PURE Funding Recipients

The offices of the Provost and Vice-President Academic, the Vice-President Research and Innovation, and the Vice-Principal, Research and Innovation (UBC Okanagan) are pleased to have supported the first funding recipients of the Program for Undergraduate Research Experience (PURE) in 2019. 

The January 2019 funding call for PURE sought innovative pilot projects that would broaden access to, and enhance undergraduate research experiences, in response to this key priority identified in UBC’s new strategic plan (Strategy 8 in Shaping UBC’s Next Century).

A steering committee across both campuses, composed of students, staff and faculty members and representatives of the Vice-President, Students; Vice-President, Academic and Vice-President, Research & Innovation offices developed the PURE call for proposals and received a total of 95 full applications from UBC’s two campuses.

Seventeen of these projects were funded, representing a 17.9% success rate and a total funding allocation of $1.3 million over two years, including $1M in strategic funds.  A summary of these projects is below.

The principal applicants of the funded projects included twelve faculty members, three staff members and two undergraduate students. Eight projects are led by women and nine are led by men. 

The projects were sponsored by a range of faculties, units and portfolios including Applied Science, Arts, Education, Forestry, Medicine, UBC Sauder, Science, Health and Social Development, CTLT, Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute, First Nations House of Learning, MOA, VP External and AVP International.  Fifteen of the 17 funded projects received two-year funding awards.

Funded Projects

Advanced Research Cohort (ARC) Program for Undergraduates in Sociology

The Program for Undergraduate Research Experience funding, will enable the Department of Sociology to create new opportunities for our majors to receive advanced training in research through course work and to engage in research through partnerships with faculty and local businesses and organizations. At the end of their second year, the top 40 percent of majors will be invited to apply to the Advanced Research Cohort (ARC) program. Selected students will take a rigorous six-credit course that will expose them to academic and applied sociological research models. The following summer they will engage in either additional research-focused course work that incorporates experiential learning, or be paired with a faculty member or organization in a paid research practicum. During the next academic year, students will participate in another years-long six-credit course where they will be supervised as they carry out their own research projects. Students will have the opportunity to present their research at a conference and will be encouraged to submit their work to an undergraduate research journal. In all, the intention of this program is to greatly expand the number of opportunities for undergraduates in Sociology to receive targeted training and experience engaging in research, and to increase the mentorship relationships between undergraduate students, faculty, graduate students, and alumni.

Applicant: Kerry Greer, Instructor, Sociology
Team Composition: Faculty, undergraduate students
Faculties/Units involved: Arts
Award Duration: 2 years

Climate Justice Research Collective

This project has been developed by students and staff from the new student-driven UBC Climate Hub, with support from faculty. The project will create new opportunities for undergraduate students to collaborate on research projects focused on climate change and climate justice. These projects will have the potential to support community-led efforts to adapt to life in a changing climate, and to contribute to the existing understanding of the climate crisis. Addressing this crisis requires collaborative, interdisciplinary action across sectors. Increasing the number of UBC students with the skills, knowledge, and motivation to take that action has never been more important.  

Applicant: William Orme, undergraduate student, Digital Projects Lead, UBC Climate Hub
Team Composition: Faculty, undergraduate students, graduate students, staff
Faculties/Units involved: Arts, Applied Sciences, Education, Forestry, Land and Food Systems, Sauder School of Business
Award Duration: 2 years

Combining Research Experience and Technical Electives for Undergraduates (CREATE-U)

Combining Research Experience and Technical Electives for Undergraduates (CREATE-U) is a proposed immersive, cohort-based research education experience.  The comprehensive program is designed to create new research opportunities in Mechanical Engineering (Mech) that are welcoming and accessible to all students.
CREATE-U has six major components:

  1. Generating interest in research;
  2. A pooled application process with an emphasis on diversity;
  3. Course 1 (3 credits): MECH 4XX Research Skills and Data Analysis;
  4. Course 2 (3 credits): MECH 4XX/5XX Research Communication;
  5. A research project work term within a Mech research lab, with support from graduate student mentors who will, in turn, receive training on mentorship, equity, diversity and inclusion;
  6. A supportive structure, including welcome events, networking lunches, and a fall poster session.

