Stacy Penner

(She, Her, Hers)

Communications Strategist (on leave)

Office of the Vice-Principal, Research and Innovation
Office: ADM006 (WK11)


Nearly two dozen researchers recognized province-wide

Five researchers from across UBC Okanagan have been named recipients of Michael Smith Health Research BC’s 2023 Scholars competition.

The Scholar program supports researchers in the early stages of their careers who are building leading health research programs. This year’s awards have been given to 23 researchers across the province, with five recipients from UBC Okanagan.

Dr. Kirk Bergstrom, an Assistant Professor in Biology, is being honoured for his research on inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). By learning more about gut mucous and how to restore healthy host-bacteria relationships, Dr. Bergstrom hopes to help the thousands of Canadians who live with the gastrointestinal condition.

An Assistant Professor in Medical Physics, Dr. Rebecca Feldman focuses her research on using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams to evaluate Multiple Sclerosis (MS). While MRI can currently be used to confirm MS lesions, with this award, Dr. Feldman aims to leverage MRI to detect and evaluate changes to the brain and use this information to better treat patients with MS.

In the School of Nursing, Assistant Professor Dr. Elizabeth Keys is developing a program to help diverse Canadian families with new babies improve the whole family’s sleep in the first year. Recognizing that severe and persistent sleep difficulties can cause numerous problems for families, but that parents often receive rigid or conflicting advice, Dr. Keys’ program will create a personalized approach with groups of program options to help prevent or lessen sleep problems and support family relationships and infant mental health.

Dr. Jessica Lougheed, Assistant Professor in Psychology, is being recognized for her work on mental health for adolescents and their parents. In addition to uniquely focusing on both generations, Dr. Lougheed’s research program aims to identify the types of emotion dynamics within the stress associated with both parents’ and adolescents’ anxiety. She hopes to eventually refine community-based interventions for parents of anxious adolescents.

An Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing, Dr. Laura Struik’s work aims to innovate health promotion efforts that respond to youth tobacco use. Amidst the popularity of e-cigarettes and immense changes like new social media platforms and smartphone apps, Dr. Struik is using youth-driven evidence to develop contemporary, youth-friendly resources for tobacco on their preferred platforms.

Each Scholar receives $90,000 annually for five years in support of their trailblazing research to improve health outcomes for British Columbians.

“This Health Research BC award will allow me to focus on developing my program of research,” says Dr. Keys. “It will also allow me to more meaningfully engage with parents to develop and evaluate a program that is driven by parent input.”

Michael Smith Health Research BC is British Columbia’s health research agency. Across both the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses, 16 UBC researchers were funded through the 2023 Michael Smith Health Research BC Scholar competition.

UBCO receives nearly $1.5 million in Canada Foundation for Innovation funding across multiple projects

Dr. Jessica Chan standing in front of the Engineering, Management and Education Building at UBCO.

In her CFI-funded Reading, Language, and Mathematics (ReaLM) Lab, Dr. Jessica Chan studies how to improve literacy outcomes for diverse students in grades one to six.

Children and families in the Okanagan region will be better able to access resources to help them overcome reading difficulties, thanks to recent funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

The Honourable Randy Boissonnault, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Official Languages, on behalf of the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and of the Honourable Mark Holland, Minister of Health, made the funding announcement Tuesday, August 29.

A total of six outstanding researchers from across UBC Okanagan were awarded $1.48 million for research infrastructure on campus  through the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF). The fund helps universities recruit and retain incredible faculty members and acquire the tools to support their leading and innovative research.

Dr. Jessica Chan, Assistant Professor from the Okanagan School of Education, is one of the successful recipients. As the principal investigator and leader of the Reading, Language and Mathematics (ReaLM) Lab, she is working to improve literacy outcomes for linguistically diverse students and their families. These diverse students include children from various cultural and linguistic backgrounds, including children exposed to more than one language, as well as children at risk for language or reading difficulties.

