Patty Wellborn

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


 

A photo of a starfish and oil spill

UBC Okanagan researcher Saeed Mohammadiun’s work involves reviewing marine oil spill management including how computational techniques based on real-time data can be applied to an effective oil spill response.

The eyes of the world turned to a California beach recently as an underwater pipeline ruptured, leaking more than 550,000 litres of oil into the waters off the coast.

A large oil spill is one of the worst nightmares for environmentalists and local people living in an affected area, says UBC Okanagan researcher Saeed Mohammadiun. His work at UBC Okanagan’s Life Cycle Management Lab involves reviewing marine oil spill management. The School of Engineering doctoral student examined a decade of past management responses to oil spills. His most recent research looks at computational techniques based on real-time data and how they can be applied to an effective oil spill response.

What are some of the key takeaways from your latest paper when considering the recent marine oil spill in California?

Oil spills are tragic events and may have catastrophic environmental, human health, and socio-economic consequences; in California, local authorities are calling it an “environmental catastrophe.”

Even small-scale incidents may concern stakeholders, such as the recent incident in Bella Bella, BC, which has greatly affected the socio-economic status of the local indigenous community. The spilled oil may cause drastic consequences for local economies such as tourism and fisheries.

One essential step to minimize consequences of oil spills is to enhance the response preparedness by employing advanced scientific techniques such as remote sensing and data mining. Intelligent computational techniques can be used along with advanced detection and monitoring methods, such as remote sensing, to facilitate an effective and timely oil spill response. We have critically reviewed recent articles in this field and suggested a holistic framework for effective management of oil spills.

How does marine oil spill management (MOSM) minimize the impacts of oil spills?

MOSM can broadly cover multiple components such as oil spill detection and monitoring, risk assessment, response method selection and process optimization, and waste management.

An effective MOSM, based on appropriate computational-technique-based tools, can consider both proactive and reactive practices for oil spill prevention and also mitigate adverse impacts of an oil spill if it happens.

The three major benefits of an effective MOSM are the ability to detect oil spills in a timely manner, conduct the most appropriate oil spill response and reduce amounts of oily waste generated from response operations. An effective MOSM ultimately leads to minimizing the impacts of spilled oil.

Describe the role of robust computation techniques based on real-time data in reducing oil spill impacts

One important component of MOSM is the response operation, which aims to contain and clean up the spilled oil and contaminated area before any significant adverse environmental and economic impacts can occur. Response to an oil spill is a time-sensitive and complex task that is significantly reliant on available data, resources and decisions made.

Another significant challenge is the fact that collected oily wastes can be up to 10 times more than the original oil spill volume. Oily waste management is usually the bottleneck of all clean-up operations due to limitations in local resources including storage infrastructure and transportation facilities.

Inappropriate management of generated oily waste may exacerbate the situation because of secondary contamination. The application of intelligent computational techniques is essential to help stakeholders make timely and suitable decisions based on limited data. A real-time computational-based tool should be able to systematically find the most appropriate management practices by taking a considerable number of influential factors into account.

You reviewed similar research for the past 10 years. What reoccurring themes did you discover?

The risk of oil spills has increased by growing marine oil exploration and transportation activities. This trend can also be seen in arctic and sub-arctic waters under the effect of climate change, such as the Canadian Arctic, which has seen a significant increase in ship traffic and oil exploration activities in recent years. It is estimated that about two million tons of oil enter the marine environment every year around the world.

Application of artificial intelligence and soft computing techniques in oil spill management has been a new trend in this research area due to better data availability and advancement in computational techniques. Better meteorological and oceanic data, better satellite image access, advances in oil spill trajectory simulators as well as progress in artificial intelligence and soft computing techniques have collectively increased the number of studies in this field. There is still a dire need for better real-world oil spill data to enhance the performance of intelligent decision-making tools.

What role can artificial intelligence and machine learning play in minimizing the impacts of oil spills or improve oil spill response?

Both can play an important role concerning various components of oil spill management—from timely detection in remote areas to optimal response selection and waste management. An appropriate oil spill management strategy should be determined based on a significant number of factors, such as the dynamic characteristics of spilled oil and environmental conditions. Remote sensing methods can be integrated with artificial intelligence techniques, analyzing features of images, to accurately detect and monitor oil spills in offshore and onshore regions.

