Christopher Collier is a graduate and assistant professor at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus School of Engineering
“Performing research at the UBC School of Engineering helped equip me with the skillset to build and lead a research program.”
What brought you to UBC Okanagan?
In 2011, I graduated from the UBC School of Engineering (Okanagan campus) with an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering. I had conducted scientific research during two summer research positions and I wanted to pursue photonics research at a deeper level. After graduation, I began a doctoral degree in electrical engineering in the UBC School of Engineering.
My doctoral degree allowed me to delve deeper into interesting research challenges over a longer time frame. Additionally, I have always enjoyed the Okanagan valley, having grown up in Kelowna. In fact, similarities between Kelowna and Guelph (e.g., both are mid-size cities with many high-technology companies and a highly-integrated university) made for a smooth transition into my present role as a faculty member in the School of Engineering at the University of Guelph.
Describe the research you did with Dr. Holzman?
My doctoral advisor at UBC was Dr. Jonathan Holzman and the primary focus of my doctoral research was lab-on-a-chip terahertz spectroscopy microsystems. My doctoral research moved the technology towards a fully-integrated microsystem. In such a microsystem, chemistry processes (traditionally performed in large chemistry laboratories) can be performed in a miniature device. My work focused on both microfluidic and terahertz spectroscopy aspects.
In terms of microfluidics, I developed electrode configurations to control the movement of microdroplets. Here, microdroplet movement could be localized to move individual microdroplets within a large and complicated array of other microdroplets. In terms of terahertz spectroscopy, I developed emitters and spectroscopy systems for terahertz radiation, which is a section of the electromagnetic spectrum that is highly desirable for characterizing and identifying biomolecule signatures.
What are some of your fondest memories from being at UBC’s Okanagan campus?
I have many fond memories from both research and teaching during my doctoral degree. In research, I enjoyed working with teams of undergraduate research assistants and other graduate students. I also enjoyed teaching in the UBC School of Engineering (ENGR 361 Signals and Communication Systems, ENGR 353 Semiconductor Devices, and APSC 172 Engineering Analysis I), and it was rewarding to pass on knowledge to the students.
How did your studies at UBC Okanagan prepare you for your role at the University of Guelph?
Performing research at the UBC School of Engineering helped equip me with the skillset to build and lead a research program. Teaching at the UBC School of Engineering positioned me well to continue teaching and to develop content for new University of Guelph courses (e.g., ENGG 6090 Special Topics in Engineering: Bio-Optics and Bio-Photonics).
What type of research are you doing at the University of Guelph?
I have established the Applied Optics and Microsystems Laboratory, which operates within the School of Engineering at the University of Guelph, and involves personnel at all levels—postdoctoral scholars, graduate students, and undergraduate students. We work in the field of bio-photonic devices, and are developing novel hyperspectral imaging systems and optofluidic biosensors.
Our hyperspectral imaging systems use visible and far-infrared electromagnetic wavelengths to detect unique chemical signatures. This is extremely important in biomedical applications, for detecting disease biomarkers, and in biological applications, for detecting defects in agricultural products.
Our biosensors use microfluidic and optofluidic techniques for the respective movement and sensing of biofluids. Microfluidic movement enables miniature physical processes (e.g., mixing or splitting) while optofluidic sensing enables miniature chemical processes (e.g., spectroscopy). We have also enjoyed collaborating with a network of industry partners in high technology and agriculture. Our scientific developments have recently been published as journal articles in Applied Optics and Sensors and Actuators A: Physical.