Research Spotlight: Canada’s Computer Animation Innovations

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.

Canadian Firsts

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.

Mark Jones
Digital Technology Educator, Writer and Producer Photo Credit: David Goldman

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 any specialization 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.”

Research Spotlight: Health Informatics

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.

Researcher Spotlight: Helen Chen

Dr. Helen Chen
Professor of Practice and Director
Professional Practice Centre

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.

CEO Message

The application of technology in healthcare has increased significantly since the advent of COVID 19 in 2020. This month’s newsletter highlights the role of health informatics, which combines communication, information technology and health care to transform and greatly improve patient care through the sharing of information, accurate and timely diagnoses and treatments and personalized medicine.  You’ll learn about interdisciplinary research in areas including big data, environmental and global health, patient monitoring and acceptance and adoption of technologies for health management.  And you’ll meet Dr. Helen Chen of the Professional Practice Centre in Health Systems at the University of Waterloo who works with health care sector partners and professional staff and faculty from the University of Waterloo to tackle interesting and important real-world problems.

This month’s Impact Story highlights the work of Lily Pourzand, who came to Canada from Iran in 1999 in search of political safety and personal freedom.  A finalist for the 2023 Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards, Lily is a passionate and outstanding advocate for girls and women, both in Canada and around the world, as she works to create community linkages and establish relationships with stakeholders, organizations, funders and policymakers to bring positive social changes.

The Profound Impact team is planning for a busy June and we hope to see you at one of the events we’ll be participating in this month. We’re proud to sponsor the CS-CAN 2023 conference at McGill University from June 5 to 9.  Our team will be in Montreal to meet with computer science researchers and students from across Canada.  We’ll also be taking part in the Collision 2023 conference at the Enercare Centre in Toronto, from June 26 to 29 as part of the Startup Alpha program.  And I’ll be presenting, in conjunction with Deloitte, on the AWS stage at the conference.

Nominations are open until June 14th for our Impactful Action Awards. We believe that one profound impact leads to another and that’s why the recipients of our awards will be able to select a charity of their choice for a donation made by Profound Impact.  To make a nomination, or learn more about the awards, please click here: https://news.profoundimpact.com/…/2023-impactful…/

Finally, we are pleased to announce the appointment of Kasia Malz to Profound Impact as Chief Financial Officer. Kasia joined the Profound Impact team in April and brings more than 15 years of experience working in diverse financial leadership roles in start-up and high-growth environments. She received both her Masters of Accounting and Honours Bachelor of Mathematics from the University of Waterloo, holds a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CA) designation and is a licensed Certified Public Accountant in the state of Illinois. Adding Kasia as our CFO signals a time of growth, expansion and investment here at Profound Impact and we know that she will be an invaluable member of our team as we grow.

We look forward to receiving your nominations for the Impactful Action Awards and to meeting you at the CS-CAN conference in Montreal and the Collision conference in Toronto.  Thank you for connecting with us and the Profound Impact community!

Sherry Shannon-Vanstone

Kasia Malz Appointed as CFO

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PROFOUND IMPACT CORPORATION APPOINTS KASIA MALZ 

AS CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER

Malz brings 15 years of broad financial leadership experience in start-up and high-growth companies.

WATERLOO, ON | MAY 24, 2023 Profound Impact™ Corporation is pleased to announce the appointment of Kasia Malz to the company as Chief Financial Officer.

Malz joined Profound Impact in April 2023 and brings more than 15 years of experience working in diverse financial leadership roles in start-up and high-growth environments. She holds her Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CA) designation and is a licensed Certified Public Accountant in the state of Illinois. Malz is no stranger to Waterloo Region and the surrounding area as she received both her Masters of Accounting and Honours Bachelor of Mathematics from the University of Waterloo. 

“Adding Kasia as our CFO signals a time of growth, expansion and investment here at Profound Impact,” says Sherry Shannon-Vanstone, Founder and CEO at Profound Impact. “We know Kasia will be an invaluable member of our team as we grow. We’re looking forward to her guidance as we continue this upward trajectory.”

