Recipients 2016

Since its launch in 2011, the PDF Travel Awards have helped many UBC PDFs attend conferences to present their work, enriching their PDF experience and helping anchor them within the academic world. Please read below to find out more about past award recipients.


Department, Faculty

Conference - Date Attended


Quarter 1:      
Dr. Chengzhi He Chemistry, Science

Biophysical Society (BPS) Annual Meeting – February 2016

Los Angeles, CA

Dr. Wenbo Wang Biomedical Engineering, Applied Science

Photonics West 2016 - February 2016

San Francisco, CA

Dr. Ryan Watson School of Nursing, Applied Science Society of Research on Adolescence - March 2016 Baltimore, MD
Dr. Julian Yates Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability, Science

ENTITLE International Conference of the European Network of Political Ecology – March 2016

Stockholm, Sweden

Quarter 2:      
Dr. Daniel Carney Physics and Astronomy, Science YITP Entanglement – June 2016 Kyoto, Japan
Dr. Arthur Green Geography, Arts Association of American Geographers Annual Conference - April 2016 San Francisco, CA
Dr. Gabriel Maltais-Landry Applied Biology, Land and Food Systems Canadian Association of Soil Science - May 2016 Kamloops, BC
Dr. Darren Wong Wine Research Centre, Land and Food Systems Tenth International Symposium on Grapevine Physiology and Biotechnology - June 2016 Verona, Italy
Quarter 3:      
Dr. Matthias Danninger Physics and Astronomy, Science Neutrino 2016 - July 2016 London, England
Dr. Elizabeth Gow Forest and Conservation Sciences, Forestry North American Ornithological Conference - August 2016 Washington, D.C.
Dr. Curtis Hughesman Oral Biological and Medical Sciences, Dentistry The American Head and Neck Society (AHNS) 9th International Conference on Head and Neck Cancer - July 2016 Seattle, WA
Dr. Lai Hong (Elisa) Wong Pharmaceutical Sciences The Allied Genetics Conference (TAGC) - July 2016 Orlando, FL
Quarter 4:      
Dr. Laura Bilenker Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, Science American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2016 – December 2016 San Francisco, CA
Dr. Guopeng Fu Land and Food Systems 4th International STEM in Education Conference - November 2016 Beijing, China
Dr. Farzam Fotovat Chemical and Biological Engineering, Applied Science American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Annual Meeting - November 2016 San Francisco, CA
Dr. Beniamin Zahirisabzevar Mechanical Engineering, Applied Science ECS Prime 2016 - October 2016  Honolulu, HI

Dr. Chengzhi He

Biophysical Society (BPS) Annual Meeting – February 2016

I would like to thank the postdoctoral fellow travel award for supporting me to attend The Biophysical Society (BPS) Annual Meeting, a big conference that most North American as well as international researchers in the field of biophysics attend. I met a lot of peer researchers as well as leading professors in this field. I had very good communication with them and I believe it would be helpful for my own research. My study focuses on the force spectroscopy, I found that a lot of studies on this topic are trying to improve the experimental efficiency. Some of those studies are very useful and I would make use of them. From the oral/poster presentations, I also found that the ion channel becomes a really hot topic and a lot of studies were presented in the conference. Moreover, the exhibitor presentations were attractive as well. Dual-trap optical tweezers are always difficult to build. A company called Lumicks showed their commercial dual-trap optical tweezers combined with fluorescence microscopy, which would greatly facilitate the simultaneous measurement of the force and fluorescence at single-molecule level. I would like to attend this conference next year if I had the chance.

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Dr. Wenbo Wang

Photonics West 2016 – February 2016

This February, Photonics West, the largest laser, photonics, and biomedical optics conference, welcomed 20,000 attendees to San Francisco.

