Dr. Julian Cheng, Dr. Jonathan Little, Dr. Eric Li and Michelle St. Pierre receive awards from UBCO for their innovative research. (UBCO/Contributed)

Dr. Julian Cheng, Dr. Jonathan Little, Dr. Eric Li and Michelle St. Pierre receive awards from UBCO for their innovative research. (UBCO/Contributed)

UBC Okanagan honours work of local researchers

Four local researchers are getting recognized by UBCO for their innovative work

The University of British Columbia Okanagan is honouring four local researchers for their groundbreaking work.

The awards recognize those who have made a significant contribution to research in natural sciences and engineering, social sciences and humanities, and health. A graduate student is also honoured annually at this event.

“This is one of my favourite times of the year when I have the pleasure of acknowledging some of our star researchers and highlighting their contributions,” Dr. Phil Barker, UBCO’s vice principal of research and innovation, said at the virtual award ceremony.

“UBC’s Okanagan campus is one of the most rapidly expanding campuses in Canada and we continue to attract top-notch scholars and researchers.”

Barker said the research highlighted — from wireless technology to psychedelic-drug assisted therapy to diabetes research and tackling social inequalities — demonstrates the breadth of UBCO researchers’ impact locally, nationally, and internationally.

This year, Dr. Julian Cheng was named the natural sciences and engineering researcher of the year. Dr. Cheng has many patents and recently invented an indoor optical wireless location technique that improves receiver accuracy and will allow precise control of robot movement. His research also includes an intra-body communication device using wireless technology that will benefit health-care systems.

The award for health researcher of the year went to Dr. Jonathan Little, who has been investigating improved treatments and possible prevention of Type 2 diabetes. Much of his work revolves around the impact of healthy eating and exercise to stave off metabolic disease. Dr. Little also leads the Airborne Disease Transmission Research Cluster, a cross-campus research team aiming to lessen the airborne transmission of COVID-19 and other airborne illnesses.

Dr. Eric Li, the winner of the social sciences and humanities award, is an expert on social trends and a champion for the underdog. His research focuses on interdisciplinary collaborations with non-profit organizations and local government to improve social inequities. His overreaching goal is to improve the lives of everyday people around the world. Through his community-based research, he has impacted food insecurity, poverty, urban densification and rural community building in our region.

Doctoral student Michelle St. Pierre has been honoured for her work in substance use and mental health, focusing on cannabis and psychedelic use and harm reduction. She has made significant research breakthroughs in how people cope with pain and pain sensitivity. St. Pierre has received international media attention for her research on cannabinoid-based analgesics and is a national expert on cannabis policy.

“The purpose of these awards is to highlight and honour the research excellence that makes UBC a top 40 global university,” added Dr. Barker.

“I am impressed with the calibre of all our researchers and am very proud of this year’s recipients. I look forward to their future successes.”

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