Nathan Skolski

Email: nathanskolski@okmain.cms.ok.ubc.ca


 

The new device created at the UBCO Heart Valve Performance Laboratory acts a bit like a shock absorber for your car.

The new device created at the UBCO Heart Valve Performance Laboratory acts a bit like a shock absorber for your car.

A new device developed by researchers at UBC Okanagan may change the lives of many sufferers of essential tremors and Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Hadi Mohammadi is an associate professor at the School of Engineering whose research focuses on biomedical applications. The new, wearable instrument has a magnetic mechanism that reduces tremors in a range of activities and scenarios, but doesn’t restrict movements of the hand, wrist or fingers.

“When developing this device, it was very important for us to create something wearable that can be used in any application — anything from holding something fragile to playing tennis,” explains Dr. Mohammadi.

Essential tremor is a progressive illness, caused by a neurological disease that creates uncontrolled tremors — mostly in a person’s arms or hands. Similarly, people who live with Parkinson’s have slow, continuous tremors that are one of several symptoms of the disease. Dr. Mohammadi notes people who live with either condition often face embarrassment, depression or social isolation because of the tremors.

Tremor dampening devices do already exist in the market, but they rely on spring-based or liquid-based systems, explains Dr. Mohammadi. His idea of using a magnetic system in this new wearable allows for smoother and more controlled movements.

The prototype has two miniature see-saw magnetic components attached to a wrist guard that the user wears on the back of their hand. It is an inexpensive, passive, lightweight item (weighing 120 grams or four ounces) that can be attached to a wrist like a watch. The sensor dampens involuntary motion by countering tremors with a light force generated from the magnet without filtering out voluntary motion.

“The key is building a device that works intuitively so the user basically forgets that they are wearing it,” says Dr. Mohammadi.

According to Dr. Mohammadi, although tremors vary between individuals, there are some commonalities between tremors related to the movement of wrists and forearms.

“Think of the device like a shock absorber for your car,” he explains. “The patient’s hand may wish to tremble but the wearable on their wrist dampens the movement so it becomes more a controlled and smooth movement.”

Although Dr. Mohammadi’s invention has only been tested in lab experiments, he and his team at the Heart Valve Performance Laboratory are confident that clinical trials will replicate the results.

The research was funded by a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and appears in the Journal of Medical Engineering and Technology.

During the testing process, the researchers look for unique shapes of fluorescence signals. Each unique shape indicates the presence of impurities and helps researchers determine what the impurity is and distinguish it from other compounds.

During the testing process, the researchers look for unique shapes of fluorescence signals. Each unique shape indicates the presence of impurities and helps researchers determine what the impurity is and distinguish it from other compounds.

Fluorescence lighting helps detect impurities in water

Shining a beam of light into potentially contaminated water samples may hold the key to real-time detection of hydrocarbons and pesticides in water.

UBC Okanagan researchers are testing the use of fluorescence to monitor water quality. The results, they say, show great promise.

When a beam of light is shone into the water, it excites the electrons in molecules of certain compounds and causes them to emit light. The characteristics of the emitted light are like a fingerprint and can be used to identify certain contaminants, explains Nicolas Peleato, an assistant professor at UBCO’s School of Engineering.

“The challenge with using this fluorescence approach is that they are typically source-specific; meaning we have to calibrate for a particular water source and anticipate what specific contaminants we want to look for,” says Peleato. “In our latest work, we have developed a data processing technique that expands the effectiveness from one water source to others.”

This means their new technique removes a lot of the guesswork at the beginning of the process. As Peleato points out, every water source has a slightly different composition of organic compounds, which can hide the contaminant signals, so calibrating for each source is crucial for detection accuracy.

Using machine learning algorithms, Peleato and his graduate student Ziyu Li have devised an approach that addresses the challenge of source-specific models through mapping their similarities.

According to Li, it isn’t quite a one-size-fits-all method but it is close.

“By establishing a process that identifies similar patterns between water sources, the fluorescence detection becomes a viable option for real-time, accurate detection of hydrocarbons and pesticides,” explains Li.

During the testing process, the researchers look for unique shapes of fluorescence signals. Each unique shape indicates the presence of impurities and helps researchers determine what the impurity is and distinguish it from other compounds.

Water contaminated with hydrocarbons is known to be carcinogenic and can be dangerous, or toxic, to flora and fauna.

The researchers are now turning their attention to using this new approach to detect and monitor chemicals, such as the major toxic contaminants in oil sand tailings ponds that may impact surface water and groundwater.

