Nathan Skolski

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


 

Life Raft Debate graphic

Life Raft Debate makes experts defend their fields to a live audience

What: Life Raft Debate
Who: UBC professors debate their expertise during fictional zombie apocalypse
When: Tuesday, January 14, beginning at 7 p.m.,
Where:  Room COM 201, The Commons building, 3297 University Way, UBC Okanagan, Kelowna

For many, the question of who to bring along in order to rebuild human civilization during a zombie apocalypse has gone unanswered for too long. Now, six UBC Okanagan professors, all from different fields of expertise, aim to settle the issue once and for all—or at least until next year—as they prepare for the second annual Life Raft Debate.

For event organizer and chemistry undergraduate student Jesse Lafontaine, the premise of the debate is simple. The audience is the last of humanity to survive a zombie apocalypse and there’s only one seat left in their life raft. Which UBC expert should they pick to join them and why?

“The concept is definitely absurd,” jokes Lafontaine. “But it’s also refreshing and entertaining to hear very accomplished UBC professors explain their expertise and argue how their work would help human civilization recover from such an unlikely disaster.”

Lafontaine adds that the lighthearted nature of the debate is what makes it so compelling while at the same time helps translate complex areas of study into something fun and accessible to everyone.

Stephen McNeil, chemistry professor and Life Raft Debate defending champion, agrees.

“As university professors, we’re used to speaking to students who are already interested in our fields of study,” says McNeil. “Defending the power of chemistry to a room full of people who probably aren’t as passionate as I am about organometallic reaction mechanisms is certainly humbling.”

He adds that offering this unique twist on academic debate is a great way to help people discover how different points of view and areas of expertise each make essential contributions to human society.

“Medicine keeps us healthy. Engineering builds the tools we need to survive. Anthropology understands how other cultures survive and thrive. Art is what makes us human in the first place,” he says. “It’s difficult to defend and advocate for just one.”

Lafontaine is quick to point out that the debate lineup is more than up to the task.

“We have heavy hitters from our campus this year,” says Lafontaine. “They include, among others, the director of the School of Engineering, who is a formidable engineer and researcher; the dean of the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, whose eloquence is unmatched; and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UBCO, who has been in charge of our campus for the last eight years and definitely knows how to win an argument.”

The list of debate participants also includes the role of ‘devil’s advocate’, whose job is to argue that none of the experts deserve a spot on the life raft.

While the topic may be lighthearted, Lafontaine says the debate is classically structured and the participants will make their arguments in earnest, with the audience voting on the winner.

McNeil is returning to defend his title.  The key, he says, is communicating to as broad an audience as possible.

“I’ve been interested in science outreach for a long time,” he says. “But even with that experience, distilling the accomplishments and capabilities of the whole field of chemistry into a five-minute defense is no easy task.”

“My winning argument was that, as a chemist, I know how to take simple molecules and manipulate them into creating something new, like penicillin or steel. But now that we not only need to rebuild civilization but also survive a zombie hoard, I may need to up my game this year.”

The Life Raft Debate takes place on January 14, at 7 p.m. in the Commons lecture theatre at UBC Okanagan. The event is free and open to the public but registration is required at: https://students.ok.ubc.ca/life-raft-debate/

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, 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.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

