Sam Charles

Communications Manager

School of Engineering
Office: EME4242
Phone: 250.807.8136


Sam started at the Okanagan campus of the University of British in 2013 as a Senior Media Production Specialist with UBC Studios Okanagan.  After four years in that role, he transitioned into the Communications Manager role with the School of Engineering.

At the School of Engineering, he is responsible for developing strategic communication materials that highlight the innovative research and experiential learning on the Okanagan campus.  Sam is energized by telling the endlessly inspiring stories of the School’s researchers, students and staff.

With over twenty years of experience in communications, film, television and radio production, Sam is a seasoned professional communicator focused on generating dynamic and engaging content.

Sam has represented Canada three-times at Summer World University Games as Team Canada’s videographer documenting the Games for international audiences.  On Friday nights during the varsity season, he is the play-by-play voice (and technical advisor) for UBC Okanagan Heat basketball and volleyball webcasts on


Integrated strategic communications including social media; Develop, design, and maintain communications content; Media relations; Issues Management; Develop and prepare faculty awards nominations


Two School of Engineering APSC 169 student-led teams have qualified for the finals of the World Engineering Day Hackathon. The teams include Team Graz (developing alternative water resources in Namibia) and Team Mobile Rain Harvesting System (to provide clean water to Indigenous Communities).

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Team Graz
Angela Zhou, Farid Alakbarov, Mpho Lillian Rambau and Ryan Maina Gatheru
Team Mobile Rain Harvesting System
Ammar Zavahir, Patrick Jilek-Rodriguez and Wilson Holland
This is a global competition held by the World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO) and its partners: International Engineering Alliance, International Federation of Engineering Education Societies, The Global Engineering Deans Council, Engineers Without Borders-International. A judging panel of 30 members from the Global community with experience in the delivery of engineering projects selected the finalists. The finalists will create a video presentation of their solution and work. Finalist videos will be aired during the global World Engineering Day 24HRS LIVE stream, with the winner announced live March 4, 2022. Cash prizes are awarded to the top three teams.

A passion for the environment, sport, and the outdoors brought MASc student Amandine Drew to UBC Okanagan. An accomplished scholar and athlete, Drew recently arrived at UBC Okanagan after completing her undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering at Western University. There, she completed an undergraduate thesis with the Nanophotonic Energy Materials group.

Drew is among three recipients of this year’s Tyler Lewis Clean Energy Research Foundation Grant. Drew works alongside her supervisor Dr. Alexander Uhl at the Laboratory for Solar Energy and Fuels.

“The opportunity to combine my love for research, the environment, and the outdoors is what brought me to UBC Okanagan,” explains Drew. “Dr. Uhl’s lab provides me with an opportunity to undertake cutting-edge photovoltaic research and innovate the future of solar power.”

Drew is also the recipient of the Graduate Dean’s Entrance Scholarship and the University Graduate Fellowship.

“Amandine is a driven student who shares our desire to uncover opportunities to improve the design and optimization of solar cells,” says Uhl.

The Tyler Lewis Clean Energy Research Foundation seeks to contribute to fundamental research that enables a sustainable society using clean and renewable energy sources.  The Foundation’s grant provides financial support to promote graduate student research in the field of clean energy at Canadian universities.

According to Drew, the grant allows her to focus her time and energy on her research. “I’m grateful for the award research, and provide a pathway for high efficiency perovskite solar cells at a low cost.”

For more information visit:

Christopher Paul knows a thing or two about community. The fourth-year Mechanical Engineering student grew up in numerous communities across British Columbia until his family moved to West Kelowna when he was in middle school.

When it came time to choose a university, he didn’t have to look much farther than his own backyard. “I entertain attending a few other institutions, but the proximity to my family and friends along with the beauty of this region led me to UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering,” says Paul.

Over the past five years, Paul has become immersed in campus life. He provides academic support to fellow Indigenous students as a Peer Tutor with Indigenous Programs and Services. It led him and some friends to develop a local chapter of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (UBCO.caISES), an organization for science and engineering students that builds and fosters professional development opportunities within UBC and beyond.

“I recognize the opportunities that I have been fortunate to acquire through IPS, and I want to ensure that other students access the same opportunities in the future,” explains Paul.