“Building a comprehensive model that seamlessly transitions from one water source to another will speed up monitoring, and has the potential to be a game changer,” says Peleato.

This work was published in the journal Chemosphere, and funded in part by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

UBC researchers Nicolas Peleato and Li Ziyu examine the data after testing a water sample with a florescence spectrometer.

UBC researchers Nicolas Peleato and Li Ziyu examine the data after testing a water sample with a florescence spectrometer.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Two UBC Okanagan programs -- Geering Up Engineering Outreach and iSTAND -- recieved NSERC PromoScience funding to support hands-on learning experiences aimed at building the next generation of scientists and researchers.

Two UBC Okanagan programs -- Geering Up Engineering Outreach and iSTAND -- received NSERC PromoScience funding to support hands-on learning experiences aimed at building the next generation of scientists and researchers.

New funding promotes outreach to under-represented youth across the BC Interior

This year underrepresented and underserved youth in BC’s Interior will have increased access to science and engineering programming.

Last week the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) launched $12 million in PromoScience grants to support hands-on learning experiences aimed at building the next generation of scientists and research leaders.

The PromoScience program is designed to engage young Canadians and promote an understanding of science and engineering (including mathematics and technology).

At UBC Okanagan, funding will support two new opportunities to explore STEM. Adam Cornford, outreach coordinator for Geering Up Engineering Outreach and Dr. Jennifer Jakobi, director of the integrative STEM Team Advancing Networks of Diversity (iSTAND) program, both secured funding to enhance access to existing programs.

The pair say they are looking forward to providing these new initiatives to youth — especially young girls — Indigenous learners and teachers in local and remote communities across BC.

The funding at UBC Okanagan will support programs that were developed with local Indigenous communities to ensure culturally appropriate curriculum, integrating an Indigenous knowledge approach to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The NSERC PromoScience program funding will also be directed to girls-only programming and educator training. Girls-only programming is open to those who identify as transgendered, genderqueer and non-binary.

Cornford says the School of Engineering is excited about the expansion of the program.

“One of the things our staff is most looking forward to is connecting with elders and educators to implement land-based programming that incorporates the role of traditional knowledge into STEM education,” he says.

Dr. Jakobi and Cornford attribute the strength of their applications and programming to the ongoing collaborations with the Syilx People and the Okanagan Nation Alliance. Staff in both programs are looking forward to expanding these relationships and growing experiences for youth throughout BC.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to engage with Indigenous university students in learning hands-on STEM activities and support them to bring science experiences back home to youth in their community,” says Dr. Jakobi, professor in Health and Exercise Sciences.

The expansion of both programs will happen this year, but the goal is to continue providing these programs far into the future, says School of Engineering Executive Associate Dean Rehan Sadiq.

Only four per cent of UBCO engineering students are Indigenous despite the fact that more than five per cent of the Canadian population self-identify as Indigenous,” explains Sadiq. “We are collaborating with our neighbouring Indigenous communities to highlight the exciting opportunities available in the School of Engineering. We are also thrilled to increase our total number of Indigenous faculty to four as of July 1.”

To learn more about iSTAND programs, visit: istand.ok.ubc.ca

To learn more about the Geering Up Engineering Outreach programs at UBC Okanagan, visit: geeringup.apsc.ubc.ca

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Two UBC Okanagan programs -- Geering Up Engineering Outreach and iSTAND -- recieved NSERC PromoScience funding to support hands-on learning experiences aimed at building the next generation of scientists and researchers.

Two UBC Okanagan programs -- Geering Up Engineering Outreach and iSTAND -- received NSERC PromoScience funding to support hands-on learning experiences aimed at building the next generation of scientists and researchers.

New funding promotes outreach to under-represented youth across the BC Interior

This year underrepresented and underserved youth in BC’s Interior will have increased access to science and engineering programming.

Last week the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) launched $12 million in PromoScience grants to support hands-on learning experiences aimed at building the next generation of scientists and research leaders.

The PromoScience program is designed to engage young Canadians and promote an understanding of science and engineering (including mathematics and technology).

At UBC Okanagan, funding will support two new opportunities to explore STEM. Adam Cornford, outreach coordinator for Geering Up Engineering Outreach and Dr. Jennifer Jakobi, director of the integrative STEM Team Advancing Networks of Diversity (iSTAND) program, both secured funding to enhance access to existing programs.

