Jenny Matechuk

(She, Her, Hers)

Knowledge Mobilization and Engagement Strategist

Office of the Vice-Principal, Research and Innovation
Office: ADM006 (WK17)
Phone: 250.807.8142


The Government of Canada announced today that it is investing $635 million in science, research and engineering to support more than 4,800 researchers across Canada.

UBC researchers were awarded $17.3 million through the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council’s Discovery Grants and Discovery Accelerator programs, $13 million through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s Partnership Grants, Partnership Development Grants and Insight Grants programs, and an additional $2.7 million through NSERC’s Research Tools and Instruments program.

These investments will support emerging and ongoing research in areas of critical importance that will help inform governments, businesses and individuals as they make decisions to grow our economy, protect our environment and ensure the well-being of communities across Canada.

The UBC Okanagan researchers who received funding are listed below:


Project Title




Kyle Larson
Faculty of Science
Orogen parallel flow in convergent systems NSERC Discovery Grant $ 305,000 5 years
Rehan Sadiq
School of Engineering
‘Digital Water’ Paving a Way towards Resilient Urban Water Systems NSERC Discovery Grant $ 260,000 5 years
Jasmin Hristov
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (Sociology)
Land Violence, Security, and Development in Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico SSHRC Insight Grant $ 229,033 5 years
Michelle Hilts
Faculty of Science (Physics)
The development of advanced imaging and dosimetry for permanent breast seed implant radiation therapy NSERC Discovery Grant $ 205,000 5 years
Lukas Bichler
School of Engineering
A multi-process approach towards the development of novel Mg alloys NSERC Discovery Grant $ 195,000 5 years
Joshua Brinkerhoff
School of Engineering
Cryogenic Flow Physics to Advance Liquid Hydrogen-Based Aviation NSERC Discovery Grant $ 195,000 5 years
Adam Wei
Faculty of Science (EEGS)
Determining forest disturbance thresholds for managing cumulative hydrological impacts NSERC Discovery Grant $ 180,000 5 years
Eric Li
Faculty of Management
Food Odyssey: An exploratory study of the implementation of sustainable and resilient local food systems SSHRC Partnership Development Grant $ 179,800 3 years
Soheil Mahmoud
Faculty of Science (Biology)
Regulation of terpenoid metabolism in lavender NSERC Discovery Grant $ 165,000 5 years
Amir Ardestanijaafari
Faculty of Management
Adjustable Robust Optimization and its Applications NSERC Discovery Grant $ 155,000 5 years
Julien Gibon
Faculty of Science (Biology)
Signaling mechanisms of the pro Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (proBDNF) and the prodomain BDNF (pBDNF) in neurons NSERC Discovery Grant $ 150,000 5 years
Liwei Wang
School of Engineering
Advanced rapid control prototyping testbench for the development of high power converters, battery chargers, mechatronic systems, and AC-DC microgrids NSERC Research Tools and Instruments $ 149,227 1 year
Gino DiLabio
Faculty of Science (Chemistry)
Development of Fast and Accurate Computational Chemistry Methods based on Atom-Centred Potentials and their Application to Crystal Structure Prediction NSERC Discovery Grant $ 145,000 5 years
Conor Pranckevicius
Faculty of Science (Chemistry)
Multifunctional Borylenes for Metal- and Boron-Mediated Reactions NSERC Discovery Grant $ 145,000 5 years
Michael Benoit
School of Engineering
Design of novel crack-resistant aluminium alloys for additive manufacturing NSERC Discovery Grant $ 140,000 5 years
Kenneth Chau
School of Engineering
Multi-scale computational nanophotonics NSERC Discovery Grant $ 140,000 5 years
Michael Noonan
Faculty of Science (Biology)
Statistically efficient integration of animal tracking data into ecological theory and evidence-based conservation NSERC Discovery Grant $ 140,000 5 years
Babak Mohamadpour Tosarkani
School of Engineering
Design and optimization of sustainable closed-loop supply chain networks under uncertainty NSERC Discovery Grant $ 130,000 5 years
Miles Thorogood
Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies
Echo – A New Set of High-level Audio Features for Computational Sound Design Systems NSERC Discovery Grant $ 120,000 5 years
Jian Liu
School of Engineering
Differential Electrochemical Mass Spectrometry for Online Detection and Quantification of Gas Evolution in Energy Storage and Conversion Systems NSERC Research Tools and Instruments $ 100,231 1 year
John-Tyler Binfet
Okanagan School of Education
Undergraduate Student Stress Reduction Through Virtual Canine Comfort SSHRC Insight Grant $ 88,915 3 years
Karen Ragoonaden
Okanagan School of Education
Mindfulness and Antiracist Education: Developing Critical Reflection SSHRC Insight Grant $ 86,370 3 years
TOTAL $ 3,606,576


