Engineering Alumni Awards 2013

Lifetime Achievement

Dr. Jim McEwen

Dr. Jim McEwen received both his B.A.Sc. (1971) and Ph.D. (1975) in Electrical Engineering from UBC. From those roots, and over an innovative career that spans four decades, he has combined engineering research and interdisciplinary collaboration to identify and solve numerous clinically-relevant problems – to the extent that he is now known as the “grandfather” of the BC biomedical engineering industry.

Jim founded the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Vancouver General Hospital in 1975 and served as Director until 1990. His work and vision in the Department was cutting edge and helped to revolutionize the field of surgical robotics, in part through the invention of a surgical robot assistant that was ten years ahead of its time.  Jim has contributed to over 160 patents in biomedical engineering, including the world’s first microprocessor-controlled automatic surgical tourniquet, now the standard of care worldwide and for which he received the prestigious Manning Principal Award for Innovation in 1997.

A successful entrepreneur, Jim has founded and built several companies around his inventions. He also founded the Medical Device Development Centre in 1993, a non-profit society that acted as a technology incubator for several successful companies by situating entrepreneurs in a common space so that they could share their experiences and problems to become collectively stronger.

Jim has dedicated much of his time and expertise to educating the next generation of biomedical engineers as an Adjunct Professor at both UBC and SFU, as an active mentor, and as an industry advisor for the UBC Faculty of Applied Science. Jim has also dedicated countless hours of his private life to the ALS Society of British Columbia where, as past President, he established the annual Excellence in Engineering Design Awards. In 2010, the ALS Society honoured Jim with the William Fraser Leadership Development Award.

For his exemplary career as a biomedical engineer, entrepreneur, innovator, educator and community supporter, Jim has received Honorary Doctorates from SFU (2009) and UBC (2011), the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012), and was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada (2011).

top of page


Community Service

Claudio Arato

Claudio Arato received both his B.Sc. in Chemistry (1989), and B.A.Sc. in Chemical Engineering (1991) from UBC. Following graduation, he developed a successful and highly regarded career as a professional engineer, inventor with numerous technical papers, patents and patents pending and became a startup junkie. His dynamic career has included stints in diverse industries as cement, heavy oil, biofuels and chemicals, nanotechnology, pulp and paper, water treatment and he serves as both Principal for Bacchus Consulting and Director of Engineering and Technology for Sonoro Energy.

Beyond his impressive career, Claudio’s contributions to causes within his community are extraordinary. He has been actively involved with APEGBC since receiving his membership in 1996, dedicating over 10,000 volunteer hours towards the betterment of his profession. He is a three-term Elected Board Councillor and has served on multiple task forces and on both the Professional Practice and Registration Committees and a speaker on sustainability and ethics on the APEGBC Law and Ethics course. Claudio’s commitment to his professional community was recognized in 2010 when he was awarded the APEGBC DC Lambert Professional Service Award, and again in 2011 when he was recognized as a Fellow of Engineers Canada.

Claudio’s commitment to his community extends beyond his professional contacts – he was Co-founder and Director of the Cascadia Prosperity Forum. He has been called an “outstanding volunteer and ambassador” for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, acting as both a Wish Grantor from 2000-present, a member of the ReWined Organizing Committee and received the BC/Yukon Volunteer of the Year award in 2010.  Claudio has also volunteered a significant amount of time and expertise to several major Vancouver sporting events, including the 2010 Olympic Bid and Games Committees, the 2006 World Junior Hockey Championships, and the 2007 Memorial Cup.

Claudio has been a sturdy supporter and contributor to the UBC Faculty of Applied Science for over ten years through his membership on the Chemical and Biological Engineering Industry Advisory Committee, as well as his more recent participation as an invited lecturer for APSC 450 – Engineering and Ethics, and as an advisor for APSC 263 – Technology and Development: The Global Engineer.

Claudio has literally dedicated tens of thousands of hours, in both his personal and professional lives, to the support and betterment of the community in which he lives. Such commitment makes him most deserving of this award.

top of page


Outstanding Young Alumnus

Pamela Rogalski

Pamela Rogalski received her B.A.Sc. in Geological Engineering in 2007, following a B.A. in English and Literature in 2006. She chose geological engineering for her degree for its opportunities to promote social and environmental responsibility – a passion that she has pursued with dedication since her graduation.

As part of her efforts, Pamela joined Engineers Without Borders as a UBC student, and has continued her involvement to the present day. She founded the first Corporate Chapter of EWB, and in 2010 she was selected as an EWB Professional Fellow. In that role, she helped to pilot a local fundraising event entitled the “Run to End Poverty”, which has since grown to generate over $200,000 per year. From September to December, 2010, Pam travelled to rural Ghana as part of an EWB project team. She helped to develop a data management system designed to address infrastructure needs and determine the appropriate distribution of resources, and the training of local community leaders to use the system. As a result, several rural districts in northern Ghana are now prioritizing education, clean water and sanitation, transportation, and healthcare.

Her commitment to positive social change is also reflected by Pamela’s founding of the Engineering Leadership Council (ELC) in December, 2011. As ELC President, Pamela aims to create a learning community of Canadian engineers that co-develops holistic sustainability principles and best practices in engineering practice, including infrastructure development. Through her tireless work in building ELC’s network of partners and professionals, which includes EWB, she has become a leader within the engineering profession.

Professionally, Pamela gained field experience as an Engineer-In-Training and has earned her P.Eng. designation. From 2007 to 2011, she worked as a Contract Manager at BC Hydro and was awarded the “Consistent High Achiever and High Skills - Potential Future Leader” accolade.