The pair say they are looking forward to providing these new initiatives to youth — especially young girls — Indigenous learners and teachers in local and remote communities across BC.

The funding at UBC Okanagan will support programs that were developed with local Indigenous communities to ensure culturally appropriate curriculum, integrating an Indigenous knowledge approach to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The NSERC PromoScience program funding will also be directed to girls-only programming and educator training. Girls-only programming is open to those who identify as transgendered, genderqueer and non-binary.

Cornford says the School of Engineering is excited about the expansion of the program.

“One of the things our staff is most looking forward to is connecting with elders and educators to implement land-based programming that incorporates the role of traditional knowledge into STEM education,” he says.

Dr. Jakobi and Cornford attribute the strength of their applications and programming to the ongoing collaborations with the Syilx People and the Okanagan Nation Alliance. Staff in both programs are looking forward to expanding these relationships and growing experiences for youth throughout BC.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to engage with Indigenous university students in learning hands-on STEM activities and support them to bring science experiences back home to youth in their community,” says Dr. Jakobi, professor in Health and Exercise Sciences.

The expansion of both programs will happen this year, but the goal is to continue providing these programs far into the future, says School of Engineering Executive Associate Dean Rehan Sadiq.

Only four per cent of UBCO engineering students are Indigenous despite the fact that more than five per cent of the Canadian population self-identify as Indigenous,” explains Sadiq. “We are collaborating with our neighbouring Indigenous communities to highlight the exciting opportunities available in the School of Engineering. We are also thrilled to increase our total number of Indigenous faculty to four as of July 1.”

To learn more about iSTAND programs, visit: istand.ok.ubc.ca

To learn more about the Geering Up Engineering Outreach programs at UBC Okanagan, visit: geeringup.apsc.ubc.ca

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Aerial view of UBC Okanagan

Projects will look at improving N95 masks, mental health and well-being

The BC Ministry of Health is investing in BC Interior research universities to understand the harmful effects of COVID-19 and mitigate its impact on communities across the province.

The province has funded five collaborative research projects through the Interior University Research Coalition (IURC), a partnership between Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in Kamloops, the University of British Columbia, Okanagan (UBCO) in Kelowna and the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) in Prince George.

The projects being funded range from identifying the effects of the pandemic on the mental health and well-being of people living in rural communities to developing telehealth programs that will engage older adults outside urban centres. Other projects include a focus on improving the lifespan of N95 masks, as well as building a better understanding of whether new technologies are improving the resiliency of rural health-care practitioners.

“This is a win-win-win situation for the province, for the universities, and for the communities we serve in terms of the impact this research will have on the health and quality of life for the people who live there,” says Will Garrett-Petts, associate vice-president, research and graduate studies at TRU.

He adds that the IURC has developed a model that can ensure responsible and innovative research.

“The work we’re doing is meaningful and is guided by the interests of the local and regional communities,” he says. “This is a wonderful model of collaboration, and one we are collectively celebrating.”

UBC Okanagan’s Vice-Principal and Associate Vice-President for Research and Innovation Phil Barker agrees. He says his campus is especially excited to be working on an initiative that is highly collaborative and that spans campuses and institutions across the BC interior.

“We’re delighted that the BC Ministry of Health is investing in this initiative to help mitigate the effects of COVID-19 throughout our province,” explains Barker. “Our researchers have been able to mobilize quickly through the tri-university partnership and each of the selected projects will leverage our respective strengths to serve communities across BC.”

The BC Ministry of Health has provided the IURC with $150,000 to launch this initiative. The IURC was established in 2017 to advance the research and innovation capacity and commercialization potential of the BC Interior and create new opportunities for economic and social innovation. The inaugural funding is focused largely on COVID-19 issues that affect the BC Interior but the results from these projects will help support regional and provincial health care decision-making and provide real-world opportunities for students to gain experience in the complex, ever-changing realm of health care.

“When researchers from different institutions collaborate across disciplines, the research outcomes benefit from different perspectives and synergies that result from cross-institutional collaboration,” says Kathy Lewis, acting vice-president of research at UNBC. “These projects are fantastic examples of what’s possible when researchers from across the BC Interior come together and seek solutions to pressing public health concerns.”