The funding from CFI will support Dr. Chan’s research program to apply a holistic approach in understanding children’s literacy development. Part of the award will go towards creating a family-friendly environment in the ReaLM Lab where children and caregivers can read and interact together naturally.

There will also be opportunities within the lab for Dr. Chan to work with the community to understand different learning environments where reading occurs. Dr. Chan emphasizes, “It’s really about increasing representation of those included in research studies and providing the equal opportunity to participate in research.”

Close up of Dr. Jessica Chan looking out into the distance while standing in front of the EME building.

As part of her partnership with Okanagan Regional Library, Dr. Chan and her team are creating literacy resource kits to help families engage with books at home.

Dr. Chan’s research interests include language-based disorders such as dyslexia and developmental language disorder (DLD). As Dr. Chan explains, “One challenge in the identification of students with language-based disorders is that their language skills and profiles vary.” For example, individuals with DLD have broader language difficulties that might show up in difficulties regarding how sentences form or understanding the meanings of words.

“A long-term goal is to improve identification rates of students who may be at risk for language-based disorders through investigating children’s literacy strengths and reading experiences,” says Dr. Chan.

She hopes that her growing partnerships within the local community, including the Okanagan Regional Library and the Central Okanagan School District, can help increase public awareness about language-based disorders.

“Overall, it’s about meeting families and children where they are,” she says. “How can we increase public awareness and develop resources and tools that are community-based so that we can support these learners in different capacities?”

This new funding is invaluable for that goal.

“CFI JELF is a fantastic opportunity for early career scholars. For my research, this award enables the opportunity to create a research environment to support collaborations within our community and across institutions.”

Across both campuses, UBC researchers received more than $9 million for 34 successful projects in this latest round of funding.

UBCO CFI JELF recipients

Chan, Jessica (Okanagan School of Education)
Improving Literacy Outcomes for Diverse Students and their Families in the Reading, Language, and Mathematics Lab

Gargoum, Suliman (School of Engineering)
Smart Analytics Lab for Modelling Advanced and Livable Infrastructure Systems

Holzman, Jonathan (School of Engineering)
Emerging Technologies for Optical Wireless Communications

Irani, Pourang (Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, CMPS)
Infrastructure for Exploring In-situ Interfaces

Kiesser, Alyse (School of Engineering)
Applied Microbial Systems Ecology: An Integrated Approach to Stable Bioprocesses

Tobber, Lisa (School of Engineering)
Multi-Axial Subassemblage Test System (MAST) to Develop Resilient and Sustainable High-rise Buildings



Dr. Sarah Purcell sits with food and measuring cups.

Dr. Sarah Purcell researches human energy balance in people with chronic diseases, both through the food they’re eating and how that energy is burned.

UBC Okanagan professor Dr. Sarah Purcell is now being recognized as a world-class researcher.

As part of the latest funding announcement from the federal government, Dr. Purcell, an Assistant Professor in the Southern Medical Program and in the Department of Biology, is the new Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Nutrition and Metabolism in Chronic Disease.

Dr. Purcell, who is also an Investigator for the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management, focuses her research on understanding human energy balance in people with chronic diseases, both through the food they’re eating and how that energy is burned.

Energy balance for people with chronic diseases—such as obesity, cancer or diabetes—hasn’t been as well studied as for healthy populations. However, chronic diseases can have significant impact on factors like appetite, physical activity levels and even how many calories someone might burn while at rest.

“I’m very honoured to receive this award,” says Dr. Purcell. “It’s going to help us understand these really complex questions of what impacts energy balance in people with chronic disease. Currently, there’s not enough data for these populations to have targeted and evidence-based recommendations for energy intake. In the big picture, perhaps in the next 20 years, I’d love to have more effective nutrition recommendations for these groups.”

Thanks to a partnership between the Canada Research Chair (CRC) program and the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s John R. Evans Leadership Fund, Dr. Purcell also received funding to build her lab at UBC Okanagan. This infrastructure will include equipment to measure body composition, or the amount of someone’s muscle and fat, as well as different tools for the lab to measure how many calories people burn and how much food they eat.

