Patty Wellborn



A photo of a starfish and oil spill

UBCO researchers have come up with a strategy to deal with the waste created when an off shore oil spill is cleaned up.

Images of damaged coastlines, oily sheens, containment booms and endangered wildlife are part of every offshore oil spill.

And while a response team arrives and the clean up gets underway, UBC Okanagan researchers are now exploring how to effectively handle the waste created from that spill.

As part of a Multi-Partner Research Initiative sponsored by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, UBCO engineers are conducting new research to help the oil spill response industry and its regulators enhance response preparedness and efficiency in Canadian waters. A new research study, published recently in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, conducts a lifecycle assessment of oil spill waste mitigation and how to properly dispose of the refuse.

“We never want to experience any sort of spill, but when it happens we need to be prepared,” explains Dr. Guangji Hu, a School of Engineering postdoctoral fellow and report co-author. “If a spill is on land, contaminated soil can be removed and remediated off-site, but that simply isn’t feasible on the water.”

Using a lifecycle assessment approach, the researchers developed a framework to help decision-makers effectively manage the waste of an offshore oil spill cleanup. The lifecycle assessment quantifies the environmental impacts associated with products and services at different points of their life cycle.

The lifecycle assessment compared various strategies for treating wastes—including its collection, segregation and sorting, initial treatment, secure transportation of waste materials, resource recovery and the final disposal of all soiled materials—as well as the resulting environmental impacts, particularly on scenarios situated in Western Canada.

Addressing maritime oil spills is a complex process with many variables including type of oil, tides and water composition, explains Saba Saleem, an engineering master’s student with UBCO’s Lifecycle Management Lab.

“Every spill is unique, but with this new tool we can identify the barriers, gaps and bottlenecks in oily waste management during an offshore oil spill response and enable decision makers to make more informed choices,” says Saleem, who is also the study’s lead author.

Several techniques such as mechanical containment and recovery, use of chemical dispersants, and in-situ burning are commonly used depending on various factors, such as oil slick characteristics, environmental conditions and the spill location.

“The aspect of oil spill recovery waste is one part of a response, but the management of this waste is the most complex, expensive and time-consuming component of recovery,” says Dr. Hu.

The findings point to a strategy of combining centrifugation and landfilling as the most suitable remediation approach for low-impact offshore oil spill waste management, but also highlight the potential of other strategies based on the severity of the spill.

“Analyzing these challenging situations in a holistic manner through lifecycle assessment allows us to develop a framework that encompasses nearly every possible scenario of offshore oil waste management,” Dr. Hu adds. “As a result, stakeholders have one more tool to address these spills quickly and effectively.”

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A photo of two girls smiling and drinking water

UBCO engineers are teaming up with TELUS and the Regional District of North Okanagan to investigate how smart technology can help monitor drinking water quality.

Delivery of safe and high-quality drinking water is an essential public service, but it’s not easy to monitor water quality in real-time close to customers’ homes.

Thanks to a new research partnership with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, TELUS and the Regional District of North Okanagan, researchers at UBC’s Okanagan campus will begin to address this gap by leveraging new sensors to wirelessly monitor water quality in the distribution system.

This new smart monitoring solution aims to improve how municipalities monitor water and its quality at the tap for thousands of residents across the Okanagan.

“Our eventual goal is to improve drinking-water-system-management and enhance the safety of residents across British Columbia,” says Dr. Nicolas Peleato, Assistant Professor with UBCO’s School of Engineering. “Through the use of these sensors, water providers such as municipalities and regional districts will be able to identify water quality issues more accurately and faster than what is currently feasible.”

TELUS is currently working on the development of Smart City technologies in urban and rural applications to enhance the lives of residents through improved safety and better connectivity.

“Using technology for good and providing safe water and food is in TELUS’ DNA, and we are excited to be collaborating with UBCO on this project,” says Chief Technology Officer Ibrahim Gedeon. “Bringing together technology leaders, who have a genuine desire to improve the safety and wellbeing of Canadians, with some of UBCO’s excellent research expertise and knowledge will improve the lives of British Columbians, and support the region in becoming digitally enabled with smart technology solutions.”

