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Engineering Physics grad wins top prize at OPG Ignite CompetitionDecember 11, 2018

Mitchell Kurnell, Engineering Physics & Society alumnus and Research Associate at McMaster, is one of three 2018 Ontario Power Generation (OPG) Ignite Competition winners.

He was awarded $25K in the Inspection and Maintenance category for his inspection tool innovation that uses laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS). Kurnell’s solution will improve reactor safety, reduced worker doses and provide huge cost savings at OPG. 

He is working with supervisors, David Novog, Engineering Physics professor and NSERC-UNENE Industrial Research Chair and John Preston, Associate Dean, Research and External Relations and Engineering Physics professor, on the project. 

“Winning the competition gives me the validation that this technology is something the nuclear industry needs. It makes me feel extremely honoured to be a part of this team and to have the guidance now not only from my supervisors, but also from OPG.”

In its sixth year, the annual Dragons Den-style contest, seeks to inspire entrepreneurs, with the ultimate goal of creating jobs and economic growth for Durham Region.

Kurnell was initially one of 25 startups, small businesses and entrepreneurs to pitch their best ideas to a panel of judges on Nov. 2. He moved on the next round and made a boardroom pitch on Nov. 21 along with 6 other finalists. His win was announced at the Ignite Gala on Dec. 4. 

“Mitch’s win represents transformative innovation for OPG,” says Novog. “It represents the first step in a new partnership between OPG and McMaster to bring this technology to mainstream application.”

“His ability to jump into such a complex project is a testament to the value of projects he undertook both as an Engineering Physics student and as part of the McMaster Interdisciplinary Satellite Team (MIST),” adds Preston. 

MIST developed a miniature satellite that was one of 15 projects chosen by the Canadian Space Agency to be launched into space in 2021 as part of the Canadian CubeSat Project.

Among his many accomplishments during his time as an undergraduate student, Kurnell worked at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and was a Faculty of Engineering valedictorian this past June.