Nathan Skolski

Email: nathanskolski@okmain.cms.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

Interior university research coalition funds research to improve the lives of those living outside large urban centres

UBCO associate professor Nelly Oelke is one of the researchers receiving funding from the interior university research coalition for her work in mental health resilience in rural communities

The challenges facing rural and remote communities do not always make front-page news, but this lack of attention does not make them less important, especially for those who live there.

Supported by the Interior University Research Coalition’s (IURC) Regional/Rural/Remote Communities (R3C) Collaborative Research Grant, three Interior university research teams will address the complex problems faced by British Columbians who live outside large metropolitan areas. The funded projects grapple with disparate topics such as aging, water treatment and mental-health resiliency in the face of climate change.

“Rural and remote communities in non-metropolitan areas are experiencing economic, social and environmental changes that are profound and complex,” says Janice Larsen, IURC director.

“It is vital to understand and support the healthy and stable development of our society, our economy and our environment,” she adds.

Each of these three research teams receives $40,000 to complete their projects.

TRU associate professor Wendy Hulko, joined by UBCO’s Kathy Rush and UNBC’s Sarah De Leeuw, leads a project investigating the results of the Interior Health’s repositioning of health-care services for seniors. The intent of repositioning services was to enable older adults to live at home longer, reduce hospital admissions and delay residential care.

One of the outcomes of Interior Health’s service restructure was the creation of health and wellness centres in Kamloops and Kelowna. The centres provide primary health care for older adults and were designed to create better access to health services for vulnerable populations. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will certainly play a role in the study, says Hulko.

“One of the goals of these wellness centres was to get people connected to care, but we will have to find out how those services have been impacted by the pandemic and how the pandemic is impacting the ability of older adults to age in place,” she explains.

UNBC Environmental Engineering professor Jianbing Li leads research to develop an effective, low-cost, portable water-treatment system for remote and rural communities. Due to a lack of resources, rural communities have long faced challenges in accessing potable water, and consumption of untreated water poses health risks. Joined by Rehan Sadiq and Kasun Hewage, professors in UBCO’s School of Engineering, the research team aims to develop a household water-treatment system that would remove common contaminants from rural water sources. By the project’s end, a prototype of the water-treatment system would be demonstrated in the community.

“Having reliable access to a safe drinking water supply is essential for the healthy development of rural, regional and remote communities,” says Li. “Our interdisciplinary research team is working toward discovering a water treatment solution, training graduate students and developing meaningful partnerships with relevant communities in British Columbia.”

UBCO associate professor Nelly Oelke leads a project that aims to foster resilience in rural and remote communities by developing a greater understanding of the mental-health impacts of climate-change events.

“Climate-change events can result in extreme physical and psychological trauma for vulnerable populations living in rural and remote communities,” says Oelke. “PTSD, depression, anxiety, increased substance use and suicidality are all found to increase during and after problematic flooding, wildfires and drought, which are becoming more and more common in BC and around the world.”

She adds that many of the approaches used to address mental health relating to natural disasters are also used in pandemics and the evidence-based solutions they develop will provide increased support to Indigenous peoples, people living in poverty, children and first responders.

The research takes place in the Similkameen region of BC’s Southern Interior, including Keremeos, Hedley and Princeton, in addition to Ashcroft in the Thompson-Okanagan region and Burns Lake in Northern BC. Collaborators on this project include Sue Pollock (interim chief medical health officer at Interior Health), UNBC’s Davina Banner, TRU’s Bonnie Fournier and UBCO’s Lauren Airth and Carolyn Szostak. One outcome of this project is the development of community-based action plans for mental-health support, as research shows rural communities are disproportionately impacted by climate change.

“This is very exciting project and allows me to build upon the relationships I have already developed in Ashcroft, while also allowing me to work alongside two really fantastic researchers,” says Fournier. “The R3C program is innovative and unique, and I haven’t seen anything like it across Canada.”

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’s Cortnee Chulo wears a prototype 3D-printed face shield.

UBCO’s Cortnee Chulo wears a prototype 3D-printed face shield.

3D printed face shields approved for use with the Interior Health Authority

With an increased demand for medical-grade personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 outbreak, UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering and makerspaceUBCO—an interdisciplinary design and fabrication lab—have partnered with the Okanagan Regional Library and the Interior Health Authority (IHA) to design and produce 3D printed, medical-grade face shields for front-line health care workers.

Ray Taheri is an engineer at UBC Okanagan with expertise in manufacturing and 3D printing. He was brought into the project after the university was contacted by Dallas Rodier, a Kelowna resident with a keen interest in finding a printable solution to PPE shortages.

“Dallas did a great job pulling together some open source designs for a 3D printed face shield,” says Taheri. “We’ve been working closely together to refine the design and streamline the manufacturing process so that they are of sufficient quality and meet the needs of IHA.”