After the detection, it is usually necessary to respond to an oil spill immediately. To this end, artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques can considerably facilitate the decision-making process by analyzing previous oil spill data and subtle patterns that are often hidden in the data.

These intelligent tools facilitate the instant selection of the most suitable response method and its operational process.

In other words, machine learning can use previous oil spills to help manage future incidents. Also, the volume of generated oily waste can be minimized by the application of intelligent computational techniques, because the optimal oil spill response also takes waste management into the consideration.

Mohammadiun’s research was published recently in the Journal of Hazardous Materials. The paper is part of the Multi-Partner Research Initiative (MPRI), supported by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The MPRI aims to help the oil spill response industry and regulators to enhance response preparedness in Canadian waters.

An illustration of a hot cityscape

A UBCO researcher has created a framework that will enable cities to reduce energy consumption while keeping homes cool during hot summer months.

The summer of 2021 in Western Canada was one of the hottest on record. In BC alone, 59 weather stations registered their hottest temperatures ever on June 27.

For those lucky enough to have air conditioners, keeping their homes cool during the heat dome was relatively easy. However, the comfort lasted only until the utility bills arrived. As a result of heatwaves around the world, global electricity demand increased by five per cent so far in 2021 and it is expected to continue to increase annually, says UBCO researcher Dr. Mohammad Al Hashmi.

“Rapid population growth has led to significant demand for residential buildings around the world. At the same time, there is a growing energy demand associated with increased greenhouse gas emissions,” he says. “Buildings in hot and arid climatic conditions demand high energy for creating habitable indoor environments. Enormous amounts of energy are required to maintain a cool temperature in hot regions.”

Using data from Saudi Arabia, Dr. Al Hashmi developed a framework for reducing energy consumption related to residential buildings. The operational framework looks at methods to keep homes cool with minimum adverse environmental impacts.

He used Saudi Arabia as a basis of this research, since residential building energy demand attributes for 52 per cent of the entire country’s electricity consumption.

Dr. Al Hashmi and his colleagues at UBC Okanagan’s Lifecycle Management Lab analyzed forecasted energy consumption for the next 30 years and examined potential energy interventions. They selected six different renewable power generation systems—including solar, wind and photovoltaic array panels—and some hybrid combinations. The researchers also examined energy storage systems such as a battery bank, fuel cells and hydrogen tank storage. All together they conducted more than 180 simulations, enabling a full scenario analysis to calculate the savings based on each system.

The residential building energy demand in arid countries such as Saudi Arabia is supplied with fossil fuel.  Dr. Al Hashmi says the existing consumption pattern of fossil fuels in Saudi Arabia is not sustainable due to the depletion of these resources. This has far-reaching environmental impacts.

“Our research focused on Saudi Arabia, but the findings can easily be applied to other countries and geographical areas such as the Okanagan,” says Dr. Al Hashmi who graduated with his PhD this spring.

According to Dr. Al Hashmi, embracing renewable energy could have a substantial impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions related to cooling residential buildings. His research shows the need for a community-government partnership framework that would combine building interventions and clean energy approaches.

“It will take a holistic approach to reduce energy consumption for homes, including building retrofits, renewable energy solutions and government sustainability policies,” he says. “This framework enables us to reach greater efficiency for these multi-unit residential buildings while downsizing residential energy demands.”

In the Canadian context, Dr. Al Hashmi acknowledges that the challenge is two-fold with buildings requiring retrofits that address extremes of both hot and cold.

“A certain level of co-operation is required between the community and the government in terms of financial investments and the best combinations of retrofits and clean energy measures, but our analysis indicates that reducing carbon emissions is reachable.”

The research was recently published in the journal Energies.

A photo of Dr. Mohammad Al Hashmi

Using forecasted energy consumption for the next 30 years, UBCO researcher Dr. Mohammad Al Hashmi is looking at environmentally friendly ways to cool homes.

two researchers holding up a glass of water

Researchers in UBCO’s School of Engineering Rehan Sadiq and Haroon Mian have developed a new method for testing drinking.

Few people think much of the science behind the water that flows through their faucets. Yet providing clean, safe drinking water continues to be a challenge for water distribution systems across the country.

According to the Government of Canada, there are more than 50 long-term drinking water advisories in 32 communities. The Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality — established through a partnership with provinces, territories and several federal departments — is the basis for establishing drinking water quality requirements for all Canadians, explains UBC Okanagan doctoral student Haroon Mian.

