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Professor Alison Olechowski, PhD, P.Eng.

Assistant Professor
Dean’s Spark Professor
Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering
Troost Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering (ILead)
Institute for Studies in Transdisciplinary Engineering Education & Practice (ISTEP)

Alison Olechowski is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering and the Troost Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering (ILead) at the University of Toronto. Dr. Olechowski and her team study the processes and tools that teams of engineers use in industry as they design innovative new products. She has studied engineering products and projects in the automotive, electronics, aerospace, medical device and oil & gas industries.

Dr. Olechowski completed her PhD in Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her doctoral research involved the study of technology development in complex product and systems engineering with her advisor Prof. Steven Eppinger (MIT Sloan School of Management) and collaborator Prof. Nitin Joglekar (BU School of Management).

Dr. Olechowski received her master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, advised by Prof. Warren Seering. Her master’s research focused on product development processes, particularly investigating uncertainty and risk in engineering design. She received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

Dr. Olechowski is the proud faculty advisor for the Spark Design Club.

Peiying (Freda) Jian

Peiying is a Ph.D. candidate at the Ready Lab. Her research interest is in creativity and assistive tools for design. She completed her undergraduate study in psychology and cognitive science at the University of Toronto and her master’s degree in cognitive neuroscience at Queen’s University. Peiying wishes to bridge psychology and engineering to understand what facilitates important and creative human inventions.

Sharon Ferguson

Sharon is a PhD candidate at Ready Lab. She holds a BASc in Industrial Engineering from the University of Toronto. Broadly, she is interested in studying human behaviour through the massive amount of online data that is created daily. Her current work includes using enterprise social networking data (Slack) and natural language processing methods to learn about engineers’ design processes and collaboration practices. She is also interested in studying underrepresented groups in STEM, and is currently an Ethics of AI Graduate Research Fellow 2021-2022 for her work studying intentional persistence in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. Sharon hopes to continue this research as a professor in her own research lab one day.

Pranav Khanolkar

Pranav Khanolkar is a PhD candidate at Ready Lab at University of Toronto. He holds a Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering from The Pennsylvania State University and Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from University of Mumbai. At Penn State, he worked as a Graduate Research Assistant in THRED Group, with his research focused towards application of deep learning for structural analyses. His research interests involve applications of AI algorithms for automating product design processes and studying designer-automation interaction.

Meagan Flus

Meagan Flus is a PhD student and the Lab Manager at Ready Lab. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Knowledge Integration and a master’s degree in Management Sciences, both from the University of Waterloo. Her past research explores topics including project management, engineering education, and design cognition. Inspired by the interdisciplinary nature of her background, Meagan’s PhD research sits at the intersection of psychology and engineering. She studies design cognition at hackathons by applying dual-process theory at these heightened design events.

Liz DaMaren

Liz is a PhD student at Ready Lab. She holds a Bachelor of Mechatronics Engineering & Society from McMaster University, where she also completed an Interdisciplinary Minor in Sustainability. Her research focuses on team dynamics and gender considerations in computer-aided design group settings, with applications for educators and industry alike. Outside the lab, she loves grabbing a canoe and heading into the Algonquin backcountry or exploring the city and seeing what the latest vegetarian restaurant has in store.

Kathy Cheng

Kathy is a PhD student at Ready Lab, co-advised by Dr. Shurui Zhou from FORCOLAB. She holds a BASc in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Toronto. She spent an award-winning Professional Experience Year at Scotiabank as a technology consultant, which sparked her interest in human-centred design. Kathy’s doctoral research aims to understand and address collaboration challenges with CAD (computer-aided design) tools using software development best practices and insight.

Chuma Asuzu

Chuma is a PhD Student at Ready Lab. His research explores the development of aesthetics in people and how customer data can be used to inform engineering design. Outside of the lab, he can be found watching old TV shows and rom-coms.

Jordan Epp

Jordan is an MASc student at Ready Lab. He recently completed his undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering at Toronto Metropolitan University. He spent his Professional Experience Year at Safran Landing Systems as a Systems Architect, where he worked on designing systems using Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE). Building on his experience, he is now working on deploying an MBSE reuse framework at Safran alongside Dr. Olechowski. Outside the lab, good luck finding Jordan in Canada’s remote backcountry.