Profound Impact, which operates out of the Toronto-Waterloo technology corridor, offers Research Impact, an AI-powered tool that helps academic and industry researchers find the perfect funding match. More than just a search engine, Research Impact offers automatic, targeted and timely grant matching.

Prior to joining Profound Impact, Malz spent four years as CFO of Titanium Transportation Group Inc. and two years as CFO of Next Hydrogen Solutions, both of which she took public, supported with multiple capital raises and grew through M&A. She currently sits on the board of the Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy at McMaster University and Nets for Net Zero and is an Executive in Residence with Foresight Canada.

“I’m honoured to be part of Profound Impact and incredibly passionate about our solution, which brings together industry and academia with government and other funding organizations,” Malz says. “Our work at Profound Impact will continue to innovate in matching research funding, and I’m looking forward to our team’s journey.”

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ABOUT PROFOUND IMPACT CORPORATION 

Profound Impact’s AI-powered tool, Research Impact, helps academic and industry researchers find the perfect funding match. With over $300B in funding, 100,000s industry partners and 8.8M researchers globally, finding a match between academia, industry and grants is often overwhelming and time-consuming. More than just a search engine, Research Impact offers automatic, targeted and timely matching. Our customers include top Canadian research institutions. Profound Impact’s CEO and Founder Sherry Shannon-Vanstone is a serial tech entrepreneur with an unparalleled track record in building high-performing teams and led start-ups to successful exits both in Silicon Valley and Canada with two IPOs and two acquisitions. The company is located in the Toronto-Waterloo technology corridor. Our Canadian and US team members are passionate about connecting great people to do great things while maximizing their worldwide impact.

Website: www.profoundimpact.com 

Facebook: @aprofoundimpact

Instagram: @aprofoundimpact 

LinkedIn: Profound Impact Corporation

Twitter: @aprofoundimpact

For media inquiries, please contact:

Durrell Communications

media@profoundimpact.com 

IMPACTFUL ACTIONS AWARD WINNER ANNOUNCED ON PROFOUND IMPACT DAY 2022

GREEN HOPE FOUNDATION PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER KEHKASHAN BASU, M.S.M., WINS 2022 IMPACTFUL ACTIONS AWARD

The Impactful Actions Award recognizes world leaders making a profound impact on the global community.

WATERLOO, ON | SEPT. 14, 2022 — Profound Impact™ is proud to announce Kehkashan Basu, M.S.M., as the winner of the 2022 Impactful Actions Award

The annual award is presented by Profound Impact Corporation, a Toronto-Waterloo Corridor tech company providing tools for organizations to maximize their global impact. Profound Impact’s Impactful Actions Award recognizes individuals who are inspiring collaborative solutions to difficult global problems. 

Basu, who is just 22 years old, started working towards improving the world around her at the age of seven. Basu planted her first tree at eight and founded her own humanitarian organization, Green Hope Foundation, when she was 12. 

“My work focuses specifically on empowering our most vulnerable populations,” Basu said. “We do this through a myriad of ways, including providing education for sustainable development and turning that education into ground level actions.”

Green Hope Foundation recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. The global social enterprise has worked with more than 300,000 people across 26 countries, focusing on water, sanitation, clean energy and food security. 

“We want Green Hope Foundation to be in every country of the world so we can change the mindsets of people all across society,” Basu said. “We want to create cross-sectional dialogue and partnerships to benefit every single person within our communities.”

Basu was presented the Impactful Actions Award for Profound Impact Day. The day, which honours the late Professor Scott A. Vanstone, celebrates the impact and legacy of collaboration and innovation developed through the Profound Impact community.

“Kehkashan has done incredible work from such a young age. We’re so impressed by her commitment to making the world a better place,” said Sherry Shannon-Vanstone, Founder and CEO of Profound Impact. “Every single one of our nominees this year represents the incredible talent we have here in Ontario and across the globe.”

Basu said winning the award is a huge honour. “It’s a vindication of my belief that young people and young women are doing a lot for people and the planet. To be recognized for those efforts, it’s just a really amazing feeling.”

Profound Impact will make a donation to a charity of Basu’s choice in her honour.