The smart sensors will be configured in a system that will identify conductivity, oxidation reduction potential and water temperature using processing and communication hardware. The acquired data will then be sent through mobile networks to the TELUS Smart City products for interpretation and evaluation.

“A lack of adequate monitoring can have significant consequences,” adds Dr. Peleato. “Technology that offers real-time monitoring and evaluation, delivers an important safeguard for water providers and users to ensure their drinking water stays safe. Our municipal partner is excited about the immediate and positive impact this research will have on their water systems.”

An important part of the research will be developing models to help the software quickly and accurately respond to the data allowing for real-time responses. The researchers are working to develop a wireless low-cost sensor for water quality monitoring. The intended outcome, notes Dr. Peleato, is that connection level sensors help future products let users know their water quality with a simple interface that will visualize the data for consumers.

There are several advantages—for both the customer and the water utility—to monitoring chlorine residuals, turbidity and other relevant water quality indicators closer to the point of use. With access to water quality data from the distribution system, the water utility can better respond to quality issues before receiving a complaint. This will enable improved monitoring and management of the system.

“Connecting dispersed sensors with a 5G network like that of TELUS allows for real-time water quality monitoring, predicting water quality changes and taking proactive measures to correct for such changes in a timely manner,” says Dr. Anas Chaaban, UBCO Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and project co-investigator. “This new collaboration will provide greater customer assurance and confidence in their drinking water.”

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Two UBC alumni working on an aerospace project.

Connor Badowich and Pradeep Pugalendhi, both graduates of UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering, at work at KF Aerospace in Kelowna.

To address the increasing demand for aerospace engineers in Western Canada, UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering is launching an aerospace option.

The new option will be available to manufacturing and mechanical engineering students, explains Dr. Joshua Brinkerhoff, an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and coordinator of the aerospace option.

“Aerospace is a huge industry in British Columbia, and across Western Canada,” he says. “Our industry partners in the aerospace sector are seeking highly-qualified graduates with very specific skills. This option will provide a solid foundation for our students to meet those requirements.”

Kelowna’s KF Aerospace has been a significant partner in helping to guide and develop the new program. KF Aerospace is the city’s largest private sector employer and currently has 25 engineering graduates.

“KF Aerospace is very excited to have an aerospace engineering option at UBC Okanagan. This program will help support us with locally grown talent as we continue to expand Canada’s leading engineering services,” says Gregg Evjen, KF Chief Operating Officer. “We thank UBCO for its support in launching a program that will help grow the aerospace sector in Western Canada.”

The aerospace engineering option will equip students with state-of-the-art skills, competencies, theories and design methodologies to train engineers with specialized skill sets in aerospace engineering.

“Our students have a track record of excellence in a variety of disciplines and we are excited to expand our offerings so they can continue to explore what they’re passionate about,” says Dr. Will Hughes, Director of the School of Engineering.

The first intake for the aerospace engineering option begins this fall and before completing the program students will be required to do a fourth-year aerospace capstone project.

“It is a big undertaking to establish a new option in aerospace engineering, but based on feedback from students, faculty and industry, we are confident in this program’s future horizon,” says Dr. Hughes. “We can’t wait to get it off the ground, and we are excited to introduce this new option to our students.”

To learn more about the opportunities available to students who chose this option, visit:

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A lab tour of UBCO’s new battery prototyping facility

Dr. Jian Liu explains the type of research taking place in UBCO’s new battery prototyping facility, partially funded by an agreement with Fenix Advanced Materials. Michael & Suzanne Hintringer Photography.

With the current price of gasoline, it’s no wonder electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming more common on the road.

Despite their growing popularity, researchers are still working to develop a smaller, longer-lasting battery to power EVs. Current battery research at UBC Okanagan has led to additional funding from industry partner Fenix Advanced Materials to lead the charge when it comes to battery development.

Dr. Jian Liu, the UBC Okanagan Principal’s Research Chair in Energy Storage Technologies, is developing a solid-state lithium battery that will increase performance and stability specifically for powering EVs.

The new batteries, which could extend an EV’s driving range and safety, are made of raw and recycled materials procured by Fenix in Trail, BC.

“Our province has a wealth of these materials, and we need to solidify our research and development to ensure we put these materials to good use,” he adds, explaining the batteries use tellurium, a copper by-product, iron and other base-metal-rich ore bodies.”

