Collaborative Research

Multidisciplinary research is essential to understanding the interconnected and complex issues we face today. Our researchers work together, from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, and both undergraduate and graduate students are encouraged to participate in these collaborations.

Interdisciplinary Researchers at UBC Okanagan

Centres, CLusters/Groups, INstitutes AND LABS

Our centres, institutes and labs form the foundation of our research efforts, where our faculty members work with a number of community and industry partners to advance knowledge in the biological sciences, and provide hands-on research and learning opportunities for students.

This cluster brings together experts with diverse skills in biology, bioinformatics, chemistry and engineering to investigate bioproducts in plants grown for food, medicine, cosmetics and industrial raw materials.

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The Barker lab studies cellular decisions that regulate life and death decisions in the normal and damaged nervous system. We combine genetics with cell and molecular biology to study and decipher conserved intracellular pathways in model systems ranging from flies to rodents.

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Lavenders are a diverse group of species in the mint family with over 40 different species and many more cultivars within these species. We are interested in the molecular, cellular, biochemical and environmental factors that regulate the quality and quantity of aromas and essential oils produced by lavendar, and to improve crop plants through biotechnology.

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This cluster brings together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from the Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute (MMRI) with industry partners and government authorities to better understand and enhance the synthesis, processing, properties and compounding of bioplastic and bio-fibre materials and to produce innovative biocomposite products.

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Our researchers are interested in invasive species ecology and biocontrol; the origins of diversity patterns among freshwater diatoms; the influence of regional/historical processes on community assembly; and historical/biogeographical perspectives on associations between plants and mycorrhizal fungi.

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Our objective is to develop solutions to difficult and unsolved environmental issues. Our achievements are the result of collaborations between faculty and students with backgrounds in the disciplines of chemical, civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering, as well as chemistry and biology.

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The Centre for Environmental Assessment Research (CEAR) at UBC supports research about environmental assessment (EA) processes and methods, and helps integrate this information into practice. Research conducted and supported by CEAR contributes to resource development by furthering knowledge about the role that EA plays in helping to advance natural resource management practices that benefit Canadians.

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OCANA CoLab is part of the Centre for Optimization, Convex Analysis and Nonsmooth Analysis (COCANA), which performs fundamental research in convex and nonsmooth analysis and transfers the results to industry by solving practical industrial problems with a focus on commercial applications. COCANA researchers are mathematicians, computer scientists and engineers who apply state-of-the-art optimization techniques to solve real-life problems and provide our industrial partners an edge over their competition. OCANA CoLab allows research collaboration on-site or remotely. We routinely host seminars with researchers participating from the Pacific Northwest and abroad (e.g. Newcastle, Australia).

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The Complex Environmental Systems Lab is a new research facility at UBC Okanagan. We study the management and governance of natural resources from a complex systems perspective. We work at the scale of regional landscapes, acknowledging the intricate interdependency of human and environmental systems.

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CA² Lab is part of the Centre for Optimization, Convex Analysis and Nonsmooth Analysis (COCANA), which performs fundamental research in convex and nonsmooth analysis and transfers the results to industry by solving practical industrial problems with a focus on commercial applications. COCANA researchers are mathematicians, computer scientists and engineers who apply state-of-the-art optimization techniques to solve real-life problems and provide our industrial partners an edge over their competition. We leverage industry-sponsored funding with grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and MITACS, thereby more than doubling our partners’ investment in research. We have many man-years of experience in optimization and operations research applied to engineering and health science and are always looking for new partners.

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Plants produce hundreds of thousands of distinct small-molecule natural products, many of which are invaluable nutrients, commodity products, and therapeutics.

At the heart of the beautiful Okanagan Valley, Dang Group integrates biochemistry, chemistry, bioinformatics, and molecular genetics to elucidate and engineer the biosynthesis of valuable small molecules from medicinal plants. Our ultimate aim is to learn and to translate natural metabolism into innovative biotechnologies to meet the ever-increasing demands of high-value chemicals.