Lucas Crupi

Lucas is a second-year mechanical engineering student at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on the application of machine learning and natural language processing to understand part design and design intent through building a mechanical part classification model. Outside the lab, you can probably find him designing or building something cool.

Lab Alumni

Ademir Vrolijk

Dr. Ademir Vrolijk is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto. He explores how technical organizations can leverage collaborative approaches, such as crowdsourcing, to solve complex problems and design better systems. Dr. Vrolijk received a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from Carleton University and a doctorate in Systems Engineering from The George Washington University’s Engineering Management and Systems Engineering department. He was also a Visiting Researcher at the Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard (LISH) at Harvard University. Outside of academia, Dr. Vrolijk has worked as a project management professional in the defense industry and the medical technology industry. He also sat on the national board of the Canadian Space Society.

Ainsley Ross-Howe

Ainsley completed her second year as an undergraduate mechanical engineering student at the University of Toronto. Her research interests include applications of CAD software for interdisciplinary design and equity within engineering contexts. Outside of the lab you can probably find her gardening and enjoying nature, or baking.

Alexander Lyakishev

Alex completed his first year as a mechanical engineering student at McGill University. His research focuses on identifying barriers to the utilization of generative design and implicit modelling methods by undergraduate design teams. In his free time, you can find him building cars and drones, in a nearby park, or attempting to try everything once!

Yuanzhe Deng

Yuanzhe (Felix) completed his third year as a mechanical engineering student at the University of Toronto. At Ready Lab, he has been investigating the potential of improving the efficiency of engineering collaboration through the use of a multi-user CAD software and its application on the future of engineering education. He is now on his Professional Experience Year (PEY) internship at PTC as Innovation Engineer.

Kimberly Lai

Kimberly is a MASc (2023) student at Ready Lab. She recently completed her undergraduate degree in the Engineering Science program at the University of Toronto, specialising in Aerospace. She spent her Professional Experience Year at Safran Landing Systems as a Systems Architect, working on implementing and deploying model-based systems engineering (MBSE) within the company. As a continuation of her work with Safran, Kimberly’s research with Prof. Olechowski focuses on integrating safety analysis activities into MBSE for aircraft systems. When she’s not working or studying, you’ll mostly likely find her outdoors or on a tennis court!

James Chen

James completed his MASc (2021) with Ready Lab. He previously graduated from the University of Toronto with a BASc in Mechanical Engineering. He worked at Zebra Technologies as a mechanical engineering intern during undergrad, where he gained valuable experience in product design and handheld electronics manufacturing. He is a big car enthusiast, and likely spends too much time reading and learning about automobiles. He now works at Tesla.

Phil Cuvin

Phil holds a BASc (2023) in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Toronto. His research focuses on using statistics and ML to qualitatively investigate collaboration in CAD and inform better design practices. In his free time, you can find him working with design teams, on a basketball or tennis court, or training for road races.

Jiacheng (Jason) Chen

Jason is an Engineering Science student at the University of Toronto, specializing in Machine Intelligence. He was a summer student (2022) focusing on applying machine learning (natural language processing) to analyze social network data (Slack). In his free time, you can find him in hackathons, design teams, various food places, or any badminton courts!

Evelyn Sham

Evelyn Sham completed a MEng (2022) at the Ready Lab. She holds a BASc in Industrial Engineering from the University of Toronto. Evelyn is interested in exploring how human-centered design principles can be used to improve information management and systems. She works as a Project Engineer with the Data Strategies group at Environment and Climate Change Canada. In her spare time, you can find her writing music and performing on her guitar at open mics around the city!

Safa Faidi

Safa Faidi was a MASc (2021) student at Ready Lab at the University of Toronto. She holds a BEng in Biomedical Engineering from Ryerson University. Before returning for her MASc, Safa gained industry experience working at a medical device company and later at a software testing startup. Safa is interested in product development and product management.

Eric van Velzen

Eric completed his BASc (2021) in the Aerospace specialization of the Engineering Science program at the University of Toronto. Eric conducted his undergraduate thesis research with aerospace engineers in industry under the supervision of Dr. Olechowski in Ready Lab. He investigated the impact of remote work on aerospace engineers in industry resulting from COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.  After undergrad, Eric started his Master of Applied Science degree at UTIAS in the Space Flight Laboratory.