This expanded partnership with Fenix is an important step toward building a battery supply chain locally while strengthening the Canadian company’s international position in the growing battery market, Dr. Liu explains.

“This research aims to develop a battery that doubles the energy density of today’s lithium-ion batteries while at the same making considerable improvements to its safety,” says Dr. Liu, an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering. “We replace flammable liquid electrolytes in lithium-ion batteries with air-stable solid electrolytes in the new battery chemistry, therefore avoiding the safety risks of current EV batteries”.

Integrating an all-solid-state configuration into EVs removes some of the drawbacks of existing liquid electrolytes-based batteries that are less efficient and diminish rapidly over time, he explains.

Tellurium has high electrical conductivity and a high volumetric capacity—meaning it can help create small, but powerful batteries. The collaboration with Fenix will ensure Dr. Liu and his team have the materials to conduct their research.

“This partnership with UBCO has played a key role in helping to uncover some exciting innovations in new battery technology and other clean technology solutions, and we are thrilled to take this next step,” says Fenix CEO Don Freschi.

Liu says once scientific and technical gaps in the design, fabrication and integration of these materials into solid-state batteries are addressed, these new batteries will have a huge impact on the EV industry.

Fenix is contributing an additional $1-million over the next year to establish a Pouch Cell Facility at UBCO. Pouch cells are wrapped in aluminum cases and differ from other battery formats including cylindrical or prism-shaped cells, both used in EVs, and coin cells which are commonly found in watches, explains Liu.

“We chose pouch cells because they are relatively easy to manufacture compared to cylindrical and prismatic cells,” he says. “The battery testing data obtained from pouch cells are recognized and accepted in the battery and EV industries. In contrast, battery testing data from coin cells are mainly for academic research and are insufficient to influence battery and EV companies.”

Freschi says Fenix and their investment group, NEXT Lithium, are thrilled to support these projects and are preparing to commercialize many of the products developed from these efforts.

Dr. Liu explains that currently, there is no university-based battery prototyping facility in western Canada. Building the pouch cell facility at UBCO will bridge the gap between fundamental academic research and applied research in battery technologies.

The research will result in a smaller, safer and less expensive battery to accelerate transportation electrification. It also helps the shift from a fossil fuel-based economy to decarbonized energy.

“For a long time, solid-state batteries were considered more demanding to produce, but research in this area is establishing new methods that are bringing these batteries closer to the market,” explains Liu. “We are excited to continue to partner with Fenix, Mitacs and other stakeholders, including the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions and National Research Council, to make stronger, safer and more efficient batteries.”

A researcher holding up a pouch cell

UBCO master’s student Li Tao holds up an example of a pouch cell. Once up and running, the new pouch cell facility will bridge the gap between fundamental academic research and applied research in battery technologies. Michael & Suzanne Hintringer Photography.

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A photo of UBCO doctoral student Ahmadreza Ghaffarkhah using a 3D printer.

UBCO doctoral student Ahmadreza Ghaffarkhah uses a 3D printer to create small and highly-accurate sensors that can be integrated into clothing and equipment.

The creation of high-resolution extrusion printing—think 3D printing but with ink that conducts electricity—has enabled UBC researchers to explore the potential of wearable human motion devices.

Wearable technology—smartwatches, heart monitors, sleep aid devices, even step counters—have become part of everyday life. And researchers with UBC Okanagan’s Nanomaterials and Polymer Nanocomposites Laboratory, have created even smaller, lighter and highly-accurate sensors that can be integrated into clothing and equipment.

In collaboration with Drexel University and the University of Toronto, the UBCO research team is exploring a high-resolution extrusion printing approach to develop tiny devices with dual functionality—electromagnetic interference (EMI) shields and a body motion sensor.

Tiny and lightweight, these EMI shields can have applications in the health care, aerospace and automotive industries, explains Dr. Mohammad Arjmand, Assistant Professor and Canada Research Chair in Advanced Materials and Polymer Engineering at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering.

Using a two-dimensional inorganic nanomaterial called MXene, alongside a conductive polymer, Dr. Arjmand’s team has customized a conductive ink with a number of properties that make it easier to adapt into wearable technologies.