CREATE-U is unique as it integrates and coordinates coursework with individualized, authentic research lab experiences.  A supportive structure and courses with modern pedagogical practices help students bring together technical skills and knowledge with communication skills, interpersonal skills, ethics, equity, diversity and inclusion, and other key competencies.  Classroom topics can be immediately applied, and course learning outcomes (including a research poster presentation) encourage students to disseminate their work.

The program has been developed by a committee that includes students, staff, and faculty, in consultation with the Co-op program, alumni, and a broader group of students, staff, and faculty.

Applicant: Boris Stoeber, Professor, Associate Head, Mechanical Engineering
Co-applicant: Steven Rogak, Professor and Associate Head, Research and Graduate Studies, Mechanical Engineering
Team Composition: Faculty, undergraduate students, staff
Faculties/Units involved: Applied Science
Award Duration: 2 years

Decolonizing the African Collections and Displays at the UBC Museum of Anthropology

The Museum of Anthropology has a collection of about 5,000 objects of African provenance. But because over the years they have been obtained by donation, rather than through curatorial acquisition, we know relatively little about them. The descriptions we have for the objects are often devoid of proper historical and cultural context, and as a result the principal ways the museum presents objects – through displays and the museum’s online catalogue – are problematic at various levels. Our project will hire 32 undergraduates over two years and train them in historical and cultural research and in the latest approaches to museology so that together we can revise these object descriptions. In regular workshops, students will learn historical and ethnographic research methods, and then learn how to make this academic knowledge understandable to a wider public. Students will discuss their work at annual public symposia, at which we will also invite visiting scholars to speak, such as those involved in repatriation issues. Partners in the grant are several communities long interested in increasing the visibility of African Studies at UBC and in Vancouver: African Studies faculty, student groups such as the Africa Awareness Initiative and the UBC Black Student Union, and local advocacy group the Hogan’s Alley Society.

Applicant: Nuno Porto, Curator, Africa and South America, Museum of Anthropology
Co-applicant: David Morton, Assistant Professor, History
Team Composition: Staff, faculty, undergraduate students, external partners
Faculties/Units involved: Arts
Award Duration: 2 years


In collaboration with the Osoyoos Museum, this student-centered public history project will explore the land, people and industries of the rural community of Osoyoos, BC. The diverse population (indigenous peoples, settlers, immigrants) of 7,000 welcomes 100,000 tourists each year to a town noted for its orchards and vineyards. In a structured 14-day field course, students will engage in directed archival research in the museum and conduct REB-approved oral history interviews in the community on one of three themes: land/environment/agriculture, diverse peoples, and industry/tourism. Interviews will be deposited in the museum, and students will have the opportunity to publish their research. 

Applicant: Catherine Higgs, Professor, History and Sociology, Barber School
Team Composition: Faculty, external partners
Faculties/Units involved: Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences
Award Duration: 2 years

Experiential human rights research: Expanding & embedding undergrad research opportunities in partnership with Scholars at Risk

The project will create a sustainable program within the Faculty of Arts and ORICE that facilitates and increases the number of experiential research opportunities for undergraduates, in partnership with an international-community partner (Scholars at Risk Network, NYU). The Project Team will develop resources that allow instructional staff in multiple departments to integrate SAR human rights research projects into their courses in a range of different ways that speak to discipline/course specific learning outcomes. Specific deliverables include but are not limited to ‘Research Projects and Options “Menu”’, on-line resource tool-kit, as well as faculty training and information sessions. 

Applicant: Jenny Peterson, Instructor, Political Science
Co-applicant: Sunaina Assanand, Associate Dean- Student Success, Arts
Team Composition: Faculty, undergraduate students
Faculties/Units involved: Arts, Office of the AVP, International
Award Duration: 2 years

Indigenous Undergraduate Research Experience at xʷc̓ic̓əsəm

The Indigenous Undergraduate Research Experience (IURE) builds on existing partnerships, both on- and off-campus, to develop innovative research learning models and curricula focusing on Indigenous land-based research opportunities. The program will be based at Xʷc̓ic̓əsəm Garden at UBC Farm and will provide training in cultural competency, community engagement, community-based participatory research, and ethical and political dimensions of researching with Indigenous communities in B.C.