Kevin Leonardo

Kevin Leonardo graduated with a MASc (2021) from Ready Lab at the University of Toronto. Prior, he graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in June 2018. Before starting his MASc, he worked at Boxaroo, a live events company located in Boston. There he helped fabricate and design puzzles for their newest escape room. With a passion for toys and user experience, Kevin hopes to use his product design skills to enhance the user experience behind his designs.

Cacia Ploeg

Cacia graduated with a BASc (2021) from the Engineering Science Robotics program at the University of Toronto. She completed her undergrad thesis with Prof. Olechowski on the topic of improving the adoption of model-based systems engineering (MBSE) in the workforce. She completed her Professional Experience Year as a systems engineer at Zebra Technologies and was inspired to research ways to advance the adoption of MBSE.  Besides her passion for systems engineering, she is also an aerialist and fosters cats!

Lauren Adolphe

Lauren graduated with a BASc (2020) from Engineering Science at the University of Toronto, specializing in Robotics. During her degree, she acquired work experience across different industries, from fintech startup to global consulting. Lauren spent her Professional Experience Year at Tesla in Palo Alto, as an Engineering Intern working on factory robotics and vehicle electronics. Throughout her undergrad, she was an executive team member of the U of T Aerospace Team and student mentor for Girls’ Leadership in Engineering Experience. Inspired by her academic and professional pursuits, Lauren’s thesis with Prof. Olechowski focused on virtual team communications in engineering design.

Vrushank Phadnis

Vrushank graduated with a PhD (2020) in the mechanical engineering department from MIT, co-advised by Prof. Olechowski. Vrushank spent a year as a visiting researcher at Ready Lab, working on his doctoral project looking at design affordances of multi-user CAD systems. His academic and professional experience is in the general area of Engineering design and Manufacturing operations.

Meaghan Vella

Meaghan graduated with a BASc (2020) from the Industrial Engineering program at the University of Toronto. She completed her undergraduate thesis with Ready Lab. She completed her internship year at Scotiabank and has studied abroad in Sweden and South Africa. She is interested in technology and human factors.

Hamza Arshad

Hamza Arshad is a graduate of the UofT Mechanical Engineering program. He was a summer student (2019) working on the collaborative CAD project at Ready Lab. He also works with University of Toronto Aerospace Team’s Space Systems team on their Heron Mk. II satellite. He plans to pursue a career in the aerospace industry.

Arash Nourimand

Arash graduated with a BEng (2020) in mechanical engineering at the University of Toronto. During his degree, he engaged in different professional roles spanning a diverse set of industries and geographies. He was involved in the U of T community as the Co-Executive Director of the Volunteer Engineering Experience Program, a member of the U of T Aerospace Team, and as a part of the ILead student team. Arash’s undergrad thesis focused on how different engineering demographics and organizations use technology, both to enhance their product development processes and improve end-product value.

Kimberly Ren

Kimberly graduated with a BASc (2020) after working as an undergraduate thesis student at the Ready Lab. She graduated with honours from the Engineering Science program in 2020 with a specialization in Biomedical Systems Engineering. She is passionate about leadership in engineering and advocating for underrepresented groups in engineering. She is currently pursuing her law degree at McGill University which she hopes to use to impact policy and regulations in innovation and technology.

Zeping Sun

Zeping Sun graduated with a BASc (2019) in mechanical engineering at the University of Toronto and completed his undergraduate thesis with Prof. Olechowski. Zeping is passionate about systems engineering and space exploration. He’s previously conducted research in rocket propulsion (German Aerospace Center), fluid-structure interaction simulations (Defence R&D Canada), and fluid physics (University of Waterloo). Additionally, he’s played various roles in the University of Toronto Aerospace Team’s Rocketry Division, one such role was Chief Engineer which drew him to systems engineering.

In Memoriam

Janice Zhou

Janice Zhou was a 4th year Mechanical Engineering student who completed her undergraduate thesis with Prof. Olechowski. Janice worked during her Professional Experience Year at a toy company called Spin Master as a Product Development Engineer. She was the Co-President of Spark Design Club, an engineering student club that creates electro-mechanical interactive displays. Janice next pursued a Master’s Degree at MIT.