UBCO receives $250K grant through New Frontiers in Research Fund (2020 Exploration Stream)


Assistant Professors Sepideh Pakpour (School of Engineering) and Kirk Bergstrom (Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science) are leading one of seven UBC research projects funded by the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) 2020 Exploration competition. The initiative is designed to mobilize cutting-edge interdisciplinary, international, and transformative research that strengthens Canadian innovation and benefits Canadians.

The Government of Canada recently announced funding support for 117 research projects across Canada that bring diverse disciplines together in pursuit of breakthrough ideas and high-reward outcomes. The Exploration stream specifically targets research that defies current models, bridges disciplines in novel ways, or tackles fundamental problems from new perspectives.

Understanding the seasonal impacts of microplastic inhalation on health

Principal Investigator: Sepideh Pakpour, UBCO School of Engineering
Co-Principal Investigator: Kirk Bergstrom, UBCO Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science (Biology)
Co-applicant: Edward Grant, UBCV Faculty of Science (Chemistry)
Award: $250,000


Research Summary:

Microplastics pollution has grown to become a world-wide crisis. The inevitable consequence of dramatically increased plastic use, microscopic plastic particles and fibres contaminate natural marine, terrestrial and atmospheric ecosystems. To date, limited studies conducted in Europe, Asia and the Middle East have detected atmospheric microplastics, but no Canadian data yet exists. No systematic scientific study has characterized the health effects of microplastics in the inhalable and respirable ranges (PM 10 and PM 2.5 microns, respectively). To address this research challenge, we will assemble a unique interdisciplinary team forging a close collaborative interaction of leading groups in the fields of Aerobiology, Analytical and Atmospheric Chemistry, System Biology and Immunology to (1) detect and characterize inhalable and respirable microplastics in indoor and outdoor air seasonally, and (2) explore their potential adverse effects on health. The information and insight we gather will inform internationally integrated strategies for the control and mitigation of microplastics pollution with respect to their impact on health and well-being.

Other UBC-led projects   full project list


The Office of the Vice-Principal, Research and Innovation is pleased to announce the second round of funding for the Critical Research Equipment and Tools (CRET) program.

This internal funding program helps improve the range and quality of our research infrastructure, enables researchers to keep pace with technology, and provides increased opportunities for student research training.

Stream 1 Awards (<$10,000):

Portable Eye-tracking System  

Applicant: Maya Libben

The portable eye-tracker will allow researchers in the Psychopathology Lifespan and Neuropsychology (PLAN) Laboratory to conduct research in the community. This equipment will support the development and improvement of interventions and treatments for psychopathology and stroke.

Invitrogen iBright CL750 Imaging System

Applicant: Jonathan Little Co-applicant: Christopher West

This device is used to capture images and analyze data from western blots and gels efficiently and easily. It will enable researchers in the  School of Health and Exercise Sciences and the Southern Medical Program to develop new collaborative projects with other researchers at UBC Okanagan, and create new training opportunities for students with diverse applications across the life sciences.

