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Researcher and students partner with the City of Toronto to offer insight into COVID-19 PPE supply insecurity

Research collaboration provides mentorship and professional development opportunity for engineering students
February 25, 2021

A significant challenge throughout the response to COVID-19 has been procuring Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), particularly respiratory protection such as masks. International supply chains and the local production, distribution and usage of PPE materials have been strained due to the pandemic’s sudden onset.

To assist with the City of Toronto’s PPE supply management, researcher and industrial engineering professor Saman Hassanzadeh Amin and students in the Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science (FEAS) partnered with York University's Schulich School of Business and the City. The team analyzed manufacturers' supply of PPE, the government’s support, and the response to similar situations, such as the 2002 SARS outbreak. Using this research, the collaborators developed a report that will help the city in future decision-making when forecasting PPE supply and demand. 

Saman Hassanzadeh Amin stands outside while smiling and looking at the camera

Researcher and industrial engineering professor, Saman Hassanzadeh Amin, is an expert in supply chain management.

Fourth-year industrial engineering student, Yousef Ubaid, was one of the students who worked alongside Amin. Ubaid says that collaborating with Amin was a great opportunity, as his mentorship gave him the experience and guidance to ensure the project’s success. By “pointing out the small mistakes,” Ubaid says that Amin helped to improve and refine his research skills.

By honing in on the knowledge he’s gained in the classroom, Ubaid says this allowed him to evaluate the research project properly.

“Our work is the foundation for other parties involved in the project, as they have to take our report and apply it. In order to get that done, I had to draw on my experiences from the previous assignments I’ve done in class to deliver a quality report,” says Ubaid.

Yousef Ubaid stands on pavement in front of a green field

Fourth-year industrial engineering student, Yousef Ubaid, assisted researcher Saman Hassanzadeh Amin in the City of Toronto’s PPE supply management research project.

The report is one of eight COVID-19 research projects from the City of Toronto Research Partnership with Toronto’s Higher Education Institutions, external link, a pilot partnership model that has offered a pathway for FEAS students to assist with opportunities outside of the university and collaborate with external parties.

“The partnership really puts into perspective that the City can rely on ambitious and passionate students and faculty members who want to help and benefit our community,” says Ubaid. “This partnership has allowed me to expand my networking circle amongst my colleagues and professionals, which I think is a great thing to gain out of this project.”

Ubaid says the experience had challenging aspects. However, the opportunity was nevertheless rewarding. “As an industrial engineering student, there are a lot of responsibilities knowing that there are people who are depending on the quality and integrity of your work. I felt very proud that I was a part of a project where I got to make a difference and help keep Torontonians safe.”