Advanced Systems & Data Analytics

Advanced Systems encompass big data and networks, communication networking, photonics and electromagnetics, robotics, control systems, and sensors.

Research Themes

Adapting new ideas and tools from information technology, coding theory, stochastic processes and design optimization to impact information & coding theory, wireless communications & networking, cloud computing & big data, and blockchain technology.

Theoretical and applied research pertaining to digital communications over wireless channels, orthogonal frequency division multiplexing, spread spectrum communications, statistical signal processing for wireless applications, and optical wireless communications.

Development and use of sophisticated numerical algorithms, software, and high-performance computer hardware to tackle challenging engineering problems. Activities include finite element analysis (FEA) of metallurgical castings, solidification, and welding; computational fluid dynamics (CFD) of fluid mixing, multiphase flows, and turbulence.

Design and optimize advanced electromechanical systems such as fuel injectors, high-speed machine tools, or earthquake dampers for buildings. These applications use advanced actuation technologies including custom design magnetic circuits and smart materials to control the behaviour of mechanical structures (at the micro and macro scale).

Research activities in broad applications of sensors, actuators, robotic systems and unmanned vehicles. Besides fundamental research on theories, a majority of the mechatronics and control activities are carried out in partnership with industrial partners who desire to increase the level of autonomy, precision and safety in their processes and production environments.

Exploring new fabrication processes, new device concepts, and new integrated microsystems (and nanomaterials). Exploring novel materials based on polymers, carbon nanotubes, graphene and new processes using 3D printing and laser machining. Applications include lab-on-a-chip devices, organ-on-a-chip for drug screening and biochemical sensors for environmental sensing and medical diagnostics.

Developing robust optimization systems related to sourcing, materials management, operations planning, distribution, logistics, demand forecasting, order fulfillment, and more to enable sustainable and resilient supply chain networks.

Faculty Researchers

Ahmad Al-Dabbagh – Assistant Professor
Developing model-based and data-based approaches for the control, monitoring, and automation of systems and processes.


Joshua Brinkerhoff – Assistant Professor
Mechanics of materials; alternative energy systems; turbulence; computational fluid dynamics; aircraft conceptual design & aerodynamics.


Anas Chaaban – Assistant Professor
Relaying for Interference Management specifically network information theory. Researching optical wireless communications, communication theory, relay networks and coding theory.


Kenneth Chau – Associate Professor
At the intersection of nanotechnology and optics, moulding light to create the next generation of light tools. Using smart windows and incorporating nanotechnology and optics to distribute power and communications signals.


Julian Cheng – Professor
Improving Optical and digital wireless communications with an emphasis on fundamental research. Orthogonal frequency division multiplexing, spread spectrum communications, statistical signal processing for wireless applications, and optical wireless communications.


Christopher Collier – Assistant Professor
Oversees experimental photonics; specifically lab-on-a-chip terahertz spectroscopy microsystems in the areas of biomedical engineering, biological engineering, and engineering systems and computing.


Chen Feng – Assistant Professor
Information and coding theory, big data and blockchains. Adapting new ideas and tools from information theory, coding theory, stochastic processes, and optimization to design better networking systems.


Sulimon Garguom – Assistant Professor
Develops intelligent transportation infrastructure and management through advanced road safety analytics using machine learning, deep neural networks, and stochastic simulation techniques.


Jonathan Holzman – Professor
Integrated Optics including micro- and nano-photonic technologies targeted at a variety of applications, including ultrafast all-optical processing, optical wireless communications and terahertz spectroscopy.


Jahangir Hossain – Associate Professor
Contemporary wireless communication systems focused on bandwidth and energy efficient technologies for wireless systems leading to longer battery life and high data rate support.


Sajjad Janfaza – Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Developing nanstructured microfluidic sensors.


Thomas Johnson – Associate Professor
Solving applied problems in radio frequency and microwave circuits and systems. Investigating RF power sources for wireless and industrial applications, applied electromagnetics and pulse encoders for switch-mode power amplifiers.


Richard Klukas – Associate Professor
Using optical, ultrawideband, and WiFi signals and sensors for indoor positioning and navigation. Improving methods for integrating various indoor positioning technologies and vehicle-to-vehicle ranging systems.


Vicki Komisar – Assistant Professor
Engineering design, biomedical signal processing, ergonomics, biomechanics, motor control, and statistics to develop assistive technology related to the risk of falls and fall-related injuries.


Sunny Li – Associate Professor
Advancing liquid / air cooling technologies, thermal / fluid sciences in sustainable energy systems and thermalfluidics in micro devices and systems.


Zheng Liu – Associate Professor
IoT-based sensing, intelligent systems, machine learning and data analytics, computer vision and pattern recognition, information fusion.


Loïc Markley – Assistant Professor
Electromagnetic wave engineering, with an emphasis on metamaterials and metamaterial-related devices to further the design of high-frequency electronic circuits and antennas.