Fast Protein Liquid Chromatography

Applicant: Kristen Wolthers | Co-applicant: Isaac Li and Thuy Dang

This tool allows researchers to separate proteins so that they are amendable to structural and functional analysis. This equipment is a vital component in the protein production pipeline and will support researchers and trainees in the Department of Chemistry.

Stream 2 Awards ($10,000 – $100,000):

Accelerated Weathering Tester

Applicant: Abbas Milani | Co-applicants: Mohammad Arjmand, Lukas Bichler, Cigdem Eskicioglu, Sepideh Pakpour

This test chamber tracks the property changes of materials and products caused by sunlight, temperature and moisture in a short period of time. The device can also simulate solar radiation and maintain the temperature in the range of 15-100 °C. This instrument will support research programs for faculty members of the Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute (MMRI), the Eminence-funded Cluster of Research Excellence in BioComposites and the Comfort-Optimized Materials for Operational Resilience, Thermal-transport and Survivability (COMFORTS) micro-network.

Light Scattering Spectrometer

Applicant: Robert Godin | Co-applicants: Isaac Li, Jian Liu, Susan Murch, Kristen Wolthers

Nanoparticles and macromolecules play a critical role in regulating cellular functions but characterization of these particles in their native environment is challenging. A state-of-the-art light scattering spectrometer will enable best-in-class particle sizing capabilities and allow advanced particle characterization.  This equipment will generate crucial data on the properties of nanoparticles to researchers in the Faculty of Science and the School of Engineering and accelerate research in biochemistry, plant science, medical diagnostics, and clean energy technology at UBCO.

Portable Equipment to Evaluate Muscle Function and Balance

Applicant: Brian Dalton | Co-applicant: Chris McNeil and Jennifer Jakobi

This portable equipment will afford researchers in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences a comprehensive system for community-based testing. This device evaluates the neural control of human movement and balance and is used to conduct fieldwork studies that aim to make real-world measures of muscle activity. This equipment will be used to investigate the influence of assistive technologies (e.g., handrails, walkers, exoskeletons) and acute adaptations (e.g., hypoxia, fatigue) on neuromuscular function across the lifespan.

Blood Gas Analysis System

Applicant: Phil Ainslie | Co-applicants: Jonathan Little, Glen Foster, Rob Shave and Chris West

The Radiometer ABL90 FLEX PLUS allows researchers in the Centre for Heart, Lung and Vascular Health to answer fundamental research questions in mammalian physiology that are germane to the understanding of blood flow control and vascular health, across the lifespan, during physiological stress (e.g., high altitude, diving, exercise), and with patient populations (e.g., sleep apnea, spinal cord injury, respiratory disease, heart failure, diabetes).

Awards for Excellence in Research and Creative Scholarly Activity


Dear colleagues,

Each year, we recognize the achievements of faculty and student researchers who have made significant contributions to research and creative scholarly activity at UBC Okanagan. Please join me in congratulating this year’s outstanding awardees, who were honoured at a special virtual awards celebration on Thursday, May 6, 2021.


2021 Faculty Researchers of the Year



Professor Julian Cheng is an expert in digital communications and signal processing. He is a global leader in optical and radio frequency (RF) wireless communication and optical technology research. Dr. Cheng invented a new indoor optical wireless location technique that substantially improves receiver accuracy and will have significant applications in refined control of robot movement. His research has advanced multiple access techniques and beyond 5G wireless technologies and has applications in machine and deep learning, quantum communications and blockchain technology.


ERIC LI Social Sciences and Humanities

Associate Professor Eric Li is a catalyst for social innovation and knowledge translation. His research focuses on interdisciplinary collaborations with researchers, non-profit organizations and local government to address complex social issues. Dr. Li’s community-based research has resulted in regional impacts in food insecurity, poverty, urban densification, rural community building, and rural health promotion. He was recently awarded Principal’s Research Chair (Tier 2) in Social Innovation for Health Equity and Food Security and is co-lead of the Rural Health Equity Cluster.



