The year in pictures: U of T News looks back at 2023

Indigenous dancer at the UTM All-Nations Powwow

Dancer Deanne Hupfield at the inaugural All-Nations Powwow co-hosted by U of T Mississauga’s Indigenous Centre and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation (photo by Nick Iwanyshyn)

The University of Toronto marked many memorable milestones across the three campuses in 2023.

From co-hosting an inaugural All-Nations Powwow to guiding the future of artificial intelligence and advocating for social justice around the world, members of the U of T community and their partners made an impact well beyond the classroom in 2023.

And photographers at U of T News and elsewhere at the university were often on hand to capture the action.

Here are just a few of the special moments that shaped U of T this year:

aerial view of front campus showing the completed lawn surface in fall 2023
(photo by David Lee)

The Landmark Project has transformed the historic core of U of T’s St. George campus around King’s College Circle into a greener, more accessible and pedestrian-friendly space.

Front Campus is also now home to Canada’s largest urban geoexchange system, which will generate renewable energy and store surplus heat in the summer for use in the cold winter months. The system will save the university an estimated 15,000 metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually – a key part of U of T’s climate-positive plans and among the reasons it was recently named the most sustainable university in the world.

portrait of Geoffrey Hinton at his home in England taken in 2023
(photo by Lisa Lightbourn)

Following Geoffrey Hinton’s departure from Google, U of T News travelled to his home in London, England, for an in-depth conversation with the U of T University Professor Emeritus of computer science about the dangers posed by unchecked advances in AI, the role he and others played in creating the technology and the importance of responsible development.

Abby-Gayle Isadora Allen dances beside Juno Award-winning singer Liberty Silver during the SEE UTM celebration and graduation
(photo by Nick Iwanyshyn)

Abby-Gayle Isadora Allen celebrated completing the Support, Engage, Experience University of Toronto Mississauga program this year by dancing beside Juno Award-winning singer Liberty Silver during the graduation ceremony.  

The innovative program aims to make university education more accessible to Black youth who are underrepresented at Canada’s post-secondary schools. Students in Grade 11 and 12 earn a university half-credit and two Ontario Secondary School Diploma credits, have a co-op experience and are mentored by a senior U of T undergraduate student while simultaneously completing their high school semester.

Similar programs operate at U of T Scarborough and the St. George campus, which introduced SEE U of T, the inaugural version of this access program, four years ago in collaboration with the Toronto District School Board.

Portrait of Jaivet Ealom taken at the lake ontario shore in 2023
(photo by Luis Mora)

Jaivet Ealom, a U of T student, author, a member of the persecuted Rohingya minority and refugee advocate, shared his harrowing escape to Canada in U of T News and U of T Magazine.

Ealom fled his home country of Myanmar in 2013. Before arriving at U of T, he had travelled through six countries and three continents seeking asylum – surviving a near-drowning and multiple detentions along the way.

Indigenous people conduct a ceremony to open the 2023 NAISA conference at U of T
(photo by Johnny Guatto)

U of T hosted the 14th annual Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) conference in May, which brought together global scholars, artists, Elders and independent professionals working in the field of Indigenous Studies. The event covered themes from food sovereignty to contemporary Indigenous cinema and language revitalization.

Brokoslaw Laschowski wearing his assisted suit invention
(photo by Polina Teif)

Brokoslaw Laschowski, a research scientist at the KITE Research Institute, University Health Network, and assistant professor in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, and his team are developing AI-powered wearable technology for medical applications.

Known as the “bionic professor,” Laschowski is passionate about developing assistive technology such as bionic prosthetic legs and exoskeletons to help individuals with physical disabilities.

In his spare time, he’s helping students from Ukraine flee the Russian invasion and war to come to U of T to continue their studies.  

Charlotte Wargniez
(photo by Chai Chen)

Charlotte Wargniez graduated from U of T Scarborough at the age of 17 with a major in environmental geoscience and a minor in applied climatology.

She wrapped up her degree with many impressive accolades – including the Rose Sheinin Award, given to the highest-performing woman student in science across U of T’s three campuses and an excellence and leadership award from U of T Scarborough's department of physical and environmental sciences.

