sharing, and using health data to help public health officials provide advice and information during public health emergencies. The rapid growth of cross-disciplinary research and innovation in health informatics and the adoption and use of digital technologies in healthcare are leading to improved access to healthcare, more accurate and timely diagnoses and treatments, and meaningful improvements in the quality of care.
Health care is evolving, and health informatics is at the forefront of the transformation. Health informatics combines communication, information technology, and health care and is used for vital functions that range from sharing information to personalizing medicine. With effective use, health informatics has the potential to vastly improve patient care.
Dr. Helen Chen is the Professor of Practice and the Director of the Professional Practice Centre with a cross-appointment at the School of Public Health Sciences and with a cross-appointment at the Cheriton School of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo. Dr. Chen teaches courses related to health informatics, information system design and management, health data standards, and health data analytics.
The Professional Practice Centre provides experiential learning opportunities for students of the professional graduate programs within the School of Public Health Sciences. By working with healthcare sector partners as well as professional staff and faculty from the University of Waterloo, the centre tackles challenging and important real-world problems.
“Working closely with industry is in my blood. I want to see the tangible impact of the research,” says Dr. Chen. Her education includes a BA and MS in Engineer Mechanics from Tsinghua University in Beijing and a Ph.D. in Computational Biomechanics from the University of Waterloo. It was a position sponsored by Agfa HealthCare that brought Dr. Chen to her current role at the University of Waterloo.
Dr. Chen’s research focuses on health data quality and analytics, health information system integration and interoperability, healthcare decision support, and Machine Learning and AI in Public Health, which is a perfect complement to the work she leads at the Professional Practice Centre.
In many ways, the centre acts like a consulting firm where students and faculty offer their expertise to health organizations and hospitals to solve problems. The organization can choose to hire a student directly to work on a specific issue or can hire the centre to manage the entire project. With the experience of working on a large project, combined with a professional degree, students gain an upper hand as they enter or return to industry.
“After they finish a project, students may be hired by the organization to continue the work. This experience makes them highly employable. The collaborative environment is extremely good for our students to learn. For our partners, they have an opportunity to experiment and take on problems they may not have the resources or expertise to tackle on their own at a significantly lower price than working with a large consulting firm.”
In one example, the centre worked with the Ontario Health Team to create its digital transformation roadmap.
“The Professional Practice Centre pulled in 10 students and 2 professors to work on the project. We were able to help them generate the inventory of their digital assets, identify information and technology gaps, and create the digital transformation roadmap, which has helped them move to the next stage of the project,” Chen said.
In healthcare, digital transformation is a continuous pursuit as technology and the need for quality and secure information increases. As health informatics moves into the area of advanced analytics, the need for specialized expertise will only increase. Fortunately, research and programs like the one offered by the School of Public Health Sciences and the Professional Practice Centre in Health Systems are seeing an increase in funding and demand in both the healthcare industry and the student population. These factors will play an important role as health organizations and students prepare for the future.
Lily Pourzand’s childhood memories of Iran before the revolution are of vibrant colours and beautiful aromas. Her mother, Mehrangiz Kar, an award-winning human rights lawyer, writer, speaker and activist, was always dressed beautifully and smelled wonderful. Lily remembers her father, Siamak Pourzand, a journalist and film critic critical of Iranian leadership, as loving colourful ties and being especially particular about wearing perfectly polished shoes. “My childhood memories switched from full colour to black and white after the revolution, when even smelling good was a crime,” says Lily.
She always knew she wanted to work in a field for and about women. Although Lily had been proud to watch her mother fight for women’s rights as a lawyer and activist, she couldn’t picture herself practising law within a system that defined women as second-class citizens. But education is very important in the Iranian culture and, although she wanted to work at anything other than law, she applied for and was accepted to the Faculty of Law at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran. Following in her parents’ footsteps, she started to write – and found herself called to the Morality Court of the university after publication of her first article, which questioned why black was the only acceptable colour for the hijab. She was temporarily suspended from studying and was, along with her parents, in danger of becoming a victim of the chain murders of Iran – disappearances and murders of Iranian dissident intellectuals who had been critical of the Islamic Republic. After graduating with her law degree in 1999, Lily made her way to Canada and applied for refugee status upon arrival, leaving behind her family and many dreams. “I decided to create a home in my new country, Canada. Like many refugee/immigrant women, my journey has neither been smooth nor straightforward.”
Lily’s experiences have led to a deep understanding of systematic discrimination and her role as a fierce advocate for a more equitable and accessible world for girls and women. She graduated from York University with a Bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies in 2007 and continued her education with a Master’s degree in law from Osgoode Hall in 2010. In 2011, she began work as a women’s support counsellor at the Women’s Centre of York Region. Providing support to women encouraged Lily to focus again on writing and public speaking in order to tell the stories of the real challenges faced by women. She established a blog on the Huffington Post Canada website and used that platform to talk about gender equality.
Lily’s passion for change and growth motivated her to enter politics in 2013, when she announced her candidacy for the federal Liberal nomination for the riding of Willowdale, one of Toronto’s most diverse areas. Her main goal was to run a grassroots campaign to engage more immigrant women in political discussions and debates.
Lily joined Sandgate Women’s Shelter of York Region in 2015, where she is currently Director of Programs, responsible for overseeing the 24 hours emergency shelters for women and children fleeing abuse. She is also responsible for planning and delivering public education events and is renowned for her innovative initiatives for partnerships and collaborations.
The Woman Life Freedom uprising, the ongoing series of protests and civil unrest against the government of Iran that began in Tehran in September, 2022, resulted in the death at the hands of the Morality Police of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman arrested for not properly wearing the hijab. Amini’s death sparked anger and marches around the world to express solidarity with Iranian women and prompted Lily to publish an article in the Toronto Star to express the need for people to be the voice for the women of Iran. She is frequently invited to speak to politicians, influential think tank leaders, academics and the media on the remarkable courage exhibited by Iranian women over the past 44 years, living under the oppressive Gender Apartheid Regime and defying it, and the exceptional leadership demonstrated by Iranian women before and after the Woman Life Freedom uprising.
Lily and her family have paid dearly for their activism and opposition to the Iranian government regime. She returned to Iran in 2001, at great personal risk, to see her family and was able to help her mother, who had been arrested in 2000 for speaking out in favor of constitutional reform and secularism, travel to the United States for medical treatment. Mehrangiz Kar was convicted in absentia by an Iranian court and has remained in exile in the US where she has been active as a writer, researcher and lecturer at universities including Harvard, the University of Virginia and Columbia University. Following her mother’s arrival in the US, Lily’s father was kidnapped in Iran. Months later, Siamak Pourzand appeared in a forced confession TV show and was charged with spying for the United States, working for the Shah’s regime and channelling American money to the reformist press. He was put on trial in 2002 and sentenced to eleven years in prison, where received a regulated medical leave and was taken back and forth between prison and home. He died while under house arrest as a political prisoner at the age of 80 in 2011.
Lily says about her mission to support women and tell their collective and individual stories: “I survived a revolution, a war, political violence in public and private and a very difficult migration. I lived an extraordinary life, just like thousands and millions of other children who lived and grew up amidst revolution, war or political conflicts around the world. Many of them do not have the ability to tell us about their lives and survival.” Lily Pourzand’s experiences and passion for her mission make her an outstanding voice and advocate for girls and women, both in Canada and around the world.
You can see more of Lily’s impact in the visualizations below.
Do you have an Impact Story to share? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to have your story featured in an upcoming newsletter!