IPS was also the starting off point for Paul to become an active undergraduate researcher in the Laboratory for Solar Energy and Fuels (LSEF) Research. Participating in the Indigenous Research Mentoship Program eventually led to an NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award.

Paul worked alongside Assistant Professor Alexander Uhl to investigate cutting-edge solar power solutions. “Within a research setting, it has been amazing to be able to apply the things I’ve learned in class within an applied setting and see that work result in important advancements for the lab,” says Paul.

During his time at UBC, Paul has noticed a concerted effort to incorporate Indigenous perspectives into curriculum and throughout the institution as a whole. “Most of my experiences are the same as a lot of other students, and I continue to see the School and the University working hard to improve the experiences for future Indigenous students.”

The rigours of the engineering program have forced Paul to really focus on things that motivate him inside and outside the classroom and lab. “It is really important for everyone to go beyond their comfort zone to see what they can discover, and for me that’s definitely improved my experience.”

As he wraps up his final semester, Paul has been reflecting on the past five years and looking ahead to the future. “When I first started in engineering I assumed it was all about working at a desk crunching numbers, but I’ve discovered it is more about sharing ideas and uncovering the best solution to a problem.”

The other major takeaway for Paul is the importance of establishing and building a community whether within project teams or extra-curriculars.

“You tend to find a community no matter where you go, and at UBC Okanagan, I have been fortunate to find a group of friends who have been there to support me along the way and hopefully I have done the same for them.”

Paul graduates with his Bachelor of Applied Science at convocation in June.



Omer Faruk graduating with a Masters of Engineering in 2016, and is currently working on the Site C hydro-electric dam in Fort St. John, BC.

What drew you to the MEng program at the UBC Okanagan campus?

I am originally from Bangladesh, and raised in Saudi Arabia. I wanted to pursue my higher studies at a leading university in Canada that provided  internship opportunities in the field of Civil/ Structural engineering. UBC’s MEng degree is specifically designed for this experience. Along with that, UBC offers an exceptionally enriched academic and research environment encompassing all forms of diversities which attracted me to opt for studying here. Thus, I gladly accepted the offer to pursue a MEng degree at UBC Okanagan.

What was the experience like?

It was an amazing experience being a graduate student in Engineering at UBC Okanagan. Being exposed to a whole new environment was a unique experience for me. I thoroughly enjoyed all the challenges I have faced in academics and settling down in Okanagan with the help of my teachers and my colleagues. Moreover, being actively involved in the various student organizations helped me to learn a lot and stay engaged productively beyond studies.

What are your fondest memories of your MEng?

UBC Okanagan has a lot to offer in terms of experiences, communities, and clubs. There is something for everyone! One of my favourite experiences was volunteering for Bangladeshi Students Association (ABS) and Muslims Students’ Association (MSA). Another event I must mention is all the fun activities of Jump Start, where I got introduced to different opportunities that UBCO has to offer for the newcomers and helped me to connect with others and make friends.

What did you do when you weren’t studying?

Kelowna is a very beautiful place with plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy, especially during summer. I explored different areas of Okanagan with friends when leisure time was available. I also enjoy watching and playing cricket and football with friends. I loved to explore and try different cuisines.

How have you benefited from completing your MEng?

MEng program in UBCO offers various courses to select from. It was easy for me to select the courses that I thought would be valuable for me. The knowledge I gained during my course works on structural and geotechnical engineering and construction management helped me to excel in my work that I am currently involved in.  Beside the course works, I was fortunate to work in laboratory research project with Dr. Sumi Siddiqua and Dr. Shahria Alam where I have gained valuable knowledge construction material sustainability.

How did the MEng program prepare you for your current role?

While I was doing MEng, I choose course works based on my interest for my future career. I worked very closely with my teachers and built good relationship which helped to build industry network. I have participated in the Co-op program offered by MEng program, which groomed me to be ready for job interviews and helped me to find Co-op job.

MEng program’s course works including two 4-month Coop terms, provided me a well-rounded base knowledge relating to different engineering disciplines, which I found that my current employer really valued. My Co-op experience of working in large team gave me an advantage, since I was already familiar to work in the integrated multi-disciplinary teams. I highly recommend UBCO’s MEng program because it made me ready for the job market.

What does the future hold for you?