Hassan Mohammadnavazi – Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Machine learning, deep learning to improve the communication transceivers.


Qurrat-Ul-Ain (Annie) Nadeem – Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Applications of random matrix theory in wireless communications, with focus on channel modeling, design and performance analysis of multi-antenna communication systems (Massive MIMO, Large Intelligent Surfaces).


Homayoun Najjaran – Professor
Mechatronics and control systems with applications in robotics, industrial automation and unmanned systems.


Mohanad Obeed – Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Optimizing multi-user visible light communication (VLC) networks, and to propose new techniques for alleviating VLC practical limitations such as coverage, mobility, blockage, etc.


Stephen O’Leary – Professor
Wide-band gap III-V and disordered semiconductors related to optical response of materials, novel electron devices, solar cells, x-ray image detectors and large-area electronics.


Rudolf Seethaler – Associate Professor
Mechatronics for automobiles including development of high-speed and large displacement actuation devices, electromagnetic valve trains, distributed control sensor fusion and power distribution systems.


Nidhi Sharma – Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Computational fluid dynamics to study the onset of transition and evolution of turbulence. Development and performance analysis of highly accurate and efficient finite difference schemes for direct numerical simulation of incompressible and compressible flows. Linear and non-linear instability analysis of turbulent flows.


Babak Mohamadpour Tosarkani – Assistant Professor
Developing robust optimization models to design sustainable and resilient supply chain networks under operational and disruption risks.


Mohammad Zarifi – Assistant Professor
Development of microwave resonator sensors, high-speed and lower power analog to digital converters, microelectromechanical sensors.

Inventing a new world

Advanced systems and data analytics are driving innovation in a number of fields by collecting and harnessing data that enables instantaneous change.  In its simplest form, advanced systems like sensors collect data and that data is analyzed, compared to optimal results, and adjustments are made based on that comparison.  Think of it like a thermostat.  When you adjust the thermostat to 20-degrees Celsius, the thermostat collects the temperature within the room or rooms and adjusts accordingly.  Smart appliances, agriculture, homes, and cities use that same basic concept.

The complexity of what makes a sensor work is intricate. A sensor targets and acquires information it seeks, and converts that information into an electrical signal.  Often that electrical signal needs to be converted to binary code for processing through a computer. The computer than compares the acquired data to a benchmark.

Assistant Professor Mohammad Zarifi leads the Micro-Electronics and Advanced Sensors Lab (OMEGA) Lab where they miniaturize sensors and their components to develop faster, portable devices that can work in harsh and hazardous environments. They recently designed a diagnostic tool that provides health care practitioners almost instant diagnosis of a bacterial infection.

Sensitive data requires protection as it is acquired, analyzed and disseminated.  That is the research focus of Chen Feng, an assistant professor in Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering at the School of Engineering is a Tier-2 Principal’s Research Chair in Blockchain and the Co-Cluster Lead for Blockchain@UBC.  His research investigates the theoretical foundation and engineering applications of blockchain technology.  Blockchain and empower digital technology continues to find new applications in various sectors, ranging from healthcare, clean energy to public administration. It has the potential to disrupt (in a good way) a wide range of industries by providing secure transactions of all types such as health records and land registration. Many organizations are already implementing blockchain solutions to increase security, efficiency and reduce cost.

Feng has received over $2.9M in research funding as Principal Investigator (PI) or co-PI, including $2M related to blockchain technology and the rest on digital technology (next-generation wireless networks and cloud computing). He is currently collaborating with Axiom Zen (in BC) on the theoretical foundation of blockchain technology as well as with Boehringer- Ingelheim Canada and FortisBC on developing applications of blockchain within healthcare and clean energy.

Two new research faculty, starting in July 2021, have been hired to establish a digital health technologies hub within the Advanced Systems and Data Analytics Research Cluster.  The new researchers will complement the existing expertise of the School’s mechanical engineering researchers who are developing increasingly smaller and more accurate sensors for drug and disease detection, and lab-on-chip devices.  Their collaborative new research will investigate assistive technologies and biomedical optics.

The transmission of the data harvested from sensors is shared to cloud computing or blockchain solutions. How it gets transmitted is another key area of the research within the School of Engineering’s Advanced Systems and Data Analytics Research Cluster. Professor Julian Cheng and Assistant Professor Anas Chaaban develop theoretical analysis and applications related to wireless communications and signal processing.  Their research strives to increase accuracy and speed of data, and is beginning to expand into machine learning and deep learning. Collaborations with partners such as Telus and Department of National Defence are catalysts towards improving existing technologies to create communication infrastructure that addresses the needs of tomorrow.

