Over $3 million awarded to UBC scientists to provide job-related training

The National Science and Engineering Counsel of Canada has awarded certain UBC students and postdoctoral fellows over $3 million in an effort to equip these scientists with skills for the workforce.

The grant, given to two programs that will each receive $1.65 million, is part of a $28 million investment for training graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The initiative is known as the Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE).

“It’s a training program to try to generate resources for students, whether they’re at the undergraduate, graduate or postdoctoral levels to have the support necessary to specialize in a certain area of knowledge,” said Steven Hallam, associate professor in microbiology and immunology and director of the ECOSCOPE program that won one of the grants.

Another $1.65 million went to a program led by Paul Pavlidis, professor in the psychiatry department and centre for high-throughput biology.

“What [students would] be getting training in is a mixture of what we call data science and also biology,” said Pavlidis. “Students who have this kind of training would learn computer science, statistics, genetics, genomics.”

While the CREATE initiative supports various areas of research, the overarching goal is to combine or translate research knowledge into job-related abilities.

Hallam sees no reason why British Columbia couldn’t be competitive with Silicon Valley in terms of participation in the bio-economy. The ECOSCOPE program teaches students to translate what is learned by researching the environment into commercial ventures.

“We want it to have a very positive effect on the local economy in terms of new ventures that come out and bio-entrepreneurs is a word that described potential graduates of [Hallam's] program,” said Vikramaditya Yadav, assistant professor in chemical and biological engineering.

“We’re gonna put a lot of resources into internships, trying to connect students with companies, so that they can both experience, have a start up experience, gain that kind of perspective and possibly also get them primed for placement,” said Hallam. “The money’s primarily gonna be used to support those students”

Similarly, students in the training Program in high-dimensional boinformatics led by Paul Pavlidis will be trained to meet an increasing demand in the workplace.

“Because biology generates very large datasets routinely … there’s lots of different application areas for that and very high demand, people can analyze that data, high demand in industry as well as academia,” said Pavlidis.

The $1.65 million granted to each team will be given over the next six years.