“Advanced or smart materials that provide electrical conductivity and flexibility are highly sought-after,” he says. “Extrusion printing of these conductive materials will allow for macro-scale patterning, meaning we can produce different shapes or geometries, and the product will have outstanding architecture flexibility.”

Currently, manufacturing technologies of these functional materials are mostly limited to laminated and unsophisticated structures that don’t enable the integration of monitoring technologies, explains doctoral student Ahmadreza Ghaffarkhah.

“These printed structures can be seeded with micro-cracks to develop highly sensitive sensors. Tiny cracks in their structures are used to track small vibrations in their surroundings,” says Ghaffarkhah. “These vibrations can monitor a multitude of human activities, including breathing, facial movements, talking as well as the contraction and relaxation of a muscle.”

By going back to the drawing board, the UBCO researchers were able to address a major challenge encountered by extrusion printing. Previously, the technology didn’t allow for high-enough printing resolution, so it was difficult to manufacture highly precise structures.

“Compared to conventional manufacturing technologies, extrusion printing offers customization, reduction in materials waste, and rapid production, while opening up numerous opportunities for wearable and smart electronics,” explains Dr. Arjmand. “As extrusion printing techniques improve, it is opening the door to many unique innovations.”

The researchers continue to investigate additional applications for extrusion printing inks that go beyond EMI shields and wearable electronics.

The research was published in Carbon, with financial support from a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Alliance Grant and Zentek Limited.

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A photo of Dr. Rob Shaw playing wheelchair tennis

Dr. Rob Shaw, one of Canada’s top wheelchair tennis players, is UBC Okanagan’s 2022 recipient of the Governor General Gold Medal.

Some might think it’s a bit ironic that the winner of UBC Okanagan’s Governor General Gold Medal is already a gold-medal-winning athlete.

But Dr. Rob Shaw, who graduates this week with his Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies, can quickly explain how much hard work goes into earning an honour of this calibre. Dr. Shaw is a wheelchair tennis player who won a gold medal at the 2019 Parapan American Games in Peru. He is the highest-ranked member of the Canadian wheelchair tennis team and last summer he competed in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

He didn’t get there without a lot of hard work. The same could be said of his accomplishment at UBCO.

Dr. Shaw is the highest-ranked graduate student at UBCO, an honour that has earned him the Governor General’s gold medal.

“Looking at past winners I can’t help but feel humbled by this award,” he says. “Five years ago, my supervisor and I committed to completing a PhD that would make an impact beyond the silos of academia and extend into the community to benefit people living with spinal cord injuries. I’d like to think that this award reflects that we achieved that goal.”

While earning his doctoral degree, his research focused on how peer mentorship can improve the health and wellbeing of people who have incurred a spinal cord injury. While his supervising professor Dr. Kathleen Martin Ginis describes his research as exemplary, she notes he has also become an internationally respected scientist and a community leader.

Throughout his degree, Dr. Martin Ginis says he has embraced an interdisciplinary spirit, but his impact extends beyond the traditional walls of academia and into the community. His leadership and expertise are frequently sought out by local, national and international organizations, and he has an unwavering commitment to examining and resolving pressing societal issues.

“An excellent scientist can produce a lot of great research. But an excellent scientific leader finds the potential in people and has the courage to inspire and support them. Rob has achieved excellence and acclaim as both a scientist and scientific leader,” she adds. “Through his research and leadership, and his outstanding global citizenship, Rob is making the world a better place.”

Dr. Shaw, however, says this award is only possible thanks to the support from Dr. Martin Ginis and others he has worked with along his doctoral journey.

“I am extremely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish, and I owe this award to her, my lab mates, my community partners, and most importantly to my participants who allowed me into their world so that I could try to make a real difference in their lives.”

Dr. Shaw has been described by Dr. Martin Ginis as an outspoken champion of equity, diversity and inclusion.

“He consistently reminds and challenges all of us to think about inclusion and accessibility in how we conduct and share our research with others.”

The importance of inclusion is also reflected in both the name and the criteria of the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Inclusion, Democracy and Reconciliation. This week it will be presented to UBC Okanagan student Azzah Al Zahra Farras, who just completed her Bachelor of Arts with a joint major in philosophy, political science and economics.