Associate Professor Jonathan Little is a leading researcher in nutrition and targeted exercise interventions for type 2 diabetes with a focus on reducing and reversing the disease. He collaborates closely with community and healthcare partners and his broad spectrum of research techniques includes metabolic measurement and advanced cellular and molecular analyses. Dr. Little co-leads the Airborne Disease Transmission Research Cluster, a cross-campus research team working to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 and other airborne illnesses in healthcare settings.



2021 Student Researcher of the Year

michelle st. pierre | PhD candidate

Michelle St. Pierre has made significant research breakthroughs in substance use and mental health with a focus on cannabis and psychedelic use and harm reduction. She has received international media attention for her research on cannabinoid-based analgesics and pain sensitivity and has been featured as a national expert on cannabis policy. She has published in leading pharmacology, complimentary medicine, psychiatry, and psychology journals and founded the UBC Okanagan chapter of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy.




Phil Barker
Vice-Principal and Associate Vice-President, Research and Innovation
University of British Columbia, Okanagan campus


UBCO Announces Four New Principal’s Research Chairholders

UBC Okanagan is pleased to announce the second cohort of appointments under the Principal’s Research Chairs (PRC) program.

Deans submitted nominations for the second PRC call in December 2020, which were jointly reviewed by the Provost and Vice-President Academic and the Vice-Principal, Research and Innovation in January 2021.  We are pleased to announce that four UBCO faculty have been designated Principal’s Research Chairholders by Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal.


2021 Principal’s Research Chairholders

Tier Chair Title Recipient Faculty/School Stream Effective
Tier 1 Cerebrovascular Physiology in Health, Exercise and Disease Prof. Phil Ainslie School of Health and Exercise Sciences Retention April 2021
Tier 1 Resilient and Green Infrastructure Prof. Shahria Alam School of Engineering Retention April 2021
Tier 2 Social Innovation for Health Equity and Food Security Assoc. Prof. Eric Li Faculty of Management Retention April 2021
Tier 2 Energy Storage Technology Asst. Prof. Jian Liu School of Engineering Retention April 2021

These new appointments are evidence of the importance and quality of research on our campus. We anticipate that the research findings and creative scholarly activities of these outstanding researchers will translate into tangible benefits to our region and global society.


2021 PRC Recruitment Allocations:

Three additional PRC positions have been allocated to enable new recruitments.

Tier Chair Title Recipient Faculty/School Stream Start Date
Tier 1 Computational Chemistry TBD Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science Attraction by Dec 15, 2021
Tier 2 Watershed Science TBD Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science Attraction by Dec 15, 2021
Tier 1 Women in Engineering TBD School of Engineering Attraction by Dec 15, 2021

About the PRC Program:

The Principal’s Research Chairs (PRC) program provides internal funding support for top-tier researchers engaged in outstanding research or creative scholarship.

Supported by the UBC Okanagan Excellence Fund, the goals of the PRC program are to:

  • Enable recruitment of outstanding new faculty
  • Retain top researchers
  • Promote research intensification
  • Generate international recognition of research achievements

The requirements of the PRC program are aligned with the Tier 1 and Tier 2 Canada Research Chair (CRC) program criteria and recipients of the award are appointed to a renewable five-year term.

View Chairholders


Should you have questions regarding the Principal’s Research Chairs (PRC) or Canada Research Chairs (CRC) programs, please contact Christine Humphries.


Best regards,

Ananya Mukherjee Reed
Provost and Vice-President Academic, UBC Okanagan

Philip Barker
Vice-Principal and Associate Vice-President, Research and Innovation, UBC Okanagan

Today, we announced the 2020 call for nominations for UBC Okanagan’s Principal’s Research Chair (PRC) program, which supports the recruitment of outstanding new faculty and retention of our top research scholars who are, or have the potential to be, leaders in building and intensifying world-renowned research at UBCO.

