Behind the Research
Behind every discovery is an idea, and that idea requires the collaboration of researchers, stakeholders, technicians, and professional staff to provide it momentum.
School of Engineering is expanding beyond the traditional university approach and structure to establish a modern engineering school. The School is fortunate to have a team of dedicated professionals in the areas of professional development, entrepreneurship, and communications that empower research through key contributions.
Meet the team
Innovation can come from so many directions, and at the School of Engineering it comes from inside and outside the lab. Researchers are uncovering solutions to many challenges facing our communities and industry. These solutions are a result of hard-work inside world-class research facilities, but they can also be attributed to the right collaborations.
Finding, building and fostering research partnerships and collaborations is the job of Colin Wilson, the School of Engineering’s Director of Research and Industry Partnerships. The former Associate Director for UBC Okanagan’s Development and Alumni Engagement gravitated to the innovation and opportunity within the School.
“There is so much incredible research going on across the UBC Okanagan campus, but I was blown away by the breadth and ingenuity of engineering researchers at the School of Engineering,” says Wilson.
Wilson has brought his experience bringing together the right players to the table, and letting them develop collaborations that work for them.
That experience includes nearly a decade at Novartis Pharmaceuticals where Wilson was tasked with negotiating product listing agreements with drug plans, health regions and other health agencies.
“Beyond the actual research, building relationships is a vital component of ensuring these partnerships meet their intended goals,” explains Wilson. “The uniqueness of the research at the School of Engineering is that often the initial topic we are investigating expands or shifts, and our researchers can easily pivot and adapt whether that means bringing in inter-disciplinary partners or broadening the scope in some other way.”
From small partnerships like My Blue Plant’s efforts to find sustainable ways to create graphene from excess materials generated by the forestry industry to a multi-faceted collaboration with FortisBC and its partners to enhance natural gas distribution systems with hydrogen to improve efficiency and lower environmental impacts.
“The capacity and expertise of our researchers enables so many exciting research opportunities that translate to experiential learning for our students, and impactful results for our partners,” adds Wilson.
The Executive Associate Dean of the School of Engineering, Rehan Sadiq, couldn’t agree more. “What Colin brings to the table is an ability to listen, analyze and build collaborations”.
According to Sadiq, it takes individuals like Wilson to get beyond the science and provide leadership related to relationship-building that is at the core of successful research collaborations. “Our School has been built upon exceptional researchers making impactful change, but it all starts with an idea, and Colin ignites the spark that gets it going.”
Sarah Campbell oversees the School of Engineering’s Development portfolio for UBC Development and Alumni Engagement. In this role, Sarah works collaborative with the Executive Associate Dean and Director of Business Development to find synergies and partners looking to engage with the School’s student and research initiatives.
As the advantages of engineering at UBC Okanagan become better known, overall demand for our programs is climbing. In just 15 years, the student population of UBC Okanagan has tripled—and the School of Engineering along with it— growing from a modest campus in 2005 to one serving over 11,000 students today.
The sustained expansion is critical in helping BC and Western Canada address the anticipated shortfall of engineers over the next few years. More than 30,000 jobs will be needed in electrical, civil, mechanical and manufacturing engineering.
Such vigorous growth often creates challenges, however. Despite its inventive pedagogy and world-class research,
our engineering school is now splitting at the seams. There are few rooms for undergraduate collaboration and project completion. Meeting rooms have been reconfigured as work areas for graduate students. A shortage of lab space has even forced the school to build temporary modular buildings, as you might see at a
Space for world-class researchers is also at a premium. UBC Okanagan has thrived at innovation development with our Green Construction Research and Training Centre, for example, and our Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute, with its research in aerospace, building, nanoscale and other areas of
manufacture. Yet our researchers have had to turn down NSERC grants, simply for lack of appropriate space on campus.
In partnership with the Faculty of Applied Science’s Student Professional Development team, the School hired a Professional Development Officer in July 2020. Grant Toper’s role will develop new programming to support undergraduate students including: a mentorship program, industry and career nights, and professional development for our students and design teams. The role reports to both the Senior Academic Advisor at the Okanagan campus, and the Senior Manager of APSC Student Professional Development in Vancouver.
Prior to joining the School of Engineering, Grant was an educator in a variety of dynamic settings from flagship Inquiry schools to the secondary setting, with many roles in each. From administrative roles to the classroom, he has focused on supporting students with the formal and informal lessons they require to be successful. Most recently, he worked at Okanagan Mission Secondary as part of a team that redesigned the Careers Program to include valuable transferable skills that are so critical in today’s rapidly changing career fields.
In 2017, the School hired Sam Charles as its Communications Manager. The position provides strategic input and leadership, develops, researches, oversees and implements plans and operations that advance the School of Engineering’s strategic communications goals.
One of the key facets of the role is promoting and celebrating School of Engineering research through the development of news releases, profile videos and imagery.
The responsibilities of the Communications Manager include managing and implementing the creation, updating and production of visual identities, publications, story content and other communications
efforts for the School. Provides writing, design, publishing, videography, photography, and editing skills to the establishment and maintenance of high communications standards and accuracy of publications in print and web-based media. This position is also responsible for the strategic design and implementation of systems, programs and projects designed to raise and enhance the profile of the School.
The Communications Manager reports directly to the Executive Associate Dean.
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 canadawest.tv.