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UPEI graduates urged to dream big and make their mark on the world

Haley Butler gets ready to receive her engineering degree at UPEI on Saturday prior to the afternoon convocation ceremony. -Katie Smith

A recent UPEI graduate has found a way to turn some of the Island’s waste into potential profit.

Haley Butler, who studied bioresources at the UPEI School of Sustainable Design Engineering, has been busy developing biodegradable plastics using potato starch and lobster shells.

Using the bioplastic material she created Butler makes 3D-printed scaffolds, which she said can be used for tissue engineering.

“If you ever had something in your body and you needed a piece of tissue, usually they’ll extract it from your own body or from a donor body,” she explained. “But this way you can use the material itself rather than getting tendon or muscle from your own body.”

The 24-year-old Charlottetown native was one of more than 950 graduates to cross the stage at UPEI’s Chi-Wan Young Sports Centre on Saturday during the university’s convocation ceremonies.

While her undergraduate degree may be complete, Butler is looking forward to continuing her research as she works on her master’s degree at UPEI in the fall. Her work to date has impressed her mentor, assistant professor Ali Ahmadi.

“Her work on 3-D printing of starch-based bioplastic (from potato waste) and chitin-based polymers (from lobster shells) is ground-breaking and can have an enormous impact on the P.E.I. economy, as it converts a waste to a value-added product,” Ahmadi said in an email.

Not only is she a great student, Ahmadi said Butler is “an excellent role model” who sets an example for youth on P.E.I.

“Haley is exceptionally talented, and she is one of the best students that I have had the privilege of working with,” he said. “I believe Haley has a very successful future ahead of her.”

Both the morning and afternoon convocation ceremonies were led by UPEI chancellor Don McDougall.

UPEI president and vice-chancellor Alaa Abd-El-Aziz told graduates to make their mark on the world.

“Some of you may be starting a job in your field of study, or continuing your education through post-graduate studies, or perhaps looking forward to personal growth through experiences such as world travel. Whatever your next step may be, I encourage you to continue to learn and grow—and most importantly to dream big. Your future is bright with endless possibilities.”

Before Saturday afternoon’s convocation ceremony, Butler said she was happy and looking forward to the next chapter.

“I’m excited to be done of my degree, it’s been a long time coming so it’s exciting to be done and move forward.”


  • This year’s convocation included the first-ever cohort from the bachelor of science in paramedicine.
  • This year saw 18 individuals receive PhDs, the largest number ever for UPEI.
  • Valedictorians addresses were given by Nathan Hood, of Charlottetown, during the morning ceremony and Alana Jewell, of York, during the afternoon ceremony.
  • UPEI held its Senior Class Awards during a ceremony on May 11 and saw the Governor General’s Gold Medal (graduate level) awarded to Gabriela Arias de Sanchez (doctor of philosophy—faculty of education).
  • The Governor General’s Silver Medal (undergraduate level) was awarded to Skylar Tang (bachelor of science—biology).
  • The complete list of awards will be posted in the coming days at upei.ca/seniorclassawards
Surrounded by her fellow graduates, Ottawa native Sarah Tratch flashes a peace sign prior to Saturday morning’s UPEI convocation ceremony. Tratch and her classmates received their doctor of veterinary medicine degree.
Surrounded by her fellow graduates, Ottawa native Sarah Tratch flashes a peace sign prior to Saturday morning’s UPEI convocation ceremony. Tratch and her classmates received their doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

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