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Noncovalent interactions play a central role in determining structure and reactivity throughout chemistry and physics. Our group develops and applies computational methods to understand this role.

We also use computational chemistry techniques to study a wide variety of radical systems in chemistry, biochemistry and physics. Our current research focuses on quantum effects in enzymes that mediate radical rearrangement processes and on the potential for non-redox metal cations to act as a chemoprotective against radical damage through hydrogen atom transfer reactions.

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The database research Group led by Ramon Lawrence studies how to store, find, and organize data efficiently. Current projects include databases for environmental monitoring and sensor networks, database tuning and optimization, and databases for embedded systems, cell phones, and flash drives. The database research group focuses on all practical applications of data management.

The Distributed Database Laboratory performs applied research into data management challenges for relational, NoSQL, and BigData systems. Researchers and developers are engaged in projects on small-scale sensor and embedded databases and large-scale BigData projects for the Industrial Internet. Our expertise includes software engineering, system development, and consulting. We have worked with Fortune 500 companies including GE, and our research group specializes in database integration and implementation design and software development.

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The overarching goal of the Durall Wine Microbiology Lab Group is to understand how wine microbes (yeast and bacteria) interact during fermentation and ultimately affect wine quality. Our specific research interests are varied, but our ultimate goal is to understand what makes a good wine.

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Human modification of the environment, including large-scale habitat conversion and soaring greenhouse gas emissions, pose major threats to global biological diversity. Maintaining species’ ability to persist in changing environments ultimately means preserving genetic variation underlying ecologically important traits. Work in our lab is at the interface of ecology and evolution, investigating the genetics of adaptation, life history variation, speciation, population history and phylogeography.

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This interdisciplinary team will mobilize experts in traditional ecological knowledge, large animal biology, plant ecology and ecosystem assessment and mapping to inform policy and practice and develop tools for resilience in the face of prior ecological disruption and impending climate change.

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The Facility for Environmental and Biological Imaging provides state-of-the-art confocal microscopy services to members of the UBC community and external researchers.

Services include training and advice on imaging needs, as well as the use of the facility’s instruments, including the Olympus FluoView FV10i, Olympus FluoView FV1000, and Zeiss Axioimager.

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The FiLTER Lab is a new research facility accessible to researchers across UBC’s Okanagan campus as well as external researchers. Made possible by investments from the Government of Canada and the generous donations of Charles Fipke, it specializes in trace element analysis and electron microscope imaging. Services include inductively coupled plasma spectrometry, scanning electron microscopy, and electron probe micro analysis.

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Modern food systems connect us, biophysically and socially. They are also key contributors to many of our most pressing sustainability issues, from local through global scales. The Food Systems Priority Research for Integrated Sustainability Management (PRISM) Lab is a hub for cross-cutting research at the intersection of food system sustainability measurement and management.

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The group aims to make impactful contributions to worldwide efforts in developing affordable clean energy. Our main focus is understanding the photophysical and photochemical processes that dictate efficiency in solar fuel producing systems. Our advanced time-resolved optical spectroscopy techniques give us the insights necessary to understand the influence of key physical and chemical parameters, and optimize material synthesis with strong rational.

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The Centre for Green Infrastructure will integrate and leverage the expertise of researchers in engineering, economics, geography and the social sciences to develop comprehensive and integrated solutions, including new tools, techniques, policies and best management practices for planning, operations, and community engagement.

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This cluster brings together researchers from both UBC campuses in the faculties of Arts and Science, Applied Science, Forestry and the Sauder School of Business to support Indigenous led impact assessment.

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Although wildfire is a natural and important characteristic of forestry ecology, current climate and migration patterns appear to be leading towards an increased risk of fire within the wildland-urban interface. Fire managers across Canada have grappled with strategic resource management issues related to suppression and mitigation of wildfire for decades, and in recent years, they have turned to statistical modellers in order to assess the uncertainties and risk to both human life and property. With improved predictive models of fire behaviour, provincial fire management agencies can hope to achieve more efficient allocation of scarce fire suppression resources. The Data Visualization Laboratory contains the computing infrastructure needed to enable Data Scientists at UBC Okanagan to develop software tools, both static and mobile, for use by fire managers in real time and for long term strategic planning. While fire science is  a major priority for the lab, as a Data Science facility, it is also be set up to handle data visualization and modelling problems arising in other areas, most notably, quality assurance applications arising in computational medical physics through collaborations with the BC Cancer Agency.