New course seeks to make the operating theatre safer and more efficient

UBC Okanagan student Hafsah Khan is immersed in an operating room at the Hospital for Special Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York where a spine surgery is currently underway; although she is not physically there. The fourth-year mechanical engineering student is wearing a virtual reality headset to observe the surgery as part of an innovative new clinical engineering course being offered by UBCO. “Clinical engineering is a field few people have heard of but it’s one that is likely to impact them directly if ever they find themselves in an operating room,” explains Sabine Weyand, an instructor at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering. “Our goal as clinical engineers is to make an operation as safe and efficient as possible.” Weyand compares a surgery to a complex and well-choreographed dance with everything in its place and everyone with a role to play. “Our job is to analyze every step of that dance, from the tools surgeons use to the lighting design to where people stand and how they interact,” she says. “It’s all dissected and analyzed to improve the mechanics of the procedure and, above all, patient care.” During the course, three types of surgeries are viewed including a hip replacement, a robotically-assisted knee replacement and a transforaminal lumbar inter-body fusion back surgery. Weyand says local experts at the Interior Health Authority were key developing the course content and shaping the virtual reality labs. “I wanted the experience to be as realistic as possible and to help students understand the real-world design challenges that they might encounter right here in the Okanagan,” she adds. “The clinical engineering course exposes students to clinical environments, a variety of diagnostic and treatment tools, as well as the complex human factors and regulatory requirements that accompany any surgical intervention.” According to Khan, the reports are challenging because they require students to incorporate medical and anatomical vocabulary while understanding the procedure itself. “It is definitely a big challenge, but fun to step outside of the traditional engineering lab environment and find ways to improve how these medical procedures are done.” Interior Health also sees the value in providing UBC Okanagan engineering students with virtual reality experiences. “These students, as future clinical engineers, need to have the latest information and technology at their fingertips,” says Aaron Miller, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Interior Health. “Virtual reality operating room observations are providing hands on experiences to see how the different healthcare providers work and provide direct patient care.” He says that students that understand the needs of healthcare providers, are better able to support healthcare teams and improve patient outcomes. Meanwhile back in the lab, Khan adjusts her eyes after removing her virtual reality headset. She says the course has already made a lasting impression. “After this course, I am way more interested in pursuing a career in biomedical engineering.”

Hadi Mohammadi is an assistant professor at UBC’s School of Engineering.

UBC Okanagan engineer says not all body types are taken into account

As technology advances in the things we use every day, it’s generally accepted they also become safer. But according to one UBC engineer, that may not be true for a large portion of the population.

New research from UBC’s Okanagan campus has developed a innovative model to map the impact of trauma on a pregnant woman and her uterus if she were involved in an accident—with the hopes of making everything from airbags to seatbelts safer for all.

“I became an engineer because I firmly believe we have an incredible ability to make the world a safer and better place,” says Hadi Mohammadi, an assistant professor at the UBC Okanagan School of Engineering and lead author on the study. “But unfortunately a large portion of the world around us is designed and built excluding a group representing 50 per cent of the population—women.”

Motor vehicles, explains Mohammadi, are a prime example. He says that things like seatbelts, airbags and even the vibrations of the suspension are designed with the male body in mind, largely ignoring the physiology differences between men and women or women who are pregnant.

“A pregnant woman’s body is under very unique stresses that absolutely must be taken into account when designing safety equipment—especially in something she’s going to be using every day, like a car or a bus,” says Mohammadi. “Our intention was to create a model of how different mechanical traumas, like those you’d see in a car accident, impact a woman’s uterus specifically.”

It’s an area that he says has very little research behind it.

“Medicine spends a lot of time seeking to keep fetuses healthy on the inside but we don’t know much on the impact of exterior traumas to maternal and fetal health,” he adds.

The model is the first of its kind to use CT-scan data—a tool to visualize the interior of the body in real-time—to map out and compare trauma on pregnant and non-pregnant abdomens. Mohammadi and his team were able to gauge the impact of different amounts of force and penetration into the abdominal area.

“We found that a pregnant women’s abdomen responds similarly to a non-pregnant abdomen during events involving less force, but the pregnant abdomen responds more rigidly when faced with greater impact,” he says. “This is an important factor in the risk of injury for both mother and fetus during a traumatic event like an airbag going off.”

Mohammadi hopes his model can help future engineers rethink how they design safety equipment and sees this kind of research as just the tip of the iceberg.

“While our research looked specifically at pregnant women, the reality is that humans come in all different shapes, sizes and with different abilities,” he says. “Thinking about the safety and other needs of everyone—no matter their height or weight—really needs to be part of engineering and design right from the beginning.”

The study was published last month in the International Journal for Numerical Methods in Biomedical Engineering.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, 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.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

UBC engineer Kevin Golovin says ice buildup may become a thing of the past.

UBC engineer Kevin Golovin says ice buildup may become a thing of the past.

Researchers develop new class of anti-ice surfaces

Scraping an icy windshield can be a seasonal struggle for those that live in colder climates. But engineers from UBC’s Okanagan campus are aiming to ease that winter frustration with a new surface coating that can shed ice from large areas using little effort.

