Wind buoy could help remote coastal communities ditch diesel

Two people stand outdoors in front of a giant yellow buoy that is equipped with turbines, solar panels and other devices.

A large buoy that relays rich data about offshore wind is part of a unique UVic research project aimed at helping remote BC coastal communities replace or reduce their diesel requirements by harnessing wind power from the sea.

The buoy, which will be anchored near Trial Island for about six months, will use meteorological and oceanographic sensors to continuously gather and transmit live data about wind speed and behaviour to researchers. The data is critical in helping address a significant knowledge gap that has prevented offshore wind energy produced by floating turbines from being used more widely, says Brad Buckham, who co-leads UVic’s Pacific Regional Institute for Marine Energy Discovery (PRIMED) with fellow mechanical engineering researcher Curran Crawford.

“This buoy will be in place for a sustained period as part of a data collection campaign for the purpose of trying to support a floating offshore wind industry,” says Buckham. Read more

Method targets conditions from baldness to spinal cord injury

Two side-by-side images show: Mohsen Akbari sitting in his lab next to a microscope, and an extreme close-up of microscopic spherical purple particles with smaller green cells attaching to them.

Biomedical engineer Mohsen Akbari has devised an ingenious way to exponentially replicate human cells in the lab without harmful chemicals – a key step in a BC biotech company’s plan to develop a range of health and aesthetic solutions.

Instead of growing human cells on a flat surface, Akbari and his team are collaborating with RepliCel to grow them on the entire 3D surface of jelly-like  spherical particles. These particles are “smart” – when exposed to a particular temperature, they simply release all the cells growing on them without chemicals or enzymes.

The ultimate goal is to commercialize the technology, so that a biopsy taken, for example, from a patient's skull or shoulder, which might harvest only 10,000 cells, could be grown in the lab to a billion or more cells. These cells would then be reinjected into the patient to treat a wide range of health and aesthetic conditions. Read more

Time to make real change in STEM

Dean Mina Hoorfar stands outside a large building on UVic’s campus.

For Dean Mina Hoorfar, championing equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) within UVic Engineering and Computer Science and ensuring that real change takes place is a top priority. This fall, Hoorfar has been working hard to get that message out.

In early October, as the first guest speaker in UVic President Kevin Hall’s GameChangers series, the new dean focused her talk on EDI issues. In the latest edition of The Torch Alumni Magazine, Hoorfar shares some of the challenges she faced as a young woman in engineering in Iran and how she handled them.

And, earlier this month, Hoorfar was invited to provide a guest blog to the website of The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of BC, following their participation together in the Women Leading Change in STEM event on campus. Read more

New super green building vision driven by in-house expertise

An artist’s rendering shows s spacious lobby where several people are standing or sitting, with one man viewing a large wall-mounted screen that displays building data.

Civil engineering researchers at UVic are the driving force behind the vision for the faculty’s capital expansion and are inspiring the university to do something more ambitious than ever before with the project.

Construction of the highly advanced, green teaching and research buildings is set to get underway this spring and will set a high bar for sustainable energy and resource use, in pursuit of rigorous net-zero carbon certification.

The $89.6-million project will add room for 500 new students by 2024 and the two resulting buildings will be the greenest on campus.

“We know that the timeline to achieve net-zero carbon globally is much shorter than the lifespan of new buildings, so we need to build net-zero carbon buildings now,” says Thomas Froese, department chair of civil engineering. “The researchers in the department are at the forefront of the technologies for this post-carbon construction.” Read more

It’s official! Faculty adopts inclusive new name

Three buildings, with trees and foliage outside them, are connected by a concrete path..

As the new academic year got underway, UVic’s Faculty of Engineering changed its name to one that better reflects the people who work, learn and research in it.

On Sept. 1, the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science officially replaced the original name, which was established in 1983 and, at the time, represented only one department, electrical engineering.

“Going forward, all of our students, staff and faculty members will see themselves in our name, while our external partners and audiences will recognize the integral role that computer science plays in our faculty,” Dean Mina Hoorfar explained.

Over the years, there has been growing recognition that while the original name described the faculty’s three engineering departments, the Department of Computer Science was not explicitly included in it. Yet Computer Science – which joined Engineering in 1988 – accounts for about 30 per cent of students graduating each year and plays an important role in the faculty’s success.

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Orientation returns to campus

A team of 11 students, all wearing face masks, takes a moment from working on a design project to have their photo taken.

The Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science was buzzing with excitement this fall, as in-person orientation activities resumed after a one-year hiatus.

