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Iranian student honoured to be first recipient of memorial scholarship for plane crash victims

Shayan Shirzadian is the first first recipient of the Iranian Students Memorial Scholarship - Remembering Flight PS752.

It was just a casual conversation with a fellow UWindsor graduate student, but one Shayan Shirzadian will always remember.

He and engineering doctoral candidate Hamidreza Setareh Kokab, both international students, talked about living in Canada. Setareh Kokab was happy to offer advice.

“My overall feeling from our conversation was that I was joining a community with great people who love to help,” Shirzadian says. “It left an impression on me.”

A month later, Shirzadian was shocked to learn Setareh Kokab’s life was taken in a plane crash in Iran while returning to campus for the winter semester. The incident claimed the lives of all 176 on board, including four other members of UWindsor’s community — engineering doctoral candidates Pedram Jadidi and Zahra Naghibi and her spouse Mohammad Abbaspour Ghadi and biology research assistant Samira Bashiri.

They were caring friends and talented researchers who were on the cusp of promising careers. Countless stories emerged as the campus community mourned such a significant loss.

An immediate outpouring of support from the UWindsor community and general public followed to establish the Iranian Students Memorial Scholarship - Remembering Flight PS752, a graduate scholarship that will annually support two international students conducting vital research in the Faculties of Engineering and Science.

Memorial scholarship commemorates engineering mentor

Students working on Vehicle parts

In celebration of an entrepreneur who had a passion for mentoring students and an appetite for innovation, a memorial scholarship will support students at the forefront of electric vehicle research.

The Dr. Voiko Loukanov Engineering Scholarship has been established at the University of Windsor by D&V Electronics in honour of its founder, who has guided many engineering students in research projects to develop advanced technologies.   

Dr. Loukanov was an entrepreneur who led D&V Electronics in pioneering and developing scientific testing technologies and expanded the test equipment company’s reach to thousands of customers in more than 90 countries.

In addition to taking co-op students under his wing, Loukanov spent more than a decade advancing electric vehicle research with Dr. Narayan Kar, a UWindsor prof who leads the Centre for Hybrid Automotive Research and Green Energy (CHARGE) Lab. D&V continues to work closely with Kar and is developing cutting-edge testing methods for electric motors in collaboration with UWindsor and Ford Motor Company on a $4.3 million project.

“Voiko was a firm believer in the importance of investing in education and research. He truly believed that engineers would change the world. He loved to mentor students,” says his wife Kalina Loukanov, executive vice president of D&V Electronics.

New scholarship supports engineering students who are helping their peers succeed

Girls who secured the scholarship

Eman ElMasri’s favourite part of tutoring her peers is witnessing them achieve their academic goals.

“It is always rewarding to know that I can make a difference in the learning of others,” says ElMasri, a third-year electrical and computer engineering student who tutors in the Faculty of Engineering’s WINONE Tutorial program.

Established in 2019 by the WINONE Office for First-Year Engineering, the tutorials offer students free one-on-one help with first and second-year engineering course material.

Elmasri and fellow mentor Mahwish Khan are the first recipients of the Liburdi Engineering Mentorship Award, a new $10,000 annual award that supports two senior level undergraduate students who are excelling in math and physics and helping their first and second-year peers with course material and questions about their undergraduate programs.

Plane crash victims remembered as talented scholars and loving friends

Victims of the plane crash in Iran

They were dedicated researchers who were bolstering bridge safety with artificial intelligence, improving the accuracy of critical medical procedures and using solar energy to increase greenhouse efficiency.

They were friends who never forgot a birthday, supported each other like family and reminded others of the importance of living in the moment.

On Jan. 8, the University of Windsor lost five cherished members of its community, who were returning to campus, when Ukrainian International Airlines’ Flight PS752 crashed in Iran and claimed the lives of all 176 on board.

“We all feel the tremendous depth of human suffering caused by this tragedy,” says Dr. Robert Gordon, UWindsor president and vice-chancellor. “Our own students were standing on the very doorstep of discovery in their research careers and their potential was limitless. We will never know what life-changing contributions they may have made in their areas of study and academic pursuits — and that loss is unfathomable.”

Engineering doctoral candidates Hamidreza Setareh Kokab, Pedram Jadidi, Zahra Naghibi and her spouse Mohammad Abbaspour Ghadi and biology research assistant Samira Bashiri will be remembered by friends, faculty and staff as vital contributors and caring companions.  

Following the news of their deaths, the university received an immediate outpouring of support from the UWindsor community and general public to establish the “Remembering Flight PS752” fund, a graduate scholarship endowment that will support international students conducting vital research in the Faculties of Engineering and Science.

Scholarship recipient inspired by fund honouree

Zac Sinasac

Zac Sinasac, just finishing his first semester of graduate study in automotive engineering, is grateful for the opportunities he has been afforded.

“I say thank you as much as I can to the people who have supported me,” he says, listing faculty, family, friends — and donors to scholarships for UWindsor students.

Sinasac says the $1,000 Shawn Yates Memorial Award helped inspire him to excel.

