Communications Manager

School of Engineering


UBCO Engineering students pose with their medals at the Canadian Engineering Championships. SOE students collaborate and innovate on their way to second place showing at Canadian Engineering Competition

A team of four second-year engineering students from UBC Okanagan (UBCO)’s School of Engineering cruised to a second-place finish at the 40th annual Canadian Engineering Competition (CEC) in Calgary.

CEC brings together more than 200 engineering undergraduate students from across the nation to compete against each other in eight categories (Junior Design, Senior Design, Innovative Design, Engineering Consulting, Parliamentary Debate, Re-engineering, Programming, and Engineering Communication).

The UBC SOE Jr. Design team included:

Sam Bachnak – 2nd year Mechanical Engineering

Shaleena Egdell – 2nd year Civil engineering

Elliott Friedland – 2nd year Mechanical Engineering

David Manhart – 2nd Year Electrical Engineering

The team earned their berth at nationals in the Junior Design catory on the strength of showings at Western Canada and local competitions earlier this year.

At CEC, the team was given a real-world challenge to solve and only eight hours to design, create, and test a physical prototype of their proposed solution within time and budget constraints.

The challenge: design and construct a hydraulic arm that can perform a mock surgery (in this case: removing objects hidden behind obstacles from within a box roughly the size of a human body).

“Working well together as a team was critical,” explains UBCO Electrical Engineering student David Manhart. “We collaborated and problem solved really well as a group, which allowed us to work quickly and effectively. It was a great experience getting to work together as a team under high pressure and time constraints – that experience taught us a lot and we’re proud of the solutions we came up with together as a group.”

Given the strength of the competition they were up against—seven other teams from leading engineering schools across Canada)—the team was elated when the results came in, notes Manhart.

“There was a rush of adrenaline and joy to achieve second place among all these very capable teams,” says Manhart. “Overall, the competition was a great way to apply what we’ve learned in our program at UBCO, to connect with other engineering students from around the country and to see the solutions they came up with.”

The team has reflected on how this competition result is the culmination of months of hard work and growth:

“From our first competition to our last, the team experienced tremendous growth, both individually and collectively. Each competition served as a learning opportunity, allowing us to strengthen our skills, build upon our teamwork abilities, and innovate on our approach.

“As a team, we grew so much, learning from each competition and improving further with each step of our journey,” said student Shaleena Egdell.

Inspired and informed by their success at CEC, the team plans to compete again next year in the Senior Design category.

“On behalf of everyone at the School of Engineering, our congratulations go to this outstanding team of students. You should be very proud of your accomplishments and the way in which you represented yourselves and the SOE, as we are certainly proud and inspired by your efforts. This result is an example of the many ways in which UBC Okanagan Engineering students rise to the challenge to come up with innovative solutions to real-world problems,” says Professor Will Hughes, Director of the School of Engineering at UBC Okanagan.

Learn more about the Canadian Engineering Competition at More information the UBCO School of Engineering is available at

The below media release was shared on Friday, April 12, 2024 by UBC Okanagan and has been re-posted in this space as it highlights seat expansions in the School of Engineering’s Electrical and Mechanical Engineering programs.

A message from Dr. Will Hughes, Director of the School of Engineering:

“Today is an exciting day for the School of Engineering. We are deeply appreciative of this expansion of seats which adds to our capacity in two high demand areas – Electrical and Mechanical Engineering. This will have a positive ripple effect on our school, UBC Okanagan and the region. It means more outstanding engineering students and graduates who will ultimately contribute to innovative research, fill skills and knowledge gaps, and occupy vital roles within industry in the Okanagan and far beyond.”

UBC adding 778 tech spaces thanks to $14.8M provincial investment

Expanded enrolment will increase opportunities for students and help drive B.C.’s innovation economy 

The University of British Columbia is adding 778 new spaces over six years in technology-related programs on its campuses thanks to additional funding from the B.C. government.

