Lakehead University team cleans up at national competition again

Picture of Chemical Engineering students.

From left to right are Kayte Sutherland, Christopher Lock, Terry Milton, Ryan Gerlach, and Natasha Bieniek.

November 2, 2015 – Thunder Bay, ON

For the second year in a row, a Lakehead University chemical engineering team placed first in the SNC-Lavalin Undergraduate Plant Design competition held in Calgary in October.

The students designed a chemical plant that could convert 200,000 metric tons of waste plastic per year into high value hydrocarbons, including gasoline and kerosene.

They designed a financially viable plant that can address contemporary environmental problems by directing waste plastics away from landfills. This type of plant could potentially provide improved waste management in every city around the world.

Lakehead’s winning team consisted of Ryan Gerlach, Christopher Lock, Kayte Sutherland, Terry Milton, and Natasha Bieniek, with supervision by Drs. Siamak Elyasi and Liela Pakzad.

“I am proud to be part of a Lakehead program that has such drive and passion for excellence,” said Gerlach. “I hope that future classes will continue participating in competitions to show the quality of education that Lakehead offers.”

“I am so proud to be able to represent Lakehead University and realize this goal after all of our hard work on our degree project,” said Lock, who works for Border Chemical Company Limited in Winnipeg as a Junior Engineer in Training.

“The results of this competition and the efforts dedicated to the degree project are clear indications of the encouragement, enthusiasm, and support that I have felt within the Chemical Engineering program at Lakehead University,” Sutherland said.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the project and found it provided valuable experience to start my engineering career,” said Milton, who is working at Bantrel in Edmonton.

“I very much enjoyed my experiences with the degree project as well as competing in the competition. Completing my education at Lakehead has allowed me to gain experiences that I wouldn’t have received anywhere else,” Bieniek said.

“I would recommend the Chemical Engineering program to anyone who wants a unique educational experience with more hands-on learning than at other larger universities,” she added.

“The quality of work and the standard in our department’s academic system is clearly comparable with the best universities in Canada,” Dr. Elyasi said.

Students participated in the competition as part of their final degree project.

This competition is hosted by the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering (CSChE). A panel of judges from industry, government, and academia evaluate all the entries.

In the first round, the judges selected the top three entries. In the second round, the top three teams presented their projects at the annual CSChE conference, and the judges made their final decisions.

In the final round of the competition, the Lakehead University team went up against teams from McGill and Ryerson.




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In 2015, Lakehead University will celebrate 50 years of exceptional education. Guided by its Strategic Plan (2013-2018), Lakehead is known for providing an education focused on independent thinking, unconventional scholarship, and a close sense of community. About 9,700 full-time equivalent students and 2,000 faculty and staff learn and work in ten faculties at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university: home to Ontario’s newest Faculty of Law in 44 years, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and faculties of Engineering, Business Administration, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Social Sciences & Humanities, Science & Environmental Studies, Natural Resources Management, Education, and Graduate Studies.

Maclean’s 2015 University Rankings places Lakehead University 2nd in Ontario and among Canada’s Top 10 undergraduate universities, and 1st among Ontario’s undergraduate universities for Total Research Dollars, Social Sciences & Humanities Grants, and Library Expenses. In 2015, Re$earch Infosource ranked Lakehead first among Canada’s undergraduate universities.