Shortly after arriving at UBCO in 2018, Farras established a campus-wide chapter of Amnesty International and began hosting conferences and events to examine local and international issues. She coordinated weekly sessions where students could discuss international injustices, while creating a safe space for marginalized students to share their stories and discuss opportunities for students to engage in change.

“Through the Amnesty International chapter, we created opportunities for students on campus to share issues about human rights, protection, justice and conflicts that they care about from their own country,” says Farras, explaining the students had engaging conversations about many issues including the farmer’s protest in India, Tibetan rights to self-determination, the Palestinian rights, and democratic rights for people living in Thailand.

“I am surrounded by a very international community at UBCO and it’s something we should all look forward to in universities,” she adds. “I have a lot of friends from different countries that support me and also celebrate my culture and my beliefs and values as I celebrate theirs. That’s what I’m really happy about.”

In September 2021, she joined the UBC Okanagan Library team as a student representative of the UBC’s Inclusion Action Plan and Indigenous Strategic Plan, where she independently developed projects to highlight Arab, Muslim, Asian, Indigenous and Black voices in literature and academia. Farras built multiple book displays at the library and designed digital LibGuide sites that list resources based on each theme, granting students information and access regardless of their location during COVID-19.

Farras recalls the day when a student approached the service desk and tearfully thanked the library staff saying how encouraging it was to see students with hijabs represented at the library and it helped make her feel included.

“For me, this was a full-circle moment,” says Farras. “Although I did feel isolated in my first year, I was able to change that situation for younger hijab-wearing students. I believe these efforts transpired important representation at UBCO. It raises important conversations on institutionalized racism and discrimination against marginalized groups. I am honoured to be a part of that shift.”

UBCO Librarian Christian Isbister says Farras worked tirelessly to engage the campus community and bring awareness to diverse voices in the library collection. Her book displays were always popular and well-received, and her work on the Book Fairies project helped encourage reading of more diverse authors, including Indigenous, Black, Asian and Arab writers.

“Azzah has dedicated herself to the promotion of inclusion on our campus,” says Isbister. “At the library, she demonstrated great leadership in developing initiatives to highlight diverse voices in our collection, and foster a sense of welcome and belonging for students belonging to marginalized communities. It was a pleasure to get to work with Azzah, and her presence in the library will be greatly missed.”

Also, this week, Anna Bernath, who just completed her Bachelor of Science degree with concentrations in biochemistry and molecular biology, was awarded the Pushor Mitchell Gold Medal Leadership Prize.

The $10,000 prize is the largest donor-funded award available to graduating Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science students. The award recognizes a student who has excelled academically and demonstrated leadership while earning their degree.

Bernath joined Dr. Andis Klegeris’ Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology Lab as a volunteer research assistant, and contributed upwards of 250 hours in the facility. She also conducted research studying the role of microglia—immune cells of the brain—in Alzheimer’s disease. When not in the lab or studying, she worked as a teaching assistant, acting as a liaison between faculty and students.

“I have immense gratitude for the faculty, staff and UBCO colleagues who created invaluable opportunities for growth and leadership, and I hope I made a lasting impact on junior students and excited them about research endeavours,” says Bernath.

The Pushor Mitchell LLP Gold Medal Leadership Award has been presented to a student at UBCO since 2009, explains Andrew Brunton, Managing Partner at Pushor Mitchell.

“Pushor Mitchell is very pleased to see another deserving student receive this award,” says Brunton.  “Our firm has been supporting this prestigious award at UBC Okanagan for 13 years now, presented to students based on both academic excellence and community leadership. We applaud this year’s recipient Anna Bernath and wish her luck with her career in neuroscience research.”

Farras and Bernath will be recognized as they cross the stage at Thursday’s convocation while Dr. Shaw will receive his medal Friday morning.