The new anti-ice coating is a new class of surfaces called low interfacial toughness (LIT) materials and was developed by UBC Okanagan researchers in a new study published this week in the journal Science.

“For those experienced in the early morning windshield scrape, it should come as no surprise that it normally takes quite a lot of force to remove large areas of ice,” explains Kevin Golovin, assistant professor at the UBCO School of Engineering and study lead author. “That’s not the case with LIT materials. Imagine simply brushing the ice away or letting it slide off the windshield from its own weight—that’s how effective LIT materials can be.”

According to Golovin, the development of this new class of materials is changing the way scientists understand ice adhesion.

“We’re disproving the last 80 years of thinking about how to lower ice adhesion. Lowering toughness had never been explored as an effective de-icing strategy.”

Golovin says LIT materials work by causing cracks to form easily beneath the ice, allowing it to readily dislodge. He compares the effect to a string of dominos.

“If designed correctly, the force to knock down a single domino is enough to topple them all—adding more dominoes doesn’t require you to push any harder,” says Golovin. “It’s the same with LIT materials. Once you form a crack it can de-ice the entire interface, whether it’s the length of a windshield, an airplane wing or a turbine blade.”

Golovin says LIT materials can be fabricated from commonplace paints and plastics but possess superior performance against state-of-the-art anti-icing materials in different applications like the de-icing of power lines, aviation wings and even in complex shapes like ice cube trays.

“Ice buildup has adverse effects on a range of commercial and residential activities, from downed power lines to air travel delays to scraping one’s windshield,” says Golovin. “This development is definitely a game-changer.”

The research, in partnership with the University of Michigan, was funded by the US Office of Naval Research, the US Department of Defense and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, 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.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.

Doctoral student Mohamed Gamal uses a newly developed cell encapsulation device.

Doctoral student Mohamed Gamal uses a newly developed cell encapsulation device.

New device encases delicate cells into protective microgels

A simple injection that can help regrow damaged tissue has long been the dream of physicians and patients alike. A new study from researchers at UBC Okanagan takes a big step towards making that dream a reality with a device that makes encapsulating cells much faster, cheaper and more effective.

“The idea of injecting different kinds of tissue cells is not a new one,” says Keekyoung Kim, assistant professor of engineering at UBC Okanagan and study co-author. “It’s an enticing concept because by introducing cells into damaged tissue, we can supercharge the body’s own processes to regrow and repair an injury.”

Kim says everything from broken bones to torn ligaments could benefit from this kind of approach and suggests even whole organs could be repaired as the technology improves.

The problem, he says, is that cells on their own are delicate and tend not to survive when injected directly into the body.

“It turns out that to ensure cell survival, they need to be encased in a coating that protects them from physical damage and from the body’s own immune system,” says Mohamed Gamal, doctoral student in biomedical engineering and study lead author. “But it has been extremely difficult to do that kind of cell encapsulation, which has until now been done in a very costly, time consuming and wasteful process.”

Kim and Gamal have solved that problem by developing an automated encapsulation device that encases many cells in a microgel using a specialized blue laser and purifies them to produce a clean useable sample in just a few minutes. The advantage of their system is that over 85 per cent of the cells survive and the process can be easily scaled up.

“Research in this area has been hampered by the cost and lack of availability of mass-produced cell encapsulated microgels,” says Kim. “We’ve solved that problem and our system could provide thousands or even tens of thousands of cell-encapsulated microgels rapidly, supercharging this field of bioengineering.”

In addition to developing a system that’s quick and efficient, Gamal says the equipment is made up of readily available and inexpensive components.

“Any lab doing this kind of work could set up a similar system anywhere from a few hundred to a couple of thousand dollars, which is pretty affordable for lab equipment,” says Gamal.

The team is already looking at the next step, which will be to embed different kinds of stem cells—cells that haven’t yet differentiated into specific tissue types—into the microgels alongside specialized proteins or hormones called growth factors. The idea would be to help the stem cells transform into the appropriate tissue type once they’re injected.

“I’m really excited to see where this technology goes next and what our encapsulated stem cells are capable of.”

The study was published in the journal Lab on a Chip with funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, 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.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.

Three professors named Researcher of the Year

UBC’s Okanagan campus is home to nearly 300 faculty researchers that are exploring some of the most urgent challenges, newest ideas and most ground-breaking technologies in the world.

