Patty Wellborn

Email: patty-wellborn@news.ok.ubc.ca


 

UBCO Associate Professor Megan Smith along with student Yugi Goa explore a virtual reality environment.

UBCO Associate Professor Megan Smith along with student Yugi Goa explore a virtual reality environment.

$1.65 million federal grant creates futuristic learning and applied research opportunities

Funding from the Government of Canada will help establish one of the world’s first truly interdisciplinary immersive technologies graduate programs at UBC’s Okanagan campus.

The $1.65-million grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) program will support UBCO’s newly-established CREATE Immersive Technologies (CITech) program.

Dr. Abbas S. Milani, a professor in the School of Engineering and CITech lead, says the program will help students develop skills in immersive technologies that are in demand across Canada and globally. Immersive technologies, such as augmented and virtual reality systems, enable users to interact naturally with a blended environment of physical and virtual content.

“There is currently a huge demand for adopting virtual, augmented and mixed reality systems across the globe,” says Milani. “This new program will equip students with the skills to flourish in the fast-paced, continually evolving field of immersive technologies.”

An additional $2.5 million from other partners will help UBC develop multiple and innovative cross-departmental courses.

CITech will provide multi-faculty co-supervision, multidisciplinary research projects, and industry mentorships from across Canada, says Milani, who is the founding director of the UBC Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute (MMRI).

This new endeavour will link researchers, students and partners from traditionally distinct sectors such as engineering, creative and critical studies, medicine, nursing, education and computer science.

The program will establish a large and diverse cohort of students each year, who will develop immersive technology skills through multidisciplinary course work along with basic and applied research. They will work and study in an integrated setting that will include computational, engineering, smart manufacturing, health and artistic design perspectives.

“Collaborations between our faculties, our campus and industry, along with our researchers and the community are the perfect incubator for training the high-tech workers of tomorrow,” he adds.

Milani and his co-applicants believe that UBC Okanagan provides an ideal environment for training the next generation of leaders in immersive technology.

“To make the biggest impact with this program, contributions from arts and health are imperative,” he adds. “Integrating the arts recognizes a more holistic science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) strategy, and the engagement of health researchers acknowledges the substantial projected impact of immersive technologies on the Canadian health-care sector.”

The program will take advantage of UBC Okanagan’s state-of-the-art Visualization and Emerging Media Studio, set to open later this summer, along with other high-tech labs across the campus.

Mahdi Takaffoli, MMRI research engineer and CITech coordinator, points to the program’s collaboration with 18 initial industry partners, in addition to Interior Health and the City of Kelowna, as a major indicator that the skills being taught in this program are highly sought after.

“There is a significant skills gap in terms of designing and building immersive solutions that solve tangible problems,” says Takaffoli. “And this program seeks to address this gap through professional development opportunities, cutting-edge research projects and real-world experiential learning.”

From formal co-mentorship, professional skills and job-readiness training, industrial internships, symposiums and inter-disciplinary research, students in the program will strive to uncover innovative methods of implementing immersive technologies into a wide range of applications including design, engineering, health care, education and the arts.

“This program will lay a strong foundation for our students and community partners to address future challenges,” says Milani. “The upcoming projects are far-reaching and have endless potential for continued research.

One of the proposed projects will use virtual reality to determine a pedestrian’s reaction to an approaching autonomous vehicle, while another will help post-stroke patients gain strength to reduce the risk of falling.

Other projects will investigate how virtual technology can support the learning of Indigenous languages, or help advanced manufacturing sectors assess the quality and safety of their procedures and products, and one future project will look at the use of immersive visualization to create 3D, interactive e-commerce venues.

The growth potential is limited only by the team’s imagination, says Milani, who notes there are plans to expand the CITech program over the next few years and develop a national centre of excellence with other Canadian universities.

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

Venedict Tamondong, who recently graduated from UBCO with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering, was also awarded the 2021 Dr. Gordon Springate Sr. Award in Engineering.

Venedict Tamondong, who recently graduated from UBCO with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering, was also awarded the 2021 Dr. Gordon Springate Sr. Award in Engineering.

