New funding to deliver interdisciplinary, innovative training program in microsystems engineering 


Lassonde School of Engineering Professor Regina Lee, along with Associate Professor Pouya Rezai, Associate Professor Gerd Grau, Associate Professor Ozzy Mermut, Professor Peter Lian and six other faculty from across Canada, were awarded $1.65 million from NSERC to deliver an interdisciplinary, innovative training program in microsystems engineering.  

This project is among only 13 selected from across Canada to receive $21.4 million over six years through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council’s Collaborative Research and Training Experience program (NSERC CREATE).  

Microsystems refer to devices and components at the 1 to 100 micrometre scale, which started with the production of computer chips and evolved from techniques derived from semiconductor device fabrication. Today, microsystems have advanced significantly beyond electronics. They encompass components, sensors and devices that interact with their environment through mechanical motion (where it is termed a microelectromechanical system or MEMS), chemical, biological or optical mechanisms. They now play a critical role in various areas such as aerospace avionics, environmental monitoring, health and safety, and flexible and printed electronics. 

Training in microfabrication is typically delivered on an ad-hoc basis and only as the need arises in a student’s research. Due to specialized and costly facilities, materials and training needs, students are not exposed to the full range of cleanroom processes and, moreover, may only receive classroom lessons in microfabrication theory with limited hands-on experience.  

At this time, Lassonde is in a unique position to offer students access to state-of-the-art facilities through the York Microfabrication Facility which will serve as the base for more than 70 students to be trained through the CREATE-Microsystems Technologies and Application (CREATE-MTA) Program. 

Through CREATE-MTA, Lee’s team will deliver comprehensive practical training where students can perform experiments and solve design challenges that cover the full range of microsystems technologies and the full design-to-application lifecycle.  

“This program will prepare CREATE-MTA graduates with the necessary skills to design, optimize and apply microsystems, and help them to become employable in the fast-growing microfabrication sector in Canada,” says Lee. 

The team represents research expertise in advanced manufacturing, space, microfluidics and medical applications. The program will not only include research training but also provide professional experience in the form of internships with industry partners, including Honeywell, Magellan Aerospace, Precision Biomonitoring, Canadian Food Inspection Agency and LiveVue Technologies. Lee looks forward to strengthening industrial collaboration by developing versatile, reliable and resilient technologies for industry-driven applications and training students with industry-ready skills. 

In addition to the technical skills that industry partners are looking for, students in the program will gain valuable soft skills through unique enhanced programming, ranging from communication and entrepreneurship to leadership and EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) training. 

This program adds to the growing strength at the University and in Canada in micro/nanotechnologies. The program will be hosted by the Centre for Research in Earth and Space Science (CRESS), a unique and highly visible national hub for science and engineering research and training.  

Lee, Rezai and Grau were also instrumental in bringing the York University Microfabrication Facility (YMF) online in 2021, which provides a Class 10,000 cleanroom for micro/nano device prototyping, production and multi-disciplinary research and will serve as a core resource for the CREATE-MTA.