International Scholars Find Their Place

World Map for UBC International Scholars
Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows come from all over the world to pursue innovative research, explore advanced interdisciplinary learning and contribute to UBC's diverse, intercultural community. Meet just a few of our international graduate scholars whose research inspires and influences new thinking around the world.
“Our graduate students come to UBC from over 100 countries around the world. These students' graduate work may be anchored here at UBC, but their educational experiences, influence and networks truly span the globe.”
Dr. Jenny Phelps, Assistant Dean, Student Administration and Strategic Initiatives
“We are grateful and very proud that UBC has attracted outstanding graduate students from around the world. These individuals not only play critical roles in creating new knowledge that benefits our world, but they contribute immeasurably to the richness and diversity of our own intellectual community at UBC.”
Dr. Susan Porter, Dean and Vice-Provost, UBC Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies
AJung Moon
Nathan Furey
Jaqueline Davis
Ehsan Mohammadi Zahrani
Tofiqul Islam
Juliana Negreiros
Kathi Unglert
Julian Yates
Sophie Webber
Dada Docot
Nilufar Islam
Yuanshen Huang

AJung Moon

  • Faculty: Applied Science
  • Country: Korea, South
  • State/Province: Gyeongsangnam-do
  • Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering (PhD)
  • Started program at UBC in: 2012
  • Research topic: Human Robot Interaction and Roboethics
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I hope to contribute to the field of human-robot interaction and roboethics (study of ethical, legal, and societal issues pertaining to robotics) by introducing a new paradigm of interaction that allows flexible, shared decision making.”

About AJung's Research

People share spaces and objects with each other every day. When conflicts regarding access to these shared resources occur, people communicate with each other to negotiate a solution. But what should a robot do when such conflicts occur between a human and a robotic assistant? Answers to this question depend on the context of the situation. In order for robots to be successfully deployed in homes and workplaces, it is important for robots to be equipped with the ability to make socially and morally acceptable decisions about the conflict at hand. However, robots today are not very good at making such decisions. The objective of my research is to investigate an interactive paradigm of human-robot conflict resolution that does not involve complicated, artificial moral decision making. I am currently working on a robotic system that can communicatively negotiate about resource conflicts with its human partner using nonverbal gestures.

Why UBC?

While I was pursuing my master's degree at UBC, I started an international organization called the Open Roboethics initiative (ORi) that aims to raise public awareness of roboethics issues (i.e. ethical, societal, and legal issues pertaining to robotics technology) and to better incorporate stakeholder discussions into design. I've decided to stay at UBC for my PhD in order to continue to work with the world-class roboethics experts and roboticists who helped start the organization.

Nathan Furey

  • Faculty: Faculty of Forestry
  • Country: USA
  • State/Province: New York
  • Home town: Smyrna
  • Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Forestry (PhD)
  • Research topic: Quantitative analysis and simulation of salmon smolt migrations
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Not to sound too cliché, but with graduate school, you really get out of the experience what you put in. Don't be afraid to aim big, but also keep in mind that your ultimate goal is to learn and be a better scientist.”

About Nathan's Research

Salmon are of great economic value to Canada and many other nations. These diadromous species spawn in freshwater, where juveniles rear for up to three years prior to becoming "smolts". Smolts then migrate to the ocean where they stay for up to three years prior to returning as adults to spawn in freshwater. Although migrations of thousands of individuals have been tracked using acoustic telemetry, we know little as to the factors impacting smolt migration success. To investigate factors influencing smolt migration survival, quantitative models will be developed. First, existing telemetry data will be combined with geospatial information regarding climate and environmental conditions to develop empirical models relating migration survival to experienced hydrology and oceanography. Secondly, a large-scale individual-based model (IBM) will be developed to simulate smolt migrations to better understand movement behaviours of smolts, as well as to understand the potential impacts of various climate change scenarios.

Why UBC?

What drew me in to UBC were the incredible opportunities in terms of types of research, data, and networking or collaborative opportunities. I simply felt that coming into the research group would provide the optimal environment to be successful in terms of obtaining skills, conducting high-quality research that can advance scientific knowledge, and meeting and working with other experts that can not only help my graduate research but also assist in moving my career forward.