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We study the biophysics of cells at the single molecule and single cell levels. Our studies address fundamental cell biology questions that have many practical applications from smart DNA-based biomaterials to cell screening technology.

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We are concerned with the metabolism of isoprenoids in plants, more specifically, the molecular, cellular, biochemical, and environmental factors that regulate the quality and quantity of aromas and essential oils produced by herbal and medicinal plants. Current work focuses on identification, cloning, and characterization of structural and regulatory genes that are involved in the biosynthesis, inter- and intracellular trafficking, secretion and storage of monoterpenes in plants cells specialized for secondary metabolite production.

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The McNeil Research Group conducts chemistry education research by using our classrooms as our laboratories. We study the challenges associated with teaching and learning university-level chemistry and develop innovative learning strategies to address those challenges.

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This joint initiative between UBC Okanagan’s Departments of Physics and Statistics, the BC Cancer Agency’s Sindi Ahluwalia Hawkins Centre for the Southern Interior and Interior Health will enable an interdisciplinary approach to solving major, persistent problems in radiation oncology to positively impact cancer care in Canada.

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The medical physics laboratory is a multi-user facility with research interests in radiation oncology medical physics. Research programs include: understanding normal and tumour tissue response to radiation; determining predictors of radiation sensitivity and injury; and the development of 3D radiation dosimetry systems.

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The Menard lab works at the interface between chemistry and biology. We use small molecules to study and manipulate biological systems. The group provides a multidisciplinary environment where students and researchers work together to develop new chemical and biophysical tools for the study of living systems.

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The Applied Micro and Nanosystems Facility (AMNF) is a class-100 micro/nanofabrication facility located at UBC’s Okanagan campus. The facility has microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) fabrication capabilities for thin-film deposition, photolithography, chemical processing, electronic prototyping and laser micromilling. The multi-user facility supports numerous areas of applied sciences.

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PlantSMART investigates the chemicals produced by plants and how plant chemicals affect human health. Research themes include: chemistry of cannabis and other medicinal plants; plant chemistry for food security; chemistry of natural non-protein amino acids; chemical regulation of plant signalling behaviour; chemistry of plant responses to light.

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Four researchers in chemical biology, biophysics and bioengineering will utilize their complementary expertise to develop an innovative technological platform to measure molecular processes at the junction between two nerve cells (synapses), in health and neurodegenerative disease states.

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Okanagan Digital Microfluidics Laboratory at University of British Columbia conducts research on control, fabrication and modeling of Digital Microfluidic biochips. Digital microfluidic devices provide a new technology platform for controlled motion of small fluid volumes.

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The Okanagan Institute for Biodiversity, Resilience, and Ecosystem Services (BRAES) is a group of over 30 faculty members and their graduate students working in ecology, biodiversity and conservation, and environmental sustainability on UBC’s Okanagan campus. BRAES’ special strength is its multidisciplinary focus, with members from departments of biology, mathematics and statistics, literary and cultural studies, earth and environmental sciences, physical geography, economics and creative arts.

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The PALEO LAB specialises in the use of midge fossils for the reconstruction of past environmental changes, particularly glacial and postglacial climates, and recent human impacts on lake ecosystems. We collaborate extensively with researchers at universities across Canada, as well as Parks Canada and the Royal British Columbia Museum.

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PlantSMART investigates the chemicals produced by plants and how plant chemicals affect human health. Research themes include: chemistry of cannabis and other medicinal plants; plant chemistry for food security; chemistry of natural non-protein amino acids; chemical regulation of plant signalling behaviour; chemistry of plant responses to light.