Top-notch student wins award for contributions made outside the classroom

A UBC Okanagan student who spent almost as much time volunteering as he did studying, has been recognized for being an indispensable student advocate and leader.

Venedict Tamondong recently graduated from UBCO with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering. He was also recognized for his student leadership and awarded the 2021 Dr. Gordon Springate Sr. Award in Engineering.

“I am truly humbled by this award, especially considering that it is based on experiences that also positively impacted my university career,” says Tamondong. “The students, staff and faculty that I connected with at UBC and across Canada continue to inspire me.”

Originally from Edmonton, Tamondong quickly became an engaged and active member of the engineering campus community. During his five years as a student, he served as a first-year representative, vice-president external and president of the UBC Okanagan Engineering Society. He also served on numerous executive positions with the Western Engineering Students Societies’ Team and the Canadian Federation of Engineering Students.

As a leader in many university organizations, Tamondong helped enrich the experiences of engineering students across the country while promoting the profession, says Rehan Sadiq, executive associate dean of the School of Engineering. Tamondong also coordinated a series of meetings and events including the conferences on diversity in engineering, leadership and sustainability, the Canadian Engineering Competition and UBCO’s Jumpstart Program — a professional development program for new students.

Working closely with the School of Engineering’s Academic Advising Team and Geering Up, he facilitated community outreach activities for youth. Tamondong also earned first place at the Okanagan Engineering Competition, placed in the top five at the 2019 Canadian Engineering Competition, and third at the 2019 Western Engineering Competition for Engineering Debate.

During the pandemic, Tamondong didn’t stop contributing. He developed online conferences and competition initiatives including the successful 2020 summer session of the Jumpstart program, says Sadiq.

“With all of these accomplishments, it would be easy for him to rest on his laurels, but he still managed to achieve a 90 per cent grade in his final year, while carrying courses such as biomedical engineering, biotechnology, computational fluid dynamics and engineering construction and management,” says Sadiq.

The $10,000 Dr. Gordon Springate Sr. Award in Engineering is an annual prize presented to a student who is completing their Bachelor of Applied Science with the School of Engineering and has demonstrated a material contribution to their community outside of their program. The award encourages and promotes self-responsibility and lifelong learning, says his son Gordon Springate Jr.

“This award is not about grades, this award is not about trying. It’s about encouraging and enabling others,” says Springate. “Not simply doing for things for others, but rather in their actions allowing others to be responsible for themselves.”

Tamondong, humble for this recognition, says UBC Okanagan was the nexus for all of his successes.

“Frankly, all these opportunities came to me because I happened to choose UBC. And I’m thankful the School of Engineering offers so many ways to contribute and connect,” he says. “To all the student groups I had the opportunity to be a part of during my years at UBCO, I say thank you. I will always remember being able to help advocate and serve fellow students and I am proud of my accomplishments.”

Tamondong recently started as a field engineer at Capital Power Corporation, where he is helping to build renewable wind turbines at a project located near Medicine Hat, Alberta. He plans to continue working in responsible, renewable energy with the goal to continue developing his skills as a project engineer and future corporate leader.

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

Shane Koyczan

Canadian poet and spoken word artist Shane Koyczan will address the UBCO graduating class of 2021.

Virtual ceremony recognizes more than 1,800 graduating students

UBC Okanagan is marking its second virtual convocation next week.

More than 1,850 graduates — including 1,600 undergraduates as well as more than 100 masters’ and doctoral students — will tune in to celebrate the success of their educational journey.

“This has been a remarkable year for our students and our faculty,” says Lesley Cormack, deputy vice-chancellor and principal of UBC’s Okanagan campus. “While the ceremony will be virtual, the remarkable achievements of our students are very real and worthy of recognition. I invite everyone to join me in celebrating the Class of 2021.”

There are also some new faces in the procession of dignitaries that will congratulate the graduates this year. UBC’s 19th Chancellor, the Honourable Steven Point (xwĕ lī qwĕl tĕl), will preside over the ceremony, his first since taking on the role of chancellor last year. And this will be Cormack’s first convocation since joining the university in July 2020.

“Coming to UBC Okanagan during a time when our students are learning remotely has indeed been interesting,” Cormack adds. “Through it all, our students have shown remarkable fortitude while learning and conducting research online. I commend them all for their accomplishments.”

