Paying it Forward

Barbara and Frank Milligan Graduate Fellowship Luncheon Teaches the Real World Value of Donations

“Keep your integrity and your reputation,” Mr. Frank Milligan advised a group of Barbara and Frank Milligan Graduate Fellowship winners on January 9th at a luncheon dedicated to celebrating both the scholarship winners and their benefactors. “That’s all you’ve got in this business.”

The advice was well received by the group of dedicated engineering students who were grateful for the rare opportunity to thank the scholarship donors in person.

The Barbara and Frank Milligan Graduate Fellowship are annual fellowships awarded to students in both the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME).

Established in 2006 with a generous gift from Barbara and Frank Milligan and matching funds from the University of Toronto, the income from the fund is used to reward 1st year MASc, continuing MASc, and PhD students directly enrolled in the Biomedical Engineering program at the Institute and in the Collaborative Program in Biomedical Engineering whose home department is Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE).

The fellowships go a long way towards easing the financial burdens of graduate school. But they also serve as potent reminders of the importance of their biomedical engineering research. “It’s actually my first scholarship,” commented first-year Mechanical and Industrial Engineering PhD student Shefali Kulkarni-Thaker, who hails from India. “This gift makes me feel my work is important.”

Kulkarni-Thaker is investigating ways to optimize a treatment for liver cancer involving radiofrequency ablation technology, where a needle inserted into the liver helps burn away tumours in inoperable patients.

Many of the students who received funding this year are involved with multiple projects. Peter Goshulak, a first year MHSc student in IBBME’s Clinical Engineering program, has already been very busy commercializing his undergraduate research. With fellow classmates from an Engineering Design class, Peter helped develop a special cast and vacuum system to help reduce ulcers on the feet of diabetic patients—often leading to seriously debilitating consequences such as amputation—which caught the eye of a company who is working with the students to patent the technology.

Currently conducting his masters’ research under the supervision of Dr. Emil Schemitsch towards improving hip replacement implants at St. Michael’s Hospital, Goshulak also works at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute where he works to design mobility-assistance devices for the elderly and those challenged by disability or injury.

One of the projects he assisted with involved the design of a new staircase projected to drastically reduce the number of injuries occurring from falls on stairs—an example of simple innovations that will become all the more necessary with an aging Baby Boomer population.

“It’s great to know there’s support out there,” remarked Goshulak, who plans to apply to medical school at the end of his degree.

But if the fellowships are a great measure of support to students, the annual luncheon affords the fellowship recipients a chance to offer thanks—and to demonstrate to the Milligan’s the real-world value of their gift through short introductions of students’ research projects.

Spanning the breadth of this multidisciplinary field of research, students discussed projects that could have a lasting impact on health technologies in the future, from the creation of new communications technologies for the disabled, to the development of complex hydrogel tubes and artery-on-a-chip microfluidic devices and the building of tissue engineering scaffolds to better prevent dental infections.

“I’m always so impressed at the caliber of the presentations,” remarked Mrs. Barbara Milligan.