Profound Impact received nominees from the community for the 2022 Impactful Actions Award. In 2021, the inaugural Impactful Actions Award was presented to Dr. Feridun Hamdullahpur, former President & Vice Chancellor (2010-2021) and Professor of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering at the University of Waterloo.

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ABOUT PROFOUND IMPACT CORPORATION 

Profound Impact helps education, research and social impact community organizations leverage data to measure program impact, tell their story and inform strategy. Profound Impact products include Connection Impact, Career Impact and their newest offering, Research Impact.  Research Impact helps researchers match with the perfect grant to fund their research. Everything Profound Impact does works towards the important goal of connecting great people to do great things and maximizing their worldwide impact. 

Website: www.profoundimpact.com 

Facebook: @aprofoundimpact

Instagram: @aprofoundimpact 

LinkedIn: Profound Impact Corporation

Twitter: @aprofoundimpact

For media inquiries, please contact:

Durrell Communications

media@profoundimpact.com 

Charmaine Dean

Dr. Charmaine Dean

Vice President, Research & International, University of Waterloo

A leading researcher in disease mapping innovation, Dr. Charmaine Dean uses spatial analysis to solve large, capacity-related problems. 

“My research has all been in big files, big questions – firefighting, fire science, forest ecology,” Dr. Dean said. “I led a national network related to understanding fire on the landscape and how we should deal with it, given that it was such an important question for Canada and it still is.” Prior to researching fire science, Dean worked with the Ministry of Health in British Columbia to analyze a flareup in suicides in one region. “I wondered, ‘how bad is it compared to the rest of the province? Can you do some analysis to understand where we should pull resources from in order to put more resources into child suicide?’” she said. Now, as the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, Dean is using analytics to predict hospital capacity concerns and monitor COVID-19 case counts and wastewater signals.

Dean, who is Vice President, Research and International at the University of Waterloo,  is no stranger to the Waterloo Region. After completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Saskatchewan in 1980, she moved to the University of Waterloo for her graduate work, earning a masters degree in 1984 and a doctorate degree in 1988. “It was sort of a circle coming back here,” Dean said. She was drawn to the role at the University of Waterloo because the institution is working to develop an innovation ecosystem. “The whole region has grown tremendously in terms of entrepreneurship and innovation, especially the student ventures coming forward,” Dean said. “There’s a pulse of excitement related to that.”

Dean began her academic career at the University of Calgary before moving further west to join Simon Fraser University. In her time at Simon Fraser University, Dean had an integral role in establishing the Faculty of Health Sciences. “A lot of intentional and deliberate work was shaping this faculty,” she said. “We created three new programs that were completely oversubscribed.” Dean said the school expected to have 10 or 15 students in that first year, but ended up receiving 300 applications. “You can’t turn them away, because if you turn them away, you’re now telling them, don’t bother coming here.” Dean also helped dismantle a faculty at the school, which brought with it a different set of challenges. Dean said she focused on listening to peoples’ concerns throughout the dismantling process.

Dean returned to Ontario in 2011, serving as Dean of Science at Western University from 2011 to 2017. “That was such a privilege,” she said. “I was so honoured to be chosen for that role.” 

Now, at the University of Waterloo, Dean meets with faculty and interest groups, along with focusing on strategic alliances and partnerships with other academic institutions and collaborating with government, business and industry. Dean will also add a new portfolio in the fall – commercialization and entrepreneurship. “That’s one of the exciting things about being a leader, being able to see what an organization like the University of Waterloo needs and, through processes of discussion and consultation, making it happen.”

A female leader in an often male-dominated field, Dean said it’s important for organizations to have diversity at their leadership tables. “Diverse leadership brings diverse perspectives,” she said. “It’s really important to have women in leadership positions so that others can see that they have somebody to turn to for advice or for career support.” She encouraged people at the beginning of their careers to speak up and express themselves whenever possible. “Have the confidence to be bold and take small steps and recognize yourself as a leader,” she said. However, she also acknowledged that work spaces are not always inclusive and women often face barriers and biases that may prevent them from being authentic, voicing their opinions, and fully expressing themselves. “It is crucial that we continue to identify and eliminate these barriers for women and members of other historically excluded groups, ” she said.