Once the ceremony has begun, UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Santa J. Ono will address the Class of 2021 live, dressed in full academic regalia and graduates will have an opportunity to take a virtual selfie with President Ono. Along with a congratulatory message from Cormack, graduates will also hear inspiring words from student speakers Ali Poostizadeh, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, and Blessing Adeagbo, who has earned a Bachelor of Human Kinetics.

Another highlight of the 50-minute ceremony will be a keynote address from Shane Koyczan. The Canadian poet and spoken word artist will honour the perseverance and resilience of the 2021 graduating class. His message, written from the heart, will inspire all viewers, Cormack adds.

UBC Okanagan’s graduating class will celebrate their accomplishments virtually on June 2, starting at 2:30 p.m. Students and their family members can watch the ceremony on YouTube, Facebook or Panopto, a platform that is accessible from many countries.

To find out more about the virtual convocation ceremony, visit: virtualgraduation.ok.ubc.ca

This year’s medal recipients

Governor General's Gold Medal: Sandra Fox

Lieutenant Governor's Medal Program for Inclusion, Democracy and Reconciliation: Aidan O'Callahan

UBC Medal in Fine Arts: Jade Zitko

UBC Medal in Arts: Michelle Tucsok

UBC Medal in Science: Jakob Thoms

UBC Medal in Education: Patricia Perkins

UBC Medal in Nursing: Alex Halonen

UBC Medal in Management: Breanne Ruskowsky

UBC Medal in Human Kinetics: Marika Harris

UBC Medal in Engineering: Rohan Ikebuchi

UBC Medal in Media Studies Sydney Bezenar

Virtual ceremony celebrates social and technological innovation

It is award season, and not just in the entertainment industry.

Last Thursday at a special virtual ceremony, UBC Okanagan researchers were honoured for their innovative and groundbreaking work.

At the ceremony, Dr. Phil Barker, UBCO’s vice-principal and associate vice-president of research and innovation, announced the campus’s four researchers of the year. The awards recognize those who have made a significant contribution to research in the areas of natural sciences and engineering, social sciences and humanities, and health. A graduate student is also honoured annually at this event.

The research highlighted — from wireless technology to psychedelic-drug assisted therapy to diabetes research and tackling social inequalities — demonstrates the breadth of impact UBCO researchers are having locally, nationally and internationally, says Dr. Barker.

“This is one of my favourite times of the year, when I have the pleasure of acknowledging some of our star researchers and highlighting their contributions,” he says. “UBC’s Okanagan campus is one of the most rapidly expanding campuses in Canada and we continue to attract top-notch scholars and researchers.”

Natural Sciences and Engineering Researcher of the year: Dr. Julian Cheng

This year, Dr. Julian Cheng was named the natural sciences and engineering researcher of the year. Dr. Cheng is an expert in digital communications and signal processing.

He has many patents and has recently invented an indoor optical wireless location technique that improves receiver accuracy and will allow precise control of robot movement. His research also includes an intra-body communication device using wireless technology that will benefit health-care systems.

Health Research of the Year: Dr. Jonathan Little

When it comes to health research, Dr. Jonathan Little has been investigating improved treatments and possible prevention of Type 2 diabetes.

Much of his work revolves around the impact of healthy eating and exercise to stave off metabolic disease. He works with several partner organizations to improve the lives of people living with chronic illness and disease. Dr. Little also leads the Airborne Disease Transmission Research Cluster, a cross-campus research team that aims to lessen the airborne transmission of COVID-19 and other airborne illnesses.

Social Sciences and Humanities Research of the Year: Dr. Eric Li

Dr. Eric Li, the winner of the social sciences and humanities award, is an expert on social trends and a champion for the underdog.

His research focuses on interdisciplinary collaborations with non-profit organizations and local government to improve social inequities. His overreaching goal is to improve the lives of everyday people around the world. Through his community-based research, he has made an impact on food insecurity, poverty, urban densification and rural community building in our region.

Graduate Student Research of the Year: Michelle St. Pierre

Doctoral student Michelle St. Pierre has been honoured for her work in substance use and mental health, with a focus on cannabis and psychedelic use and harm reduction.