My presentation was scheduled for the first morning. There were about 100 audiences in my session and many excellent talks were delivered on cancer research using cutting-edge vibrational spectroscopy techniques. Each talk was followed by a highly interactive Q&A period. I gave a talk on early detection of colorectal cancer using SERS, finished on time, and got some excellent feedbacks. After the session, I also exchanged ideas with several researchers about the challenges in nano-sensing and the use of spectroscopy for early disease screening. The conference was packed with inspiring talks by both prestigious and emerging biophotonics scientists. I attended many talks on nonlinear optical imaging, microfluidic sensing, and nano-photonics, etc. as well as the plenary session on BiOS hot topics.

The Photonics West exhibition hosted more than 1,300 companies and 70 special events. I greatly enjoyed the exhibition and talked with company representatives to learn about their innovative technology and products. At the end of each day, I also went to poster sessions and learn about research activities at other institutes around the world.

I want to thank the UBC PDFO for this travel award, which gave me an excellent opportunity to present at Photonics west 2016. As an early-career professional, I found attendance at Photonics west a very fruitful experience. In addition to sharing research ideas and gathering expert feedbacks, I also made some new connections in the research community.

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Dr. Ryan Watson

Society of Research on Adolescence – March 2016

This particular conference was truly one of the best I have attended in the 7 years of my academic career. I was just recently hired as an Assistant Professor at the University of Connecticut, so not only was it important for me to meet my new colleagues, but I also had the opportunity to network with collaborators from around the world. For the first time, potential graduate students came up to me to ask about working with me in the future, and so it was important for networking on many levels. I presented two papers, and both were well received. I was able to plan two collaborations, and even met new scholars that I plan to write with in the future. It was very important for me to attend the Society for Research on Adolescence and I am grateful that the PDF travel funding was able to – in part- make this trip possible.

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Dr. Julian Yates

ENTITLE International Conference of the European Network of Political Ecology – March 2016

ENTITLE is an EU-funded Training Network coordinated by the Institute for Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. As a culmination of the project, the ENTITLE conference - dubbed "Undisciplined Environments" - brought together leading political ecologists across Europe. The conference consisted of three days of plenary talks and concurrent sessions, one full-day workshop, and a series of field trips in Stockholm. The plenary sessions and concurrent sessions were organized around three themes: decolonial political ecology; post-capitalist ecologies; and enclosures vs. communing. I participated in a two-part session that was organized in line with the third theme, and which was titled “The More-Than-Human Commons and the Politics of Knowledge”. In my paper presentation – “Political ontology, Indigenous knowledge networks, and circuits of bio-technical value in the more-than-human commons” – I explored the ways in which water regulations in BC act as a form of enclosing the commons. Recent policy shifts, such as the Water Sustainability Act, contrast First Nations ontologies of water as lifeblood, which place water into an inter-connected more-than-human commons. I explored the potential for the emerging network of Indigenous Water Operators of BC and the Yukon to help reclaim autonomy over water for First Nations. The talk was well received and stimulated lively debate. In addition, the conference provided the opportunity to network with key figures in political ecology, including Nancy Peluso, Andrea Nightingale, Eric Swyngedouw, Gavin Bridge, and emerging scholars from Europe and beyond.

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Dr. Daniel Carney

YITP Entanglement – June 2016

The Yukawa Institute of Theoretical Physics (YITP) summer workshop on entanglement in many- body systems and string theory was a phenomenal, five-week gathering of experts working across a number of sub-disciplines in theoretical physics. Top string theorists, condensed matter theorists, gravitational experts and quantum information theorists held two week-long conferences and three weeks of workshop-style seminars and discussions. All of these fields are now entering an era in which quantum entanglement will play a central role in their development, and the workshop was a great success in fostering cross-discipline communication on the topic. My own participation was very fruitful; I gave a seminar talk on a recent paper (co-authored with UBC Prof. Gordon Semenoff and his graduate student Laurent Chaurette). The talk led to a number of very useful conversations with people, and at least one collaboration with a group in Japan. Many thanks to the Dean's office for helping with my trip!