The PRC program has two streams:

  1. Attraction: aimed at recruiting top caliber faculty members to UBCO; and
  2. Retention: aimed at retaining excellent faculty members at UBCO.

Full program details, including eligibility guidelines, evaluation criteria, and competition deadlines are available here.

Key Dates:

  • Nomination deadline: Dec. 8, 2020 (4:00 pm)
  • PRC allocations confirmed: January 14, 2021
  • Funding available: April 1, 2021 (for retention stream);
    prior to December 15, 2021 (for attraction stream)
  • Recruitment deadline: December 15, 2021

Program Terms:

The requirements of the PRC program generally align with the federal Tier 1 and Tier 2 Canada Research Chairs (CRCs) and include considerations for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).


Application Guidelines:

Nominations must be submitted by deans for consideration.

Deans may submit multiple requests for Principal’s Research Chair allocations but are required to rank their attraction and retention nominations.

Application packages, including a ranked list of nominations from a faculty (if applicable), must be submitted to by December 8, 2020.


Should you have questions regarding the program, please contact: Christine Humphries.


UBC researchers across a range of domains are addressing the many aspects of COVID-19 and its impacts. Learn how UBCO research expertise is being put to use to protect Canadians.

  1. Anti-fouling anti-fogging face shields utilizing liquid-like omniphobic coatings for COVID-19 healthcare providers (Kevin Golovin, Engineering)
  2. Back to Basics: A Sustainable Response to COVID-19 (Eric Li, Management)
  3. Building Resilient Rural Communities: Understanding the Mental Health Impacts of COVID-19 (Nelly Oelke, Nursing)
  4. Capturing the Anticipated/Unanticipated Consequences of COVID-19 and COVID-19 Prevention, Management Strategies (Donna Kurtz, Nursing)
  5. Care Dental: Impact of an Airborne Infection Isolation Standard HVAC System (Jonathan Little, Health and Exercise Sciences)
  6. Challenges and Technology Use among Rural Community Residents during COVID-19 Pandemic (Kathy Rush, Nursing)
  7. COACH for COVID: A student-delivered Community Outreach telehealth program for COVID education and Health care Brodie Sakakibara, Southern Medical Program)
  8. Confidential Virtual Addiction Treatment for Healthcare Workers (Lesley Lutes and Zachary Walsh, Psychology)
  9. COVID-19 Impact on Travel Demand and Transportation System (Mahmudur Fatmi, Engineering)
  10. COVID-19: Developing Korean Canadians’ Civic Engagement Strategies in the COVID-19 Era (Kyong Yoon, Cultural Studies)
  11. COVID-19: Identifying and Addressing the Needs of Ontarians with Disabilities (Kathleen Martin Ginis, Health and Exercise Sciences)
  12. Design, characterization and manufacture of sustainable filtration masks from medical-grade lignin and cellulose to combat COVID-19 (Abbas Milani and Frank Ko, Engineering)
  13. Development of a fluorescent-based serological testing for COVID-19 (Ian Foulds, Engineering)
  14. Development of Airborne COVID-19 Isolation and Elimination Device (Sunny Li, Engineering)
  15. Development of low-cost, compact fibre optic O2 and CO2 gas sensors for COVID-19 applications of portable metabolic analyzers (Kenneth Chau, Engineering)
  16. Early Detection of COVID-19 through Artificial Intelligence (Philip Ainslie, Health and Exercise Sciences)
  17. ELECTRA platform: Electrochemical-based Aptasensor for early detection of COVID-19 (Mina Hoorfar, Engineering)
  18. Going Digital during COVID-19 and beyond: Expanding the Reach of an Effective Diabetes Prevention Program through a National YMCA Platform to Enhance Accessibility (Mary Jung, Health and Exercise Sciences)
  19. Kootenay Boundary Virtual Health Use (Kathy Rush, Nursing)
  20. KT Methods Cluster-Consensus Methods Phase 2B: Project 2 (Nelly Oelke, Nursing; Heather Gainforth, Health and Exercise Sciences; Katrina Plamondon, Nursing)
  21. Magnetic levitation system for culture-independent virus isolation from biological and environmental samples (Sepideh Pakpour, Engineering)
  22. PCR lab-on-chip system for rapid and sensitive identification of SARS-CoV-2 infected case (Sepideh Pakpour and and Mina Hoorfar, Engineering)
  23. MCN Post-Doc Research; Better Serving People with Multiple, Complex Needs in BC through Health System Impact (Rachelle Hole, Social Work)
  24. Mobile Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) System for Ventilators (COVID-19) (Jian Liu, Engineering)
  25. Nav-CARE: Max Bell: Volunteer navigation partnerships: A compassionate community approach to care (Barbara Pesut)
  26. Optimal Use of Utility Infrastructure for Residential Communities: Lessons Learned from COVID-19 (Shahria Alam, Engineering)
  27. Parent Discharge Experiences – COVID-19 Related Protocol Changes: Discharge Experiences of Parents of Children Living with a Complex Medical Condition (Lise Olsen, Nursing)
  28. Response to COVID-19 in the Homelessness Sector and Impact on Service Providers and Users (John Graham, Social Work)
  29. Self-Disinfecting TiO2 Coating to Enable Antibacterial, Antiviral and Reusable Facemasks (COVID-19) (Jian Liu, Engineering)
  30. Smart and Low-Cost Face-Shields Capable of Protection, Prevention and Detection for Essential Workers Fighting COVID-19 Pandemic (Mohammad Zarifi, Engineering)
  31. Social & Economic Impact (SE-Impact) on Tenure Track Faculty: a Canadian Perspective on COVID-19 (Jennifer Davis, Management)
  32. Strategies to Relieve Suffering at End-of-Life (STRS-EOL) (Barbara Pesut, Nursing)
  33. The Outreach Project: COVID-19 Adaptation (Paul van Donkelaar, Health and Exercise Sciences)
  34. Venous Thrombosis Virtual Surveillance in COVID (VVIRTUOSO) (Donna Kurtz, Nursing)
  35. Volunteer navigation partnerships: A compassionate community approach to care (Barbara Pesut, Nursing)