I do not plan years ahead. I keep short-term goals and focus on achieving them in the best possible way which leads me to the long-term goals. Currently I am working in one of the Canada’s largest renewable infrastructure project, Site C Hydro-electric Dam. I would like to see myself working in the similar projects in the future while I can contribute to the global effort of limiting CO2 emission. I also have desire to go back to Bangladesh and do something remarkable with all the experience I received in Canada. For example, creating sustainable infrastructure project.

Praveen Rajan is the School of Engineering’s Research Lead (Technical Support), and an MEng graduate.

What drew you to the MEng program at the UBC Okanagan campus?

I was particularly interested in some of the research work at the School of Engineering -UBC Okanagan and thus the courses associated with that. Apart from regular class-based courses, this encouraged me to pick certain research based and mini project courses that were available as a part of the M.Eng program.

What was the experience like?

The overall journey was truly rewarding. I worked in the industrial sector for 7 years after completing my Bachelor’s degree. Transitioning back to being a student was challenging in the beginning, but after couple months I was able to be on track.

What are your fondest memories of your MEng?

I enjoyed working with the supervisors and on their course-based research projects. Even though these were one or two term based projects, they gave me hands on experimental experience. I also liked doing project presentations. The preparation for presentations involved a lot of homework and research, which made me do a lot of independent study.

What did you do when you weren’t studying?

I did not have much free time as I was also working full time. But I enjoy pencil sketching and riding my motorcycle whenever I can.

How have you benefited from completing your MEng?

MEng program helped me pick courses that I was really interested in, without any rigidity. My interests ranged from Advanced Alloys, Composite Materials to Project and Construction Management. MEng made it possible to bring all these under one umbrella, thus advance my knowledge and skills in the above engineering fields.

How did the MEng program prepare you for your current role?

As I work in the field of engineering research support, MEng helped me make better technical decisions, implement project management and sustainability principles, and overall an interdisciplinary approach to research support.



Tiny pathogens float within a small cylinder under a ventilation hood within the Pakpour Lab at UBC Okanagan. Using an innovative method to isolate pathogens, researchers are now turning their attention to diagnostic applications.

While the research sounds complicated, an important role was played by an undergraduate research assistant, James Fowler. Fowler, a NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Assistant Award recipient, took a lead role in the inter-disciplinary project.

“James set up the novel technology and helped graduate students to start working on the technology,” explains Sepideh Pakpour, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and lead researcher on the project. “His background in engineering enabled him to seamlessly integrate into our group partnering with biochemists, biologists and micro-biologists – he was the glue that optimized the workflows as the research got more complicated.”

The research is focused on separating pathogenic organisms, or germs, from environmental samples without using existing filters or centrifugation. The innovative method is more accurate and faster than existing approaches. Not only are the organisms removed from the sample, but they are also detected and purified for further analysis.

“USRA played a big role in my success as a researcher, as the funding allowed me to work full-time on this project and truly explore what research is all about,” says Fowler. “USRA led to me working on several other projects with Dr. Pakpour and expand upon my research interests.”

Pakpour says the first thing she tells every student who joins her inter-disciplinary team is that they should expect to take a leading role in the research. “They have the power to decide and change the approaches within projects, and those are the same opportunities that an undergraduate or graduate researcher should have.”

The new method that Pakpour and Fowler worked on is currently being patented.

While Fowler has yet to commit to what’s next after graduation, he says he is leaning towards graduate research. “Playing a role in cutting-edge research is exciting, and after heading into the workforce, I am seriously consider graduate studies in a couple of years.”

For more information about NSERC USRA opportunities, connect with a School of Engineering Academic Services Advisor.

Building a cleaner and more sustainable planet is motivating third-year Electrical Engineering student Erika Pineo as she walks across the Okanagan campus.

Recently back on campus, Pineo spent the last 16-months on co-op with 2 different organizations after completing her first two years of undergraduate studies,

“Co-op has really provided me with direction about what I want to do in the future,” says Pineo. “Doing co-op sequentially allowed me to gain skills, develop them, and refine them.”

Landing those co-op jobs wasn’t the easiest process, and required a steep learning curve according to Pineo. Despite having worked many part-time jobs, Pineo says developing an effective resume for an engineering role is completely different. Apart from drafting strong cover letters and job-specific resumes, she says her interviews tended to be less behavioural-focused and more technical focused.

