Congratulations to our graduate students who are celebrating their convocation this Spring 2024.

We wish you all the best in your future endeavours.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Md Saiful Hoque

Thesis title: Investigation of the Aging of High-Performance Fabrics Used in the Outer Shell of Firefighters’ Protective Clothing

Saiful Hoque's PhD thesis investigates the accelerated aging behaviour of high-performance outer shell fire-protective fabrics used in firefighters’ protective clothing. The study focuses on the thermal, hydrothermal, and photochemical aging of fabrics made from blends of different high-performance fibres. The research examines the aging mechanisms and kinetics to understand the significant loss in mechanical and barrier performance these fabrics experience over time. Through controlled aging experiments simulating real-life conditions, the study reveals diverse responses among different fabric blends. Notably, para-aramid/PBI blends were highly susceptible to hydrothermal aging due to acidic water interactions, whereas meta-aramid and aramid copolymers showed good resistance. A major achievement of this PhD is the groundbreaking finding identifying the causes of premature hydrothermal aging behaviour in para-aramid/PBI blended fabrics, solving a long-standing puzzle in the industry. Saiful's research advances the understanding of fabric performance in extreme conditions, contributing to the development of enhanced protective gear for firefighters and similar professions.

Saiful recognized that he gained the most valuable experience during grad school while working on various research projects alongside his own PhD research. This allowed him to expand his expertise, acquire diverse skills, and collaborate with different teams, significantly enriching his academic and professional growth.

Immediately after his defence, Saiful joined the Impact Lab in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Alberta. Looking ahead, he plans to focus on advancing smart fiber technologies, with the goal of introducing transformative innovations to the medical textile industry and the field of soft robotics.

Saiful extends special thanks to the Graduate Program Committee of the Department of Human Ecology for providing him with the volunteering opportunity, which he considers one of his best volunteering experiences. Saiful also wishes to thank all the professors in the department for being so welcoming and super helpful when approached.


Elena Kosareva

Thesis Title: Development of Wildland Firefighters’ Protective Clothing with Improved Thermal Protection

Elena's research was focused on the development of a novel prototype shirt design for wildland firefighters that includes an inherently flame-resistant 3D spacer fabric incorporated into the areas prone to burn injury (e.g. upper front and back torso, upper arms, and neck). The porous structure and resistance to compression of the 3D spacer fabric trapped still air and provided additional thermal protection in the areas at risk without dramatically increasing thermal stress. The prototype shirt was exposed to flames for 4 seconds using a flash-fire/instrumented manikin system. The novel design showed significant improvements in thermal protective performance compared to the shirt design that wildland firefighters currently use. It decreased the total burn area of the manikin surface by approximately 6%. The 3D spacer fabric substantially impeded high amounts of thermal energy generated during the flame engulfment from transferring through the fabric system in the areas prone to burn injury.

Elena greatly values her experience as a graduate student in the Human Ecology program. Grad school helped her to learn from great academic mentors and professors, grow as a scientist and researcher, gain leadership experience from teaching and volunteering work, and meet amazing friends among fellow students. Elena strongly believes that this experience contributed to her professional and personal growth, opening many opportunities in the future.



Laura Munevar-Ortiz

Thesis title: Effects of Accelerated Aging on the Performance of Moisture Barriers used in Firefighters’ Protective Clothing

Laura’s research investigates the impact of accelerated aging, including thermal, hydrothermal, and ultraviolet exposure, on the tear resistance, water vapour transmission rate (WVTR), and apparent contact angle properties of three common moisture barriers used in firefighters' protective clothing. Through extensive testing and analysis, she observed significant changes in tear resistance, WVTR, and surface characteristics following different aging treatments. Factors such as base fabric structure, adhesive configuration, and the presence of flame-resistant polyurethane coatings were found to influence the performance of these moisture barriers. High-speed imaging and advanced analytical techniques provided insights into tearing behaviour and material degradation mechanisms. Laura’s findings not only enhance our understanding of moisture barrier performance but also offer valuable guidance for future research and development efforts to improve firefighter safety through more durable and effective protective clothing.

The most valuable experience during grad school was meeting incredible people. Their diverse perspectives and expertise enriched my academic journey and encouraged personal growth.

Currently, Laura is focused on continuing to expand her knowledge and skills while exploring various opportunities for personal and professional growth. Alongside this, she is working on a personal project that was paused during her doctoral studies.

Laura sends a heartfelt thank you to the University of Alberta, her friends, and mentors for their unwavering support.


Master of Science - Aging

Jonathan Lai

Thesis Title: The Risks of Workplace Ageism for an Ageing Labour Force

Ageism in the workplace represents a growing concern in Canadian society and a productivity risk for the aging labour force. Jonathan’s thesis research used a conceptual framework that emphasized psychological health and well-being to understand how prevalent age discrimination was in the context of Canadian workplaces and if the experience of workplace age discrimination was having a negative effect on worker engagement in Canada. Using a nationally representative sample of 6,956 Canadian workers, 2% of all part-time and full-time workers aged 25 and older reported at least one instance of workplace age discrimination in the past 12 months. Correlation and regression analysis indicated that age discrimination was not having a negative impact on worker engagement. Future research will want to better monitor trends on workplace age discrimination as the actual prevalence in Canada is likely higher than the proportion estimated in his study.