In a lab just down the hallway from Cheng’s Digital Communications and Signal Processing Lab, Professor Jonathan Holzman and his research team at the Integrated Optics Lab develop micro and nano-photonic technologies to create ultrafast all-optical processing and optical wireless communication solutions.  The data packets that Drs. Chaaban and Cheng compress and configure travel between hardware that Dr. Holzman develops. Along those same lines, Associate Professor Jahangir Hossein’s research focuses on developing bandwidth and energy efficient technologies for wireless systems, which lead to longer battery life and the ability to support high data rate applications for devices such as laptops, smart phones, and tablets.

From semiconductors and solar cells to x-ray detectors and novel electron devices, Professor Stephen O’Leary and his research team conduct theoretical research that paves the way towards innovative manufacturing solutions.

Meanwhile, Associate Professor Dr. Kenneth Chau is exploring new ways to manipulate light using metallic nanostructures either in one-dimensional (layers), two dimensional (wires), or three-dimensional (particles) configurations. Collectively, such structures are known as “plasmonic metamaterials”, and functional within light-based applications such as imaging and optical sensors.

Understanding the data being fed from sensors requires computational mechanics that utilize high-powered computers to run sophisticated numerical algorithms.  Professor Zheng Liu and his teach at the Intelligent Sensing, Diagnostic and Prognostic Research Lab use deep learning to develop prediction and assessment analysis tools. As an example, Zheng and his team worked on a Mitacs-funded project in collaboration with CANSCAN to use artificial intelligence to conduct quality inspections of shipping containers.

Sensor can also act as an operational or navigational aid, Associate Professor Rudolf Seethaler develops modelling of dynamic systems to optimize mechatronic systems and real-time control applications or Associate Professor Richard Klukas’ work using optical, ultra-wide band and WiFi signals and sensors to provide positioning and navigational technologies related to vehicle-to-vehicle ranging systems.

At the foundation of much of this research are the concepts of dynamics and vibrations, and the important role in understanding physical systems and technologies.  Researchers develop accurate dynamic models through computational algorithms and measurement techniques that lead to innovate design and decision-making in a variety of areas such as system identification, sensing, damage detection, and acoustic signal processing. Researchers at UBC Okanagan have used these principles to design and optimize advanced electromechanical systems such as fuel injectors, high-speed machine tools, or earth quake dampers for buildings. These applications use advanced actuation technologies including custom design magnetic circuits and smart materials to control the behaviour of mechanical structures (at the micro and macro scale).

With a research on passive electromagnetic architectures and solutions include nanophotonics, microscopy, optical sensors, metamaterials, antennas, frequency selective surfaces, and wireless power transfer. Assistant Professor Loic Markley is interested in a range of fundamental and applied topics from near-field focusing and imaging to microwave circuits and antennas to wave propagation and field manipulation.  In particular, he is very interested in the study of metamaterials—artificial materials with exotic electric and magnetic properties—and how they can be applied to antenna design and microwave engineering.

Metamaterials are a key component of new fabrication processes including new device concepts, and new integrated microsystems (and nanomaterials). Exploring novel materials based on polymers, carbon nanotubes, graphene and new processes using 3D printing and laser machining is pushing innovation forward at the School of Engineering. The results include applications such as lab-on-a-chip devices, organ-on-a-chip for drug screening and biochemical sensors for environmental sensing and medical diagnostics.

While small-scale research is important, larger-scale mechatronics and control systems lie at the heart of Industry 4.0; the cutting-edge of modern and advanced manufacturing. Ahmad Al-Dabbagh, an assistant professor and principal’s research chair (tier 2) in advanced manufacturing, designs and optimizes control systems to direct networked cyber-physical systems and process data analytics.  He is one of several UBC Okanagan researchers who are investigating a broad range of applications including sensors, actuators, robotic systems and unmanned vehicles. Besides fundamental research on theories, a majority of the mechatronics and control activities are carried out in partnership with industrial partners seeking to increase the level of autonomy, precision and safety in their processes and plants.

Similarly, Professor Homayoun Najjaran leads the Advanced Control and Intelligent Systems (ACIS) Laboratory at the School of Engineering where he and his team are at the forefront of developing safe and reliable operating systems enabling robots to accurately perform tasks through computer vision, artificial intelligence and machine learning in various environment.

One of the possible drawbacks of the processing power of deep learning and artificial intelligence solutions is the generation of heat; that if not addressed can have negative impacts on components. Associate Professor Sunni Li leads the Thermal Management & Multi-Phase Flows Lab where they devise methods to continuously remove heat and lower temperatures in system within material and reliability constraints. This thermal management research employs many technologies, industrial processes, engineering applications, and products to safely and effective remove excess heat.

As a counter-point, Associate Professor Thomas Johnson and his team at the RF & Microwave Technology Research Laboratory are radio frequencies within industrial heating applications such as a heating source for pre-treating wastewater sludge (bio-solids). The group is also working on two sensor related projects including a contactless method to measure voltage in high voltage distribution lines, and a portable blood pressure sensor that integrates into wearable technology.