Dr. Purcell stands in front of open fridge and smiles at research participant.

In the Experimental Behaviour Kitchen, Dr. Purcell’s team prepares and measures the food research participants eat in order to accurately measure calorie consumption.

The Honourable Randy Boissonnault, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Official Languages, on behalf of the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and of the Honourable Mark Holland, Minister of Health, announced support for over 4,700 researchers and research projects across Canada. These investments of over $960 million through grants, scholarships and programs are part of the government’s ongoing support for Canada’s research ecosystem.

In total, UBC Okanagan researchers were awarded more than $6 million from the combined announcements. Across both campuses, UBC received $68.4 million in funding.

UBC Okanagan is now home to eight Tier 2 Canada Research Chairs.

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.



In addition to Dr. Purcell’s CRC-associated award, UBCO is home to six other recipients of the John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), totalling over $1.6 million.


Chan, Jessica (Okanagan School of Education)
Improving Literacy Outcomes for Diverse Students and their Families in the Reading, Language, and Mathematics Lab

Gargoum, Suliman (School of Engineering)
Smart Analytics Lab for Modelling Advanced and Livable Infrastructure Systems

Holzman, Jonathan (School of Engineering)
Emerging Technologies for Optical Wireless Communications

Irani, Pourang (Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, CMPS)
Infrastructure for Exploring In-situ Interfaces

Kiesser, Alyse (School of Engineering)
Applied Microbial Systems Ecology: An Integrated Approach to Stable Bioprocesses

Tobber, Lisa (School of Engineering)
Multi-Axial Subassemblage Test System (MAST) to Develop Resilient and Sustainable High-rise Buildings


NSERC Discovery Grants

The minister announced 13 UBCO-led NSERC Discovery Grants with five Discovery Launch Supplements and one award through the Research, Tools and Instrument grants program, together over $3.2 million. UBC as a whole received 139 UBC-led awards for $34.8 million over five years.

(* denotes additional Discovery Launch Supplement)


Chen, Qian (School of Engineering)*
Digital and responsive systems for construction supply chain integration and construction circular economy

Cheng, Julian (School of Engineering)
Intelligent Wireless Robotic Communications

Collier, Christopher (School of Engineering)
Terahertz spectroscopy and microfluidic devices for agri-food applications

Feng, Chen (School of Engineering)
Information and Coding Theory for Blockchain Technology

Gabora, Liane (Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Psychology)
An Autocatalytic Evolutionary Framework for Cognition

Grieneisen, Laura (Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, Biology)*
Causes and consequences of microbial dynamism

Hare, Warren (Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, CMPS)
Structured Blackbox Optimization

Holzman, Jonathan (School of Engineering)
Emerging Technologies for Wireless Communication Systems

Liu, Jian (School of Engineering)
Interfacial Phenomena in Next-Generation Energy Storage Technologies

Osei, Emmanuel (Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, Biology)*
Understanding the role of complex multicellular and multiorgan crosstalk in lung immune protection

van Heusden, Klaske (School of Engineering)*
Data-driven modeling and control for safety-critical applications

Wang, Shawn (Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, CMPS)
New horizons in nonconvex and nonsmooth optimization: regularity theory and splitting algorithms

Zandberg, Wesley (Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, Chemistry)
Development of high-throughput techniques and tools enabling glycomic analysis of gastrointestinal mucus


Discovery Horizons Grant Program

Shave, Rob
(School of Health and Exercise Sciences)
The impact of social adversity on cardiovascular aging


Research, Tools and Instrument

Liu, Jian (School of Engineering)
In-situ Analysis of Mass and Mechanical Changes of Interfaces and Interphases in Energy Storage Systems by Electrochemical Quartz Crystal Microbalance with Dissipation Monitoring


SSHRC Partnership Development Grants

Four projects led by UBC researchers were awarded a combined total of $0.8 million, with two UBCO projects awarded $0.4 million.