B.C.’s Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation, the Honourable Brenda Bailey, was on site at UBC’s Vancouver campus on Friday to celebrate the expansion of technology-related learning spaces as part of the provincial government’s long-term plan to meet growing demand for talent in B.C.’s tech sector.

“The students who will be filling these hundreds of seats at UBC will help increase the supply of talent into the province’s rapidly expanding tech sector,” says B.C.’s Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation, Brenda Bailey. “These graduates will be rewarded with well-paying careers while helping to advance health care and research to improve life for British Columbians, and build our clean, innovative economy of the future.”

The funding will add new student spaces to existing programs in the faculties of applied science, medicine, pharmaceutical sciences, and science on both campuses. These spaces will be added over six years, including an investment of $5.4 million in capital funding to equip and renovate labs and classrooms, and a total of $17.7 million in start-up and on-going operating funding over the first three years of the planned expansion.

“We are grateful to the B.C. government for this generous investment, which will further enhance UBC’s position as a global leader in technology learning and innovation,” says UBC President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Benoit-Antoine Bacon. “This investment not only provides our students with exciting new education and career opportunities, but it also helps meet the demand for talent in B.C.’s rapidly growing tech and life sciences industry. With these new spaces, UBC is preparing even more students to become the engineers, scientists, product developers, and technology leaders that will help propel our society and economy forward.”

The investment will also be used to establish two new programs, a Bachelor of Data Science on the Vancouver campus, and a Master of Science in Biotechnology on the Okanagan campus.

“At UBC Okanagan, we are especially thrilled to be launching a Master of Science in Biotechnology program,” says Dr. Lesley Cormack, principal and deputy vice-chancellor of UBC Okanagan. “With biotechnology’s potential to address local and global challenges in agriculture, health, biomedicine and the environment, this program will empower students to harness cutting-edge technologies for a brighter future for B.C. and the communities we serve.”

UBC Vancouver will see 578 additional spaces added, including 120 spaces in the undergraduate data science program, 160 spaces in the undergraduate microbiology and immunology program, 60 spaces in undergraduate pharmaceutical sciences, 180 spaces in undergraduate chemical, computer and integrated engineering program streams, and 58 spaces in biomedical engineering graduate programs.

Meanwhile, UBC Okanagan will add 200 additional spaces, including 60 in the undergraduate data science program, and 100 in the undergraduate engineering program. The new Master of Biotechnology program will have 40 spaces.

On January 18, 2024 the Green Construction Research and Training Center (GCRTC – UBC and Okanagan College) was proud to host Net Zero Now in Kelowna, along with the Wilden Living Lab partners, AuthenTech Homes, FortisBC, and the Wilden Group; our sponsors, Genesis Building Controls and Total Home Solutions, and in collaboration with Canadian Home Builders Association Central Okanagan (CHBACO).

Net Zero Now was a cross-discipline seminar that provided many different angles on the topic – from the scientific aspect, that of the energy supplier, the experience and implementation of the builders and subcontractors, to the homeowner and general public.

Read the full recap on the Wilden Living Lab page.

Aerial of the EME building at UBC Okanagan Campus.

Two researchers within the UBC Okanagan School of Engineering (SOE) have been awarded UBC Killam Research Fellowships. These awards enable faculty to pursue full-time research during a recognized study leave.

Dr. Sepideh Pakpour and Dr. Sina Kheirkhah are among the 2023 recipients of faculty research awards announced by UBC this week. You can also read more in the announcement by Faculty of Applied Science.

Dr. Sepideh Pakpour, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at UBC Okanagan.

Dr. Sepideh Pakpour, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering with the SOE, is a molecular biologist who works at the intersection of biotechnology and microbiome engineering, seeking ways to create healthier environments in our buildings and bodies. Her study leave will be undertaken at the renowned Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), a non-profit research institution located in Seattle, Washington. Read more about Dr. Pakpour.

“In light of the study leave, I see a valuable chance to invest in advancing my research capabilities at the esteemed Institute for Systems Biology,” expressed Dr. Pakpour. “This experience will enable me to enhance the scope of my laboratory’s work at UBC, fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange. By leveraging the insights gained, I aim to fortify UBC’s research profile, paving the way for more innovative discoveries.”