“Applying is quality over quantity, explains Pineo who applied for over a hundred jobs in order to land her first co-op position. However, she only applied for one in her second go-around. “I probably put more time into that one application and used the knowledge I gained from the first time around to make sure it was solid.”

Pineo’s first co-op was with UBC Okanagan‘s School of Engineering as a Technical Director at Geering Up. Her next three terms were at Fortis BC in three different roles.

“Fortis was an incredible opportunity, and that was partly a result of connections I made while I was there including with UBC alum from both the Okanagan and Vancouver,” says Pineo. “I’ve also tried to build upon that by referring other UBC students to Fortis and paying it forward.”

Co-op taught Pineo many lessons, but the big one was learning to reach out and ask for help. “When it is all on you, and you don’t know how to do it, the barrier to entry is very high,” explains Pineo. “By getting help and direction, you are able to jump into the task and get it done – which allows you to have more time to work on cooler things and develop your skills further.”

Looking back on her first two-years of undergrad, Pineo points to APSC 169, Fundamentals of Sustainable Engineering Design, as a very influential course that has led her to where she is today. Although she acknowledges that her technical skills weren’t as strong as her peers during first year, her communication skills were above par. “It was amazing to share my skill set with my peers and learn from them. It resulted in an influential water consumption reduction program that was implemented by UBC Sustainability and remains on campus today.”

Pineo has always been interested in conservation, and in particular water and energy conservation. Her experience with Fortis, and growing up by the ocean in Nova Scotia, has guided her towards a future in marine renewable energy. “Keeping water clean while harnessing its energy potential has so many exciting possibilities, and I’m looking forward to making a difference in this area.”


Handrails are something that most of us take for granted. In fact, that is exactly how third-year Mechanical Engineering student Catarina Rodriguez perceived them prior to this past summer.

Rodriguez was interested in exploring research, and applied for an NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA) with Assistant Professor Vicki Komisar. “As I investigated possible research I could explore, it opened my eyes to a research that I didn’t even consider to be in the realm of engineering.”

Their project looked at sex-based differences in loading patterns, and the type of forces that individuals apply to handrails.

As a Mechanical Engineering student taking the Biomedical Option, Rodriguez was well-suited for the undertaking this research. “USRA provided an opportunity to take what I’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to something meaningful in the real-world.”

The study used existing data generated through a collaboration between Komisar and Dr. Alison Novak at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.

Existing design standards have provisions for handrail structural strength, but they are based on population-level data, and have never been analyzed based on sex. “This is very important because of very established muscle strength differences between males and females,” says Komisar. “Catarina’s work really helped to identify where these differences were and were not present.”

Their findings indicate that forces applied to handrails vary depending on loading direction, with males applying larger forces as a function of their weight in directions where the user pulls with the arms, such as sideways or upward. They also found that in directions with mostly pushing, such as downward, forces were based on the user’s mass with negligible differences between sexes.

Being able to work with a newer professor had additional benefits according to Rodriguez. “I got really lucky to work with Dr. Komisar in small groups, and one-on-one quite often, and have established a long-term mentorship relationship.”

“Catarina’s work will provide a very important contribution to the literature in this area, and I am excited that she has chosen to continue to work with us,” says Komisar.

For Rodriguez, her focus now is on completing her undergraduate degree and working towards pursuing a Master’s. In the meantime, she is working with Komisar on developing some abstracts to present at upcoming conferences.

For more information about NSERC URSA opportunities, connect with a School of Engineering Academic Services Advisor. The dataset analyzed in this work was supported through a Canadian Institutes of Health Research, held by Dr. Novak; analysis was supported through UBCO funds and Rodriguez’s NSERC USRA. Rodriguez was also supported by UBCO’s Airborne Disease Transmission Research Cluster for a different project over the summer.

For more information about NSERC USRA opportunities, connect with a School of Engineering Academic Services Advisor.

Not very often does a student get recommended for a research role by an industry collaborator, but that is exactly how fourth-year Electrical Engineering student Joel Johnson began his NSERC’s Undergraduate Student Research Award program research with Electrical Engineering Professor Kenneth Chau and VO2 Master.

“Over the course of the summer, I discover that Joel’s attributes, derived from his competitive athletic background, perfectly aligned with pursuing positive research outcomes,” says Chau.