“Human factors play an increasingly large role in the quality of drinking water,” explains Dr. Mian, lead author in a recent study supporting a new water quality assessment technique. He, along with a team of researchers in UBCO’s School of Engineering, recently created a water impurity testing method that will be a game changer when it comes to water samples.

Their water quality assessment technique considers all possible contaminants simultaneously while testing the water’s quality. The new procedure can compare water samples with hundreds of baselines, not just a few as is common today, to ensure water quality.

To do this, the team developed a water footprint-based assessment tool that takes into account many factors and evaluates the contribution of deteriorating drinking water quality on national and global water footprints. With such a broad viewpoint, the approach is able to identify the impacts of nearly every possible contaminant.

“Our new technique provides decision-makers with important metrics to ensure their systems address unforeseen issues,” says Dr. Mian.

According to Dr. Mian, no assessment technique or tool can foresee every possible variable such as contaminants caused by flooding and chemical spills. But those issues can be mitigated by improving data collection throughout water distribution systems. And their new technique does just that.

“We use a greywater footprint within our analysis, which calculates the amount of water one would need to dissipate pollutants within a system, in order to make it safe to drink,” he explains.

That greywater footprint can lead to water utilities making safe, reliable and faster decisions, adds Dr. Rehan Sadiq, engineering professor and one of the co-authors of this report.

“Reliable water quality monitoring and assessment can help to minimize the risk of water quality failures in water distribution networks,” says Dr. Sadiq. “Ultimately we want to ensure that whenever we turn on the tap, the water that comes out is safe. And ideally, we want this to be possible for all Canadians.”

Now, researchers are turning their attention to larger, more complex water distribution networks.

“In the not too distant future, we look forward to designing a real-time monitoring network that uses this assessment tool as its engine,” says Dr. Mian.

The research, in collaboration with Laval University, was supported by funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. It was published in Science of the Total Environment.

UBC researchers have developed a method for monitoring bacterial responses to antibiotics in health-care settings that opens the door to personalized antibiotic therapy for patients.

Using microwave sensing technology, UBC Okanagan Assistant Professor Mohammad Zarifi and his team at the Okanagan Microelectronics and Gigahertz Applications (OMEGA) Lab have developed a low-cost, contactless, portable and reusable microwave sensor that acts as a fast and reliable evaluation tool for measuring antibiotic resistance.

According to the World Health Organization, over-prescription of antibiotics has led to growing resistance of bacteria towards drug treatments. As a result, the newly evolved “superbugs” have put a large strain on health-care systems globally, says Zarifi.

This newly developed sensor aims to combat the drawbacks of the current Antibiotic Susceptibility Test (AST), as it reduces the time and cost taken to conduct the test, while increasing the portability for AST to be used in remote regions.

“Many types of bacteria are continuously evolving to develop resistance to antibiotics. This is a pressing issue for hospitals around the globe, while sensor and diagnosis technology has been slow to adapt,” explains Zarifi, who teaches at the School of Engineering.

Existing AST practices are expensive and can take up to 48 hours to process results.

“Longer wait times can significantly delay the treatments patients receive, which can lead to further medical complications or even fatalities. This method showcases the requirement for a reliable, rapid and cost-effective detection tool,’’ he says.

The new sensor, developed by the UBC team, can differentiate bacterial growth variations before any visible cues are evident. Therefore, the dosage or type of antibiotics can be fine-tuned to combat the specific bacterial infection.

In the next phase of development, the OMEGA lab aims to integrate artificial intelligence algorithms with this sensing device to develop smart sensors, which would be a big leap towards personalized antibiotic therapy.

“Our ultimate goal is to reduce inappropriate usage of antibiotics and enhance quality of care for the patients,” says Zarifi. “The more quality tools like this that health-care practitioners have at their disposal, the greater their ability to combat bacteria and viruses.”

This research has been published in Nature Scientific Reports with financial and instrumental support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada, the Canada Foundation for Innovation and CMC Microsystems.

Lab technicians holding up portable and reusable microwave sensor

Using microwave sensing technology, UBCO researchers have developed a low-cost, contactless, portable and reusable microwave sensor that acts as a fast and reliable evaluation tool for measuring antibiotic resistance.

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