Dr. Pakpour is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards from The Fonds de recherche du Quebec – Nature et technologies (FRQNT), as well as Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

Dr. Sina Kheirkhah is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at UBC Okanagan.

Dr. Sina Kheirkhah is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering whose research explores zero carbon fuels (such as hydrogen) for energy generation and aircraft propulsion. Beginning in July, Sina will spend a year at the Institut de Combustion Aérothermique Réactivité et Environnement (ICARE) at Center National De La Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Orléans, France. Read more about Dr. Kheirkhah.

“I am very appreciative of this award that will help me during this leave to further my research and vision at ICARE, which is a leading space in advancing knowledge and technology for combustion of sustainable aviation and zero-carbon fuels. With this award, our teams will be able to work towards addressing scientific problems and engineering challenges of high-pressure hydrogen combustion,” said Dr. Kheirkhah.

“On behalf of the School of Engineering, huge congratulations to Sina and Sepideh on this significant accomplishment. We – your SOE colleagues – are incredibly proud of you and excited for the opportunities that lay ahead through your respective fellowships. We look forward to following your research with interest, and are grateful for your presence within the SOE community,” said Dr. Will Hughes, Director of the UBC Okanagan School of Engineering.

Dr. Will Hughes

Dr. Will Hughes, Director of the School of Engineering, is the new Canada Research Chair in DNA Engineering (Tier 1).

Dr. Will Hughes is one of two UBCO faculty members to receive prestigious Canada Research Chair appointments

The following story re-shares information from an announcement by UBC Okanagan’s Office of the Vice-Principal, Research & Innovation on March 13, 2024.

The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Transport, announced the new chairs today on behalf of the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, as part of a larger funding announcement for Canadian researchers and projects.

Dr. Alanaise Ferguson from the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is the new Canada Research Chair in Health, Healing and Community Revitalization: Indigenous Approaches to Overcoming Intergenerational Trauma and Loss (Tier 2), while Dr. Will Hughes from the School of Engineering is the Canada Research Chair in DNA Engineering (Tier 1).

Both faculty members also received Canada Foundation for Innovation funding through the John R. Evans Leaders Fund for their research infrastructure, for a combined total of more than $440,000.

Dr. Alanaise Ferguson, Associate Professor, Indigenous Studies is the new Canada Research Chair in Health, Healing and Community Revitalization: Indigenous Approaches to Overcoming Intergenerational Trauma and Loss (Tier 2).


An Associate Professor in Indigenous Studies, Dr. Ferguson focuses on developing Indigenous approaches to overcoming intergenerational trauma and loss. As a registered psychologist, and the daughter and granddaughter of residential school survivors, she incorporates therapeutic models in her work and engages with diverse Indigenous ways of healing.

“Indigenous approaches to health and wellbeing are really expansive and include techniques and processes we might not necessarily recognize,” said Dr. Ferguson. “One of these techniques is cultural reclamation, such as language reclamation or the resurgence of Indigenous stories—basically the things we lost when we were enduring different policies of genocide, especially in the last century.”

With a group of Canadian scholars, Dr. Ferguson is developing a healing plan that can be easily adapted across Canada in various environments and communities.

Though Indigenous people experience similar levels of mental health issues as non-Indigenous Canadians, their rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic stress are disproportionately higher, says Dr. Ferguson. This stress can contribute to other health disorders, including cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, and to greater involvement in the criminal justice system.

“If Indigenous people had access to culturally appropriate services, then we could really remediate that disparity,” says Dr. Ferguson.


Dr. Hughes, who in addition to serving as the Director for the School of Engineering is also a Professor in Applied Science, designs DNA for multiple uses, including storing and reading digital data.

The increasing popularity of cloud computing is creating a two-fold storage crisis. First, the world is projected to run out of semiconductor-grade silicon—necessary for manufacturing the flash memory used in cloud storage applications—by 2040. Secondly, storing the huge amount of data already created in memory requires a massive amount of energy, resulting in high environmental and financial costs.