For Jon, the opportunity to serve as a department councillor for the Graduate Student’s Association led to a greater understanding of issues that affect the university community. Learning how to learn and developing his emotional intelligence were the most essential skills he gained from his graduate program.

At present, Jon is employed as a Research Analyst with the Edmonton Arts Council. He also continues to write poetry. His poems have been published in Happiness Reflected: A Community Poetry Project Vol. 1, Boyle McCauley News, NorthWord Literary Magazine, and Capital City Press Anthology Vol. 4 (forthcoming).

Master of Science - Family Ecology and Practice

Olivia Neufeldt

Olivia completed a practicum placement at the Edmonton Social Planning Council (ESPC), a non-profit organization that aims to educate the community and push for social change by conducting social research on issues such as poverty, housing, and food security within Edmonton. During this placement, Olivia contributed to a variety of different research projects, exploring topics such as monetary support for people who are homeless, child care within Alberta, and tax filing support for low-income Edmontonians. Olivia’s independent project took the form of a research report examining 2SLGBTQ+ student rights, legislation, school policies, and education in Alberta. Throughout her work with ESPC, Olivia was able to draw meaningful connections between the theoretical knowledge she developed in her graduate program and the research experiences in her practicum. 

Throughout her graduate studies and practicum, Olivia found valuable opportunities for personal and professional growth that have shaped how she views her role as a professional and a community member.

Master of Science - Textiles and Clothing

Syu Hua Fang

Project Title: Impact of Textile Finishes on Fibre Fragment Release

Syu Hua's capstone project examined how textile finishes, such as scouring and dying, impact fibre fragment release of warp-knitted polyester fabrics along the production line, as well as the compassion between virgin and recycled polyester filament yarns. The finding showed that due to the weaker physical performance of recycled polyester, a higher level of fibre fragment release was found both via laundering and wear (abrasion). Moreover, the higher degree of finishing promoted fibre fragment release, meaning that fibre fragments are generated during wet treatment to later detach from the textiles via laundering during the first wash, as the release dropped sharply over the sequential washes.

Over the course of the program, Syu Hua had the opportunity, resources, and facilities to broaden his knowledge of textiles and learn to think critically through discussion with his peers. He also enjoyed working with his supervisor, Dr. Rachel McQueen, and is grateful for her guidance throughout the program.

Syu Hua will continue to seek opportunities to bring positive impacts to the global textile industries regarding sustainable supply chain practices and materials.

Elika (Elham) Kaviannasab

Thesis Title: Electrospinning of a Nanocomposite Nanofibrous Membrane for Chemical and Biological Protective Clothing Application

Elika’s research explored the integration of nanotechnologies to enhance protective clothing, focusing on developing a nanofibrous membrane that offers effective protection against chemical and biological hazards while maintaining breathability. Current solutions often compromise wearer comfort, prompting the need for innovative approaches. She produced nanofibrous webs through electrospinning, which, owing to their high porosity, surface area, and filtration efficiency, can provide an improved balance between protection and comfort. Polyacrylonitrile (PAN) is used as the polymer matrix for the nanofibres (NFs) due to its electrospinning ease, physical characteristics, filtration quality, and versatility across a range of temperatures. To augment the protective efficiency of the nanofibrous membrane, the research incorporates chemically and biologically active nanoparticles, magnesium oxide (MgO), into the NFs.

Elika has an RA position at the UofA, and she is looking for a job in the industry for the future.


Anita Amir Labonno

Thesis Title: Development and Assessment of N-halamine-based Self-Decontaminating Fabric Finishes

Anita's research explored the development of self-decontaminating personal protective equipment (PPE) using N-halamine as a biocidal agent to minimize the transmission of pathogens among frontline personnel, such as military and healthcare workers. Her study focused on optimizing the halogenation conditions of N-halamine, enhancing its UV stability, and assessing fabric performance. Her research findings revealed that chlorine was the most effective halogen due to its antimicrobial efficacy and ease of application, and the addition of UV absorber nanoparticles enabled higher initial chlorine loading. Anita explored both traditional wet and innovative dry application methods for the finish. The wet application method proved highly effective, achieving over 99.999% bacterial elimination for E. coli. In contrast, the dry method was quicker but less effective in terms of antimicrobial loading.

During her graduate studies, Anita appreciated the guidance from her supervisor. Her interactions with team members, who came from diverse academic backgrounds, not only made the lab a fun workplace but also significantly enriched her learning experience. Additionally, Anita enjoyed the opportunity to present her research at various conferences during her graduate studies.  