UBC COVID-19 Research Website  Submit a Profile/Project

UBC researchers show resilience during global pandemic



While the past several months have been undeniably challenging, UBC researchers are doing their best to adapt to new ways of doing things, mitigating disruptions to their work, and leveraging opportunities to expand their research programs and support student trainees.

“COVID-19 has disrupted everything we do but the campus research community has displayed remarkable resilience”, according to associate vice-principal, research, Paul van Donkelaar, who has been central to ensuring UBCO researchers have the swift and safe access to the campus resources and remote support they need to manage their research programs during the pandemic.

We recently asked Paul for an update on the research resumption plan and his outlook for the 2020/21 academic year.

“The campus research community has displayed remarkable resilience.”

Q: Despite the pandemic, research is ongoing, it just looks a little different. Can you give us a snapshot of what’s happening on and off campus from a research perspective?

PVD: In mid-March, we curtailed on-campus research activity and reduced lab-based activities to essential COVID-19 related research, time-sensitive data collection, and critical maintenance activities. We approved over 30 research exemption applications, which permitted upwards of 50 researchers and trainees to be on campus during the initial COVID-19 planning phase.

In June, the Resumption Planning & Coordination Committee (RPCC) began approving faculty and administrative unit parent plans and associated safe work plans to help researchers, support staff and essential service units get back to work (a list of approved parent plans can be found here).

Today, it’s estimated that about 20 percent of our research, scholarly, and creative activity is taking place on campus with the remainder occurring from home, in the field, or at community partner sites. That means approximately 200 faculty members and student trainees are back in their labs and research spaces on campus, operating with safety as their top priority.

The Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies was among the first to get its scholars back on campus, alongside the School of Engineering. Access to specialized equipment, studio spaces and in-progress projects were undoubtedly a key driver.