About the projects

  • Shannon Freeman, associate professor in UNBC’s School of Nursing, has partnered with Piper Jackson, assistant professor of computer science at TRU, to develop a COVID-19 risk assessment tool that identifies homecare clients who are at greatest risk of contracting the virus.
  • Jian Liu and Abbas Milani of UBCO’s School of Engineering will be working with Hossein Kazemian of UNBC to improve the lifespan of nanofibres and activated carbon mats in N95 masks.
  • Brodie Sakakibara, assistant professor in UBCO’s Southern Medical Program and investigator in the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management, is working with researchers at UBCO, UNBC and Interior Health to create a student-delivered Community Outreach Telehealth Program that will engage older adults from outside urban centres and establish best practices for providing health support during a pandemic.
  • TRU’s Bala Nikku has teamed up with Khalad Hasan from UBCO and Rahul Jain from UNBC to better understand whether new technologies are improving the resiliency of rural health care practitioners.
  • Nelly Oelke, associate professor in UBCO’s School of Nursing and scientific director of the Rural Coordination Centre of BC, will be collaborating with UBCO’s Donna Kurtz, UNBC’s Davina Banner-Lukaris and TRU’s Bonnie Fournier to expand ongoing research that explores the mental health impacts of climate change events. The new study will identify the effects of the pandemic on the mental health and well-being of people living in rural communities to help foster resilience.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Nobel Night 2016

Annual discussion highlights world-changing discoveries and accomplishments

What: Nobel Night panel discussion with distinguished professors
Who: University researchers discuss the 2020 Nobel Prizes
When: Thursday, December 10, beginning at 7 p.m.
Where: Virtual event on Zoom. Register at NobelNight.ok.ubc.ca

This year, the long-established tradition of Nobel Night at UBC Okanagan will continue, but in a virtual format. The event will be divided into two segments with the main presentation taking place from 7 to 8 p.m. followed by a moderated question and answer session with the panel.

Each presenter has just eight minutes to explain the significance of the work achieved by this year’s winners. The event will be hosted by UBCO’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal Lesley Cormack and emceed by Phil Barker, vice-principal and associate vice-president of research and innovation.

The Nobel Prize in Physics: 

Alex Hill, assistant professor of astrophysics with the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, will highlight the research and findings on black holes conducted by Nobel Prize winners Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry: 

Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science’s Kirsten Wolthers, who teaches biochemistry, chemistry and molecular biology, will discuss the findings of Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna and their development of a method to edit genomes.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine: 

Sarah Brears, regional associate dean of UBCO’s Southern Medical Program will discuss the work of Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice—all three share the prize for their work on the hepatitis C virus including new tests and medicines that can save lives.

The Nobel Peace Prize: 

Professor Haroon Akram-Lodhi, editor-in-Chief with the Canadian Journal of Development Studies will speak about significant of the World Food Programme being named the winner of the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel Prize in Literature: 

Nancy Holmes, associate professor of creative studies and creative writing will talk about poet Louise Glück and her award-winning writing.

Advance registration is required to join this virtual event. Register at NobelNight.ok.ubc.ca

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

 

UBCO Engineering Professor Solomon Tesfamariam (centre) examines wood used in mass-timber buildings.

UBCO Engineering Professor Solomon Tesfamariam (centre) examines wood used in mass-timber buildings.

Tall mass-timber buildings are a safe and sustainable alternative for high-rise construction

With an increasing demand for a more sustainable alternative for high-rise construction, new research from UBC Okanagan, in collaboration with Western University and FPInnovations, points to timber as a sustainable and effective way to make tall, high-density, and renewable buildings.

“Many people have trouble imagining a timber high-rise of up to 40 storeys when we’re so used to seeing concrete and steel being the norm in today’s construction,” explains Matiyas Bezabeh, a doctoral candidate at the UBCO School of Engineering. “But we’re starting to demonstrate that the proverbial wolf can’t knock over the pig’s wooden building when they’re built using modern techniques.”

Bezabeh and his supervisors, Professors Solomon Tesfamariam from UBC Okanagan and Girma Bitsuamlak from Western University, conducted extensive wind testing on tall mass-timber buildings of varying height between 10 and 40-storeys at Western University’s Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel Laboratory.

“We found that the studied buildings up to 20-storeys, using today’s building codes, can withstand high-wind events,” says Bezabeh. “However, in the cases we studied, once we get up to 30 and 40 storeys, aerodynamic and structural improvements would be needed to address excessive wind-induced motion—something that would impact the comfort of those inside.

In 2020, the National Building Code of Canada doubled the height allowance of timber buildings from six storeys to twelve. The 2021 edition of the International Building Code (IBC) will include provisions to allow mass-timber buildings up to 18-stories.