To help solve this problem, Dr. Hughes believes storing data in synthetic DNA is a viable alternative. Nucleic acid memory (NAM), as coined by his team, is stable, sustainable, inexpensive to operate, and can store significantly more data in a smaller package.

In contrast to large servers and data centres, with the emerging capabilities of DNA, it’s possible that the projected digital universe in 2040 could fit in a 100×100×10 cm3 box—slightly smaller than a U-Haul box to move a TV.

Dr. Hughes’s project focuses on encoding and encrypting information into DNA in multiple dimensions, but the team will also be exploring basic questions about how DNA interacts, how information flows in a system and how to take advantage of the biological and non-biological components of DNA for data storage applications. To address these questions, they’re also building the next generation of sequencing tools.

“This project is an engine for creating questions and answering questions,” says Dr. Hughes. “It’s where science and engineering and design come together in authentic ways.”

To the benefit of UBCO, Dr. Hughes combined CFI funding related to his CRC with that of another CRC in UBCO’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, Dr. Isaac Li, to purchase a near video-rate atomic force microscope.

“It is a gift to work with Dr. Li, and together we were able to acquire a state-of-the-art instrument that neither one of us could have acquired independently. Partnership means everything here, and this new CRC-funded equipment will support UBC Okanagan’s growing research success for years to come.”

The federal government established the Canada Research Chairs program in 2000 to promote excellence and innovation in Canadian research centres. Chairholders are some of the world’s most accomplished and promising minds, improving our depth of knowledge and quality of life, strengthening Canada’s international competitiveness and helping train the next generation of researchers. UBC Okanagan now has nine Canada Research Chairs.

With the announcement, UBCO researchers received more than $4.1 million in funding for 26 UBCO-led projects, including the two CRC-associated JELF awards, 10 SSHRC Insight Development Grants and 14 NSERC Alliance Grants.



UBCO researchers received more than $630,000 in funding from SSHRC Insight Development Grants, over 10 successful projects.

Adebayo, Sakiru (English and Cultural Studies)
The Melancholic Diaspora: Postcolonial African Immigrant Subjects in the United States

Obeegadoo, Nikhita Sonia Richa (Languages and World Literatures)
From coelacanths to mangroves: A multilingual, multispecies and decolonial approach to global archipelagic literature

Ronquillo, Charlene (Nursing)
Stakeholder perspectives and impacts of explainable artificial intelligence: A case study in a British Columbia health authority

Saifer, Adam (Faculty of Management)
Connecting the dots: Investigating institutional philanthropy’s entanglement with right-wing populism in Canada

Wong, Wendy (Economics, Philosophy and Political Science)
Increasing Accessibility in Surveys

Mohamadpour Tosarkani, Babak (School of Engineering)
A novel decision-support approach for exploring and analyzing factors affecting Canadian food industry performance

Neimanis, Astrida (Community, Culture and Global Studies)
Enhancing Access and Inclusion in Environmental Humanities Research Practice

Chau, Shirley (Social Work)
Anti-racism task forces and reports at universities in Canada: What happens to them after the launch party? A Critical Race Theory application of institutional response to calls for action…

Paulson, Timothy (History and Sociology)
Canola Capitalism: Futures Markets and Genetically-Modified Rapeseed on the Canadian Prairie, 1963-2007.

Yoon, Kyong (English and Cultural Studies)
Asian Canadian YouTubescape: Youth Cultural Politics of Visibility



UBCO researchers had 14 successful applications during 2022/23, totalling over $3 million in NSERC funding.