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Dr. Arthur Green

Association of American Geographers Annual Conference – April 2016

The open science movement responds to an urgent need to rethink the production and dissemination of scientific research in contemporary society. While the open science movement impacts research, it also poses significant opportunities and challenges for teaching and learning. This is especially true in geography and allied disciplines that encourage student-led research. At the AAG 2016 conference, I presented "The Pedagogy of Open Science: Impacts of the 'Open Turn' on Geographic Research, Teaching, and Learning." This open pedagogy case study involved nearly 100 UBC undergraduates in an open science research project using geographic information science to analyze British Columbia's Agricultural Land Reserve. This case study was a showcase of UBC’s leadership in the realm of linking research and teaching. My presentation was highlighted as a part of the conference's feature theme “Thriving in a Time of Disruption in Higher Education.” I met with representatives of international organizations interested in the challenges of teaching through open science and in encouraging the broader implementation of open pedagogy. The presentation led to opportunities for public and private partnerships with organizations (such as zspace) that are developing technologies to allow learning to be more active, flexible, and accessible.

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Dr. Gabriel Maltais-Landry

Canadian Society of Soil Science – May 2016

The annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Soil Science is a relatively small conference that provides extensive opportunities for in-depth discussions and networking with soil scientists working across Canada. Having a smaller number of concurrent sessions, it's easier to enjoy complete sessions rather than running around the conference center. I saw many great talks on cutting-edge research in soil science, including a full day session on greenhouse gas fluxes from soils, one of the main topics of my postdoc. My talk was scheduled at the end of the first day, was well attended (80-100 people), and the audience asked several good questions after the talk. This allowed me to interact with many scientists working both in soil science and sustainable agriculture, from different universities as well as research centers of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. The format of the conference allowed me to interact extensively with the two keynote speakers, including Ray Weil (a living legend in both soil science and sustainable agriculture), which is tougher to achieve in larger meetings. Finally, I judged student posters during the conference, my first experience of this kind. Ultimately, I am grateful to the PDFO office for helping me attend this conference.

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Dr. Darren Wong

Tenth International Symposium on Grapevine Physiology and Biotechnology – June 2016

The 10th International Symposium on Grapevine Physiology and Biotechnology has been an excellent platform for presenting my research to a broad scientific audience. My presentation has drawn the attention of experts in the field of fruit ripening which led to several new collaborations. This conference also provided an excellent hub to touch base with ongoing collaborators on grapevine ripening and abiotic stress (Institut des Sciences de la Vigne et du Vin, Ben-Gurion University), systems biology (Centre for Research in Agricultural Genomics), and cell walls (University of Stellenbosch). The talks, poster sessions, and informal discussions provided me fresh ideas in integrating multi-disciplinary techniques into my future research. As an ambassador of UBC and British Columbia’s grape and wine industry, I have demonstrated that UBC is doing cutting-edge discoveries in agricultural science, viticulture, and applied genome research, while fostering strong industrial ties. On a separate note, Verona is a beautiful city, deeply rooted in the past, dating back to the Roman Empire. The technical visits hosted by the organisers (University of Verona) deserves a highlight as I visited several wineries across the region, tasting various wines, and learning the tradition and roots that typifies the regional wine style.
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Dr. Matthias Danninger

Neutrino 2016 – July 2016

The bi-annual 'Neutrino' conference series is the largest and most important conference in the field of neutrino physics. Its primary purpose is to review the field of neutrino physics, the impact of neutrino physics on astronomy and cosmology, and the vision for the future development of these fields. The conference consists of invited plenary talks only and a record number of more than 700 delegates attended this years conference, which was held in the Royal Geographical Society in London.

My presentation was scheduled for the morning of the final day of the conference. I gave a review of the field of indirect detection of dark matter with neutrinos. This talk gave me the opportunity to include some of my own work and results from recent years that have been published in three papers, including a review article on the same topic.

I received excellent feedback on my talk afterwards from colleagues. The conference was packed with excellent and inspiring talks from prestigious physicists reporting on many new exciting results and measurements in the field of neutrino physics. An additional highlight were the special presentations in celebration of the award of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics for neutrinos by last years Nobel laureates Prof. Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B McDonald.