Other faculties and departments, like the Faculty of Management and some of the Humanities disciplines, have been quick to adapt and continue to do much of their scholarly work remotely. Access to library archives, services and support, including virtual consultations with subject librarians, contactless curbside pick-up, and a live chat portal, has made a huge difference to these researchers.

Q: How have we adapted since the pandemic started to ensure research continuity?

PVD:  No question, it was easier to stop than start. Getting researchers back on campus required complex planning and coordination but I actually think we were well-positioned to get the restart plans approved efficiently once we had our process in place. A key to this was having Campus Operations and Risk Management involved from the very beginning, which allowed us to implement an integrated, one-step approval process.

Another one of our top priorities was to ensure student trainees nearing graduation were not adversely affected by the research curtailment. We had to rethink, in an extreme way, how we do things and make the necessary changes and accommodations to keep UBCO’s research enterprise functioning as smoothly as possible. For example, supervisory committees have been incredibly accommodating in terms of allowing graduate trainees to move forward with online thesis defences. Externally, grant-funding agencies have also adapted by moving to online review panels and providing supplemental funding to support research trainees and staff.

Q: What does the next phase of expanded on-campus research activity and scholarship look like?

PVD:  The end of summer and early fall has seen an increasing number of researchers on campus for a wide variety of projects. One challenge during this time has been how best to safely restart face-to-face human participant research.

For example, the Faculty of Health and Social Development and the School of Health and Exercise Sciences are currently working towards implementing safety protocols that would enable this work to resume in the present COVID context, but it remains to be seen what the response rates will be. Recruitment for research studies will inevitably be influenced by public confidence in the systems we put in place.

Following this, I suspect it will be status quo until a vaccine is in place and provincial health authorities have lifted the physical distancing requirements currently in place.

Q: How has your own work been impacted by the pandemic and what advice would you offer new faculty joining the UBCO research community?

PVD:  I would say one of the biggest challenges has been onboarding new team members. We recently filled our Research Development Officer position for the health portfolio, which has been vacant for some time, and had to conduct the entire process virtually.

I also have new trainees joining my lab whom I have not had the opportunity to meet face-to-face yet. There’s no replacement for getting to know someone in-person but we can’t give up on finding opportunities for connection.

We hosted our annual Research Orientation Day online this year, for the first time ever, and the response from new faculty seeking opportunities for connection was overwhelming. My advice to new faculty would be to reach out to us in the VPRI office. We’re here to support you and can help you get to know your way around.

So, even though the pandemic has significantly impacted every aspect of life, the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of UBCO’s campus has helped us navigate new territory and persevere during these unprecedented times.


Research conducted at UBCO’s new Plant Growth Facility will have local and global impacts.

Scientific director Michael Deyholos shares why the state-of-the art facility is significant for UBCO.

Q: What is your vision as scientific director of the new Plant Growth Facility?
MD: This is an exciting opportunity to oversee the implementation of a state-of-the-art new research facility. It’s an opportunity to support the incredible work being done by faculty, and engage other researchers in the interior, including government and industrial commercial researchers, to demonstrate UBCO’s commitment to agriculture and plant research.


Q: What are some of the features of this state-of-the-art new research space?
MD: It’s a 5,100 square-foot space and has capacity for more than 10,000 individual plants. Sustainability and energy conservation were a priority in the design, including the use of double-paned glass not typically seen in greenhouses. Evaporative cooling, reflective flooring, shade cloths, and computerized ventilation have replaced traditional air conditioning, making the space extremely energy efficient. The growth space is divided in six zones to allow for both tropical and temperate (local) plants to be grown, and to isolate plants that are being tested for pest and disease resistance.