Sina Kheirkhah (School of Engineering)
Development of hydrogen safety codes and standards through a collaboration between UBC and the University of Groningen: Design of reacting flow facilities

Suliman Gargoum (School of Engineering)
Automated Low-Cost Change Detection of Road Infrastructure Assets Using Remote Sensing and AI

Zheng Liu (School of Engineering)
Multi-Modal ILI Data Fusion for Combined Diagnostics of Pipeline

Sumi Siddiqua (School of Engineering)
Bio-mediated treatment of organic soil with fungal strain Penicillium Chrysogenum and wood fly ash

Ifeoma Adaji (Computer Science, Mathematics, Physics and Statistic)
A Systematic Review of Behaviour Change Technologies for Influencing Healthy Nutrition

Jian Liu (School of Engineering)
High-performance quasi-solid-state zinc-ion capacitors coupling carbonaceous electrodes with eutectic hydrogel electrolytes

Solomon Tesfamariam (School of Engineering)*
Performance-Based Design of Tall Mass Timber Buildings Under Earthquake and Fire Loads

*has since moved to another institution

Rehan Sadiq (School of Engineering)
Enhancing Sustainability Performance in Aquatic Centres: A Life Cycle Approach

Thu Thuy Dang (Chemistry)
Single-cell omics approaches for anticancer camptothecin biosynthetic pathway elucidation

Ahmad Al-Dabbagh (School of Engineering)
Toward resilient operation of large-scale systems

Nathaniel Pelletier (Biology)
Collaborative roadmap development towards a net zero greenhouse gas emissions Canadian egg industry

Kenneth Chau (School of Engineering)
UV LED Light Controlling Elements for Photoreactor Applications

Shahria Alam (School of Engineering)
Crack detection and prediction of RC piers during earthquakes using machine learning and artificial intelligence

Kyle Larson (Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences)
Tectonics, deformation, fluid flow, and gold metallogeny during Cretaceous inversion of the Selwyn basin

Congratulations to all of the researchers!

UBC Okanagan (UBCO) will welcome students from around the world this July for the inaugural Okanagan Global Summer Program—a unique program that blends academic exploration with global adventure. Following a successful pilot in 2023, UBCO is expanding the program to offer six innovative course packages that tap interdisciplinary perspectives and knowledge to solve issues of global significance.

*An earlier version of this story first appeared on It is being re-shared to help raise awareness among potential students about the Okanagan Global Summer Program. Learn more below about the offerings by UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering and other faculties.

The three-week program July 8 to 26 mixes a strong academic focus with social and recreational experiences for an immersive global experience in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, an internationally renowned travel destination known for its sun-soaked beaches and natural beauty, fruit growing and wine-making industries, and year-round recreation.

“Expanding world perspectives, pursuing top-tier academics and building meaningful relationships are all at the core of the program,” says Brad Wuetherick, Associate Provost, Academic Programs, Teaching and Learning at UBCO. “This program offers more than academic growth: by embracing everything this program has to offer, students are also creating memories and building friendships that will shape who they become as global citizens.”

During the immersive program, students attend weekday classes, building toward earning UBC micro-credentials by the end of the program, while staying in on-campus accommodations, allowing them to socialize and share evenings together.

The all-inclusive program costs $6,000 CAD and registration is open until April 1, 2024. The UBC Vancouver campus has a similar offering: the Vancouver Summer Program, in June and July each year.

Offerings within the School of Engineering include:


Discover the future of transportation in the 2024 Global Summer Program on Autonomous Vehicles, Automation, and Robotics. Delve into driverless technology, exploring sensors, perception, planning, control, and safety. Gain cutting-edge skills and be part of an innovation journey. Enroll now for a transformative learning experience and drive into the future of mobility! Learn about the technology used in smart manufacturing and get hands-on with industrial-grade production systems. You will learn how to design, implement, and test controller logic to automate common production tasks such as sorting, separating, quality assurance, part distribution, and assembly. These concepts are complimented with the technical communication skills needed to present your ideas to the innovation sector.

Courses included:

  1. Autonomous Vehicles and Robotics | School of Engineering
  2. Technical Communications | School of Engineering


Discover innovative ways to combat real world issues like the increase in wild fire through engineering principles of user-centered design, CAD and CAM programs and manufacturing. In this hands-on and practical application course, students will utilize programs like Solidworks and tools like 3D printing to create prototypes that provide functional solutions to modern day problems. These concepts are complimented with the technical communication skills needed to present your ideas to the innovation sector.