Dean said she wants to impact the lives of her colleagues on an individual level, whether that’s helping them win an award, setting up a centre, or attracting new students to a school. She also wants to leave a legacy of improving things at an institutional level, making sure students feel safe and supported. Dean led an anti-racism taskforce at the University of Waterloo, working to create an anti-racism framework for the institution. She will continue to focus on sustainability, encouraging people to come together to solve big problems.

The visualizations below depict Dean’s accomplishments both in her career and in building research communities.

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William T. Tutte

Professor William “Bill” Tutte

English Canadian codebreaker and mathematician 

Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Waterloo

May 14, 1917 – May 2, 2002

A world-renowned codebreaker and mathematician, William “Bill” Tutte left an indelible mark on Waterloo’s mathematical community. Twenty years after his death, he still has a profound impact on students studying combinatorics at the University of Waterloo.

Born in 1917 in Newmarket, England, Tutte came from a modest background but would go on to study at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was an active member of the Trinity Mathematical Society. “For him to make that rise is the stuff of storybooks,” said Dan Younger, Retired Professor Emeritus, Department of Combinatorics and Optimization, University of Waterloo, who was a Faculty colleague of Tutte.

Before Tutte made his way to Canada and helped shape the University of Waterloo into the institution it is today, he accepted an invitation to join a team of codebreakers working to decipher German codes in the Second World War. At Bletchley Park in 1941, Tutte was tasked with using samples of messages to uncover the structure of the machine generating German ciphers named “Fish”. Tutte successfully determined that structure without ever seeing the machine. Tutte then focused on developing an algorithm to decipher Fish codes, an algorithm that necessitated the creation of COLOSSUS, the world’s first programmable, electronic, digital computer, which was built in 1943. COLOSSUS played an essential role in the cryptanalysis of the Lorenz cipher. Tutte’s codebreaking work was used to decipher Fish codes until the end of the war. It is believed that breaking those codes meant the war ended two years earlier, saving countless lives.

Tutte moved to Canada in 1948 and spent 14 years at the University of Toronto. He joined the University of Waterloo in 1962, just five years after the institution first opened its doors. He was part of a group who went on to found the Faculty of Mathematics in 1967 and was a founding member of the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization. 

Tutte played an integral role in building the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Mathematics. He helped establish the reputation of the school and attracted combinatorialists from around the world.

“He came when it wasn’t a fully developed university and it became a primary place for scholars in mathematics to come,” Younger said.

Throughout his time at the University of Waterloo, Tutte stayed quiet on his role as a codebreaker during World War II, as he was bound under the Official Secrets Act of Britain. Younger, who first met Tutte at a conference in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1963, said Tutte didn’t share much of his experience at Bletchley Park.

“He never did talk about what he did in the war,” Younger said. 

Younger joined the Faculty of Mathematics in its inaugural year and was promoted to Professor in 1975. He became good friends with Tutte outside of work, often on weekends hiking on trails in and around Waterloo Region. “It was just a nice relationship in which we really didn’t have to talk unless we had something to say,” Younger said. 

Tutte retired in 1985, but stayed on with the Faculty as Professor Emeritus. He acted as Editor in Chief of the Journal of Combinatorial Theory until he retired. Tutte died on May 2, 2002 at the age of 84. 

The University of Waterloo awards the William Tutte Centenary Undergraduate Scholarship every year, the highest scholarship given to a student interested in combinatorics. The scholarship, which is worth $1,500, is funded by donations from people inspired by Tutte’s work. The scholarship isn’t just a financial gift, though. It also comes with an homage to Tutte’s childhood in England.

“If one gets the scholarship, one gets a bicycle,” Younger said. The bicycle represents Tutte’s journey as a youngster to a high school in the town of Cambridge. He bicycled 18 miles to and from school every day starting at the age of 11.

William Tutte Way was named in Tutte’s honour at the University of Waterloo in 2017. The road connects the three Faculty of Mathematics buildings at the university.