In addition I discussed the exciting world of neutrino astronomy with school children during the outreach activities associated with the conference, organised by Imperial College, London. It was a fun opportunity to inspire young kids by our research!

It was very important for me to attend this conference and I am grateful that the PDF travel funding supported this trip.
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Dr. Elizabeth Gow

North American Ornithological Conference – August 2016

I attended the largest ornithological conference ever, the North American Ornithological Conference, in Washington, D.C. I presented two talks, and organized and ran a symposium on identifying unifying factors affecting bird declines, The symposium was a huge success and I feel I benefitted greatly from talking with the presenters one-on-one during and after the symposium.

Giving talks about my own research allowed me to communicate my research to a larger audience. I received some very positive feedback, and some ideas, which I see as huge benefit to move some of my research forward. Being at a large conference was overwhelming at times, but it provided opportunities to talk with a lot of other researchers, postdocs and students. One of the most beneficial activities, I felt, was volunteering to judge student presentations. I was able to chat with each of the students and provide them with feedback about their poster or presentation. In addition, I volunteered to mentor graduate students and spent two lunch hours chatting with students about academics, research and life as a postdoc. I feel I greatly benefitted from these interactions as did the students.

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Dr. Curtis Hughesman

The American Head and Neck Society (AHNS) 9th International Conference on Head and Neck Cancer – July 2016

The American Head and Neck Society (AHNS) International Conference on Head and Neck Cancer is the preeminent conference for the field, held once every four years, it draws a truly international audience.  At this conference I delivered an oral presentation highlighting the research we have carried out over the last two years which is aimed at assessing the risk of oral cancer progressing thru the detection of clinically relevant genetic changes using droplet digital PCR, a technology that allows interrogation at the molecular level.  Questions received after the talk were indicative of the interest in this new technology and the post sessions discussions with several members of the attending audience encouraged translation of our research; with the ultimate goal being to provide the community with a useful tool to detect oral cancer at the earliest stage when it is most treatable.

In addition to the occasion to deliver an oral presentation, my attendance at the conference allowed me to attend many of the instructional courses, panels and proffered papers. These sessions provided the opportunity to hear current and cutting edge science from leaders in the field, which I believe is important for successful career development.  Overall I feel that attending and presenting at this conference was a great experience and I appreciate the support of the PDFO.

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Dr. Lai Hong (Elisa) Wong

The Allied Genetics Conference (TAGC) – July 2016

The Genetics Society of America (GSA) launched a multidisciplinary conference - The Allied Genetics Conference (TAGC), which combined research from concurrent genetic communities from yeast to mouse model organisms, for the first time this year.

With over 3000 attendees, TAGC showcased astonishing accomplishments across the genetic fields as well as helped to diversify the academic experience of geneticists across model organisms. My research on drug resistance is heavily studied in E. coli and so having the opportunity to attend talks in the Population, Evolutionary and quantitative community was extremely valuable for my broad understanding of antibiotic resistance emergence.

I gave a talk during the ‘Tackling Human Disease Using Yeast’ session, which drew a significant attention with over 300 attendees. This opportunity also spearheaded discussions with collaborators and fruitful conversations with editors of Nature Genetics journal. The high impact of my research was also illustrated by the fact that my presentation was selected for GSA media promotion across platforms (1-3).

In addition, I had the opportunity to judge poster presentations. This voluntary activity was fun and promoted scientific discussions with peers, which helped me advance my understanding in outstanding research, and particularly on new advances in CRISPR technology.


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Dr. Laura Bilenker

American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2016 – December 2016

The AGU Fall Meeting is the largest annual gathering of Earth Scientists, attracting researchers at all stages from every sub-discipline. My current research explores a sub-discipline that is new to me, using methods with which I am experienced. Therefore, presenting my work at AGU 2016 was even more valuable than usual. I am in the process of analyzing the geochemistry of rocks sampled from a unique seafloor feature during a research expedition to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Not only did attending AGU allow me to finally meet in person the people responsible for the initial collection and handling of the samples, but we were able to expand previous conversations and initiate collaboration originally discussed only briefly via email. From these discussions, I was able to refine and focus certain aspects of my project and expand others. Attending this conference also permitted me to participate in a short course held by the Mineralogical Society of America. The course assembled the world's leading experts in non-traditional stable isotopes (NTSI), which complemented the unparalleled networking opportunity offered by AGU, and provided an intense yet informal environment that fostered learning and discussions concerning the most promising future directions of NTSI geochemistry.