While the group’s manufacturing capacity is modest relative to established industrial producers, the team hopes that the combined printing capacity of UBC Okanagan, the Okanagan Regional Library, Okanagan College and a group of private citizens will mean that they are able to get critical equipment into the hands of local front-line health care workers quickly.

makerspaceUBCO is playing a key role in coordinating supplies and in the early manufacturing process. Cortnee Chulo is the facility manager and says this kind of project is exactly why makerspace was created in the first place.

“Our mandate is to connect creators and innovators right here in our community,” says Chulo. “It is incredible to see our mission being fulfilled in a tough situation we never anticipated and in a collaborative way that addresses such a critical need.”

Chulo says that there are 15 printers ready to be deployed at UBCO alone and that the team has been working hard, not only to finalize design and prototyping but to put appropriate 3D printing protocols in place to ensure the face shields meet medical standards.

“We have some incredible student volunteers from UBC Okanagan’s Southern Medical Program who will be collecting all the printed components, before we are able to conduct quality checks and the final products are delivered to IHA,” says Chulo.

Taheri adds that the design and manufacturing process hasn’t been without its challenges.

“We needed, for example, a product that could be sanitized and re-used but that is simple enough to be assembled quickly by hand,” he says. “IHA has been working closely with our teams to verify the prototypes and make sure we’re supplying something they can use.”

Chulo says she’s excited to ramp-up production in the coming days and thinks they’ll be able to produce several hundred per week. But she’s quick to point out that their solution is an interim measure until commercially produced facemasks can meet unmet demand.

“We’re not aiming to replace commercial manufacturers but to address an immediate need in our community. I’m grateful to all those that have volunteered their time and expertise to do exactly that.”

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

Countries around the world, including Canada, are working to contain the current outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
UBC Okanagan Engineering Professor Cigdem Eskicioglu has been named the Senior Industrial Research Chair (IRC) in advanced resource recovery from wastewater.

UBC Okanagan Engineering Professor Cigdem Eskicioglu has been named the Senior Industrial Research Chair (IRC) in advanced resource recovery from wastewater.

New role will create clean technologies for municipal wastewater treatment

UBC Okanagan announced today that Engineering Professor Cigdem Eskicioglu has been named the Senior Industrial Research Chair (IRC) in advanced resource recovery from wastewater.

The IRC role, awarded in partnership with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Metro Vancouver, will focus on developing the next generation wastewater sludge treatment technologies that recover energy and resources from what we pour down the drain.

“Dr. Eskicioglu is an internationally-recognized researcher in the area of waste reduction and resource recovery. Her use of innovative bioreactor technologies has advanced the field considerably,” says Phil Barker, vice-principal and associate vice-president, research and innovation at UBC Okanagan. “Her research is making wastewater treatment cheaper, safer, cleaner and more sustainable and is likely to have a significant impact for cities across the globe.”

Eskicioglu leads the Bioreactor Technology Group on UBC’s Okanagan campus where she develops treatment systems that produce cleaner wastewater byproducts and that repurpose those byproducts for sustainable uses, such as the production of bioenergy. Her group also develops technologies that minimize human-produced toxic chemicals, like pharmaceuticals, personal care products and pesticides, to reduce risks of treated wastewater sludge use in agriculture.

“NSERC’s research partnerships support collaborations that allow new scientific evidence to be created which economically, socially or environmentally benefits Canada and Canadians,” says Marc Fortin, NSERC vice-president, research partnerships. “This chair in collaboration with Metro Vancouver will have a significant impact on adopting new technologies by municipalities across the country, and will potentially create a strong ecosystem of innovation in wastewater treatment in Canada."

Metro Vancouver began collaborating with Eskicioglu in 2013 after a Canada-wide search to identify top researchers studying more efficient ways to remove excess ammonia from treated wastewater. The success of the initial partnership led to additional research collaboration that has already resulted in a provisional patent on an advanced bioreactor concept to boost renewable natural gas production.

“Dr. Eskicioglu is a leader in bioreactor technologies and has a strong record of successfully completing research projects for Metro Vancouver. We are thrilled that this Industrial Research Chair expands into thermal-chemical reactors that promise even greater resource recovery opportunities,” explains Paul Kadota, Metro Vancouver’s program manager of collaborative innovations.

The IRC funding will lead to laboratory testing and pilot programs to help evaluate emerging wastewater sludge conversion processes. These research findings will be considered by Metro Vancouver as they invest billions in capital infrastructure over the next decade to upgrade the region’s wastewater treatment facilities.

“I’m thrilled to step into this new role and further the potential of wastewater treatment and resource recovery technologies,” says Eskicioglu. “My research will help inform and improve Metro Vancouver’s treatment plant upgrades and provide valuable lessons to municipalities with similar challenges across Canada and around the world.”

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