Tutte was one of the foremost scholars in combinatorics. In addition to numerous awards throughout his career and into his retirement, Tutte was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 2001. The Canadian government founded the Tutte Institute for Mathematics and Computing (TIMC) in 2009.

“He certainly was the man,” Younger said.

Tutte’s academic legacy includes many students, including prominent scholars Dr. Ron Mullin, Dr. Scott Vanstone and Dr. Alfred Menezes.

Four generations of Mathematicians/Cryptographers. From left to right: Ron Mullin, Bill Tutte, Scott Vanstone, Alfred Menezes.

You can view some of Tutte’s accomplishments in the images below:

Profound Impact academic ancestry graph for Bill Tutte.

William “Bill” Tutte had a long, impactful career as a professor, codebreaker and mathematician. A Profound Impact career trajectory visualization details some of his most significant accomplishments.

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Ronald Cleveland Mullin

Ronald Cleveland Mullin

Dr. Ron Mullin

Distinguished Emeritus Professor, University of Waterloo 

Co-founder, Certicom 

A humble, dedicated professor and mathematician who is modest about his successes, Dr. Ron Mullin has made invaluable contributions to combinatorics, academia and cryptography. His career has spanned over 50 years with notable successes in both commercial and academic ventures. Along with Scott Vanstone and Gord Agnew, Ron Mullin co-founded Certicom, a leading cryptography company whose technology was licensed by the US National Security Agency (NSA), among many others, and later sold to Research In Motion (RIM), now known as  BlackBerry. Mullin was also Professor and Chair of Combinatorics and Optimization at the University of Waterloo and boasts one of the largest lineages in the Mathematics Genealogy project, with 20 PhD students and 180 descendants. 

“Teaching as a whole and getting good students and working with them, it’s a wonderful thing,” said Mullin. 

Even as a student, Mullin’s impact was profound. He was the first ever University of Waterloo graduate to receive an MA in mathematics in 1960. A bright and promising young mathematician and cryptology student, Mullin was recruited by the University of Waterloo to lecture while he completed his graduate studies. His skills were so impressive that the University’s head of mathematics used Mullin as bait to lure world class mathematician, who later was acknowledged as the World War II codebreaker and cryptography expert, William Tutte to the university with the intention of building out the department and recruiting top-tier talent. 

“It was quite an honour,” Mullin reflected, when asked about his role in attracting Tutte to the university. 

After completing his PhD under Tutte, Mullin went on to pursue a career as a professor at the University of Waterloo until 1996, rising the ranks from lecturer to distinguished professor emeritus and adjunct professor. Described by two of his former students as brilliant, encouraging and easy going, Mullin always left a lasting impression on those he taught, as well as his colleagues. 

“Ron taught my first computer science class,” said Alfred Menezes, one of Mullin’s academic grandchildren and professor in the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization at the University of Waterloo. “To him, the little details didn’t matter. He thinks about the big stuff – the important stuff…he realized the value of ideas.” 

One of those ideas became the foundation for Mullin’s commercial venture – Certicom, a leading supplier of wireless security solutions. Mullin was heavily involved in the company’s patent program. Certicom’s signature product was Elliptic Curve Cryptography, which speeds up the encryption process, utilizing shorter encryption keys without loss of security. This technology played a crucial role in the advancement of smartphone and other mobile devices and accelerated the growth of a number of companies including RIM. 

“One good thing about it – it’s fast and secure for certain kinds of encryption processes. And these turned out to be the ones that are very helpful in smartphones,” said Hugh Williams, retired computer science professor and Mullin’s academic son. “So in a sense, Scott, Gord and Ron realized this was a coming thing and they were quite skillful in introducing this company.”

After retiring from the University of Waterloo as a Distinguished Professor Emeritus and stepping away from his commercial ventures, Mullin went on to enjoy a second career at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. He established a Cryptography Group at the university, a position he held until his “second retirement”, at the age of 75. Mullin also became the first recipient of the Stanton Medal, which is awarded by the Institute for Combinatorics and its Applications to honour significant lifetime contributions promoting the discipline of combinatorics through advocacy, outreach, service, teaching and/or mentoring. In addition, Mullin was awarded a doctor rerum naturalium honoris causa (Honorary Doctorate Degree) from the University of Rostock in Germany. 