“What’s exciting about our findings is that while additional engineering is required for these taller timber buildings, the problems are absolutely solvable, which opens the door to new architectural possibilities,” adds Tesfamariam. “And with a shift towards sustainable urbanization across North America and Europe, the use of timber as a structural material addresses both the issues of sustainability and renewability of resources.”

Tesfamariam, an engineering professor at UBCO, also sits on the Systems Design and Connections Subcommittee of the Canadian Wood Council, which is responsible for setting building code and engineering standards nationally.

According to Bezabeh, there is a growing acceptance of using mass-timber products such as cross-laminated timber because of its higher strength-to-weight ratio, aesthetics, and construction efficiency.

“We hope our research will continue the design and structural innovation in this area and perhaps one day soon many of us will be living in mass-timber high-rise apartments.”

The School of Engineering offers a new course in advanced design of timber structures, led by Tesfamariam, geared for students and industry professionals interested in understanding timber products, design of timber structural elements, the fundaments of structural dynamics for timber buildings, and the design of low-, mid- and high-rise timber and timber-hybrid buildings.

The research is published in the Journal of Structural Engineering.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Shahria Alam, co-director of UBC’s Green Construction Research and Training Centre and the lead investigator of the study.

Shahria Alam, co-director of UBC’s Green Construction Research and Training Centre and the lead investigator of the study.

Recycled concrete can even outperform traditional construction, says researcher

Results of a new five-year study of recycled concrete show that it performs as well, and in several cases even better, than conventional concrete.

Researchers at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering conducted side-by-side comparisons of recycled and conventional concrete within two common applications—a building foundation and a municipal sidewalk. They found that the recycled concrete had comparable strength and durability after five years of being in service.

“We live in a world where we are constantly in search of sustainable solutions that remove waste from our landfills,” says Shahria Alam, co-director of UBC’s Green Construction Research and Training Centre and the lead investigator of the study. “A number of countries around the world have already standardized the use of recycled concrete in structural applications, and we hope our findings will help Canada follow suit.”

Waste materials from construction and demolition contribute up to 40 per cent of the world’s waste, according to Alam, and in Canada, that waste amounts to nine million tonnes per year.

The researchers tested the compressive strength and durability of recycled concrete compared with conventional concrete.

Concrete is typically composed of fine or coarse aggregate that is bonded together with an adhesive paste. The recycled concrete replaces the natural aggregate for producing new concrete.

“The composition of the recycled concrete gives that product additional flexibility and adaptability,” says Alam. “Typically, recycled concrete can be used in retaining walls, roads and sidewalks, but we are seeing a shift towards its increased use in structures.”

Within the findings, the researchers discovered that the long-term performance of recycled concrete adequately compared to its conventional form, and experienced no issues over the five years of the study. In fact, the recycled concrete had a higher rate of compressive strength after 28 days of curing while maintaining a greater or equal strength during the period of the research.

The researchers suggest the recycled concrete can be a 100 per cent substitute for non-structural applications.

“As innovations continue in the composition of recycled concrete, we can envision a time in the future where recycle concrete can be a substitute within more structural applications as well.”

The research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), as well as OK Builders Supplies Ltd. and KonKast Products Ltd. through a Collaborative Research & Development grant. It was published in the Journal Construction and Building Materials.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Webinar is the fourth in a series on systemic racism from UBC’s Okanagan campus

What: Science and Systemic Racism webinar
Who: Speakers include Ian Foulds, principal’s research chair on Indigenous reconciliation in engineering, UBC Okanagan; Magdalena Skipper, editor-in-chief of Nature; and Alejandro Adem, president of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
When: Thursday, November 26, 9 to 11 a.m.
Where: Online event, register at ok.ubc.ca/festival-of-ideas/science-and-systemic-racism

UBC’s Okanagan campus is hosting a series of webinars on science and systemic racism. The webinars begin on November 26 and are part of an ongoing speaker series on systemic racism organized by the university.

The first three events in the series focused on the experiences of anti-Black racism from students and faculty. In this next discussion, a panel of leaders from a top science publication, a major Canadian scientific funding body, and an expert on Indigenous reconciliation will explore the possibility of a more inclusive world of science.

“Our academic community has expressed a desire to hear from institutional leaders about accountability, responsibility and strategies for change,” says Ananya Mukherjee Reed, provost and vice-president academic at UBC Okanagan. “This is a critically important topic and I plan to continue the conversation with more voices in the research and scientific community over the coming months.”

