Story

Samah El-Tantawy
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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Alumna, PhD (2012) and former postdoctoral f​ellow, Civil Engineering

​I completed a BSc in electronics and electrical communications engineering and an MSc in engineering mathematics, both from Cairo University.

In 2007, I embarked on a PhD in Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). The research encompassed multidisciplinary and interconnected problems on the comprehensive management of an existing transportation system using integrated communication and electronic technologies. My research focused on developing a traffic light control system using artificial intelligence-based software.

The system works as the brain of the traffic light that causes signals to become smarter as they self-learn to respond in real time to fluctuations in traffic flow. This minimizes traffic delays by communicating with adjacent intersections to ensure that the entire network is controlled.

There is no doubt in my mind that U of T is a prestigious university. I was encouraged to apply by two people. My husband, who started his PhD one year ahead of me, had a positive experience at U of T and enjoyed living in Toronto. U of T Professor Baher Abdulhai's multidisciplinary research in the field of ITS attracted my attention because I could harness my theoretical background in an application that helps alleviate traffic congestion—a critical problem in my hometown of Cairo and also here in Toronto. At the moment, I am conducting field testing to commercialize the traffic light system and hopefully include other ITS applications.

It was really an amazing experience to study at U of T and to benefit from its diverse resources. I am grateful to my supervisor, Professor Abdulhai. He was very passionate about the research and encouraged me during my program. The Department of Civil Engineering and the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering staff enriched my knowledge. I was grateful for its resources, labs, and extracurricular programs. SGS offered helpful programs that enhanced my technical and communication skills. The U of T Family Care Office provided useful advice and offered fun activities enjoyed by my two young children. The Centre for International Experience facilitated a smooth transition following my arrival in Canada.

I feel lucky to live in a city as diverse as Toronto with people from all over the world who respect each other's differences and contribute to a stronger community.

I encourage prospective students and postdoctoral fellows to follow their passion no matter what obstacles they might face in achieving their goals. In fact, facing some challenges is a healthy indicator that you are on the right track because "research" has never been known a priori. Harness the tools you have, improve your skills, and enjoy the tremendously useful programs U of T offers. Enjoy your studies to the fullest by exploring different activities inside and outside the campus.

My experience at U of T offered much more than just a degree. It enriched my character, my way of thinking, the way I express myself, and the way I deal professionally with others. I met people at U of T who had a great influence on my career. I will never forget them!​

See U of T ​News articles: 

​U of T Cities podcast episode one: the future of traffic​

U of T names inventors of the year, celebrates top innovators​

Meet the SGS Community

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