While Mullin’s professional accomplishments are impressive, his legacy cannot be fully understood without including his mathematics genealogy. A number of graduate students that studied under Mullin became very prominent in cryptography and computer science including: Hugh Williams, who was instrumental in establishing one of Canada’s leading research centres in cryptography and information security; Scott Vanstone, world-renowned cryptography and co-founder of Certicom; Douglas Wiedemann, who designed an algorithm for linear systems of equations before joining the NSA; Bimal Roy, head of R C Bose Centre for Cryptology and Security in India; and Evi Nemeth, engineer, author and teacher who played a prominent role in the development of the Unix computer operating system.  

“He has had many students and ultimately, for an academic, that’s your impact – your students. What they end up doing and how they add to what it was that you did,” said Williams.

You can view some of Dr. Mullins’ accomplishments in the images below:

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Cindy Forbes

Cindy Forbes

Chair of the Board, University of Waterloo

A dedicated team builder with a passion for data and analytics, Cindy Forbes has cemented her legacy as an innovator and strategic thinker, challenging the status quo to facilitate growth in all facets of her professional life. Before retiring last year, Forbes was the first female Chief Actuary at Manulife Financial, tasked with leading a global actuarial team responsible for ensuring the financial stability of the company. She was also the company’s first female Chief Financial Officer for Manulife Asia, leading the finance, risk management and actuarial functions across 11 countries. 

“I always want to make a positive impact, meaning that I want to leave the department or the organization better than I found it,” she said.

From digitization to integration of data and analytics into Manulife’s operations, Forbes was an invaluable asset to the modernization of Canada’s largest insurance company. She initiated a project to move the company’s valuation into the cloud – a first among insurance companies in Canada. The same project rewrote Manulife’s liability valuation systems to reduce the amount of manual work required by actuaries, significantly improving quality control over the valuation of the companies liabilities, which at the time were close to $300-billion. Forbes also built the company’s global artificial intelligence and advanced analytics function from the ground up. Within four years, that “function” has become a global organization of over 200 people responsible for building and embedding advanced analytics models into the business, delivering insights and driving financial impact. 

Forbes’ motivation for her work stems from a number of factors, including her desire for continuous improvement, as well as her commitment to mentorship for young professionals. 

“I like to help young professionals achieve their potential, be a positive role model, coach them, remove obstacles, show them how to get things done,” she said. “Largely it’s about creating a high performance team – a team that pulls together, that’s based on trust, and can make the very difficult look quite easy.”

Many of the talented team members she has hired have been students from the University of Waterloo, where Forbes obtained her Math degree, specializing in actuarial science.  Forbes was in the co-op program, which allows students to gain paid work experience, completing six work terms during her five years at Waterloo. She credits the program for providing the necessary professional experience to help her find a job in the field post-graduation and to make more intelligent, informed career decisions.

“It really sets you up for success in terms of learning about the workplace and putting into focus what you were learning at school,” she said. 

Forbes remains a fervent supporter of the University of Waterloo, having served as Chair of the Board since May 2017. In her role as board chair, Forbes successfully led the recruitment of a new President for the University, engaging a large group of external governors, faculty, staff and students. She is currently leading a review of the university’s governance framework, identifying opportunities for the board to be more effective and have greater impact and oversight of the university’s strategic planning. 

In addition to her role as board chair at the University of Waterloo, Forbes also serves on the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan Board. She additionally held the role of Special Advisor to the Premier of Ontario from February to January 2022, providing advice and guidance on creating more digital, responsive and flexible public services. This includes the digitization of court proceedings and enabling on-line renewal of drivers licenses and health cards. 

A natural innovator and life-long learner, Forbes remains highly attuned to global, economic and technological trends that will impact businesses and corporations worldwide. The pandemic accelerated trends that were already in place in terms of digitization, use of data to customize experiences and growing concerns about the implications of the same.  Her prediction is that the acceleration of these trends will continue against a backdrop of growing geo-political tensions.

