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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 candidate 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.

Kathy Cheng

Kathy is a PhD candidate 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.

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.

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.

Genevieve Beirne

Genevieve completed her second year as a mechanical engineering student at the University of Toronto. She is a summer research student focusing on how students learn to use CAD and apply it in an engineering design group project.

Marjan Naghshbandi

Marjan is a graduating BASc student in Industrial Engineering at the University of Toronto with a focus on AI and business studies. She is a summer research student at Ready Lab, working with PhD candidate Sharon Ferguson on the study of engineering design teams’ collaboration practices using Slack data.  She completed her undergraduate thesis with Ready Lab on the topic of underrepresented students’ persistence in Computer Science. She also has professional experience in software development and project management.

Lab Alumni

Ademir Vrolijk
Postdoctoral Fellow

Ainsley Ross-Howe

Alexander Lyakishev

Yuanzhe (Felix) Deng

Kimberly Lai
MASc (2023)

James Chen
MASc (2021)

Phil Cuvin

Jiacheng (Jason) Chen

Evelyn Sham
MEng (2022)

Safa Faidi
MASc (2021)

Eric van Velzen

Kevin Leonardo
MASc (2021)

Cacia Ploeg

Lauren Adolphe

Vrushank Phadnis
PhD (2020)

Meaghan Vella

Hamza Arshad

Arash Nourimand

Kimberly Ren

Zeping Sun

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.