Johnson entered academia as a mature student, and during his time at UBC Okanagan, he has found a passion for micro-electronics and embedded solutions. “Working with Dr. Chau and the VO2Master team, I have been able to use my knowledge and gain new insights into designing cutting-edge technology to make a meaningful mark on the space.”

VO2 Master is an Okanagan-based company that has developed a portable lab-grade weight management and performance analysis tool. The researchers at the School of Engineering have been creating compact optical sensors that acquire physiological information and share it with a mobile application.

“This project facilitated by the USRA program enabled the team and I to really push the envelope on colorimetric and optical sensing,” explains Johnson. “The technology shows great promise for applications in health care and exercise science, and it’s so exciting to be a part of that.”

NSERC’s Undergraduate Student Research Award program develops students’ interest in a research career in the natural sciences and engineering. The research experience is intended to complement their studies in an academic setting.

Chau points to the USRA as providing an exploratory environment that allows students to do a lot of accelerated learning outside the classroom. “It creates a learning space which has no boundaries, if you want to try something or do something, it is up to the student and teacher to go explore.”

According to Chau, UBC Okanagan has fostered an environment that really encourages undergraduate research. “I have been shocked time and time again about how far undergrads can push research projects. Because of Joel’s contributions in this project, we are much further along than we would have been if he hadn’t have worked with us.”

“It is a great privilege to get to do research and push myself as part of this team,” says Johnson. “It is a great stepping stone to graduate studies and future research with industry (being a part of this team), and it really tied everything together as I look to my future.”

Johnson says Chau was a great source of insight during his USRA, and provided a support and direction throughout the research.

“I learned so much from Dr. Chau and the team at VO2 Master about design and analyzing the motivation and efficacy behind each design choice of research, so it was definitely an amazing learning experience.”

Both Chau and Johnson say there’s plenty of potential in utilizing phase sensitive detection and sensor arrays to improve the cost and form factor of VO2 breath analysis devices.

For more information about NSERC USRA opportunities, connect with a School of Engineering Academic Services Advisor.

Third-year Mechanical Engineering student Abigail Stokes never thought she’d find herself working with waste treatment sludge as she had aspired to work in the automotive or biomedical industry. Instead, as she starts her second-semester of third year, Stokes is well-ensconced in waste treatment sludge as an undergraduate researcher at UBC Okanagan’s Bioreactor Technology Group (BTG).

“A couple of years ago, I started working in the waste treatment industry, and by far it is the most exciting research experience I’d had,” says Stokes, who recently completed a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA) term at the BTG. “Waste is something that everyone has to deal with, and will become a bigger and bigger issue as we let it go.”

It is hard to miss the smell emanating from the BTG, but Stokes says the impact of the research far outweighs any initial concerns about that.

Inside the lab, bioreactors are continuously churning and mixing waste materials. Stokes works alongside Cigdem Eskicioglu, a Civil Engineering Professor and NSERC/Metro Vancouver Industrial Research Chair (IRC) in Resource Recovery from Wastewater.

“Abby’s work supports our on-going research program with Metro Vancouver where we are investigating the best approaches to convert human waste into transportation fuel,” explains Eskicioglu.

Eskicioglu points to USRA as an invaluable launching pad for undergraduates to explore research opportunities.  “For students with a real passion for research, this program provides them mentorship and an opportunity to nurture their passion.”

USRAs are also meant to encourage students to undertake graduate studies in their chosen field by providing research work experience that complements their studies in an academic setting.

Stokes has worked on several projects during her time at BTG through the USRA, and a co-op term. Over the summer, she worked alongside a PhD student to investigate the impacts of biochar amendment on biogas production in anaerobic digestion of municipal sludge.  She continued with the lab this term, as a co-op student, where she was part of the hydro-thermal liquefaction team. Using high-temperatures and pressure, the researchers have been working on anaerobic co-digestion for recovering bioenergy.

According to Stokes, the USRA and co-op have had a profound impact on her experience at UBC. “I’ve come to appreciate that it’s not just about the grade in a class but more about a greater vision to make some sort of impact in the world.” She says her grades have improved as a result of these research experiences, and she’s found a cohort of like-minded peers who have the same priorities.

With a focus on applying for graduate studies, Stokes plans on continuing her research with BTG as she completes her undergraduate degree.

For more information about NSERC USRA opportunities, connect with a School of Engineering Academic Services Advisor.