On Sept. 7, almost 400 new students turned out for orientation activities held on the grounds outside the faculty, as well as in a few large rooms indoors. In September 2020, all in-person orientation activities were cancelled because of COVID-19 restrictions; this year, following provincial health and safety guidelines, students were able to participate in group design challenges, attend informative presentations, share a pizza lunch and enjoy opportunities to socialize.

The students were divided into two large groups. While one group broke into smaller teams that competed in design challenges organized by Science Venture, the other group attended presentations that provided valuable information and tips about the year ahead. Later, the two large groups switched activities. Read more

Many pathways lead BC college students to UVic engineering

Milena Restan, who is wearing a protective face mask, gloves and lab coat, gazes into a large, high-power microscope.

When Milena Restan transferred from North Island College directly into second-year engineering at UVic, she was among dozens of students at smaller BC colleges making similar journeys.

Every year, about 100 students from smaller post-secondary institutions (PSIs) across the province bridge smoothly into the second year of an engineering degree at UVic, thanks to agreements the university has with each of these schools.

UVic began establishing engineering transfer agreements with smaller PSIs outside Greater Victoria in 2002. Over the years, the number of these agreements has grown to include about 20 colleges and smaller universities across Vancouver Island and throughout the province.

“I decided to bridge so I could save money and attend smaller class sizes during my first year – and attending North Island College allowed me to do that,” says Restan, who transferred into UVic’s Biomedical Engineering Program in 2017. Read more

Fall ceremonies recognize faculty’s newest grads

Eight students wearing graduation regalia, as well as face masks, stand side by side in the lobby of a campus building.

In total, 262 students from the faculty received degrees this fall – 203 of them in engineering and 59 in computer science. Of the total graduating, 200 received Bachelor degrees, 51 Masters and 11 PhDs. An additional 10 Bachelor degrees were awarded to students registered in other faculties, who had a combined or second major in computer science.

This month, students graduating from UVic Engineering and Computer Science were able to attend in-person convocation ceremonies for the first time since 2019.

Just over half of those who earned degrees in engineering and computer science attended one of two convocation ceremonies held on Nov. 12. Read more

Construction and salmon conservation inspire recent grad

Several people wearing lab coats and protective goggles work in a large tented lab space sanding a full-sized canoe made of concrete.

Growing up, Liam Sprangers spent long hours with friends constructing tree houses out of scrap lumber, building makeshift bike ramps, and designing bridges to span nearby creeks.

Sprangers, who graduated this fall with a Bachelor of Engineering, says he was drawn to civil engineering, in particular, by the prospect of being able to work in the construction industry.

“My co-ops were all memorable, but the one that sticks out most was working with Hall Constructors – it was like living out a childhood dream getting to work on a construction site and seeing engineering in action,” says Sprangers. He spent his last co-op term on multiple Hall construction sites, coordinating day-to-day activities on complex excavation projects.

The experience and knowledge Sprangers gained at UVic – through four co-op terms, classroom work and his involvement with the Concrete Canoe student team – have helped prepare him for a job that starts in November. He’ll be returning to Hall Constructors as a project coordinator. Read more

Alumni sow “Seeds of Hope and Change” globally

A screenshot shows 25 people taking part in a Zoom call.

As part of the first-ever UVic Global Days, 15 of the faculty’s alumni shared how their work is contributing to the UN’s sustainable development goals.

The virtual event, called “UVic Seeds of Change and Hope,” was part of the new week-long UVic Global Days, which highlights the university’s international reach, capabilities and impact, featuring a range of activities that celebrate globally oriented visions for the future of the planet.

In advance of the faculty’s Nov. 17 event, Lin Cai, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, collected brief videos created by 15 alumni who earned their degrees in engineering, computer science or mathematics.

In the videos, many of the alumni spoke about the importance of their time at UVic in helping them carve out their career paths and find meaningful ways to contribute. Read more

Faculty celebrates research and teaching achievements

Head-and-shoulder images are shown as a collage of the five researchers either working in the lab or standing in a campus building.

In recent months, five faculty members have received high-profile recognition, ranging from a top provincial teaching award to funding awards that support high-impact research.

UVic’s Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science is fortunate to have so many outstanding researchers and instructors.

In this issue of UVicECS News, we shine the spotlight on five faculty members who have recently received impressive awards and accolades: Stephanie Willerth, Yang Shi, Caetano Dorea, Josh Giles and Makhsud Saidaminov. Read more