Q: Why is this research facility needed?
MD: There are many professors at UBCO who lead very productive research teams and are in need of greenhouse space. The projects run the gamut of pure and applied research, including adaptation to climate change, interactions with beneficial and pathogenic microbes, effects of wildfires on native and cultivated crops, and obtaining useful new chemicals from plants. The Plant Growth Facility is essential for research in these areas to continue on their current trajectory.

Q: How will this facility impact agricultural research?
MD: We’re doing world-class agricultural research at UBCO and the outcomes will benefit the Okanagan, as well as national and global sectors. For example, we’re studying a particular disease that affects flax grown in the prairies and also affects bananas grown in tropical climates. The research areas that will be explored in the Plant Growth Facility will address Canada’s top climate change risks and support Canada’s economic sector strategy in agriculture and agri-food manufacturing to achieve growth, food security and sustainability.

Q: Are there any specific research projects you can highlight?
MD: There’s so much going on that it’s difficult to highlight just a few. Some researchers are trying to address Okanagan specific problems, whether it’s with native plants, apple or cherry orchards, or grapes. Others are working on international issues.

What Miranda Hart and her team are doing is exciting – to find more sustainable ways to grow plants by looking at their natural partnerships with fungus in the soil. This has much potential for reducing fertilizers and pesticides, and reducing water usage.

Susan Murch has worked for many years with the non-profit organization PlantSMART to increase food security and distribute breadfruit plants around the world. She is finding all kinds of interesting ways to make useful products, including gluten-free bread and natural mosquito repellants.

Several of UBCO’s Eminence Clusters of Research Excellence are doing some great interdisciplinary work involving agriculture. The Agricultural Technologies & Bioproducts team, led by Soheil Mahmoud is studying a variety of plants to develop new sources of natural health products and food ingredients. The Biocomposites cluster, led by Abbas Milani, is growing natural fiber crops, including flax, to isolate fibers that can replace fiberglass in composite construction materials like car body panels. The Wine & Grapes cluster led by Wes Zandberg is focused on helping grapevines resist disease and use less water.

Q: What research projects are you personally looking forward to?
MD: Researching phytocannabinoids in rhododendrons. It started as a curiosity of mine, something with potential applications that has developed into an exciting project. I have an outstanding student who has already demonstrated the presence of these compounds in a type of rhododendron that hasn’t been detected before. She’ll be looking at how hormones, and the way we grow the plants, affect the production of these chemicals.

Phytocannabinoids found in plants have the same benefits as cannabinoids found in cannabis. I’m not aware of other researchers in Canada who are taking this kind of approach. I’ll be continuing my research of flax in connection to a number of different projects, both in the natural fibres and healthful components of the seed and oil, and also using flax as a model of disease resistance.

Q: What research possibilities do you envision for the future?
MD: The building is designed to expand and additional glass rooms can be added on to the main structure without having to build more core supports. Demand for greenhouse space, both on and off campus, is so great we anticipate a future need for additional space. Ultimately, we’d really like to have some measurable impact on the regional economy. I believe we have a leading group of academic researchers that could establish a national centre in plant biochemistry.


Professor Abbas Milani from the School of Engineering was recently named as a new member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

The College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists is Canada’s first national system of multidisciplinary recognition for the emerging generation of Canadian intellectual leadership.

Seven UBC faculty were elected as Fellows of the Royal Society of Canada and two, including Prof. Milani, were named as new members of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

The 2020 Fellows and incoming class of Members will be welcomed into the RSC at a celebration in November 2020.

New Member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists

Abbas S. Milani

Professor, School of Engineering; Director, Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute

Abbas S. Milani is a leading expert in modeling, simulation, and multicriteria optimization of advanced composite/biocomposite materials and their manufacturing processes. His interdisciplinary work links theoretical concepts to real-world applications, thereby enabling innovations for industry across Canada in manufacturing high-quality and cost-effective products. He is a Killam Laureate and the founding Director of the Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute at UBC. He has authored over 300 publications, including five books.

Citation courtesy of the Royal Society of Canada.

READ THE RSC RELEASE  See all UBC recipients