Jacqueline Davis

  • Faculty: Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies
  • Country: United States
  • Home town: Temple
  • State/Province: New Hampshire
  • Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies (PhD)
  • Started program at UBC in: 2012
  • Research topic: Youth development through circus-based physical activity
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Living in Vancouver is a huge part of my UBC experience. I find the physical beauty of this place utterly inspiring — I feel limitless personal potential looking out on the mountains or across the waters, or walking amid the huge, stately trees that have played such an important role in indigenous cultural life here.”

About Jacqueline's Research

My research interests lie in exploring the relationship between circus-based physical activities and positive youth outcomes. I hypothesize that youth circus activities markedly benefit physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development in young people. Using self-determination theory as a lens, I am designing a stratified, randomized control trial with pre and post-intervention assessment to compare children in an afterschool circus program, sport program, and no program to measure participants' physical fitness, executive functions, social/emotional competency, psychological need satisfaction, and motivation. Evidence from this study could point to a new paradigm for positive development for youth of all ages and abilities.

Why UBC?

In a way, UBC chose me. While I was at Harvard I had my first conversation with my future UBC advisor who invited me to do a PhD with her — I had not even thought of that yet. I filed that in the back of my mind and searched for a doctoral program closer to home. Nothing met my needs. UBC's Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program is a perfect fit — there's nothing like it in the United States.

Ehsan Mohammadi Zahrani

  • Faculty: Faculty of Applied Science
  • Country: Iran
  • Home town: Esfahan
  • Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Materials Engineering (PhD)
  • Started program at UBC in: 2009
  • Research topic: Electrochemical Behavior and Corrosion Properties of Advance Materials
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UBC offers an excellent environment for academic and social growth to the student. Therefore, I firmly believe that it is crucial for students to try making contributions not only in academic research work, but also in social and extracurricular activities at this university, in order to grow their leadership ability.”

About Ehsan's Research

My research has been mainly focused on electrochemical behavior and corrosion properties of advanced materials for hard tissue human body implants and drug delivery applications.

Why UBC?

I had several opportunities around the world to continue my study toward a PhD, but I selected UBC as my final destination since the Corrosion Research Group of the Materials Engineering Department, led by professor Alfantazi, is one of the most prestigious and leading research groups in the world in the area of corrosion. It has been my golden opportunity to be able to find an outstanding professor in this world-class leading research group to support me in doing research in the area of my interest.

Toufiqul Islam

  • Faculty: Faculty of Applied Science
  • Country: Bangladesh
  • Home town: Dhaka
  • Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Electrical and Computer Engineering (PhD)
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The communications research scope in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department at UBC is among the world's best.”

About Toufiqul's Research

My research focus is on design and analysis of cooperative diversity in wireless networks. Cooperative diversity systems employ relays to increase data rate and reliability of wireless networks. Cooperative diversity schemes have tremendous potential to be considered for next generation broadband wireless communication systems.

On Graduate Life

Well, I find grad life challenging as well as interesting. During the course of my study, I have met students of different races and cultures which is a unique experience. The spectacular UBC campus, calm blue ocean beside, view of snow-capped nearby mountains refresh my mind whenever I find myself overloaded with my grad studies.

Juliana Negreiros

  • Faculty: Faculty of Education
  • Country: Brazil
  • Home town: Sao Paulo
  • Program: Doctor of Philosophy in School Psychology (PhD)
  • Started program at UBC in: 2007
  • Research topic: Pediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder
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UBC Grad School? Be ready to study very hard and to challenge yourself. Studying abroad is not easy, but it has been the best learning experience that I have ever had.”

About Juliana's Research

I am interested in investigating potential neuropsychological and cognitive dysfunctions in children with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and to gain a better understanding about the heritability of cognitive and neuropsychological traits in OCD. Having more evidence about the neuropsychological and cognitive profile of children with OCD may enhance our understanding about specific processes associated with the disorder, as well as increase treatment effectiveness, including improvements in OCD severity and individual and family overall functioning.

Why UBC?

I chose to live in BC because of the climate and beautiful nature, and I decided to study at UBC because of the richness of the School Psychology program.