She has made significant research breakthroughs in how people cope with pain and pain sensitivity. As a founder of the UBC Okanagan chapter of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, St. Pierre has received international media attention for her research on cannabinoid-based analgesics and is a national expert on cannabis policy.

“The purpose of these awards is to highlight and honour the research excellence that makes UBC a top 40 global university,” adds Dr. Barker. “I am impressed with the calibre of all our researchers and am very proud of this year’s recipients. I look forward to their future successes.”

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

Occupants in a vehicle, especially pregnant women, are subjected to relatively large forces suddenly and over a short period when a vehicle accelerates over a speedbump

Occupants in a vehicle, especially pregnant women, are subjected to relatively large forces suddenly and over a short period when a vehicle accelerates over a speedbump

The slower the better while driving over them, says researcher

Slow down. Baby on board.

So says UBC Okanagan researcher and Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Hadi Mohammadi. His new research, conducted in collaboration with Sharif University of Technology, determines that accelerating over speed bumps poses a danger for pregnant women and their fetuses.

“There is lots of research about the importance of movement for women during pregnancy,” explains Mohammadi, who teaches in the School of Engineering. “Our latest research looked specifically at the impacts of sudden acceleration on a pregnant woman.”

Using new modelling based on data from crash tests and fundamental dynamic behaviours of a pregnant woman, Mohammadi and his co-authors found that accelerating over speedbumps raises concern. If driven over quickly, they caution this can lead to minor injuries to the fetal brain, cause an abnormal fetal heart rate, abdominal pain, uterine contraction, increasing uterine activity and further complications.

Occupants in a vehicle, especially pregnant women, are subjected to relatively large forces suddenly and over a short period when a vehicle accelerates over a speedbump, he explains.

Mohammadi is particularly interested in vibrations, and in this case their impact on human organs. This recent study looked at the effect of these vibrations on a woman in her third trimester of pregnancy.

Their investigation included many factors such as the speed of the car as it goes over the speedbump, the size of the speedbump as it can cause a drag on the uterus as it goes up and then down, and the fact that all this movement puts pressure on the amniotic fluid that is protecting the fetus.

“We took all these factors into account to ensure a comprehensive differential model that mirrors real-world responses and interactions of the woman and fetus.”

As a result, the researchers were very specific in their recommendations. Slow down.

In fact, they advise slowing a vehicle to less than 45 km/h when hitting a speedbump, and preferably as low as 25km/h to reduce risk to the fetus.

“Obviously, there are other variables at play when a driver approaches a speedbump, but we hope our findings provide some evidence-based guidance to keep drivers and their occupants literally and figuratively safe,” says Mohammadi.

Furthermore, he hopes the findings can help researchers better understand how a pregnant woman and her fetus are subjected to risk caused by a vehicle passing bumpy terrain such as speed bumps. His end goal is for his research to make vehicular safety improvements for pregnant women.

The research is published in the latest edition of the Journal of Biomechanics.

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

Pulp mill waste hits the road instead of the landfill

Waste materials from the pulp and paper industry have long been seen as possible fillers for building products like cement, but for years these materials have ended up in the landfill. Now, researchers at UBC Okanagan are developing guidelines to use this waste for road construction in an environmentally friendly manner.

The researchers were particularly interested in wood-based pulp mill fly ash (PFA), which is a non-hazardous commercial waste product. The North American pulp and paper industry generates more than one million tons of ash annually by burning wood in power boiler units for energy production. When sent to a landfill, the producer shoulders the cost of about $25 to $50 per ton, so mills are looking for alternative usages of these by-products.

“Anytime we can redirect waste to a sustainable alternative, we are heading in the right direction,” says Dr. Sumi Siddiqua, associate professor at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering. Dr. Siddiqua leads the Advanced Geomaterials Testing Lab, where researchers uncover different reuse options for industry byproducts.

This new research co-published with Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr. Chinchu Cherian investigated using untreated PFA as an economically sustainable low-carbon binder for road construction.