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Peripheral regions, such as the Okanagan, are recognized as increasingly important for:

  • The social, economic and cultural wellbeing of citizens and communities
  • The building of a nation and its success in a globalized and rapidly changing world

In British Columbia, the Interior is at the forefront of innovation and development in peripheral regions in advanced economies because (in part):

  • The establishment of the Okanagan campus by the University of British Columbia provides the region with a leading international university: an active participant in the regional innovation ecosystem, and a key contributor to multi-sector regional economic growth
  • The Interior’s entrepreneurial spirit and engaged communities make the region a perfect laboratory for UBC researchers to catalyze development in practice from a multidisciplinary perspective

Following this commitment and opportunity, UBC is investing in the Regional Socio-Economic Development Institute of Canada to:

  • Help to build thriving regional economies
  • Contribute to the creation of more innovative, resilient and culturally rich communities

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This research cluster will bring together multidisciplinary researchers in computer science, management, medicine, nursing, social work to conduct high quality, collaborative, and community-based rural health research to promote the health of children and youth, older adults with chronic disease, and Indigenous people living in rural communities.

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Our lab focuses on describing the chemistry of medicinal plants and bacteria to investigate the chemical differences between species and samples. This is used to discover biological activities, optimize natural health product formulation, identify adulterated products, and classify species by their chemistry.

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We study the biophysics of cells at the single molecule and single cell levels. Our studies address fundamental cell biology questions that have many practical applications from smart DNA-based biomaterials to cell screening technology.

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Earth-abundant transition metal catalysts that operate under mild conditions will be required for valorization of renewable resources and more sustainable organic synthesis. The Smith research group has explored metal-mediated radical reactions based on reversible homolysis of chromium-alkyl bonds in well-defined organometallic complexes.

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Our research is aimed at examining displacement and distortion in convergent margins. We are currently conducting research programs in the Tama Kosi area of east-central Nepal, the Kanchenjuga region of far east Nepal, the Hindu Kush of northwestern Pakistan, and the cratonic rocks of Northern Saskatchewan. These study areas provide the opportunity to examine well-exposed sections of exhumed middle to  lower crust within the youthful Himalayan orogen and contrast that with similar rocks involved with ancient orogensis. This type of research enables us to identify and track common processes across different orogens through time.

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Across the Earth, human modification of the environment has never been so widespread as it is today. The Wildlife Restoration Ecology Lab (WiRE Lab) is addressing the impact of human activity on the interactions among large predators (wolves, bears, cougars), their prey (deer, elk), and plants, in human-modified landscapes. We use a combination of field experiments, GPS tracking, computer models, and satellite imagery to bring together the ecology of individuals, populations, and communities.

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This cluster will use cutting-edge bio-chemical and genetic analyses to better understand and communicate the identity and terroir of B.C. wines, assist the B.C. wine industry’s efforts to transition to more sustainable agricultural practices, and evaluate how the wine industry affects the region’s socio-economic development.

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The Wine Research Centre’s mission is to conduct pioneering and globally significant research in enology and viticulture and to develop highly qualified human resources who will promote the technological advancement of the wine industry in British Columbia and Canada. This initiative is based on a concept of collaboration with researchers at the University of British Columbia on both the Vancouver and Kelowna campuses, at other educational and research institutions, and with all facets of the wine industry.

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Enzymes are large macromolecules that serve as biological catalysts for an immense number of biochemical reactions. We explore how enzymes can serve as valuable tools for the synthesis of new drugs and other high commodity chemicals, and also lead to the treatment of diseases, including bacterial infections, cancer, and metabolic disorders.

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A key objective of our lab is to combine capillary electrophoresis (CE) and mass spectrometry (MS) into a sensitive and high resolution method for glycan analysis. As a complement to the development of improved hyphenated analytical methods, we are also interested in devising more efficient sample preparation techniques. We also explore the roles played by glycans in diverse biological phenomena. Our lab members: investigate the effects of known chemical inhibitors of glycan processing enzymes; synthesize and test new inhibitors; devise assays to explore the functions of glycan biosynthetic enzymes; develop new methods for identifying glycan-binding proteins and their target.

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