News & Notes, Milestones

News & Notes

Discovery Grants Support Wide-Ranging LFS Research Programs

From investigating the impact of diet on the body’s cells, to understanding mood states in animals, to protecting plants from disease and drought, LFS research is diverse and exciting.

Six researchers were successful in this year’s NSERC Discovery Grants program, which supports ongoing, long-term research programs. It recognizes the creativity and innovation that are at the heart of all research advances. Congratulations to these faculty members who were each awarded the maximum term of five years of funding:

  • Alexandra Protopopova – Intra-species variation in dogs (Canis lupus familiaris): Testing the Pace-of-Life Syndrome hypothesis. ($140,000)
  • Barbara Stefanska – Diet and the epigenome: Investigating the impact of the environment on cell biology. ($205,000)
  • Gurcharn Singh Brar – Exploring effectors in Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici and identifying new sources of host resistance. ($165,000)
  • Marina Von Keyserlingk – Mood states in animals, exploring individual and external factors that promote resilience. ($275,000)
  • Simone Castellarin – Metabolic responses of the grape (Vitis vinifera L.) berry to environmental stimuli. ($275,000)
  • Thorsten Knipfer – The sequence of drought-induced physiological and anatomical events in woody perennial crops. ($190,000)

Growing a Farm, a new podcast from UBC Farm

“The Farm wasn’t saved by faculty members. It wasn’t saved by administrators. It was saved by students.” – Art Bomke, Associate Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Land and Food Systems

Today, the UBC Farm is a feature of the UBC Vancouver campus, a backyard greenspace and local food hub for the new residents of Wesbrook Village, as well as an important place of interdisciplinary research and experiential learning for UBC students and faculty.

Twenty years ago, south campus looked very different. Among a scattering of empty buildings and some remaining cattle, sheep, quail and poultry, there was derelict farmland, 24 hectares of field and forest with research projects running but not much else, but a group of students saw the potential.

Growing A Farm: the Journey of the UBC Farm, is a limited podcast series that tells the story of the beginnings of the Farm in 2001 and the against-the-odds story of saving it.

The podcast is hosted by current LFS student, Anisha Sandhu, who wanted to explore the Farm’s history on its 20th anniversary by speaking to the students, staff and faculty members who were key to turning a vision into reality.

Over two episodes, we find out how they started a movement to prove the value of UBC Farm.

Find out more and ways to listen at


Engineering a New Solution to Harvest Crops

Assistant Professor John Frostad (LFS and Chemical and Biological Engineering), LFS Associate Professor Andrew Riseman, and Professor Mark MacLachlan (Chemistry) were awarded a New Frontiers in Research Fund 2020 Exploration award. Frostad is leading their project titled Catcher of the Rye: Spray-on Netting for Increasing Yield in Grain Harvesting. They propose an engineering solution to help farmers increase yield and reduce losses in grain and oil-seed crops by using a spray-on netting material that would solidify on the crops temporarily, physically preventing seed shattering (and seeds falling to the ground) until the optimal time to harvest mature crops.

Graduate Student Wins Vanier Canada Scholarship

PhD candidate Hadis Mozaffari was awarded a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, a program that recognizes leading doctoral students. Mozaffari’s research is in Human Nutrition where she is studying the impact of dietary diversity on Type 2 diabetes. Her supervisor is Assistant Professor Annalijn Conklin from Pharmaceutical Sciences, who is an Associate Member of LFS’s Human Nutrition group.

BCKDF Funds Outfit New Research Labs in LFS and Science

BC Knowledge and Development Fund (BCKDF), which invests in state-of-the-art research spaces to support innovation and industry collaborations, has co-funded three LFS lab projects: MiDAS Microbial Diversity Expansion for Applied Sciences (Principal Investigators are Vivien Measday, Wine Research Centre and Thibault Mayor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology); Laboratory for Human-Animal Interaction and Companion Animal Welfare (Principal Investigator is Sasha Protopopova from the Animal Welfare Program); and, the Plant-Pollinator and Global Change Lab (Principal Investigator is Risa Sargent from Applied Biology).

Industry and LFS Partner to Study Grain Diseases

LFS Assistant Professor Gurcharn Brar and Associate Professor Cara Haney (Department of Microbiology and Immunology), were awarded an NSERC-Alliance grant. This project will use portable genome sequencers to manage microbiome-based diseases in wheat and barley. Industry partners are Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission, Alberta Wheat Commission, and Saskatchewan Barley Development Commission.

Dietetics Research to Focus on Maternal Care

Assistant Professor Tamara Cohen will co-lead a project called Conversation Cards for Moms: A mixed methods study to create and evaluate a new clinical tool for use in maternity care settings. She is Co-Principal Investigator with Assistant Professor Angela Alberga (Concordia University) with funding partners from the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, Obesity Canada, Concordia University (Montreal, QC) and UBC. They were awarded funding through the 2020 Early Career Investigator in Maternal, Reproductive, Child and Youth Health CIHR Operating Grant.

Canada Research Chairs (CRC)

The CRC (Tier 2) in Viticulture and Plant Genomics held by Simone Castellarin has been renewed. Castellarin serves as Associate Director of UBC’s dual campus Wine Research Centre. Assistant Professor Mahsa Jessri is a new CRC (Tier 2) in Nutritional Epidemiology for Population Health. Her research program informs nutritional guidelines aimed at reducing the burden of chronic diseases. Jessri shares the LFS data analytics lab with Assistant Professor Frederik Noack, a CRC (Tier 2) in Economic and Environmental Interactions.

Pioneering Animal Welfare Research Recognized

Professor Dan Weary from the Animal Welfare Program won the 2020-21 ISAE (International Society for Applied Ethology) Creativity Award at the 2021 virtual ISAE congress. This award recognizes exceptional contributions to research, theory, and concepts that have made a significant impact in applied ethology. Weary has helped lead new empirical and theoretical research approaches using vocalizations as a reliable indicator of need, and the development and application of behavioral, cognitive and motivational testing methods to assess pain and other negative effects.

Dairy Centre Director Leads Canadian Society of Animal Science

Associate Professor Ronaldo Cerri became president of the Canadian Society of Animal Science in July 2021. Cerri’s research area is in dairy and beef cattle reproduction, and considering the effects of animal health, nutrition, management, and animal welfare on various aspects of reproduction. He is currently Director of UBC’s Dairy Education and Research Centre in Agassiz, B.C. and is a past-president of the Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council.