Other University of British Columbia medal (top of class) winners are:

  • UBC Medal in Arts: Abhineeth Adiraju
  • UBC Medal in Education: Anica McIntosh
  • UBC Medal in Engineering: Rachel May
  • UBC Medal in Fine Arts: Amelia Ford
  • UBC Medal in Human Kinetics: Kenedy Olsen
  • UBC Medal in Management: Jo-Elle Craig
  • UBC Medal in Media Studies: Jordan Pike
  • UBC Medal in Nursing: Camryn McCrystal
  • UBC Medal in Science: Megan Greenwood

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A photo of an oilsands tailings pond

UBCO researchers are using fluorescence spectroscopy to quickly detect key toxins in tailing ponds water.

Waste materials from oil sands extraction, stored in tailings ponds, can pose a risk to the natural habitat and neighbouring communities when they leach into groundwater and surface ecosystems.

Until now, the challenge for the oil sands industry is that the proper analysis of toxic waste materials has been difficult to achieve without complex and lengthy testing. And there’s a backlog. For example, in Alberta alone, there are an estimated 1.4 billion cubic metres of fluid tailings, explains Nicolás Peleato, an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at UBC Okanagan

His team of researchers at UBCO’s School of Engineering has uncovered a new, faster and more reliable, method of analyzing these samples. It’s the first step, says Dr. Peleato, but the results look promising.

“Current methods require the use of expensive equipment and it can take days or weeks to get results,” he adds. “There is a need for a low-cost method to monitor these waters more frequently as a way to protect public and aquatic ecosystems.”

Along with master’s student María Claudia Rincón Remolina, the researchers used fluorescence spectroscopy to quickly detect key toxins in the water. They also ran the results through a modelling program that accurately predicts the composition of the water.

The composition can be used as a benchmark for further testing of other samples, Rincón explains. The researchers are using a convolutional neural network that processes data in a grid-like topology, such as an image. It’s similar, she says, to the type of modelling used for classifying hard to identify fingerprints, facial recognition and even self-driving cars.

“The modelling takes into account variability in the background of the water quality and can separate hard to detect signals, and as a result it can achieve highly accurate results,” says Rincón.

The research looked at a mixture of organic compounds that are toxic, including naphthenic acids—which can be found in many petroleum sources. By using high-dimensional fluorescence, the researchers can identify most types of organic matter.

“The modelling method searches for key materials, and maps out the sample’s composition,” explains Peleato. “The results of the initial sample analysis are then processed through powerful image processing models to accurately determine comprehensive results.”

While results to date are encouraging, both Rincón and Dr. Peleato caution the technique needs to be further evaluated at a larger scale—at which point there may be potential to incorporate screening of additional toxins.

Peleato explains this potential screening tool is the first step, but it does have some limitations since not all toxins or naphthenic acids can be detected—only those that are fluorescent. And the technology will have to be scaled up for future, more in-depth testing.

While it will not replace current analytical methods that are more accurate, Dr. Peleato says this approach will allow the oil sands industry to accurately screen and treat its waste materials. This is a necessary step to continue to meet the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment standards and guidelines.

The research appears in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, and is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grant program.

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Isolation Quarantine Covid-19 stock photo

UBCO experts discuss how society has coped during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was March 17, 2020, just on the heels of the World Health Organization declaring the as-yet-un-named virus a pandemic, that BC declared a state of emergency.

Schools were closed, offices shuttered, stores locked and people were sent home to face isolation, uncertainty and a looming sense of fear and bewilderment. And now Zoom calls, masks, vaccines and mandates have become part of everyday life across the country.

How has society coped? What has been learned? Has anything changed?

Long before Dr. Bonnie Henry suggested people be kind to each other, Dr. John-Tyler Binfet, an Associate Professor with the Okanagan School of Education, was making the study of kindness part of his daily routine. Dr. Binfet is joined by six other UBC Okanagan experts, who can field questions ranging from vaccine equity, online shopping trends, the importance of exercise and the impact of so much screen time on children.

Dr. Binfet, Director of the Centre For Mindful Engagement and Director of Building Academic Retention Through K-9s

Availability: Noon, Wednesday and all of Thursday, PST

Dr. Binfet’s areas of research include the conceptualizations of kindness in children and adolescents, measuring kindness in schools, canine-assisted interventions and assessment of therapy dogs. His new book written during the pandemic, Cultivating Kindness, will be available this summer.