  • Ford, Adam (Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, Biology)
    Is Conservation Always Ethical? The Socio-Cultural Dimensions of Woodland Caribou Conservation in Western Canada

      • Partner organizations:
        Biodiversity Pathways Ltd. Natural Resources Canada
        Natural Resources Canada
  • Gainforth, Heather (School of Health and Exercise Sciences)
    Understanding and Supporting Best Practices for Meaningful Engagement in Spinal Cord Injury Research

      • Partner organizations:
        Canadian Spinal Research Organization
        Health Research BC (Michael Smith Health Research BC)
        International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries
        North American Spinal Cord Injury Consortium
        Praxis Spinal Cord Institute
        Spinal Cord Injury BC
        Spinal Cord Injury Ontario

SSHRC Insight Grants

Fifty-seven projects led by UBC researchers were awarded a combined $10.3 million. At UBCO, five projects totalled more than $800,000.

Dulic, Aleksandra (Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies)
Okanagan WaterFutures: Experiential Games for Water Responsibility

Frohlick, Susan (Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, CCGS)
Sound, Memory, Listening: Sonic Worlds and Refugees’ Emergent Belonging in a Multiracial City

Grinnell, George (Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies)
Punk Pedagogy

Latimer, Heather (Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, CCGS)
Conceiving the Future: Dystopia and Reproductive Politics

Walker, David (Faculty of Management)
And just like that, things got worse? The role of key moments in service encounters on customer co-production, customer satisfaction, and employee performance



Dark blue UBC banner against glass building and green foliage.

Photo credit: Margo Yacheshyn / University Relations

Three projects led by UBC Okanagan researchers have been awarded a combined $2.3 million through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Project Grants.

Researchers from three Faculties at UBC Okanagan will use the funds to study gut health, e-cigarette education and heart disease in people with spinal cord injuries. The funding was part of CIHR’s Spring 2023 competition, which invested $325 million across Canada.

As one of the successful recipients, Dr. Deanna Gibson in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science is leading a project to help those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Combining a new probiotic she created called BioPersist with a Mediterranean diet, Dr. Gibson’s team hopes to examine the new bacterium’s ability to target inflammation and other symptoms to overall improve the gut microbiome in patients with IBD.

Dr. Laura Struik in the School of Nursing—together with Dr. Stephanie Coen and Dr. Gina Martin from the University of Nottingham and Athabasca University respectively—is studying how to improve e-cigarette prevention messaging for youths. By uniquely engaging with diverse youth and targeting social media platforms popular with a younger demographic, the team hopes to create and test messaging that not only resonates with this age group but also is guided by their voices and culture.

Dr. Christopher West in the Southern Medical Program and Dr. Glen Foster in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences are leading a team to investigate an emerging therapy for people with spinal cord injuries (SCI). The treatment—acute intermittent hypoxia—involves breathing air with slightly decreased levels of oxygen for short periods of time and has been shown to improve respiratory system capacity as well as increase muscle strength for people with SCI. Given this population is at risk for heart disease earlier and more frequently than the general population, the team is studying how this new hypoxia treatment impacts the cardiovascular system.

Overall, CIHR granted a combined $37 million to projects led by UBC researchers across both campuses.

Inaugural Campus as a Living Lab projects to focus on student mental health and sustainable infrastructure

View east down University Way towards the Commons with green trees and blue sky.

While UBC Okanagan is home to a range of labs dedicated to everything from sensory ethnography to trace element analysis, two new research projects funded by the Office of Vice-Principal, Research and Innovation will use the campus itself as the laboratory.

The Campus as a Living Lab initiative, launched in late 2022, pairs UBCO researchers with campus operations staff to help design and implement innovative solutions to challenges on campus. Projects are meant to have immediate impact on campus but also be applicable to societal challenges in the Okanagan region and beyond.

