Alumni Spotlights

Find out what James Gowans (BASc '74 MINE) believes his many milestones are and how they propelled him to his current role. Jim is currently the President and CEO of Arizona Mining Inc.

Find out what Maitrayee Dhaka (BASc '15 MECH) did to make campus feel smaller as an international student and how an internship during her time at UBC turned in to her current career. Maitrayee currently works within the Autopilot Hardware team at Tesla.

Find out what Andrew Happer (BASc '96) does in his spare time and how leaving BC and moving to Edmonton expanded his career. He is currently a Senior Forensic Engineer and Part-owner at Sintra Engineering Inc.

Curiosity, continued learning and hands on experience. Find out what Lana Rupp (BASC '09) did in her spare time at UBC and how making the jump to a new career path made a big difference in her life. She is currently a Mechanical Design Engineer at Zaber Technologies.

Integrity, curiosity and a constructive attitude. Find out what Francis Pun (BASc '94) has to say about work-life balance and why it doesn't exist for him. Engineering has opened up many paths for Francis, from Prince George, Tokyo and now Hong Kong at TE Connectivity as the Data Analytics Lead for the Communication Solutions division.

Ramin (BASc 2006 MECH, MASc 2008 ECE, PhD 2013 Biomed) and Daryoush Sahebjavaher (BASc 2009 (SFU), MASc 2012 MECH) are both recent UBC engineering grads. They started a company called YodelUP ( in 2015 and just launched their first product on the crowdfunding campaign Kickstarter. Prior to YodelUP they worked with several companies on projects ranging from medical devices to automation and electric vehicles.

Rachael L’Orsa received her BASc in Mechanical Engineering from UBC (Okanagan) in 2010, and her BA in French and Spanish (Computer Science Minor) in 2011. She is currently completing an MSc at the University of Calgary in Electrical Engineering, and has been accepted for a PhD working with Project neuroArm. 

Wes Carson graduated from UBC in 2000 with a degree in mining engineering, and over the past 15 years, he’s moved from Canada to Tanzania and back again, and taken a mine from concept to full operations. He’s currently Vice President for Project Development with Sabina Gold and Silver Corporation, working in the Canadian Arctic to develop a new gold mine. This month, he discusses his greatest achievements, his love of slack lining and his kids (not necessarily in that order), and reveals the many ways UBC engineering students spend their time on campus. 

Dr. Naoko Ellis is a professor in the UBC Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. She is also an alumna and graduated from UBC with her PhD in Chemical Engineering in 2003. Her commitment to a sustainable future is evident in her research interests, which include biomass utilization (bio-oil upgrading, biochar potential, and biodiesel production), sustainability leadership, CO2 capture (chemical looping combustion), and multiphase systems. She also works towards her sustainability goals as Acting Senior Research Director of the CMC Carbon Capture and Conversion Institute and through sustainability-related projects in the community. Although much of her time is invested in teaching and meeting with graduate students, she still finds time to work in the lab and to help her three daughters with their homework.

Shannon Hoekstra was the recipient of the Applied Science Future Alumnus Award at the 2014 Engineering Excellence event. She has since graduated from UBC, and is currently working at the global engineering consulting firm, Hatch, in Mississauga, Ontario, where she is a Process Engineer-In-Training in the Non-Ferrous Hydrometallurgy Department. She has been at Hatch for just over a year and during her time has worked on various stages of the project lifecycle from conceptual studies to implementation. On these projects she has developed mass balances, created process flowsheets, and sized process equipment. Shannon is also a part of the Hatch/HMM Engineers Without Borders Committee and is a Professional Ambassador with the Ontario Network of Women in Engineering.

Sara Badiei earned a BASc in Electrical Engineering from the University of Toronto, and then came to UBC to undertake a Masters in the same subject. After working for a short while in the power field, for both BC Hydro and Southern California Edison, she changed career paths significantly, and began working with Médecins sans Frontières, where she stayed from 2011 to 2014, working in Chad, Congo, and the Philippines. She now works for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan after a year with ICRC in Gaza undertaking emergency humanitarian work in water and sanitation, supply chain (medical and logistic), energy, cold chain and project / program coordination. In this month’s alumni Q&A, she talks about her work, making a difference as an engineer and humanitarian worker, and her dreams of Pacific Spirit Park.

Ms. Beth Renwick (BASc 1984 CIVL) graduated from UBC in the middle of a recession, and after several part-time jobs, landed a full-time position with PBK Engineering and Architects. She went on to work for the Greater Vancouver Regional District (now Metro Vancouver), and she is currently the Program Head for BCIT’s Bachelor of Technology in Construction Management program.

Her daughter, Ms. Diane Currie graduated from UBC this spring with her BASc in Civil Engineering and began full-time work immediately after graduation with Horizon Engineering, a geotechnical consultant in North Vancouver. 

Dr. Peter Riley (BASc 1956 ENPH; MASc 1958 ENPH) studied at UBC throughout the 1950s and went on to a successful career at the University of Texas at Austin, with time also spent conducting innovative research at labs across the USA. He is now Professor Emeritus of Physics at UT Austin and, for the 17 years leading up to his 2012 retirement, he was Associate Dean for Research and Facilities of UT Austin’s College of Natural Sciences (CNS). Despite retiring, Dr. Riley’s love of research has kept him connected to the UT Austin research community as a Board Member for both the McDonald Observatory and the UT Marine Science Institute – although he confesses a greater familiarity with astronomy and cosmology than with marine science.