Related to the pandemic, Dr. Binfet can discuss:

  • University student wellbeing
  • Being kind
  • Why kindness matters

Kevin Chong, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies

Availability: Wednesday and Thursday, 9 to 11 am PST

Chong teaches creative writing, fiction, creative nonfiction, literary journalism, dramatic writing and different writing styles including short story, memoir, personal essay, and lyric essay. He is the author of six books, including The Plague, and wrote a book during the pandemic when the public reading of his play was cancelled due to COVID-19. Dr. Chong also established an online antiracist book club during the pandemic.

Related to the pandemic, Chong can discuss:

  • Writer’s block
  • Online book clubs
  • Antiracist associations

Mahmudur Fatmi, Assistant Professor, School of Engineering

Availability: Wednesday, most hours and Thursday, 8:30 am to noon PST

Dr. Fatmi is a transportation modelling expert. He can talk about how people’s travel and online activities such as work-from-home and online shopping activities have changed during the pandemic, and the implications of these changes.

Related to the pandemic, Dr. Fatmi can discuss:

  • Working from home
  • Changes to transit during the pandemic
  • Online shopping trends

Ross Hickey, Associate Professor, Faculty of Management and Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Availability: Wednesday, 2 to 2:30 pm PST and Thursday, 2:30to 3:30 pm PST

Dr. Hickey is an economist who specializes in public finance, fiscal policy, government expenditure and taxation. Related to the pandemic, Dr. Hickey can speak about:

  • Inflation

Susan Holtzman, Associate Professor, Psychology, Irving K Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Availability: Thursday, 9 am to noon PST

Dr. Holtzman conducts research in health psychology with a special interest in stress and coping, close relationships, depression and social relationships in the digital age. Related to the pandemic, Holtzman can discuss:

  • perceived increase in screen time for young children
  • digital relationships
  • breaking or keeping digital habits after two years of screen time

Jonathan Little, Associate Professor, School of Health and Exercise Sciences

Availability: Wednesday and Thursday, 9 to 11 am PST

Dr. Little’s main research interest is on how to optimize exercise and nutritional strategies to prevent and treat health issues including Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and chronic inflammatory conditions. He is also involved in interdisciplinary research within the Airborne Disease Transmission Research Cluster around mitigating risk of aerosol transmission in health-care settings.

Related to the pandemic, Dr. Little can discuss:

  • Physical activity/exercise during COVID-19
  • Impact of exercise and lifestyle on immune function
  • Aerosols and COVID-19 transmission

Katrina Plamondon, Assistant Professor School of Nursing

Availability: Wednesday, various times in the afternoon PST, Thursday, 7 to 8 am, 11:30 am to noon, 2 to 3 pm PST

Dr. Plamondon’s research focuses on questions of how to advance equity action and vaccine equity. Related to the pandemic, Dr. Plamondon can discuss:

  • Populism and social movements (e.g., convoy) and what this has to do with equity and rights
  • Vaccine equity, particularly the relationship between global vaccine equity and how we can navigate the pandemic
  • Equity considerations as we transition out of pandemic restrictions (e.g., lifting mask restrictions)
  • Equity impacts and health systems considerations

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Green bamboo shoots

A prolific plant, bamboo has long been considered a good building material in many countries. Now, UBC Okanagan researchers have created a way to make it even stronger. Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

UBC Okanagan researchers have adapted a technique—originally designed to embalm human remains—to strengthen the properties of biocomposites and make them stronger.

With the innovation of new materials and green composites, it is easy to overlook materials like bamboo and other natural fibres, explains UBCO Professor of Mechanical Engineering Dr. Abbas Milani. These fibres are now used in many applications such as clothing, the automotive industry, packaging and construction.

His research team has now found a way not only to strengthen these fibres, but reduce their tendency to degrade over time, making them even more environmentally friendly.

“Bamboo has nearly the same strength as a mild steel while exhibiting more flexibility,” says Dr. Milani, the founding director of the Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute. “With its low weight, cost and abundant availability, bamboo is a material that has great promise but until now had one big drawback.”

Bamboo is one of the world’s most harvested and used natural fibres with more than 30-million tonnes produced annually. However, its natural fibres can absorb water and degrade and weaken over time due to moisture uptake and weathering.