Kathi Unglert

  • Faculty: Faculty of Science
  • Country: Germany
  • Home town: Landsberg am Lech
  • Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Geophysics (PhD)
  • Started program at UBC in: 2011
  • Research topic: Using Volcanic Tremor as a Tool for Eruption Forecasting
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The best surprise were all the opportunities to get involved at UBC and in Vancouver. I really enjoy science outreach and love the fact that I can promote Earth Sciences in the Pacific Museum of the Earth or through Let's Talk Science.”

About Kathi's Research

Volcanic tremor is a type of earthquake that occurs on volcanoes around the world. The source mechanism of this type of earthquake is potentially linked to moving magma or hydrothermal fluids, and its occurrence is often interpreted as an eruption precursor. However, the exact source mechanism behind volcanic tremor remains under debate. I examine time series of volcano monitoring data (e.g. GPS measurements, seismograms) to characterize volcanic tremor on selected volcanoes in Hawaii, Alaska, Central/South American and Europe. I use classical time series analysis and machine learning to identify global patterns in volcanic tremor.

Why UBC?

UBC is great for Earth Sciences. My group here has a broad range of research interests and thinking outside of the box is encouraged. My supervisor's focus is fluid mechanics, a field that I previously knew nothing about. I loved the challenge that comes with this new research field, and the fact that I can combine it with seismology and geodesy, the research areas I am familiar with.

Julian Yates

  • Faculty: Faculty of Arts
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Home town: Rugby
  • State/Proince: Warwickshire
  • Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Geography (PhD)
  • Started program at UBC in: 2010
  • Research topic: Diverse livelihoods and new institutional arrangements in the Peruvian Andes
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A graduate degree offers not only freedom of research, but also the chance to tackle the most important issues that face contemporary society.”

About Julian's Research

The aim of my doctoral research is to advance understanding of the dynamic nature of livelihood institutions (understood as systems of rules pertaining to human and non-human actors) in the Peruvian Andes. In what ways do institutions emerge and re-emerge to facilitate the adaptation of Andean socio-natural livelihoods to shifting structural and biophysical contexts (such as political economic change, changing governance mechanisms, and climate change)? My research will contribute to a more thorough empirical and theoretical understanding of whether a particular "Andean way" (Andinidad) plays a role in the co-constitution of diverse socio-natural livelihoods. I explore this notion of Andinidad via the case of the kamayoq, who are indigenous, community-based ‘specialists’ within programmes farmer-to-farmer agricultural extension (extending agricultural techniques via peer-to-peer communication methods), which are implemented largely by non-governmental organisations (NGOs). 

Why UBC?

UBC's geography department is consistently ranked among the best in the world. My supervisor, Dr. Karen Bakker, is an expert on issues of water governance in Canada, the UK, and beyond. She was recently promoted to the Canada Chair position for Political Ecology, and was featured in the Globe and Mail's "top 40 under 40".

Sophie Webber

  • Faculty: Faculty of Arts
  • Country: Australia
  • Home town: Melbourne
  • State/Province: Victoria
  • Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Geography (PhD)
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I decided to pursue a graduate degree because I love learning, thinking, and discovering. I am also passionate about, and endlessly intrigued by, both my discipline and my specific research. Graduate study was a wonderful way to keep exploring.”

About Sophie's Research

My research aims to determine how the climate change adaptation 'industry' — an assemblage of government, consulting, scientists, global agencies, and international financiers and donors — establishes itself, how it operates, and what some of the political-economic effects of the industry are. I look to key sites of the industry: Pacific Islands where experiments in climate change adaptation are rife, and the World Bank offices in Sydney. In these sites, I will examine the new Green Climate Fund, a UNFCCC institution that aims to disperse US$100 billion annually for climate initiatives through the World Bank. Specifically, I will ask four key questions: (i) what mobile ideas, expertise and truth claims sustain the ecology of climate change adaptation projects, and how; (ii) how are expertise and finance co-constituted; (iii) how does 'successful' climate change adaptation travel and embed itself locally; and (iv) what are the effects of these projects?

Why UBC?

The Geography graduate program at UBC is fantastic: huge, vibrant, exciting, and intellectually stimulating. I wanted to leave Australia to study for many reasons, but I was extremely lucky to end up here.

