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TEDXToronto showcases University of Toronto talent

The 2015 conference ‘spreading ideas that matter’ from alumni and faculty

Nina Mažar, Molly Shoichet and Andrew Peek were just a few of the U of T faculty and alumni sharing their experiences and ideas at the 2015 TEDxToronto conference (Photos courtesy TEDxToronto)

This year’s TEDxToronto conference brought 13 speakers to Koerner Hall at the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning Oct. 22 – and seven were members of the University of Toronto community. 

“We’ve got a story we like to tell, myself included, so here goes.” 

With those words, entrepreneur Andrew Peek started the day with a talk about the effect of the changing pace of the world on our willingness to change. The UTSC alumnus co-founded Jet Cooper and founded Pilot, two software companies acquired by Shopify in 2013. (Read more about Peek.)

“Our stories are going to kill us. Already I can tell you they limit us, they hold us down and constrain us,“ said Peek. “Sometimes they even suffocate us. To their credit though, at least they’re consistent. They all follow the same narrative pattern, what we’ve come to call the hero’s journey.”

The U of T-filled lineup that followed Peek included experts in a diverse range of fields, from flight to marketing, medical engineering and more

Molly Shoichet, professor of biomedical engineering and Canada Research Chair in Tissue Engineering. The team of scientists she leads at U of T is designing polymers that are able to deliver nano-scale drugs to specific parts of the brain to repair damaged tissue. (Read more about Shoichet.)

Rev. Brent Hawkes holds a Doctor of Ministry degree, conjointly awarded by U of T and Trinity College. The pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, Hawkes has been a champion of LGBTQ rights for more 20 years. He performed the first legal same-sex marriages in Canada in 2001. 

Architecture alumnus Tarek Ibrahim is the founder of Airvinci, a company looking to make flight – particularly through helicopters and drones – more accessible. 

Nina Mažar is an associate professor of market at Rotman School of Management. Her research looks at how we are influenced by cues in our environment and how this knowledge can lead to making better decisions. (Read more about Mažar.)

Natalie Panek, who completed her Master of Science in aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical/space engineering at U of T, won an internship with NASA’s Goddard Space Centre after her first year in the program. Today, she is an engineer at MDA’s robotics and automation division, and seeks to inspire girls and women into engineering and technology-related careers. (Read more about Panek.)

TEDxToronto is not the only TEDx event showcasing U of T talent this fall. TEDxMississauga which is set to take place on November 28, 2015, will feature Patrick Gunning, an associate professor at UTM and the Canada Research Chair in Medicinal Chemistry. Gunning’s research into anti-cancer drugs which do not kill healthy cells earned him recognition as an Inventor of the Year in 2013 by U of T. (Read more about Gunning.) 

Previously a sessional geography lecturer at U of T's Scarborough campus, Zahra Ebrahim is also the principal of archiTEXT, a design think tank which has organized innovation projects with nationwide charities and governing bodies.

And next year you can check out TEDxUTSC on January 20, and TEDxUofT, the university community’s own TEDx event, which takes place on Saturday, March 19, 2016 at the St. Lawrence Theatre in Toronto.