CUE-Undergraduate Research Award

                                                CUE -Undergraduate Research Award


The Centre for Urban Environments (CUE) is a proud supporter of undergraduate research at the University of Toronto Mississauga. Every year, CUE allocates funding to ensure that students can pursue independent and cutting-edge research alongside leading scholars in urban environmental studies. This funding is provided on a competitive basis, with a total of two to four awards provided annually based on academic excellence, research experience, and the fit between a student’s proposed project and CUE’s mission to be a leader in research, training, community engagement and policy on urban environments issues.

The total value of each award is $6,000. Students from both the natural and social sciences or humanities are encouraged to apply alongside a faculty sponsor of their choosing. Successful students will have the opportunity to work full-time under the supervision of their chosen mentor from May 1 to August 31, with at least half of this time committed to independent research. This work can take place at either the University of Toronto Mississauga or in the field, depending on the requirements of the project.

The deadline for applications is March 23, 2020. More information about CUE’s Undergraduate Research Awards, including the formal application requirements, can be found here. Interested students are also encouraged to review the list of previous winners to learn about the diverse projects CUE has funded in the past.

For a list of potential student advisors, please see the list of CUE members


                                                          2020 Winners

Project Title: The case for a waste-diversion offset scheme: application to Markham’s and the NACTR’s textile recycling program.

Student: Carina Suleiman 

Supervisor: Prof. Barbara Murck 

​Project Description: Within waste management, the issue of textile waste presents a significant challenge, accounting for 5-7% of waste in landfills . Addressing this issue is a prominent proposal for achieving environmental sustainability. In Canada, the City of Markham became the first North American municipality to ban all textile waste from landfills. In this research Carina will seek to understand how collaboration of municipal and charitable organizations can help solve the environmental challenge of textile waste management. The project seeks to develop a carbon offset scheme that will include data from the National Association of Charitable Textile Recycling (NACTR, 2020). Through this scheme, this project expects to aid industries wishing to offset their emissions in collaboration with the NACTR, whose aim it is to nationally increase textile waste diversion, and Canadian municipalities who want to reduce carbon emissions.


Project Title: Novel Molecular Mechanisms in Tree Resistance to Urban Stresses 

Student: Ahmed Hanif 

Supervisor: Prof. Katharina Braeutigam 

Project Description: Urbanization can have substantial effects on our natural environment including increased levels of air pollutants, changes in water quality, and altered levels of soil pH, compaction and toxin content. It is thus critical to understand the effects of such anthropogenic stressors on living organisms at the mechanistic level. Urban trees likely experience a number of stresses over their long life span. Nevertheless, much remains to be learned about tree responses to stressors typical to urbanized environments. Ahmed will look at tree response to urban stressors such as road salt exposure, increased soil pH and soil compaction. This work will be conducted in native deciduous trees of the genus Populus. The results from this research will provide the opportunity to contribute to our understanding of longterm stress exposure in trees, molecular coping mechanisms (and their limits), and yield critical information applicable to urban forest health. 




Previous Winners


Project Title: Managing Stormwater Runoff in Urban Catchments

Zarin Mom- Photo

Student: Zarin Mom

Supervisor: Prof. Xiaoyong Xu

Project Description: Due to the impacts of climate change, the frequency of extreme meteorological and hydrological events is expected to rise. The high levels of stormwater that often accompany these events can cause adverse environmental effects, such as residential damage, degrading water quality, and the destruction of creek channels. Zarin Mom’s project reviewed the impact of various controls (such as grass swale and ditches) in preparing for, and managing, this storm water runoff. Integrating both storm-water management modelling and remote sensing imagery, Zarin’s project provided an innovative method for diagnosing and troubleshooting drainage issues in municipalities around the world. Zarin was able to leverage the unique technologies available at the Centre for Urban Environments to create an innovative evaluative approach. Her findings were presented at Smarti Gras, UTMs summer research day for undergraduate students.


Project Title: Residential Yards and Green Infrastructure


Student: Shefaly Gunjal

Faculty Supervisor: Prof. Tenley Conway

Project Description: For many of us, a back yard can be a place of relaxation, socialization, and beauty. But it is also part of a larger ecosystem. Trees, gardens, green roofs, and other vegetation can contribute to storm water attenuation, microclimate regulation, air pollution reduction, and physical and physiological well-being. Understanding residents’ perspectives when it comes to their yards, and the differences in perspectives across cities, is therefore useful in understanding the development of Green Infrastructure. Alongside Tenley Conway in the Department of Geography, Shefaly Gunjal’s project explored this question through the surveying of residents in Toronto, Philadelphia, and Malmo. From these surveys, Shefaly was then able to formulate tangible policy recommendations for municipal governments of all sizes. Their findings were presented at Smarti Gras, UTMs summer research day for undergraduate students.

Project Title: Precipitation Trends in the GTHA

Kaitlin photo

Student: Kaitlin McNeil

Faculty Supervisor: Prof. Kent Moore

Project Description: Climate change and rapid urbanization have combined to increase the average temperature of Toronto and its surrounding area. Understanding the implications of these changes for weather and precipitation is important, as an increase in precipitation in the GHTA could lead to more frequent flooding and infrastructural damage. Using data from as early as 1840, collected from archival resources available at the University of Toronto, Kaitlin McNeil explores potential correlations in temperature and precipitation changes, finding that changes in both appear more erratic after 1960 compared to any time previously.

Her findings were presented at Smarti Gras, UTMs summer research day for undergraduate students. Building on this project, Kaitlin is currently exploring the relationship between these urban trends and potential changes measured in rural areas across Ontario.


Project Title: Urban Greenspaces and Bluespaces: how cities can use them to encourage community building

Juan photo

Student: Juan Sebastian Alvarez Salinas

Supervisor: Prof. Laurel Besco

Project Description: Green infrastructure is a well-defined term in the environmental studies literature, yet “greenspaces” lack an accepted definition across disciplines. Likewise, “bluespaces” is a recent term focused on identifying eco-water features to ensure policymakers and researchers are considering water resources. This project cultivated definitions of these emerging terms and examined their relationship to ecosystem health, economic growth, public health, and recreation. From this, Juan developed four critical considerations for integrating green and blue spaces into community development: (1) maximizing space efficacy and value to the local community; (2) the role of residents in blue and greenspace intervention; (3) the role of these spaces in a sense of security, social cohesion, and place of attachment; and (4) their role in promoting social interactions within a community. His findings were presented at Smarti Gras, UTMs summer research day for undergraduate students.