Pamela has a passion for the outdoors, cycling, and travel. She has led mountaineering teams on many local and international summits, including peaks in the Himalayas, Tian Shan, Eastern Europe and North Africa.

top of page


Outstanding Future Alumnus Award

Tagg Jefferson and Connor Schellenberg-Beaver

Over the past four years, Tagg Jefferson has been a truly exceptional student ambassador for UBC Engineering, as well as a key figure in the student community. He is respected by his peers, the staff, and the faculty with whom he works, and is known for both his talent for connecting with people and his dedication to student government, academics, and extracurricular activities.

Shortly after he arrived on campus in September 2008, Tagg was elected First Year Engineering President of the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS), and accepted the role of VP Finance the following year. Tagg has served as a Student At Large on the UBC AMS’ SUB Renewal Project, was elected Vancouver campus undergraduate member of APSC Dean Search Committee, and is also the Applied Science representative on the UBC Student Senate.

Tagg’s commitment to the educational and extracurricular experience of his fellow engineering students is unparalleled. He has been a prominent member of the Engineering Student Centre Steering Committee throughout his time at UBC, and leads the student fundraising team. He was Chair of the Engineering Student Team Council for two years, and was a member of the Communications Team of the UBC chapter of Engineers Without Borders.

Tagg has also excelled academically at UBC. As student in the challenging Integrated Engineering (IGEN) program, he self-financed his design team project, which won both the Industry and Best Year Design awards last year. In 2012, he competed at the Canadian Engineering Competition and took a leadership role as VP Sponsorship, raising $212,000 through industry and university sources. Proficient in both Japanese and Mandarin, Tagg has completed two work terms with Corning Japan, developing Gorilla Glass ™, and spent a summer working with Simpa Networks in Bangalore, India, helping to provide affordable solar power systems rural Indian villages that lack access to electricity.

Beyond UBC, Tagg is co-founder of Dragonfly Instruments, a Vancouver-based venture that designs water testing equipment. Due to the company’s early success, Tagg was named one of Vancouver’s Top 24 Under 24 last year in the “Innovator” category, and he also won the Enterprize Canada National Business Plan Competition Grand Prize with his Dragonfly co-founder.

top of page


Connor Schellenberg-Beaver

Connor Schellenberg-Beaver is one of UBC Engineering’s brightest academic stars. Admitted to the challenging Mechanical Engineering Department in the prestigious Mechatronics Option, Connor has excelled, achieving a cumulative average of 90.6% - a feat rarely seen in such a difficult program. As a result, Connor was named a Westbrook Scholar, a distinction reserved for only 20 individuals annually from across UBC.

Beyond academics, Connor has assumed a leadership role in extracurricular engineering student teams, serving as Team Captain of the UBC Supermileage Team in 2011 and 2012. Under his leadership and vision, the team faced a significant challenge in developing and improving their new Urban Concept Vehicle for the Shell Eco-marathon in Houston, Texas, where they achieved an impressive fourth place out of 21 teams and set a team record for fuel efficiency. Connor’s organization and leadership, as well as his passion for designing sustainable vehicles, were integral to the team’s unprecedented success.

Connor is also dedicated to improving the learning process and safety procedures for team members, and to making the team accessible to as many members as possible. As Captain, he has tripled the number of team members, attracting students from a variety of departments while achieving one of the highest proportions of female members of any student team.

Connor’s commitment to supporting his peers is exemplified by his establishment and leadership of an informal mentoring system within Club MECH, wherein senior undergraduate students provide academic guidance to junior students who may be uncomfortable with seeking help from faculty.

In addition to all of his accomplishments and contributions to the engineering community, Connor is committed to fitness, as a competitive triathlete, and to making a positive impact on our society by addressing challenging social and technical issues. He is determined to make an impact as a professional engineer, and he has already started to do so as an exceptional student of UBC engineering.

top of page


Outstanding Emeriti Faculty

Dr. Philip Hill

Dr. Philip Hill is Professor Emeritus in UBC’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, where he has been a faculty member since 1975. Although he retired in 1997, Dr. Hill remains significantly engaged with the university and with local industry, funding projects, supporting research, and supervising graduate students, inspiring them with his gentle challenges, deep knowledge, and infectious optimism.

Dr. Hill is recognized internationally as an outstanding scholar and researcher. As a young Professor at MIT in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he authored what is still the international standard text on jet propulsion and jet engine theory. He also wrote the essential reference work for engineers and scientists designing steam power plants, including nuclear plants.

In his UBC research lab during the 1980s, Dr. Hill’s concern for the impact of diesel engine pollution on the environment and human health inspired him to develop the high-pressure direct injection (HPDI) of natural gas in diesel engines – a discovery that allows diesels to function at peak power with reduced emissions and costs. His many innovative contributions have resulted in the Science Council of BC’s Industrial Innovation Award, the Minister’s Environmental Award, APEGBC’s R.A. McLachlan Memorial Award, the Canadian Institute of Energy Award, and the Manning Principal Award for Innovation.

In 1995 Dr. Hill co-founded Westport Innovations Inc., which specializes in alternative fuel for transportation and industrial machinery, and which is now one of BC’s largest and fastest growing tech companies. Westport has developed strategic partnerships and joint ventures with international industry leaders, and Dr. Hill maintains a presence at the company as Senior Scientific Advisor.

As an educator, Dr. Hill has had a significant and lasting impact on UBC’s engineering students. Many of his former students rank him amongst their most influential and motivational teachers and state that his thermodynamics classes, though complex, represented a highlight of their degrees. He was an outstanding role model for young professors and graduate students throughout his tenure at UBC, and he remains actively involved with the Mechanical Engineering Department. His educational contributions have been recognized by the UBC Killam Teaching Prize and the Walter Gage Award for Teaching Excellence.

top of page