Dan Bowditch graduated from UBC in 1971 in Electrical Engineering, and spent the next 28 years building his career with BC Hydro, working in small communities across BC before returning to Vancouver in 1980 to undertake senior management roles. In 1987, he managed the province-wide GFIS computer mapping project and became responsible for all IT applications in Transmission & Distribution, notably the Power On outage management system. He took early retirement in 2004, but lasted two weeks before starting his own consulting firm. He finally retired for good in 2010.

Erik Lindholm graduated from UBC in 1983 into economic recession. Learn how he navigated his career from bleak employment opportunities into being Master Inventor at NVIDIA – and champion foosballer – in this month’s alumni Q&A.

During her years at UBC, Bowinn Ma (BASc 2008 CIVL; MM 2009) contributed significantly to the Engineering Undergraduate Society and has since established a substantial career with the Vancouver Airport Authority. In this month’s alumni profile, learn about Ms. Ma’s role as an “Owner’s Engineer,” her memories of life as a student politician, and how engineering helped her discover her passion for inspiring and motivating the people around her.

After his recruitment to the Human Genome Project, Dr. Gane Ka-Shu Wong (BASc 1983 ENPH) transformed his engineering education into a career as a genetics researcher and a professor in biological sciences and medicine. In this month’s alumni profile, learn about Dr. Wong’s unique career niche, his establishment of what is now the world’s largest DNA/RNA sequencing lab, and his love of the UBC Student Union Building samosas.

Kim Code (BASc 1989 GEOE) began her career with Shell as a summer student, and over her 25-year career with them has moved to the Netherlands, Russia and now back to Calgary, Alberta, where she is currently Shell’s Vice President In Situ, Heavy Oil. In this month’s alumni profile, learn about her time with Shell, her love of travel, who Waldo is, and her memories of UBC.

Australian Peter Farr earned his MASc at UBC in the mid 1960s – and has enjoyed a 48-year career spanning telecommunications, computer programming, management, consulting and company boards. His memories of Dean Gage, the Nitobe Gardens, shovelling snow in Vancouver, and how UBC changed his life are in this month’s alumni profile.

Linda Wolstencroft considered a career as a professional musician, but family guidance and a love for math and science brought her to study Engineering at UBC. Now she’s an entrepreneur and business expert, and helps aerospace and defense businesses achieve significant growth. Learn about her career path from music to business in this month’s alumni profile.

In 1998, Raymond Lee (BASc ‘93 ECE) watched the first ton of packing paper roll out from his mill in Dongguan, China, a mill that had taken four years to establish. Just over 16 years later, Lee & Man Paper is the second-largest producer of container board in the world and vies for the title of most-sustainable packing paper manufacturer as well. Lee recalls how he built his business — and what he learned along the way.

Mike Cancilla, MEng 2014 BME, completed his bachelor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Western Ontario and spent two years working in mining and manufacturing before moving to Vancouver to attend UBC. In 2013, he joined forces with four other UBC engineers to launch the Drill Cover Project. A collaborative effort between UBC, Vancouver General Hospital and Mulago Hospital in Uganda, the project develops drill covers that enable surgeons to use a regular "hardware store" style power drill (costing $150) in the place of a high quality surgical power drill (costing $30,000) during trauma surgeries. 

Patrick ChunBASc 1984 Mech, is CEO of Greenwood Canada, a Canadian new media education group specializing in providing web-based educational software. Its focus is on learning English as a Second Language with a neutral English accent, which is meant to ensure better communication around the world. He is also Executive Director of the Institute of Image Training and Testing International (IITTI), a non-profit, open-source educational organization which offers image training and business etiquette instruction.

Duncan McNicholl (BASc Civil 2009) received the Young Alumnus Award at this year’s Engineering Excellence celebration. He is currently working with Engineers Without Borders in Malawi, and was unable to attend the event – but luckily he agreed to be our alumni profile for this issue. He will be leaving Malawi in May, and will start his PhD at the University of Cambridge, England in September 2014.

Roz Seyednejad (BASc 1998 Civil, MEng 2000 Structural Engineering) started working for the Rapid Transit Project (Skytrain Millennium Line) in 1999, and a year later joined the business development team at SNC-Lavalin’s transportation division. She completed the executive MBA program at SFU while working at SNC-Lavalin, and had her first baby during this program. She held the positions of Business Development Manager and Strategy Planning Manager at SNC-Lavalin, and left the company in 2007 to start her own business.

Peter Shepard (BASc 1964 CHBE) spent most of his 35 year career with Imperial Oil and its parent company, ExxonMobil in England and the United States. He held senior jobs in refining, minerals, and corporate planning. For five years post retirement, he taught in the Industrial Engineering program at the University of Toronto; for the past five years he has been an active member of the UBC Engineering Advisory Council.

Jamie Paik received her B.A.Sc. from UBC in 2002, majoring in both Mechanical and Electro-Mechanical Design Engineering. She obtained her Ph.D. from Seoul National University in South Korea before completing post-docs at both the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris and Harvard University. She currently lives in Lausanne, Switzerland, where she is an Assistant Professor and the founding director of the Reconfigurable Robotics Lab (RRL) at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), and a member of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) robotics group.

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