“The porous nature of PFA acts like a gateway for the adhesiveness of the other materials in the cement that enables the overall structure to be stronger and more resilient than materials not made with PFA,” says Dr. Cherian. “Through our material characterization and toxicology analysis, we found further environmental and societal benefits that producing this new material was more energy efficient and produced low-carbon emissions.”

But Dr. Siddiqua notes the construction industry is concerned that toxins used in pulp and paper mills may leach out of the reused material.

“Our findings indicate because the cementation bonds developed through the use of the untreated PFA are so strong, little to no release of chemicals is apparent. Therefore, it can be considered as a safe raw material for environmental applications.”

While Dr. Cherian explains that further research is required to establish guidelines for PFA modifications to ensure its consistency, she is confident their research is on the right track.

“Overall, our research affirms the use of recycled wood ash from pulp mills for construction activities such as making sustainable roads and cost-neutral buildings can derive enormous environmental and economic benefits,” she says. “And not just benefits for the industry, but to society as a whole by reducing waste going to landfills and reducing our ecological footprints.”

In the meantime, while cement producers can start incorporating PFA into their products, Dr. Cherian says they should be continually testing and evaluating the PFA properties to ensure overall quality.

The research was published in the Journal of Cleaner Production with support from the Bio-Alliance Initiative — an organization representing BC pulp and paper mills — and Mitacs.

UBCO postdoctoral research fellow Chinchu Cherian, along with Associate Professor Sumi Siddiqua, examines a road building material created partly with recycled wood ash.

UBCO postdoctoral research fellow Chinchu Cherian, along with Associate Professor Sumi Siddiqua, examines a road-building material created partly with recycled wood ash.

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

Dr. Jian Liu conducts research in materials and interface design for next-generation battery technologies.

Dr. Jian Liu conducts research in materials and interface design for next-generation battery technologies.

UBCO professor works to create safe, energy-dense, renewable batteries

With increasing global efforts to adopt clean energy, developing sustainable storage systems has become a major challenge in getting electric vehicles on the road and integrating intermittent renewable energy resources into the grid.

Dr. Jian Liu is an assistant professor with UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering. He runs the Advanced Materials for Energy Storage Lab where he researches materials and interface design for next-generation battery technologies. His team of researchers is looking for ways to develop renewable technologies, contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and increase public awareness and education of renewable energy.

Liu recently published a paper in the Journal of Power Sources about creating zinc-ion batteries. These zinc-ion batteries have shown the merits of intrinsic safety and high energy densities at low costs. He shares the science behind the basic battery, how batteries are evolving and the importance they have in today’s technology.

In layperson terms, how does a battery work?

A battery works by moving electrons and ions back and forward between negative and positive electrodes via different paths. Electrons diffuse through external circuits to power up devices, while ions mitigate the energy inside the battery. During the charging process, electrons and ions move from the positive electrode to the negative electrode with energy stored and visa-versa during the discharge process with energy released.

We are all familiar with the batteries we use in our electronics and electric vehicles. How are batteries changing?

Over the past decades, we have witnessed the rapid adoption of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries in various applications, ranging from portable electronics to electric vehicles and grid storage. The dramatically increasing demand requires rechargeable batteries to be smaller, more energy-dense, safer and cheaper. And at the same time, this demand drives the current evolution in new battery chemistry, such as solid-state batteries, aqueous zinc-ion batteries, etc.

Are there other applications where batteries will soon become commonplace? For example, aviation?

Rechargeable batteries have been increasingly used in electric flights and marine applications to reduce carbon footprints. They are also used in wireless and intelligent devices, such as health monitoring sensors, Internet of Things and life-saving devices. Moreover, rechargeable batteries are popularly used in electric bicycles.

How is battery technology becoming more sustainable?

The development of efficient and cost-effective battery recycling processes is a key to close the loop for battery technology and make it sustainable. Current batteries use many elements with limited reserves, such as lithium, cobalt and nickel. Determining how to properly recycle the valued components from retired vehicle batteries is an urgent task to avoid potential adverse environmental impacts from battery disposal.

Currently, if you want batteries to hold a charge for longer, I recommend charging them at room temperature when the remaining battery level is about 20 per cent. This will also improve the lifetime of batteries, meaning they don’t need to be recycled as often

What’s the next big thing on the horizon?