This inaugural year saw two projects selected:

A joint effort by Dr. Lesley Lutes, Department of Psychology professor, and Dale Mullings, Associate Vice-President, Students, is aiming to improve mental health care for students via a new partnership between the Student Health Clinic and the UBCO Clinical Psychology Program. Students who visit the on-site Health Clinic will now be referred to the Psychology Clinic, where supervised student clinicians provide clinical psychology services.

Eventually, the project hopes to fully integrate psychologists on-site within the services offered by Student Health Clinic and act as a model in BC for integrating mental health services into primary health care.

“Research and practice from around the world show the importance of caring for the whole person. Integrating mental and behavioral health within primary care improves patient outcomes while also supporting our primary care medical teams,” says Dr. Lutes. “Thanks to the Campus as a Living Lab initiative, UBCO will be a leader in showing what psychologists integrated in a primary care network could look like in BC, starting right in our own backyard.”

The second project, led by Dr. Shahria Alam, Dr. Lisa Tobber and Dr. Andi Zahedi from the School of Engineering in collaboration with Andrew Lawson, Manager for the Construction Management Office, will aim to make the concrete structures on campus more sustainable and durable.

To assess current concrete conditions on campus, the team will extract cores from aging structures for analysis and develop rehabilitation techniques to extend the concrete’s life. The aim of the project is to develop an innovative, durable and sustainable concrete mix for repairs and new structures. This mix could reduce UBCO’s carbon footprint by using low-carbon materials and by making the concrete structures last longer, reducing emissions from repairs and new construction.

“Using the UBC Okanagan campus as our lab will allow this project to study real-world effects on concrete structures in the region and share those findings with local companies,” says Dr. Tobber. “Not only will UBCO benefit from sustainable concrete mixes in future construction, but we also hope this research will advance Canada’s plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.”

The project hopes these concrete mixes could extend the service life of current structures by 20 years and see newly built structures last more than 50 years.

“Here at UBC Okanagan, partnerships solve problems,” says Dr. Philip Barker, Vice-Principal and Associate Vice-President, Research and Innovation. “The Campus as a Living Lab initiative allows us to support activities that will use the campus as a test bed to try new approaches to benefit our University.”

Campus as a Living Lab project lead Dr. Miranda Hart was delighted to see the potential for real-world impact in both projects.

“Mental health and climate change are complex problems facing our society that have direct impacts on this campus,” says Dr. Hart. “We look forward to seeing how these unique partnerships between faculty and campus operations staff can create change not only for UBC Okanagan, but for our wider community.”

UBC’s Dimensions Action Plan for EDI in Research, published today, comprises 24 objectives and 43 actions to improve equity, diversity and inclusion in UBC’s research community. The plan was developed as part of UBC’s participation in the federal Dimensions: equity, diversity and inclusion Canada pilot program from 2020-2023 and will be integrated into UBC’s Strategic Equity and Anti-Racism (StEAR) Framework.

The action plan addresses several policies, programs and initiatives relating to the university’s:

  • Research services;
  • Internal funding and award opportunities;
  • Research culture;
  • Hiring, promotion and retention practices for research faculty and staff; and
  • Recruitment, admissions and funding for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and undergraduates involved in research.

The Dimensions Action Plan builds upon, and complements, UBC’s ongoing initiatives to address and enhance equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism at the university, including the Inclusion Action Plan, the Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence (ARIE) Task Force Report and recommendations, UBC’s Employment Equity Plan, and UBC’s Canada Research Chairs EDI Action Plan.

“UBC’s Strategic Equity and Anti-Racism Framework will provide the avenue through which our Dimensions Action Plan for EDI in Research will be implemented and evaluated,” says Dr. Arig al Shaibah, Associate Vice-President, Equity and Inclusion. “The Dimensions plan’s focus on our research ecosystem is an important component in building a coordinated roadmap to change throughout the institution.”

As part of the federal Dimensions pilot, the Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation and the Equity and Inclusion Office coordinated a diverse, cross-campus team that led an assessment to identify systemic barriers and inequities experienced by historically, persistently or systemically marginalized people in the UBC research community.