Using a process called plastination to dehydrate the bamboo, the research team then use it as a reinforcement with other fibres and materials. Then they cure it into a new high-performance hybrid biocomposite.

First developed by Gunther von Hagens in 1977, plastination has been extensively used for the long-term preservation of animal, human and fungal remains, and now has found its way to advanced materials applications. Plastination ensures durability of the composite material for both short- and long-term use, says Daanvir Dhir, the report’s co-author and recent UBC Okanagan graduate.

“The plastinated-bamboo composite was mixed with glass and polymer fibres to create a material that is lighter and yet more durable than comparable composites,” says Dhir. “This work is unique as there are no earlier studies investigating the use of such plastinated natural fibres in synthetic fibre reinforced polymer composites.”

Dhir says this new durable hybrid bamboo/woven glass fibre/polypropylene composite, treated with the plastination technique has a promising future.

Supported by industrial partner NetZero Enterprises Inc., the research shows that adding only a small amount of plastinated materials to the bamboo can increase the impact absorption capacity of the composite—without losing its elastic properties. This also lowers the material’s degradation rate.

More work needs to be done on the optimization of this process as Dhir says plastination is currently time-consuming. But he notes the benefit of discovering the right composition of plastinated natural fibres will result in a sizable reduction of non-degradable waste in many industries, with a lower environmental footprint.

Future studies are underway to optimize and investigate the effect of plastinating other natural fibres, such as flax and hemp. The researchers also suggest a life cycle analysis of the materials should be conducted under different applications and compared to non-plastinated samples. This will provide a better picture of the corresponding trade-off between the environmental footprint and mechanical durability effects.

“Biocomposites continue to find new applications under the circular economy paradigm,” adds Dr. Milani. “The innovations in the methods used to develop these composites will ensure benefits well into the future.”

The research appears in the Journal Composite Structures.

The post UBCO researchers use unique ingredient to strengthen bamboo appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

Two researchers standing in a warehouse looking at inventory

UBCO researchers Samuel Yousefi and Dr. Babak Tosarkani are researching how blockchain technology could be used to improve the supply chain and the transportation of sustainable goods.

New research from UBC Okanagan suggests blockchain technology can improve the sustainability and efficiency of supply chains.

Dr. Babak Tosarkani, an Assistant Professor of Manufacturing Engineering at the School of Engineering, researches supply chain management, operations management and sustainability. New modelling from his lab suggests that focusing on digital transformation and adopting blockchain technology could reduce shipping bottlenecks and provide a clearer end-to-end picture of how items travel from origin to destination.

Dr. Tosarkani applied blockchain technology to complete a deeper dive into the supply of goods from producer to consumer.

“Most people associate blockchain technology with cryptocurrency, but it can provide a consistent and secure system for tracking financial data and logistics,” he explains.

The economic burden of responding to sustainable development and severe socio-environmental constraints have made a considerable impact on supply chain-related decisions, he explains. Being able to increase the integrity, flexibility and monitoring of assets has become a vital issue for sustainable supply chain management.

According to Dr. Tosarkani and doctoral student Samuel Yousefi, as more people and companies embrace environmentally friendly products, there is a need to maintain a transparent and robust tracking system to ensure products are exactly what they claim. The pair investigate the role of blockchain technology in improving the sustainability of supply chain performance in their latest research, published in the International Journal of Production Economics.

While many industries have started utilizing blockchain technology, the integration of this technology into the supply chain is still in its infancy. But this technology can provide definite benefits to managers and decision-makers who are ultimately responsible for ensuring supply chains run smoothly.

“Blockchain technology has not been widely applied in this field due to the lack of familiarity,” says Yousefi. “But from both an operational and a sustainability perspective, blockchain provides tools that the supply chain industry can use that will expedite systems and bolster sustainability.”

Yousefi explains that blockchain simultaneously records the flow of information about all existing processes in a supply chain and automatically shares all that data with other units involved—including the suppliers, manufacturers and retailers—at all stages of a product’s life cycle.

The researchers are currently connecting with supply chain operators to investigate future applications for the integration of these tools into existing systems and processes.

“Blockchain technology can have a paradigm-shifting impact on the supply chain by addressing the sustainability challenges currently being faced, but also challenges we might come across in the future,” says Dr. Tosarkani.