Students will be introduced to interdisciplinary and multi-method research design, research ethics, and project management. IURE contributes to the development of learning environments capable of connecting cross-cultural knowledge and expanding our collective understanding of Indigenous communities and research processes.

The IURE is an innovative program that will promote the building of community relationships and environments to sustain culturally appropriate translation, access, mobilization, and usage of traditional knowledge. The program is a response to critical theoretical debates and the needs for adequate Indigenous research, training in cultural competency, and access to culturally restorative education capable of generating Indigenous scholarship by examining place-based expressions of Indigenous knowledge and learning.

UBC partners in IURE include the Faculty of Land and Food Systems (LFS), First Nations House of Learning, Faculty of Education Office of Indigenous Education,  LFS Learning Centre, and the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology Indigenous Initiatives.

Applicant: Eduardo Jovel, Director, Land and Food Systems Indigenous Research Partnerships
Co-applicant: Margaret Moss, Director, First Nations House of Learning
Team Composition: Faculty, staff
Faculties/Units involved: Land and Food Systems, Education, First Nations House of Learning, CTLT
Award Duration: 2 years

INtegrated undergraduate Student Program In Research Education (INSPIRE)

BC Children's Hospital Research Institute’s "INtegrated undergraduate Student Program In Research Education" (INSPIRE) program will broaden accessibility to, and enhance the undergraduate research experience. The program aims to (1) improve access to research opportunities at BC Children’s Hospital (2) increase student engagement and exposure to research across disciplines and (3) provide a training curriculum that builds on research skills, academic/career development and professional life skills.

Applicant: Soren Grant, Associate Professor, Medicine
Team Composition: Faculty, undergraduate students, staff
Faculties/Units involved: Medicine
Award Duration: 2 years

Interdisciplinary Applied Research Initiative: Enhancing Urban Biodiversity in a Changing Climate

Institutions serve a critical role to produce impactful and inclusive research that contributes to alleviating society’s most pressing challenges. The global crisis of biodiversity loss, exacerbated by urbanization and climate change, is threatening the ecological, social, and economic systems that sustain us. The complexity of this challenge demands new, interdisciplinary, and inclusive approaches to co-create solutions that maintain and enhance biodiversity in a changing climate. UBC, with its Campus as a Living Laboratory and extensive local and global networks, serves as a societal testbed where students lead this research with transformative impacts towards a better world. The SEEDS Sustainability Program supports student-led research projects in collaboration with faculty, staff and community to advance sustainability ideas, policies and practices and create societal impact.

SEEDS will work with the Faculties of Forestry, Arts and Science, Campus Biodiversity Initiative: Research and Demonstration and other core partners from across UBC and the region to launch a collaborative 2 year pilot project: Interdisciplinary Applied Research Initiative: Enhancing Urban Biodiversity in a Changing Climate. Objectives include: 1) New curricular and co-curricular pathways of faculty and student engagement in interdisciplinary research; 2) A Knowledge Exchange Lab for demand-driven student research focused on biodiversity in a changing climate; and 3) An inclusive research design and engagement model. Funding for this new initiative will deliver innovative and impactful research to advance UBC’s sustainability priorities, while expanding and enriching undergraduate research and learning experiences in addressing societal issues. 

Applicant: Liska Richer, Manager, SEEDS Sustainability Program
Co-applicant: Susan Day, Professor, Forest Resources Management
Team Composition: Faculty, undergraduate students, staff
Faculties/Units involved: VP External Relations, Forestry, Arts, Science
Award Duration: 2 years

Multidisciplinary Undergraduate 3 Minute Thesis (3MT)

The 3-minute thesis (3MT), pioneered by the University of Queensland is a presentation in which competitors have three minutes to present the key concepts of their thesis in non-technical language to a general audience. This format helps build a foundational ability to explain their often-complex work and encourages presenters to think about how their research is relevant to the general public using non-specialist language.  While such events are common for graduate level theses, no such forum currently exists at UBC for undergraduate theses. We will host a multidisciplinary live 3MT event for undergraduate students enrolled in a directed studies or honours thesis research project from all faculties across UBC Vancouver.  The audience for the live event will be comprised of mainly undergraduate students and will serve to help inspire and educate junior students about the senior level undergraduate research options.  Moreover, this event will shed a light on the incredible research contributions made by undergraduate students and will showcase the diversity and richness of research at UBC.