Currently, Anita is pursuing Ph.D. in Fiber and Polymer Science at North Carolina State University. Her research area involves pharmacokinetic study of dermal exposure to PFAS present in firefighter turnout gear.



Shakil Mahmud

Thesis Title: Development of Standard Test Methods for Assessing the Durability and Safety of Joule Heating Textiles

The limited availability of standard testing and quality control methods for Joule heating textiles poses challenges regarding safety and expected product service life for end-users of heating textiles such as medical patients suffering from chronic pain, muscle fatigue, diabetic nerve pain, and fibromyalgia. This motivated Shakil to develop a set of test protocols for assessing the durability and safety of Joule heating textiles. His findings specified how the heating profile and electroconductive properties of Joule heating textiles change under real-world simulated damaging conditions and identified the mechanisms via which heating textiles based on different technologies are affected by the simulated aging conditions. These test protocols will allow improving the quality and reliability of heating textiles, thereby lifting barriers that currently limit the growth of the e-textile industry. They will be proposed for adoption as standards by standards development organizations such as the ASTM subcommittee D13.50 and the IEC technical committee IEC TC 124.

The most valuable experience Shakil gained during graduate school was mentoring two undergraduate intern students at the University of Alberta. This experience helped him develop mentoring skills and improve his laboratory guidance and training expertise.

Shakil is currently working as a Research Assistant at the University of Alberta under Professor Dr. Patricia Dolez as part of the A-MEDICO project funded by the Government of Alberta. Shakil is confident in providing a positive contribution to the North American clothing and e-textile markets in the future.



Wing Sem Mak

Project Title: A Comparative Study on the Physical and Performance Properties of Pre-consumer Recycled and Virgin Merino Wools: The Eco-effectiveness of Recycled-Wool Blend Apparel

Wing Sem's study evaluated the physical and performance properties of recycled and virgin wool fibres and their knitted fabrics. She found that the active use length of a recycled wool blend sweater may be shorter than a virgin wool sweater owing to its lower resistance to the stresses of use, irreversible shrinkage, and unfavourable fabric handles such as prickliness and stiffness. To achieve an overall lower environmental impact than the virgin wool sweater, the active use length of the recycled wool blend sweater has to be at least 100 wears. The user’s behaviour is crucial in extending the active use length, as it is related to the lower fabric bursting strength and tendency toward shrinkage compared with the virgin wool sweater. Collecting recycled fibres from a single or designated source could also minimize the diversity of the fibre lengths and diameters and better control the recycled fabric parameters, reducing the prickliness, stiffness, and shrinkage rate of a recycled wool blend sweater.

Wing Sem found her experience in Human Ecology to be precious. She enjoyed presenting at conferences and symposiums, writing a paper with over 100 references, and leading seminars in class. What touched her most was during her volunteer experience at the repair café, where she witnessed firsthand how hard people were working at being more sustainable in their fashion and textiles by mending. Sustainability is not a slogan but a response. While working on the sorting research project supervised by Dr Rachel McQueen, she noticed that most donated garments were in excellent condition, and some were even brand-new items. People might think thrift stores could help them find a new owner and extend their active use length, but there is no guarantee of that. If no one wants it, it may eventually end up in the landfill. The Human Ecology Clothing Repair Café builds the connection between users and their garments, creating unique memories by repairing and mending. She learned the importance of these embedded memories in material items in the material culture class she took with Dr. Megan Strickfaden. Wing Sem feels she has gained more than knowledge in HECOL, but a life-long mission on the eco-effectiveness in our textile industry. 

Wing Sem is currently working as an RA in Dr. McQueen's research group while keeping up her own interest in studying wool (you're welcome to visit her webpage). She is also looking for a chance to get back into the textile industry as a knitwear designer/raw material/yarn specialist.


Nadeesha Samaraweera

Thesis Title: End-of-Life Moisture Sensor for Fire-Protective Fabrics and Sensor Manufacturing process

Firefighters’ protective clothing acts as a barrier between them and the hazardous environment to which they are exposed. However, the high-performance fibres they are made of experience a reduction in their performance over time due to exposure to heat, ultraviolet radiation, and moisture. As there are not always visual signs indicative of the fabric’s degradation, we are developing end-of-life sensors to monitor the aging of the protective garments. These end-of-life sensors use a graphene track combined with polymers sensitive to the fabric aging conditions. My thesis covers work related to the end-of-life moisture sensor. The first aspect was related to confirming the suitability of polyimide (PI) as a sacrificial polymer for the moisture sensor. The second aspect involved the manufacturing of the moisture sensor. The configuration of the moisture sensor was designed. And the selection of the materials for the different components of the sensor was revisited.

This was the first time I lived away from home. I received the opportunity to learn how to survive in a new place without my parents. Her most valuable experience was meeting really good friends during my two years at the Department of Human Ecology.

Nadeesha is currently working as a research assistant on an end-of-life sensor project. She plans to become a textile scientist in the future. 

Click here to view past graduands.