The university this week named its 2019 Researchers of the Year. These prestigious annual prizes are awarded to the campus’ top researchers, with this year’s recipients recognized for their contributions to the development of innovative digital tools for marginalized communities, advances in sustainable energy and construction, and support for youth living with developmental disabilities and autism.

Awardees for 2019 are Associate Professor Jonathan Corbett in the category of social sciences and humanities, Professor Kasun Hewage in the category of natural sciences and engineering and Associate Professor Rachelle Hole in the category of health.

“This award recognizes outstanding UBCO faculty members who have carried out highly impactful work during their time at UBC,” says Vice-Principal, Research Philip Barker. “Professors Corbett, Hewage and Hole epitomize excellence in research and creative scholarship and are leaders in their respective fields and disciplines. Each of them works across multiple fields to help make the world a better place.”

Student researcher awards were also presented this year to master's student Emily Giroux and doctoral student Katrina Plamondon.

About UBC Okanagan’s award-winning researchers

Social Sciences and Humanities Researcher of the Year: Associate Professor Jonathan Corbett


While the science and art of cartography may have ancient roots, Associate Professor Jonathan Corbett is a modern cartographer who is working to map out how digital multimedia technologies can help preserve and strengthen remote or marginalized communities.

He is one of the country’s leaders in bringing geoinfomatics to a web-based, community-facing, knowledge platform. His Geolive software uses an online map as a storytelling tool to help marginalized communities feel empowered and overcome social exclusion.

“His technological sophistication, coupled with his steadfast commitment to interdisciplinary and community-based research is what makes Dr. Corbett’s work so remarkable,” says Mike Evans, associate dean of research, graduate and post-doctoral studies in the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences at UBC Okanagan. “As a critical cartographer, he has made significant contributions to the field and to the communities with which he works.”

Natural Sciences and Engineering Researcher of the Year: Professor Kasun Hewage


Kasun Hewage is a professor of engineering and associate director with UBC’s Clean Energy Research Centre. He takes a holistic approach to investigating smart energy and construction sustainability. His expertise includes life cycle thinking based analysis of cost-effective and renewable energy production and green construction processes that are coordinated by cutting edge science and technologies.

Earlier this year, Hewage was named the inaugural FortisBC Smart Energy Chair, with the goal of investigating how energy use in BC can be optimized to reduce the province’s greenhouse gas footprint.

“Dr. Hewage’s research and scholarly contributions are extensive,” says Rehan Sadiq, associate dean of the School of Engineering at UBC Okanagan. “His work brings together academic and industry stakeholders to access the most pertinent facts required for sustainable building decisions, a crucial area of study as the world continues to strive towards sustainability.”

Health Researcher of the Year: Associate Professor Rachelle Hole

With a career spanning over 20 years working with individuals with physical and developmental disabilities, associate professor Rachelle Hole has focused her research on the socio-cultural practices that promote inclusion and equity. She has a particular interest in participatory research methods and strives to work directly with communities to empower participants.

Her most recent work, the Transiting Youth with Disabilities and Employment (TYDE) project, was awarded $1.3M in federal funding, involves working directly with community groups to help prepare youth living with intellectual disabilities or Autism Spectrum Disorder find meaningful employment later in life.

“Dr. Hole has a unique ability to pull groups together and to catalyze relationships between researchers, community members, and other stakeholders to build a shared vision,” says Evans. “She consistently generates policy-relevant insights and knowledge that shapes programs and practices – and indeed people’s lives – in very immediate ways.”

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, 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.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.

UBC Okanagan doctoral student Sadia Ishaq's research has found that Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec have embraced alternative stormwater management technologies.

UBC Okanagan doctoral student Sadia Ishaq's research has found that Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec have embraced alternative stormwater management technologies.

UBC Okanagan researchers develop decision-making tool for governments

As population density in urban areas continues to intensify, municipal and provincial governments are looking towards alternatives to traditional stormwater systems.

Measures such as rooftop gardens, vegetative strips and bioswales—manmade trenches created for rainwater runoff—are becoming more common in urban planning. Known as low-impact developments (LIDs), these measures allow the water cycle to flow more smoothly.