The solid-state battery is one of the impending battery innovations on the horizon to bring breakthroughs in energy storage sectors. It will fundamentally address the safety issue associated with lithium-ion batteries, such as overheating or exploding, due to the use of solid electrolytes. This can potentially increase the driving range of electric vehicles beyond 500 Km per charge. Aqueous zinc-ion batteries are also promising safe and low-cost energy storage solutions for large-scale grid storage to meet the increasing need from intermittent renewable energy, such as wind and solar.

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

Assistant Professor of Teaching Dean Richert and student Ram Dershan prepare a workstation that will be used for the industrial automation micro-credential course.

Assistant Professor of Teaching Dean Richert and student Ram Dershan prepare a workstation that will be used for the industrial automation micro-credential course.

Short-duration, competency-based options aim to help community members improve skills

With an increasing need for continued education among those looking to build their knowledge in high-demand fields, UBC Okanagan has launched two micro-credential programs as part of its career and personal education portfolio. The first of their kind at UBCO, the two new micro-credentials will focus on the fields of technical communication and industrial automation.

“Micro-credentials are short programs that are often competency-based and are designed to respond to the needs of industry,” says Ananya Mukherjee Reed, provost and vice-president academic at UBC Okanagan. “They enable UBC Okanagan to offer unique learning opportunities alongside our academic programs that reflect the evolving education needs of today’s workforce.”

The new micro-credentials are part of British Columbia’s $4 million in funding for similar initiatives across the province. UBCO’s two new programs are delivered online and learners will earn a non-credit letter of proficiency, which includes a traditional paper copy of the credential and one or more digital badges which can be shared on their professional social media profiles.

The Critical Skills for Communications in the Technical Sector course, offered through the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, focuses on developing skills to communicate information accurately, succinctly and unambiguously and is intended for those working or seeking employment in a technical field.

Dr. Edward Hornibrook, head of the Department of Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences and host of the new credential at UBCO, says the ability to communicate complex topics in a way that can be generally understood is a critical skill for employees across a breadth of industries.

“The program offers eight modules that focus on everything from improving grammar and style to better engaging with clients to producing successful technical proposals,” he says. “While many people focus on developing their technical abilities, this program is a great opportunity to improve on communication skills and will help participants get their ideas out in a clear and concise way—something that can bring a world of new opportunities for those seeking employment or wishing to advance their current position.”

Skills in Industrial Automation, offered through the School of Engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science, brings together theory with hands-on practice. Participants have the opportunity to use industry-standard tools to learn about and develop automated systems.

“Not only are these programs designed in close collaboration with industry partners to ensure they provide real value in a professional context, but also students get to hone their skills in a flexible way and network with other people in their fields with the same interests,” says Dr. Homayoun Najjaran, associate director of manufacturing engineering and creator of the industrial automation micro-credential. “This is a new and exciting offering from UBCO and one that’s going to benefit employers and individuals alike.”

While the Skills in Industrial Automation micro-credential is full, Critical Skills for Communications in the Technical Sector is open for enrolment. For more information on both programs visit: provost.ok.ubc.ca/cpe

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

Associate Professor Hadi Mohammadi is the lead researcher at UBCO’s Heart Valve Performance Lab.

Associate Professor Hadi Mohammadi is the lead researcher at UBCO’s Heart Valve Performance Lab.

A twist on the decade’s-old design improves blood flow, prevents clots

New research coming out of UBC’s Okanagan campus may take the current ‘gold standard’ for heart valves to a new level of reliability.

A team of researchers at UBCO’s Heart Valve Performance Lab (HVPL) has developed a way to improve overall blood flow through the valves, so the design of mechanical heart valves will more closely match the real thing.

“Despite more than 40 years of research, we are still chasing the goal of creating mechanical heart valves that perform consistently and seamlessly inside the human body,” explains Dr. Hadi Mohammadi, an associate professor at the School of Engineering and lead researcher for the HVPL. “The way blood travels through the body is very unique to a person’s physiology, so a ‘one-size fits all’ valve has always been a real challenge.”

