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)

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.

James Chen

A first year MASc student (at Ready Lab). He recently 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.

Sharon Ferguson

Sharon is a PhD student 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.

Kimberly Lai

Kimberly is a MASc 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!

Yuanzhe Deng

Yuanzhe (Felix) is a second year 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.

Pranav Khanolkar

Pranav Khanolkar is a PhD student 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/ML in engineering design.

Kathy Cheng

Kathy will be joining Ready Lab as a MASc student, following the completion of her Mechanical Engineering degree at 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. Her master’s research will build upon collaborative computer-aided design concepts that she investigated for her undergraduate thesis with Prof. Olechowski. Kathy’s ultimate goal is to work in product design engineering.

Peiying (Freda) Jian

Peiying is a Ph.D. student 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.

Liz DaMaren

Liz is a first-year MASc student at Ready Lab. She holds a Bachelor of Mechatronics Engineering & Society from McMaster University, where she also completed an Interdisciplinary Minor in Sustainability. She is excited to bring her passions for design, teamwork, sustainability, and education to Ready Lab and looks forward to integrating them into her studies. 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.

Evelyn Sham

Evelyn Sham is a MEng student 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!

Lab Alumni

Kevin Leonardo

Kevin Leonardo is a MASc student at Ready Lab at the University of Toronto. 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.

Safa Faidi

Safa Faidi is a MASc 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 undergraduate degree 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.  A paper he wrote on his research was accepted for publication to the INCOSE 2021 International Symposium conference. Eric has spent several years in leadership roles on the University of Toronto Aerospace Team’s Space Systems division. During his time on the team Eric has filled many roles including technical, leadership, and mentorship, while fostering his interest in space systems engineering. After undergrad, Eric started his Master of Applied Science degree at UTIAS in the Space Flight Laboratory.

Cacia Ploeg

Cacia is a 4th year Engineering Science Robotics student at the University of Toronto. She is completing 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 recently graduated 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

A PhD candidate in the mechanical engineering department at MIT. 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 is a 4th year Industrial Engineering student at the University of Toronto who is completing her undergraduate thesis. 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 3rd year Mechanical Engineering student 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 recently graduated from 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 was 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 was a 4th year mechanical engineering student at the University of Toronto who 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.