The assessment sought to leverage lessons from UBC’s existing action plans and initiatives relating to EDI in the research ecosystem, and included feedback, testimonials, and lived experiences. It then examined university policies, programs, practices and initiatives for potential barriers and inequities, and invited members of the research community to engage with the assessment’s findings and share their feedback. An action plan was then developed to address identified institutional barriers and inequities in UBC’s research ecosystem.

In October 2022, UBC submitted its Dimensions action plan for peer review and evaluation for recognition by the federal Dimensions program.  The peer review panel awarded UBC a “Construction” designation, the second of four levels in the federal program’s cycles of transformational change, recognising the strategic, coordinated and ongoing nature of UBC’s efforts to enhance EDI.

“The federal Dimensions program’s designation acknowledges UBC’s commitment and actions to enhance equity, diversity and inclusion to date, while acknowledging that there is still work to be done to make the research environment a more welcoming place.” says Dr. Naznin Virji-Babul, Senior Advisor to the Provost on Women and Gender-Diverse Faculty and Chair of UBC’s Dimensions advisory committee.

“I would like to recognize the work of all those involved in the self-assessment process and in developing this action plan,” says Professor Gail Murphy, Vice-President, Research and Innovation. “The resulting plan provides a lens on EDI that addresses broad issues that relate to the university as a whole, as well as research-specific programs and support. I am particularly grateful that it details deliverable actions and objectives that can drive us towards a more equitable and inclusive research ecosystem.”

Implementation of UBC’s Dimensions Action Plan for EDI in Research will be coordinated by the Equity and Inclusion Office.

Eminence Clusters of Research Excellence announced for 2022/23

This year’s newly funded Clusters of Research Excellence showcase UBC Okanagan’s commitment to a greener future.

Funded through the Office of the Vice-Principal, Research and Innovation’s Eminence Program, Clusters of Research Excellence are interdisciplinary teams of researchers that focus on addressing complex societal problems beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries.

After a tight competition, four teams were chosen for the Clusters of Research Excellence program:

Battery Innovation, led Dr. Jian Liu, will work to design and manufacture sustainable solid-state batteries that have more power capacity packed into smaller, safer designs. By exploring the environmental, economic and social impacts as well as local supply chain feasibility, the cluster will work to accelerate Canada’s transition to net-zero emissions.

Living with Wildfire, led by Dr. Greg Garrard and Dr. Mathieu Bourbonnais, is collaborating to better understand wildfire in the BC Interior, contrasting the millennia of Indigenous land management with more recent settler-colonial fire suppression. With interdisciplinary research ranging from wildfire imagery to the impact of fire on biodiversity, the team will explore better ways of living with wildfire in the uniquely fire-prone landscape of the Thompson-Okanagan.

Build Better, led by Dr. Lisa Tobber and Dr. Solomon Tesfamariam, is researching how to improve reinforced concrete for tall, high-density housing to alleviate the lack of affordable and available housing in Canada and globally. The team will coordinate with stakeholders from real-estate developers to regulatory officials for housing that is not just sustainable, but also resilient to disasters like earthquake and wildfire.

Solar Energy for Net Zero, led by Dr. Alexander R. Uhl and Dr. Robert Godin, is developing solutions to harness, convert and store the sun’s abundant energy. By identifying low-cost materials, advancing devices for light-generated electricity and solar fuels, and examining power grid challenges for solar energy integration, the team aims to reduce greenhouse gases with the adoption of solar energy.

“In a cohort of strong applications, these projects stood out for their innovation and potential to harness UBCO research capacity,” said Dr. Phil Barker, Vice-Principal and Associate Vice-President, Research and Innovation. “These four new research clusters showcase UBC Okanagan’s growing leadership in sustainability. Challenges around climate change are complex and require interdisciplinary solutions that UBC Okanagan is positioned to offer. We look forward to seeing the impact these clusters will have on our campus and in the larger community.”

Each cluster is funded for three years—an investment meant to help jumpstart collaborative research which can then attract further external funding opportunities.