UBC Reports
October 16, 1997

Engineer wins B.C. award

Metals, medicine and mobility.

These are the fields of expertise of three members of UBC's community who will receive Science Council of B.C. awards at the B.C. Science and Technology Awards Dinner Oct. 20.

Metals and Materials Engineering Prof. Indira Samarasekera will receive the New Frontiers in Research Award, while UBC alumni Gary Birch and Dr. Bill Hunter will receive the Young Innovator Award and Industrial Innovation Award respectively.

Samarasekera, who holds the $1.5-million Dofasco Chair in Steel Processing, explores factors influencing the processing of metals and other materials, so that existing processes can be improved or new processes implemented.

Samarasekera and her team have developed mathematical models to predict the mechanical properties of hot-rolled steel, and have studied the causes of defects in the widely used continuous steel casting process.

The mathematical models are being tested at 14 steel companies in the U.S. and Canada.

She and her research team have also made significant contributions in the processing of aluminum, zinc, metal-matrix composite materials and semi-conductors such as gallium arsenide. Each has been a complex problem, whose solution involved detailed analysis of heat flow and stress. In every case, her results have been directly applicable to industry.

Gary Birch graduated from UBC in 1988 with a PhD in electrical engineering. Now executive director and director of research and development at the Neil Squire Foundation in Burnaby, Birch has become a well-known developer of new computer-based technologies and robotic systems for the disabled.

Birch is also an adjunct professor in electrical and computer engineering at SFU and UBC.

Bill Hunter was still a UBC medical student when he helped found Angiotech Pharmaceuticals Inc. in 1992. He saw an opportunity to develop and commercialize novel research for chronic inflammatory diseases, and diseases dependent on angiogenesis (the process of new blood formation).

Now, less than five years later, his Vancouver-based company is valued at approximately $100 million and employs 36 people. The company also has 10 active research collaborations and holds eight patents.