Applicant: Che-Min Lee, Undergraduate student, Biochemistry
Co-applicant: Scott Covey, Senior Instructor, Biochemistry
Team Composition: Faculty, undergraduate student, staff
Faculties/Units involved: Science
Award Duration: 1 year


MURPH is exceptionally designed to engage undergraduate students in highly interdisciplinary research projects that incorporate collaborative and experiential learning techniques, that are not typical to individual training programs. Through MURPH, multiple research institutions and departments will collaboratively create a unique setting for students to work on health-related applied research projects and receive hands-on, multi-lab research experience and mentorship. The core component of MURPH includes project teams comprised of multiple Undergraduate Research Scholars (to be awarded each year as MURPH UR Scholars) and principal investigators from different faculties addressing cutting-edge research questions that call for interdisciplinary collaboration among faculty and students.

Applicant: Mahdi Takaffoli, Research Engineer, Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute
Team Composition: Faculty, staff
Faculties/Units involved: Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute; Institute for Healthy Living & Chronic Disease Prevention;  Centre for Heart, Lung & Vascular Health;  Southern Medical Program;  Faculty of Health and Social Development; School of Engineering
Award Duration: 2 years

Participant Research on Videogame Environments (PROVE)

Videogames are one of the most significant creative industries of the 21st century. Participant-action Research on Videogame Environments (PROVE), brings together a critical mass of undergraduate women and other minorities interested in studying videogames. This participant driven, action research will support students’ acquisition of skills and competencies that will contribute to research and scholarship on videogames. The project will make an important intervention in what continues to be a domain dominated by men who make, play and write about videogames, providing UBC students with an opportunity to participate in this important cultural medium.

Applicant: Jennifer Jenson, Professor, Language and Literacy Education
Co-applicant: Janice Stewart, Senior Instructor, The Social Justice Institute
Team Composition: Faculty
Faculties/Units involved: Arts, Education
Award Duration: 1 year

Punjabi Studies Oral History Research Project and Program Development

This project will develop curricular materials in support of the class-based Punjabi Studies Oral History Program at UBC, and provide opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to get involved in a SSHRC-funded faculty research project. The Oral History Program has proceeded sporadically in different forms as an undergraduate teaching initiative since 2010 with minimal and occasional targeted funding support (http://blogs.ubc.ca/punjabisikhstudies/oral-history/intro/) PURE funding will support the development of new curricular resources and curriculum models for the teaching of oral history in UBC classes, and train and hire UBC undergraduates to engage in oral history interviews in support of UBC faculty research, providing a testing ground for new curricular materials. The initiative will thus bring existing initiatives to larger scale and allow for greater development, and will link the work directly to ongoing faculty research. The project as proposed will therefore have immediate research results, involving undergraduate students, and will allow the development of curricular materials and approaches that will be utilized in an ongoing commitment to undergraduate research in UBC classes.

Applicant: Anne Murphy, Associate Professor, Asian Studies
Team Composition: Faculty, undergraduate students, graduate students
Faculties/Units involved: Arts
Award Duration: 2 years

PUREs for CUREs: Development of a Suite of Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences

Course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) are scalable pedagogical approaches that address the need for quality undergraduate research experiences (UREs). Over the past 18 years, the Department of Microbiology and Immunology has developed a model CURE titled MICB 421 which focuses on molecular microbiology. In MICB 421, students derive original research questions, draft a research proposal, carry out experiments in the laboratory, and disseminate their findings in our department’s undergraduate research journal and undergraduate research symposium. The course operates in a feed-forward manner where research papers published by former students in the course serve as launch points for new research questions.  In addition to engaging in authentic scientific research, students learn to work in teams, independently manage a project, and develop multiple forms of communication. This initiative leverages the success of the MICB 421 model to build an expanded suite of CUREs focused on immunology, biotechnology, bioinformatics, and environmental microbiology. The project funds a post doctoral teaching and learning fellow who will contribute to the operation our current lab courses and work closely with Instructors to develop new courses. Taking place in four phases involving planning, course design, implementation, assessment, we will create new cutting-edge, high-quality UREs for UBC undergraduate students, adding approximately 176 new UREs to our current tally of approximately 121 to generate a total of 297 UREs within our program. Evaluation of this new project will be carried out and the results will be shared with the broader educational community.

