“Good research takes collaboration, and you never know where that collaboration will come from,” says Dwayne Tannant, professor of civil and geotechnical engineering at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus. Tannant has collaborated with researchers from nearly every continent. As a professor, he has supervised graduate students from around the World. “I love the opportunity to exchange knowledge” explains Tannant “we share a common research area, but our perspectives are often different.”
Tannant specializes in geotechnical engineering including landslides, rock support, terrain modelling and analysis. Over the past twenty years, Tannant has seen a low number of domestic applications for PhD level studies in his field. “The industry jobs are just too well-paying that domestic students are not seeing the benefit of doing a doctorate” says Tannant. Instead, he is continuing to see exceptional applications from high-achieving students from abroad including China. “The process to study abroad when you are a student in China is highly competitive, so these applicants bring superior credentials.” Tannant says more and more international students are applying to conduct research under his supervision at UBC Okanagan.
“Hats off to the Chinese government for proactively spending money on higher education,” says Tannant. Of his current cohort of doctoral students, five are from China and supported by the China Scholarship Council. Three of these students are visiting PhD students; another three visiting students recently returned to China after spending one to two years here. “Not only do many of these students have impressive credentials, but they also have the mandate to publish,” he explains. Tannant not only hosts visiting students but also visiting professors; four over the past years (3 from China and 1 from Italy) and another professor from China about to arrive.
“I see the whole process of bringing in international students as an opportunity to collectively raise our level of knowledge,” says Tannant. While the visiting students and scholars spend their time at UBC Okanagan, Tannant makes a point of ensuring they get a sense of what Canada is all about. “Researchers easily get stuck focused on their research and may not appreciate their surrounding environment and activities that draw Canadians to the Okanagan.” To add balance to the constant research, Tannant takes his visiting students on boat rides around Lake Okanagan and curling at the local rink, and encourages them to hike the nearby trails.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to visit and lecture in China a couple of times,” says Tannant “and I am hoping this relationship continues to grow into the future.” In the meantime, he continues to collaborate with researchers from Canada, Brazil, Iran, Italy, and Australia.