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Dr. Guopeng Fu

4th International STEM in Education Conference – November 2016

Attending the 4th International STEM in Education Conference is a rewarding experience for my research project as well as my career. I deeply appreciate the support from the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and the Faculty of Land and Food Systems (LFS).

For my research project, I presented a poster and a short paper on the education innovations we implemented in the LFC core series courses at LFS. Both presentations were well received. As a result of these presentations and discussion, our research team are invited to attend the Beijing Science Festival in September 2017 and are establishing partnerships with US China Scitech Education Association, Beijing Institute of Education, and China Education Innovation Institute at Beijing Normal University.

For my career, the conference was held at Beijing Normal University where I intend to start my academic career at. Over the four days of conference, I met the Director of Human Resources of the School of Education at BNU, the Associate Dean of the School of Education, the director of the Centre for Research in Teacher Education, and the Associate Director of National Assessment of Education Quality and learned their hiring processes, potential opportunities, and the respective expectations for different positions.

This trip would not be possible without the support from the PDF Travel Award and I thank the Postdoctoral Fellows Office for their generous support.

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Dr. Farzam Fotovat

American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Annual Meeting – November 2016

The AIChE annual meeting is a great opportunity for the Chemical Engineering society of the world to gather and share their findings and experience in different areas of Chemical Engineering. Considering the reputation of the conference and high quality of the presented works, scientists working in the major chemical companies also participate in the meeting to get updates on the advancement in their research fields.

This year, it was my honor to attend the meeting and present our recent findings in the Fluidization Research Center of UBC on the relationship between entrainment and electrostatics in fluidized bed reactors, which a matter for industries such as energy or chemical production units dealing with such systems. With regards to my presentation topic, I had some constructive discussions with a couple of researchers from academia and industry, who were interested in our findings and they were working on similar areas. I also took advantage of the AIChE meeting to build up my network of the peer scholars and scientists coming from four corners of the world. Thanks to the diversity of the activities planned during the meeting, I enjoyed attending a workshop held for new faculty members or Ph.D. graduates who were looking for academic positions. This workshop was greatly helpful to learn the effective techniques of active learning, the principles of mentoring students, and the key success elements of new professors.

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Dr. Beniamin Zahirisabzevar

ECS Prime 2016 – October 2016

The PRiME conference is the largest conference in the field of electrochemistry which is held every 4 years. Researchers from around the world from all related fields attend this conference and present their recent development. The first day of the conference is dedicated to the plenary sessions regarding the industrial and technological advancement of topic including batteries, fuel cell and photocatalytic and photo-electrochemical cells.

The following days are categorized into several subsections related to the above mentioned topics as well as topics related to fundamentals of electrochemical analysis, new tool development and electrochemical synthesis methods of nanomaterials. Perhaps, the largest portion of the conference is dedicated to the fields of Li-ion batteries and polymer exchange fuel cells. Our group, at the UBC has been working on the fuel cell materials and diagnostics for over 10 years. Moreover, we have developed some novel tools for diagnostics purposes in the past 2 years. This presentation was a demonstration of the capabilities developed in our group to examine the nanometer scale interfaces present in fuel cell materials with the aid of electrochemistry. The talk received interest form the audience and in fact, we initiated few collaborative activities following this talk.

Potential applications for our methods were also explored by discussing the topic with researchers from fields including supercapacitors and porous media characterization.

Overall, presenting these results to such highly respected researchers from around the world and receiving instructive feedback will certainly help us enhance the capabilities of our method. Collaboration with these researchers will also help us explore the extent of the applicability of our method to other fields of science and technology.

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