Woman killed in London was an environmental engineer with a bright future: professor

Madiha Salman, 44, murdered in Sunday's hate attack, is remembered for her "bright, generous, loving" personality by the Western University professor who supervised her master's degree in environmental science.

LONDON, Ont. — A woman killed in an anti-Muslim attack was a "sparkling, generous, loving person" who overcame the odds to become a successful environmental engineer, said her professor at Western University.

Madiha Salman, 44, and her family out for an evening stroll when they were run down by a pickup truck on Sunday in what police have called a hate crime.

Salman, her 46-year-old husband Salman Afzaal, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman and her 74-year-old grandmother were killed in the attack. The couple's nine-year-old son, Fayez, was seriously injured and remained in hospital on Tuesday.

Western University professor Jason Gerhard supervised Madiha Salman's master's degree in environmental science.

"Madiha was a sparkling, generous, loving person that treasured education, female advancement, equality, and research," Gerhard told The Canadian Press.

"She worked in environmental engineering, raised a beautiful family, and contributed strongly to her professional and community networks."

He said Madiha Salman obtained her bachelor's degree in civil engineering in Pakistan, the only woman in a class of 174 students.

"And the male teachers would never let her ask any questions or answer any of her questions," Gerhard recalled his student telling him.

Gerhard said Madiha Salman helped advance a soil-cleaning technology known as STAR that he invented a decade ago, finding that vegetable oil could be used with the technology to effectively clean decades-old toxins from soil.

"Her innovation has been highly promoted by Savron, the company moving STAR from the university and into the marketplace, and making cleanup happen at real sites around the world," he said.

Gerhard said he and the engineering school were grieving her loss.

"There are no words to express anything reasonable about this tragedy," he said.

Two online fundraisers for the surviving boy had taken in more than $1.25 million as of Tuesday evening.

A fundraising web page said Madiha Salman's husband was a physiotherapist and cricket enthusiast. Their daughter was an honour roll Grade 9 student, while her grandmother was a "pillar'' of the family, the page said.

Mike Phillips, the principal of Oakridge Secondary School that Yumna Salman attended, described her as smart, dedicated and always ready to be help other.

"One teacher described her as being creative and confident, and having a bright and sparkling personality arriving each day to class with a smile," Phillips said. "She’ll be deeply missed by her classmates and teachers."

_ With files from Paola Loriggio in Toronto.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2021.

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press

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