Mohammadi, along with doctoral student Arpin Bhullar, has developed an innovative mechanical bileaflet that enables the mechanical heart valve to function just like the real thing. A bileaflet valve—two semicircular leaflets that pivot on hinges—is a mechanical gateway that allows consistent blood-flow and ensures the flow is in one direction.

While developed decades ago and used regularly to improve a patient’s blood flow, artificial valves have never been perfect, says Mohammadi. With existing versions of bileaflets, there is a small risk of blood clots or even a backflow of blood.

The design of the bileaflet is crucial for maintaining blood flow in order to eliminate risk to the patient. Mohammadi believes he’s found a way to fix the problem, by adding a slight twist to the design.

“Our findings show our apex heart valve maintains consistent flow as a result of its breakthrough design—specifically the valve’s curvature which mitigates clotting.”

The initial design was confirmed by Dr. Guy Fradet, head of Kelowna General Hospital’s cardiothoracic surgery program. Mohammadi says it takes decades for innovations in mechanical heart valves before they are used on humans, but he is confident his novel leaflet-shaped valve is the way of the future.

“The work we’re doing has resulted in the design of a valve which may serve as the foundation for the next generation of bileaflet mechanical heart valves,” he says. “Our research, with computer simulation and in-vitro studies, helped evaluate the performance of the proposed valve and also compare it to the industry gold standard.”

The findings, published in the Journal of Medical Engineering and Technology, suggest additional experimentation is still needed to confirm the valve’s effectiveness. The researchers are now in the process of developing 3D-printed, carbon and aluminum prototypes of the valve for further testing. The research is funded by 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 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 researchers Farhad Ahmadijokani and Mohammad Arjmand have developed a cost-effective material that can help remove toxic chemicals, like cancer-treatment drugs, from water supplies.

UBCO researchers Farhad Ahmadijokani and Mohammad Arjmand have developed a cost-effective material that can help remove toxic chemicals, like cancer-treatment drugs, from water supplies.

UBCO researchers help protect people from toxic chemicals

‘What goes in, must come out’ is a familiar refrain. It is especially pertinent to the challenges facing UBC researchers who are investigating methods to remove chemicals and pharmaceuticals from public water systems.

Cleaning products, organic dyes and pharmaceuticals are finding their way into water bodies with wide-ranging negative implications to health and the environment, explains Mohammad Arjmand, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UBC Okanagan.

And while pharmaceuticals like a chemotherapy drug called methotrexate can be highly effective for patients, once the drugs vacate their bodies they become a high risk for human health and the environment.

“Methotrexate is an anti-cancer drug used at a high dose in chemotherapy to treat cancer, leukemia, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases,” he says. “However, the drug is not absorbed by the body and ends up in water channels from hospital waste, sewage and surface waters.”

Removing these types of contaminants from wastewater can be costly and complicated explains Arjmand, who is a Canada Research Chair in Advanced Materials and Polymer Engineering.

“We work on modifying the structure of adsorbent nanomaterials to control their ability to attract or repel chemicals,” says Arjmand.

While his team of researchers was looking at methods to remove the anti-cancer drugs from water supplies—they designed a porous nanomaterial, called a metal-organic framework (MOF), that is capable of adsorbing these pollutants from water.

Adsorption, he explains, takes place when the molecules of a chemical adhere to the surface of a solid substance—in this case, the chemotherapy drug sticks to the surface of the adsorbent, which is Arjmand’s MOF.

“We precisely engineer the structure of our MOFs to remove the anti-cancer drug from aqueous solutions quickly,” says Farhad Ahmadijokani, a doctoral student in the Nanomaterials and Polymer Nanocomposites Laboratory directed by Arjmand.

Arjmand points out the MOF is an affordable technique for the removal of chemicals from liquids and waters and is an effective method to improve wastewater systems.

“The high-adsorption capacity, good recyclability and excellent structural stability make our MOF an impressive candidate for the removal of methotrexate from the aqueous solutions,” he adds. “Our research shows that particular pharmaceutical can be adsorbed rapidly and effectively onto our aluminum-based metal-organic framework.”

The research was conducted in collaboration with UBC, Sharif University of Technology and the pharmaceutical engineering department at the Soniya College of Pharmacy. It is published in the latest edition of the Journal of Environmental Management.

bout 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