Dada Docot

  • Faculty: Faculty of Arts
  • Country: Philippines
  • Research topic: Filipino migration to Japan
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There are so many resources within UBC of which students can take advantage. For example The Liu Institute for Global Issues has made possible the creation of the Philippine Studies Series, a group which aims to bring to UBC the discussion of Philippine-related issues. Through the Philippine Studies Series I have met many wonderful individuals who share my interests.”

About Dada's Research

My research will focus on the study of Filipino women who now reside in Japan. It will reflect on migration patterns in both the Philippines and Japan, looking to reveal the shifts in what was previously predominantly an America-bound emigration pattern. I intend to particularly focus on migrants hailing from my hometown in the Philippines and to understand the intricacies of their life through the lenses of feminization of work, national and global policy, the idealization of migration in everyday life, etc. This research is a continuation of my long-time interest in the study of Filipino women in Japan, and of the filming of the everyday life of Filipinos engaged in international migration.

Why UBC?

The Ethnographic Film Unit that is hosted by our Department, the very strong Japanese Studies program at the Asian Center, and of course, the opportunity to work with my research supervisor, all encouraged me to come to UBC. I had also heard many positive things about the Department of Anthropology at UBC — for one, that it is located just beside the world-famous Museum of Anthropology.
Nilufar Islam

Nilufar Islam

  • Faculty: Faculty of Applied Science, School of Engineering, UBC Okanagan
  • Country: Bangladesh
  • Home town: Rajshahi
  • Research topic: The impact of disinfection byproducts (DBPs) on the safety of water distribution networks
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Winning the Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) will help me continue my research into methods to improve water distribution networks. I want to find a way to ensure all households, especially those in small communities, receive safe drinking water. The award will help me achieve that goal.”

About Nilufar's Research

Chlorination is needed to keep drinking water safe. But once it is chlorinated, naturally-occurring organic materials in the water react with the chlorine and produce chemicals called disinfection byproducts (DBPs). High levels of DBPs in drinking water have been associated with health risks such as cancer and reproductive disorders. Finding the correct balance between microbial and chemical water quality is essential, and quite often water quality diminishes the further it gets from the chlorination source. Essentially, while a house near a water supply may have the correct amount of chlorine, a house further away — where water travels a greater distance in pipelines — might need more. But if more chlorine is added to the main water supply, the DBPs may become dangerously high for homes closest to the water supply. I’m investigating booster chlorination at specific places along the water supply route, which may improve water quality.

Why UBC Okanagan?

Initially I applied to UBC for my Master of Applied Science because of the university’s high rankings. I accepted and chose UBC’s Okanagan campus for my PhD because of the quality and level of interaction I’m able to have with my research supervisors. From my first interaction with the School of Engineering, through to my research today, faculty members provided the guidance and support I need to further my academic career. I meet with Dr. Sadiq almost each week for guidance on my research. Under his advice I’ve attended conferences, joined networks, applied for, and received awards including the Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

Yuanshen Huang

  • Faculty: Faculty of Medicine
  • Country: China
  • Home town: Beihai
  • State/Province: Guangxi
  • Started program at UBC in: 2010
  • Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Experimental Medicine (PhD)
  • Research topic: The role of the TOX molecule in the development of skin lymphomas
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I was pleasantly surprised that every bit of the academic excellence and natural beauty of UBC that I heard about actually turned out to be true! In addition, the cultural diversity made me feel right at home.”

About Yuanshen's Research

Our lab studies how cancer-specific genes cause the malignant behaviors of skin cancers such as skin lymphomas and melanomas. The ultimate goal is to use these molecules to develop better diagnostic methods and more effective therapies for these cancers. In particular, my project is centered on a molecule called TOX (thymocyte selection associated high mobility box) that we found to be abnormally switched on in the skin lymphoma cells. By turning off TOX in my experiments, markedly decreased growth rate and accelerated speed of cell death of the lymphoma cells were observed, suggesting that TOX plays a critical role in the development of skin lymphomas.

Why UBC?

UBC is a natural choice for me for many reasons. There are two most important reasons: first, UBC has a rich tradition and an outstanding reputation as a leader in biomedical research; second, Dr. Youwen Zhou presented a research talk on skin lymphomas in Peking University where I was studying clinical dermatology. As a result, I became interested in skin lymphoma research and decided to become a graduate student in his laboratory at UBC.