In a recent study, researchers at UBC Okanagan’s Life Cycle Management Laboratory compared how different jurisdictions are handling LIDs. The investigation’s goal was to establish a decision-making tool for governments to help them incorporate LIDs into their urban planning as a way to address water management needs.

LID refers to site design practices that reduce the impact of water runoff. Contrary to traditional systems, LID tries to mimic the natural water cycle in urban settings and helps to harvest rainwater or snowmelt as well as to remove pollutants.

“Canadian stormwater management systems are facing challenges around every corner from climate change to aging infrastructure,” explains Rehan Sadiq, engineering professor and study co-author. “When you add urbanization to the mix, governments need to decide what approach they wish to take when it comes to LIDs or otherwise face potentially dire consequences.”

The UBC researchers found that the guidelines and approaches to implement LIDs vary from one province to another and one municipality to another. Some have embraced LIDs, while others have not.

In particular, the study found that Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec have embraced alternative technologies for stormwater management while New Brunswick and the three northern territories continue to lag behind.

“Urbanization has pushed those four provinces to act while the late-adopters have some time to establish their own approaches,” says Sadia Ishaq, UBC Okanagan doctoral student and study lead author. “Whether it is the Far North or the Maritimes, government leaders need to ensure they are taking appropriate action to balance development with sustainable water management.”

Although the study highlights the positive impact of LIDs, it also points out that more research is needed to determine the potential health risks of these systems on the public. Specifically, the microbial quality of storm runoff in urban areas.

“This type of sustainable infrastructure design can be enormously beneficial as communities grapple with aging infrastructure and a changing climate. This analysis can help promote the LIDs and extend their benefits as urban planners prepare our cities for the future,” says Ishaq.

The research, recently published in the Journal of Environmental Management, was supported by funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, 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.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.

Open house explores new design and concept

What: Free public open house on co-housing development
When: Wednesday, March 6 at 7 p.m.
Where: Kelowna Innovation Centre Theatre, 460 Doyle Ave.

Community housing is an old concept. But UBC Okanagan students are modernizing the idea with their creation of Kelowna’s first co-housing development plans, called the Aviary.

The engineering and management students and their faculty supervisor will be on hand at a free public open house to unveil the concept, designs and business model for what they say will be an evolution in sustainable housing for the region.

“Co-housing should not be confused with co-op, social or low-income housing,” says Gord Lovegrove, associate professor of engineering at UBC Okanagan and project leader. “The co-housing model typically involves 30 committed families who co-develop a property that clusters self-contained, smaller units around a central community dining and activity hall.”

Lovegrove says this community property helps to reduce costs but increases quality of life thanks to shared facilities like a community garden, social hall, craft room, workshop, toddler playroom and laundry.

“It’s an elegant solution because it addresses many housing issues simultaneously, from aging in place for seniors, to building a sense of community for those that otherwise might be socially isolated, to housing affordability for first-time home buyers,” says Lovegrove.

Development of the project was supported by fourth-year engineering and management students who were responsible for identifying potential locations, designing site layouts and determining development costs. The students also took charge of creating a viable business model for the project and managing its marketing.

“This is the culmination of two years of work and the team worked hard to create an innovative approach to an old idea,” says Lovegrove. “We’re excited to present the conceptual designs to the public and work with anyone interested in helping to make the project a reality.”

The open house begins at 7 p.m. on March 6 at the Kelowna Innovation Centre Theatre. A mini-design café will take place at 8 p.m. for those wishing to delve further the details or to become involved in the next steps.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, 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.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.

Engineering doctoral student George Luka says there is an urgent need to develop a fast, flexible, accurate and real-time detection tool to meet the challenge of protecting water consumers.

Engineering doctoral student George Luka says there is an urgent need to develop a fast, flexible, accurate and real-time detection tool to meet the challenge of protecting water consumers.

Cost-effective biosensor provides immediate and accurate results

A handheld 'tricorder' that can test for biological contamination in real-time has been the dream of science fiction fans for decades. And UBC Okanagan engineers say the technology is closer to science fact than ever before.

Using a small and inexpensive biosensor, researchers in the School of Engineering have developed a novel low-cost technique that quickly and accurately detects cryptosporidium contamination in water samples.