This event is the first of three examining racism in science specifically, with the next two—planned for the new year—featuring the perspectives of Indigenous and Black scientists.

The Science and Systemic Racism webinar will host Ian Foulds, the principal's research chair in Indigenous reconciliation in engineering at UBC Okanagan; Magdalena Skipper, editor-in-chief of the scientific journal Nature; and Alejandro Adem, president of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

The editors of Nature, one of the most prestigious journals in the sciences, have released a statement on racism and NSERC, Canada’s largest supporter of discovery and innovation, has made its own statement on equity, diversity and inclusion. UBC President Santa Ono, who will give opening remarks at the event, made similar commitments over the summer and again in the fall.

“I want to explore how are we doing with the commitments, what we are hearing and how universities and institutions work together for a more inclusive science,” explains Mukherjee Reed.

She also points to the need to foster allyship.

“It is not easy to build allyship, but we cannot stand still,” says Mukherjee Reed, who was recently appointed one of UBC’s co-executive leads for anti-racism. “We must proceed as best we can and be prepared to learn as we move forward.”

The event is free and open to the public but advance registration is required at: ok.ubc.ca/festival-of-ideas/science-and-systemic-racism

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

UBC Okanagan researchers Sadaf Shabanian (left) and Kevin Golovin (right) test water-repellent fabric treatment.

UBC Okanagan researchers Sadaf Shabanian (left) and Kevin Golovin (right) test water-repellent fabric treatment.

New research creates sustainable and non-toxic replacement for traditional water-repellent chemistry

A sustainable, non-toxic and high-performance water-repellent fabric has long been the holy grail of outdoor enthusiasts and clothing companies alike. New research from UBC Okanagan and outdoor apparel giant Arc’teryx is making that goal one step closer to reality with one of the world’s first non-toxic oil and water-repellent performance textile finishes.

The research was published this week in the journal Nature Sustainability.

Outdoor fabrics are typically treated with perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) to repel oil and water. But according to Sadaf Shabanian, doctoral student at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering and study lead author, PFCs come with a number of problems.

“PFCs have long been the standard for stain repellents, from clothing to non-stick frying pans, but we know these chemicals have a detrimental impact on human health and the environment,” explains Shabanian. “They pose a persistent, long-term risk to health and the environment because they take hundreds of years to breakdown and linger both in the environment and our bodies.”

According to Mary Glasper, materials developer at Arc’teryx and collaborator on the project, these lasting impacts are one of the major motivations for clothing companies to seek out new methods to achieve the same or better repellent properties in their products.

To solve the problem, Shabanian and the research team added a nanoscopic layer of silicone to each fibre in a woven fabric, creating an oil-repellent jacket fabric that repels water, sweat and oils.

By understanding how the textile weave and fibre roughness affect the liquid interactions, Shabanian says she was able to design a fabric finish that did not use any PFCs.

“The best part of the new design is that the fabric finish can be made from biodegradable materials and can be recyclable,” she says. “It addresses many of the issues related to PFC-based repellent products and remains highly suitable for the kind of technical apparel consumers and manufacturers are looking for.”

Arc’teryx is excited about the potential of this solution.

“An oil- and water-repellent finish that doesn’t rely on PFCs is enormously important in the world of textiles and is something the whole outdoor apparel industry has been working on for years,” says Glasper. “Now that we have a proof-of-concept, we’ll look to expand its application to other DWR-treated textiles used in our products and to improve the durability of the treatment.”

“Working to lessen material impacts on the environment is crucial for Arc’teryx to meet our goal of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 65 per cent in intensity by 2030,” she adds.

Kevin Golovin, principal investigator of the Okanagan Polymer Engineering Research & Applications Lab where the research was done, says the new research is important because it opens up a new area of green textile manufacturing.

He explains that while the new technology has immense potential, there are still several more years of development and testing needed before people will see fabrics with this treatment in stores.

“Demonstrating oil repellency without the use of PFCs is a critical first step towards a truly sustainable fabric finish,” says Golovin. “And it’s something previously thought impossible.”

The research is funded through a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), with support from Arc’teryx Equipment Inc.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

About Arc’teryx

Arc’teryx is a Canadian company based in the Coast Mountains. Our design process is connected to the real world, focused on delivering durable, unrivaled performance. Our products are distributed through more than 3,000 retail locations worldwide, including over 80 branded stores. We are problem solvers, always evolving and searching for a better way to deliver resolved, minimalist designs. Good design that matters makes lives better.

To find out more, visit: www.arcteryx.com