“It’s a motivation, because you’re being rewarded and recognized for your efforts,” he says. “Sometimes you’re so deep in your books that you don’t realize people take notice.”

He made the effort to learn more about Yates, a UWindsor alumnus (BASc 1982, MBA 1992) who helped to found the Windsor Engineering co-op program with the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Automotive Research and Development Centre (ARDC) before his death in July 2017.

Fostering innovation and student support

UWindsor Alumni

As an engineering student at the University of Windsor, Joe Liburdi honed his multi-disciplinary skills and acquired his technical confidence. Now, as the president of his own global enterprise, Liburdi wants to ensure future students have the opportunity to follow in his footsteps.

“The University of Windsor’s challenging multi-disciplinary materials program and one-on-one attention with my professors gave me the tools I needed to establish Liburdi Engineering Limited as an innovative technology leader in global markets,” says Liburdi BAsc ’67, who produces advanced welding and coating systems for turbine, aerospace and power generation components.

“They challenged me to always be the best.”

Engineering professor makes lasting impact at UWindsor

Dean Mehrdad Saif is joined by faculty and staff to honour Dr. Shervin Erfani's (R) contributions.

A University of Windsor engineering professor is helping students grasp more than complex electrical engineering concepts.

Shervin Erfani has made a six-figure dollar donation to the Faculty of Engineering to help students finance their education and foster collaboration in the classroom.

“The greatest reward I have ever been given is the simple opportunity to teach generations of young people how to think in an ‘engineering way’ about the world around them,” Dr. Erfani said at a gathering of his immediate family and colleagues, Friday in the Ed Lumley Centre for Engineering Innovation.

There, Dean of Engineering Mehrdad Saif unveiled the newly-named Dr. Shervin Erfani Learning Studio and recognized Erfani’s philanthropic investments to endow two scholarships in memory of his father Dr. Ibrahim Erfani. The scholarships will support undergraduate and graduate engineering students and are set to begin disbursing in 2020.

Manufacturer breaks the mold with visionary investment

Keith Henry (R), president and CEO of Windsor Mold Group and Dr. Mehrdad Saif, dean of engineering

The Windsor Mold Group has announced a first-of-its-kind University of Windsor endowment that will propel UWindsor Engineering student education and innovation.
The endowment will support capstone design projects, which challenge fourth-year engineering students to apply the formal knowledge they’ve gained during their undergraduate studies to solve real-world problems. In addition to the Faculty of Engineering, Windsor Mold Group is supporting the university's Entrepreneurship Practice and Innovation Centre (EPICentre), and the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

“The Windsor Mold Group is proud to continue its support of the University of Windsor in many ways, the most recent of which demonstrates our continued commitment to the students in Engineering, EPICentre, and Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences,” said Keith Henry, president and CEO of the Windsor Mold Group.

The humanitarian engineer

Dr. Becker BASc ’67 posing in CEI

Norm Becker’s contribution to the engineering profession is incomparable. Dr. Nihar Biswas, UWindsor environmental engineering professor, says that not only did Becker mentor him, he’s inspired hundreds of UWindsor engineering students.

“Norm is a true role model who instills confidence and integrity in our students and, while succeeding in the engineering profession, has given back so much to the community,” Dr. Biswas says about the University of Windsor alumnus who’s spent his 51-year career working on complex engineering projects across North America, the Middle East, Africa, South America, the Caribbean and China.

Although Dr. Becker P.Eng. BASc ’67, PhD ’70 has worked all over the globe, he always maintained a close relationship with UWindsor. He even brought — and sometimes paid the cost out of his own pocket — engineering students with him on his pro bono projects across the country and in rural China.

For more than three years, Becker recruited engineers, students and trades people to design and plan water filtration systems for villages in the Chinese province of Shandong. While there, Becker and his team of volunteers took time to rebuild a fire-damaged medical clinic that sat unused for more than a year.

“Every school-aged child in the village inspected our work daily and charmed us with their smiles,” says Becker. “I think a few of them may aspire to become engineers themselves.”

Making an “INpact” on global education: engineering student receives philanthropy award

Kishan, Guddu, Maya and Dylan posing.

On his daily walk over to a sewage contaminated lake in India where he was conducting his master’s research on water quality, Dylan Verburg would be greeted by three familiar faces.

They didn’t speak English, but the siblings who lived on the same compound would smile as they followed Verburg around, proudly show him their cartwheel skills and even volunteered to row a boat for him while he worked on implementing a water treatment system in the lake they lived by. The encounters were quickly becoming the highlight of Verburg’s five-month stint contributing to an international research project funded by the India-Canada Centre for Innovative Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability (IC-impacts).

“I have always loved being around kids and quickly built a connection with them,” the environmental engineering graduate student says about his recently orphaned friends, Guddu, 14, Kishan, 9, and Maya, 8, who also happen to be undocumented citizens. “But it really hurt knowing that these little ones weren’t getting an education and the future for illiterate individuals in India isn’t promising.”