Applicant: David Oliver, Instructor, Microbiology and Immunology
Co-applicant: Marcia Graves, Instructor, Microbiology and Immunology
Team Composition: Faculty
Faculties/Units involved: Science
Award Duration: 2 years

Sustainability Science: An immersive research training experience in socio-ecological systems

We will provide an immersive research training experience in socio-ecological systems for undergraduate students from multiple faculties at UBC through the development of a new interdisciplinary research training course (SCIE 3XX) offering mentored, scaffolded, and collaborative undergraduate research opportunities. This project will build training and mentorship opportunities for post-doctoral teaching fellows and graduate student mentors, and team-based peer learning opportunities in collaboration with IRES Research Faculty and three UBC Research Excellence Clusters (Diversified Agroecosystems, Biodiversity, and Environmental Justice). Our overall aim is to build on UBC’s strengths in sustainability science and interdisciplinarity, and encourage undergraduate participation in this research ecosystem. 

Applicant: Amanda Giang, Assistant Professor, IRES and Mechanical Engineering
Co-applicant: Hannah Wittman, Professor, IRES and Land and Food Systems
Team Composition: Faculty, postdoctoral fellow
Faculties/Units involved: Science
Award Duration: 2 years

Undergraduate Research Rotation in Balance Assessment and Rehabilitation

Falls and associated balance problems place significant health, social, and financial burdens on society, with falls being the leading cause of accidental death and hospitalization in Canada. A multi-disciplinary approach to studying the sensorimotor principles underlying standing balance and related deficits and falls that integrates mechanistic and clinical sciences is urgently needed. We propose to train undergraduate students in distinct and complementary research environments related to balance research. The proposed training program will provide undergraduate students with a novel, multidisciplinary research experience across a number of world leading balance laboratories at UBC. We will emphasize collaborative and multidisciplinary research training at both UBC campuses and promote equity, diversity, and inclusion in STEM fields. Through the proposed ground level training, we will expose the leaders of tomorrow to multidisciplinary approaches related to balance research and rehabilitation, and involve them in developing innovative solutions to solve critical societal problems. The undergraduate students will interact with researchers from the UBC-funded Origins of Balance Deficits and Falls Research Cluster, capitalizing on well-established networking and integrated research capabilities, theoretical backgrounds, and institutions. Through the program, undergraduate students will acquire skills necessary for their success in a variety of future careers, including industrial, clinical, and academic fields.

Applicant:  Jean-Sébastien Blouin, Professor, School of Kinesiology
Co-applicant: Michael Hunt, Associate Professor, Physical Therapy/Medicine
Team Composition: Faculty
Faculties/Units involved: Education, Medicine
Award Duration: 2 years

Understanding and Strengthening Indigenous Student Engagement in Psychology

An inclusive and equitable society means all members in society have equitable opportunities and outcomes. Our society does not meet that standard, partly due to the disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada in terms of university participation. Previous work has uncovered general trends regarding barriers to academic engagement in university amongst Indigenous students across several countries, particularly Canada, U.S., Australia, and New Zealand. While such work is instrumental in identifying broad themes that impact Indigenous students’ engagement with postsecondary institutions, particular fields may pose particular problems that do not emerge as a consistent theme. In light of this issue, our project will examine barriers to Indigenous university academic engagement within one of the more popular programs among Indigenous students at UBC – the Department of Psychology. This will inform the Department of Psychology’s future policies and community practices to make its programming more inclusive and safe, particularly for Indigenous students. It is also our goal to establish a group within the department that will be responsible for maintaining a sustainable feedback mechanism with Indigenous students in Psychology. We believe that outcomes from this project allow the Department of Psychology to create safer classroom climates, and can serve as a template for future examinations of field-specific challenges that Indigenous students face across the campus.

Applicant: Benjamin Cheung, Lecturer, Psychology
Co-applicant: Taralynn Morgan, Undergraduate Student, Psychology
Team Composition: Faculty, undergraduate students
Faculties/Units involved: Arts
Award Duration: 2 years