Aspuru-Guzik Lab Manager Emily Hopkins operating the materials acceleration platform (MAP)
(photo by Johnny Guatto)

The Acceleration Consortium at U of T, an institutional strategic initiative, was awarded a $200-million grant from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund to revolutionize the speed and impact of materials discovery – all with a focus on building a sustainable future.

The funding – the largest federal research grant ever awarded to a Canadian university – supports the consortium’s work on “self-driving labs” that combine AI, robotics and advanced computing to discover new materials and molecules at a fraction of the usual time and cost.

With a strong plan of equity, diversity and inclusion guiding project implementation and research design, the initiative will commercialize ethically designed technologies and materials to benefit society and train today’s scientists with the skills they need to advance the emerging field of accelerated materials discovery. It will also allow the consortium to examine critical issues regarding the application of the technology, including from environmental and Indigenous perspectives.

Niloofar Ganji
(photo by Polina Teif)

Niloofar Ganji, a PhD student in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, is changing the world in more ways than one.

Ganji not only conducts groundbreaking research on a critical condition affecting premature infants – she is deeply committed to activism for social change in her home country of Iran.

As an executive member of U of T Students for a Free Iran (UTSFI), she has organized many events at the university in support of the anti-regime movement in Iran. She hopes to use her knowledge and expertise in pediatrics and healthcare to work for the Iranian people one day. 

Turkish Students Association members Lilaf Salman, Irem Demirel, Selcuk Maslak, Elif Baran, Yasmin Din and Sedika Salman at their donation table at U of T Scarborough
(photo supplied)

When a catastrophic series of earthquakes hit Türkiye and Syria earlier this year, students from the Turkish Students Association (pictured) at U of T Scarborough rallied together to collect funds and in-kind donations on campus.

They were among the many U of T community members across the three campuses who pitched in to help raise awareness and funds in the wake of the disaster.

a muslim student from utm blows a kiss before entering convocation hall
(photo by Nithya Thayaal)

U of T celebrated the graduation of more than 21,000 students from the university’s three campuses in 2023 – including the U of T Scarborough student pictured above.

Friends and family looked on as many of those graduates crossed the stage inside Convocation Hall during convocation ceremonies held in spring and fall

Peter Ma
(photo by Johnny Guatto)

Peter Ma, an undergraduate math and physics student in the Faculty of Arts & Science, is dedicated to searching for life beyond our planet by drawing on his passion for science – and artificial intelligence in particular.

He became the youngest member of a team of international researchers at the University of California, Berkeley who are searching the stars for extraterrestrial intelligence and was lead author on a paper published earlier this year in the journal Nature Astronomy.

From left to right: William Lou, Joseph Wong, Sam Ibrahim and Aleer Aleer-Leek (photo by Polina Teif)

In the first episode of the second season of the award-winning series Joe’s Basketball Diaries, host Joseph Wong sits down with Will Lou, writer and co-host of the Raptors Show podcast, Sam Ibrahim, a business leader, philanthropist and major supporter of U of T Scarborough, and Aleer Aleer-Leek, a U of T student and Varsity Blues basketball player, to talk about community and sports.

In future episodes, Wong, U of T’s vice-president, international, and a professor in the department of political science and the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy in the Faculty of Arts & Science, and guests take the conversation beyond the court as they discuss topics ranging from sustainability to inclusion.

Alicia Corbiere
(photo by Johnny Guatto)

Studying at U of T gave Alicia Corbiere an opportunity to re-engage with her culture when she began learning from Indigenous professors and studying Anishinaabemowin. She also connected with her community by joining First Nations House and the Indigenous Students’ Association. 

After graduating with a degree in criminology and Indigenous studies from the Faculty of Arts & Science in the spring, Corbiere went on to study Indigenous law at U of T’s Faculty of Law.

a employee at Lyrata checks on the growth of lettuce
(photo by Polina Teif)

The leafy, green lettuce that many members of the U of T community are eating in their salads, sandwiches and hamburgers is not just locally grown – but grown on the St. George campus by a student-led startup in partnership with U of T Food Services.

Lyrata co-founders Leo Hua (pictured), Carol Lin and Adnan Sharif say they are bringing innovations to the field of sustainability – including 3D-printed soil.