Christopher Paul knows a thing or two about community. The fourth-year Mechanical Engineering student grew up in numerous communities across British Columbia until his family moved to West Kelowna when he was in middle school.
When it came time to choose a university, he didn’t have to look much farther than his own backyard. “I entertain attending a few other institutions, but the proximity to my family and friends along with the beauty of this region led me to UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering,” says Paul.
Over the past five years, Paul has become immersed in campus life. He provides academic support to fellow Indigenous students as a Peer Tutor with Indigenous Programs and Services. It led him and some friends to develop a local chapter of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (UBCO.caISES), an organization for science and engineering students that builds and fosters professional development opportunities within UBC and beyond.
“I recognize the opportunities that I have been fortunate to acquire through IPS, and I want to ensure that other students access the same opportunities in the future,” explains Paul.
IPS was also the starting off point for Paul to become an active undergraduate researcher in the Laboratory for Solar Energy and Fuels (LSEF) Research. Participating in the Indigenous Research Mentoship Program eventually led to an NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award.
Paul worked alongside Assistant Professor Alexander Uhl to investigate cutting-edge solar power solutions. “Within a research setting, it has been amazing to be able to apply the things I’ve learned in class within an applied setting and see that work result in important advancements for the lab,” says Paul.
During his time at UBC, Paul has noticed a concerted effort to incorporate Indigenous perspectives into curriculum and throughout the institution as a whole. “Most of my experiences are the same as a lot of other students, and I continue to see the School and the University working hard to improve the experiences for future Indigenous students.”
The rigours of the engineering program have forced Paul to really focus on things that motivate him inside and outside the classroom and lab. “It is really important for everyone to go beyond their comfort zone to see what they can discover, and for me that’s definitely improved my experience.”
As he wraps up his final semester, Paul has been reflecting on the past five years and looking ahead to the future. “When I first started in engineering I assumed it was all about working at a desk crunching numbers, but I’ve discovered it is more about sharing ideas and uncovering the best solution to a problem.”
The other major takeaway for Paul is the importance of establishing and building a community whether within project teams or extra-curriculars.
“You tend to find a community no matter where you go, and at UBC Okanagan, I have been fortunate to find a group of friends who have been there to support me along the way and hopefully I have done the same for them.”
Paul graduates with his Bachelor of Applied Science at convocation in June.