“It is going to be interesting to see how this all plays out and how global corporations navigate the changes ahead,” she said. 

You can view some of Forbes’ accomplishments in the images below:

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Ivan Yuen

Ivan Yuan

Co-Founder, Wattpad

An accomplished entrepreneur, respected mentor and ambassador for the University of Waterloo, Ivan Yuen has cemented his legacy in the software development industry. Yuen is the co-founder of Wattpad, an e-reading and storytelling platform that has amassed millions of users worldwide. Founded in 2006 with a friend and former co-worker Allen Lau, Wattpad has quickly become a global entertainment company, with over 90 million readers, writers and filmmakers connected through the power of story. While Wattpad’s success is in large part due to the commitment and perseverance of Yuen and Lau, Yuen credits the University of Waterloo’s co-op program for giving him the tools and resources needed to discover his niche in the tech sector. 

Yuen enrolled in the University’s computer engineering co-op program in order to gain real-world industry experience and make professional connections. He spent the first portion of his co-op working in hardware design at some of North America’s top firms including IBM and AMD. While these work placements helped Yuen to further develop his professional experience, it wasn’t until he switched to a role in software engineering at a startup company that Yuen found his true passion. The smaller teams, quick turnaround times and ability to see the impacts of his work instantly were the most gratifying elements of software engineering in a startup environment. “Hooked from that point on,” Yuen would take these valuable work experiences and chart his own path in software development, ensuring that training and mentorship were paramount in his endeavours. 

Now the Chief Strategy Officer of Wattpad, Yuen is passionate about providing leadership and guidance to those he recruits for various positions within the company. He “demystifies ideas about software startups” and offers honest, first-hand accounts of his successes, failures and opportunities for the future. While hiring and retaining the right talent is important to the success of his company, Yuen is incredibly inspired when Wattpad employees transition from their roles to start their own venture. He believes that giving emerging tech talent the training and confidence to pursue their own interests has a powerful multiplier effect and is essential for facilitating the growth of the tech ecosystem across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. 

In addition to employee mentorship and promoting expansion of the region’s tech industry, Yuen’s platform, Wattpad, has been tremendously important to the advancement of writers, storytellers, filmmakers and many more creative professionals whose voices may never have been discovered. Before Wattpad existed, traditional publishing companies were essentially gatekeepers, determining what authors or stories had enough merit to move through the system and onto store shelves. Only those with access and opportunity had any chance of finding success as an author or storyteller—often leaving racial, ethnic and other minority groups without a platform to share their unique experiences. Wattpad challenged and changed this established industry dynamic. The platform empowered those who were otherwise excluded from traditional publishing avenues, enabling those in marginalized communities and young aspiring writers to share their perspectives with a limitless audience. It enabled authors to mix different story genres with important themes of gender, sexuality and race without judgement. It has fundamentally changed the course of modern publishing and given prominence to a diversity of voices, stories and issues that have historically been ignored. 

Wattpad’s success has quickly expanded into the entertainment industry, with movie and TV producers constantly discovering new writers who have published their work on the platform. Recent examples of stories that have been made into movies or TV shows include After, a romantic drama written by Wattpad author Anna Todd and acquired by Paramount Pictures for film adaptation. The Netflix hit The Kissing Booth also started as a novel published on Wattpad by Beth Reekles, who was only 15 years old when she was discovered. Its commercial success has led to the production of a trilogy of films. With over 100 stories currently in different stages of film or TV show development, Yuen is hopeful that many Wattpad authors will have their works showcased at movie theatres or on major streaming platforms in the future.

Looking ahead, Yuen and the Wattpad team will continue to leverage the power of new technology including blockchain to give writers and content creators greater control over access to their work. Readers will also have the opportunity to contribute to their favourite authors, garnering rewards along the way. As the company further expands into new territory, Yuen will continue to mentor and inspire young tech talent to promote innovation and entrepreneurship across the region. 

You can view some of Yuen’s accomplishments in the image below:

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