Cryptosporidium is an intestinal pathogen and one of the leading causes of respiratory and gastrointestinal illness in the world. Drinking water contaminated with the parasite can result in diarrhea and, in extreme cases, can even lead to death.

“Current methods for detecting cryptosporidium require filtering large volumes of water, separating out the organisms, staining them with a fluorescence label and trying to identify the pathogen using a microscope,” says George Luka, a doctoral student at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering and study lead author. “The process is extremely slow, expensive and doesn’t yield reliable results.”

Luka says there is an urgent need to develop a fast, flexible, accurate and real-time detection tool to meet the challenge of protecting water consumers from this common and potentially dangerous contaminent.

To solve this problem, Luka and his colleagues tested a specially designed and calibrated biosensor. Using varying concentrations of pathogen in water samples, they were able establish its ability to detect cryptosporidium contamination.

“The biosensor performed exactly as we were hoping and was able to measure cryptosporidium contamination rapidly and without the need for complex preparations and highly-trained technicians,” says Luka. “This is an impressive solution that can easily be integrated into inexpensive and portable devices to test drinking water in real-time anywhere in the world.”

Luka also says the biosensor can be expanded to measure other biomarkers and hazards.

“The technology has real potential to be used to test all kinds of biological contamination, both in medical and environmental applications. A handheld sensor that tests the safety of our water and our environment could soon become a reality.”

The research was published recently in the journal Sensors and was funded by the India-Canada Centre for Innovative Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability (IC-IMPACTS).

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, 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.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.

FortisBC partners to fund smart energy research chair at UBC Okanagan

British Columbia is poised to become more energy efficient and sustainable thanks to a new research collaboration announced today between FortisBC and UBC Okanagan. They’ve created a Smart Energy Research Chair position to help optimize energy use in BC and reduce the province’s greenhouse gas footprint.

“The future of humanity depends on our ability to make informed and sustainable energy choices,” says UBC Okanagan School of Engineering Professor, Kasun Hewage, recipient of the FortisBC Smart Energy Chair award. “This new position gives us an opportunity to better understand how to optimize and improve energy efficiency through an in-depth analysis of the environmental, financial and social implications—what we call the complete lifecycle—of each of those choices.”

The FortisBC Smart Energy Research Chair is a five-year appointment supported by FortisBC, Mitacs and UBC. Hewage says the new position will direct independent research to address BC’s growing energy needs and improve the sustainable use of available energy sources in the province.

Hewage, an associate director with UBC’s Clean Energy Research Centre, takes a holistic approach to investigating smart energy strategies, which includes cost-effective, sustainable and renewable energy production systems coordinated by cutting edge technologies. By evaluating the implications and cost-benefits of a diverse variety of smart energy solutions, Hewage will be able to provide policy-makers with invaluable data.

“This role will mean that we are well-positioned to leverage UBC Okanagan’s expertise in green technologies and work with stakeholders like FortisBC to develop tools and strategies to improve energy sustainability throughout the province,” says Hewage.

Hewage is also part of a multidisciplinary network of UBC researchers working collaboratively to develop new tools, techniques, policies and best management practices to address municipal infrastructure challenges including climate resiliency and the environment. The Cluster of Research Excellence in Green Infrastructure integrates the expertise of researchers in engineering, economics, geography and the social sciences.

In addition to the funding from FortisBC, the appointment will be supported by matching internship funding from Mitacs, which will support students to work hand-in-hand with FortisBC throughout the five-year collaboration.

“We appreciate the work that UBC Okanagan is doing to advance research and education around energy-efficient buildings as well as the opportunity to be involved,” said Danielle Wensink, director of conservation and energy management for FortisBC. “We’re committed to helping our customers manage their energy use and these findings will have real-world benefits as we incorporate them into our many energy management programs.”

“Our investigators are among the finest in their fields,” says Phil Barker, vice-principal and associate vice-president of research at UBC’s Okanagan campus. “Industry collaborations like these help our research teams tackle major societal issues and contribute their expertise to solving real problems. Sustainable infrastructure is a core research strength at UBC’s Okanagan campus and research partnerships help catalyze smart strategies, influential policy and emergent technologies for the future.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, 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.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.