Courses included:

  • User-Centered Design, CAD/CAM & Manufacturing | School of Engineering
  • Technical Communications | School of Engineering

Learn more about the 2024 Okanagan Global Summer Program.

UBC Okanagan Engineering Students pose with their concrete toboggan.

UBC Okanagan’s Great Northern Concrete Toboggan team on the course with their winning sled.

A team of engineering students from UBC Okanagan notched an impressive victory at the Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race (GNCTR) in February.

This year marked the 50th Annual Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race. Nearly 400 students from from 16 schools across the country converged at White Hills Resort in Clarenville, Newfoundland. Among them were 28 undergraduate students from UBCO, who together took top spot overall.

For Katie Van Rooyen, a 5th year Mechanical Engineering student and captain of the victorious UBCO GNCTR team, the victory is a culmination of years of learning, hard work and determination, from the classroom to the toboggan course.

“I joined the club in first year and stayed involved all the way through my studies,” explains Van Rooyen, who will graduate with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering in June. “Finishing with a win was an incredible experience for me, and for this team who have worked so hard to realize this goal.”

The rules are simple, but the science, technical skill and creativity behind it, are anything but.

Each competing team must design and build a toboggan with concrete sliding surfaces, a safety roll cage and a mechanical steering and braking system. Each toboggan must weigh less than 160 kilograms (under 350 pounds) and carry five competitors.

“This year’s sled incorporated years of learning,” explains Van Rooyen. “We started a year ago with a clean slate—a blank screen—but the design, concrete mix, brakes and other features were all heavily informed by what we’ve learned from previous years.”

The teams began planning in late winter, designed over the summer and built their sleds in the fall so that they could be ready for shipping across Canada by the end of the calendar year.

Once in Newfoundland, the UBCO team overcame icy conditions that proved advantageous for their excellent—and painstakingly designed—superstructure system and skis, notes Van Rooyen. She recounts how the group remained on the edge of their seats at the results were announced as, in the end, the UBCO team was bestowed Best Performing Toboggan and 1st Place Overall.

UBC Okanagan engineering students pose with the trophy after winning the Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Competition.

UBC Okanagan engineering students pose with the trophy after winning the Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Competition.

“The team was elated as we heard the final results,” says Van Rooyen. “We were all on our feet celebrating—it was truly one of the happiest and proudest moments of my life. It felt like the culmination of years of hard work.”

The next time Van Rooyen crosses a stage will be at UBC Okanagan’s convocation ceremony in June. She looks back with appreciation for how her design team experience and her applied learning journey within the School of Engineering have prepared her for a career as a Mechanical Engineer.

“Being able to have this real-world experience in bringing a design to life, putting to use what I’ve learned in the classroom, has opened so many doors. It enriched my co-op experience, it helped me build confidence and get a job offer before graduation. For myself and my teammates, the Great Northern Concrete Toboggan experience has kept up our motivation and inspired us to push ourselves.”

The GNCTR is the longest running, national university design competition.

Dr. Ahmad Rteil, Assistant Professor with the School of Engineering served as faculty advisor to the team.

UBC Okanagan’s Concrete Toboggan team included:

  • Katie Van Rooyen
  • Matthew Lawson
  • Owen Kirk
  • Megha Desai
  • Andrew Voykin
  • Dom Cloutier
  • Matt Currie
  • Ali Siddon
  • Abby Gubbels
  • Cam Younger
  • Liam Ovstaas
  • Carmela Jovez
  • Colton Kovacs
  • Karl Seeley
  • Sam Rampado
  • Adam Callahan
  • Tyler Warner
  • Ethan Torhjelm
  • Cooper Ross
  • Gaelen Smith
  • Myles Woodward
  • Adeo Kodra
  • Raelene Goulet
  • Katie Murray
  • Keira Mccoy
  • Josalynn Shields
  • Noor Khayrat
  • Maggie O’Brien

Full competition results and details can be found at

Learn more about the School of Engineering at UBC Okanagan at