PWIAS: Connections and Collaborations

August 15, 2021

The PWIAS Wall Scholars program provides the time and space for scholars to explore new ways of thinking and build new connections with scholars outside of their field.

This wide-ranging exploration between disciplines would not happen anywhere else and results in ideas and scholarship that enrich UBC and impact society through ground-breaking research, influential public policy, artistic collaborations and award-winning publications.

PWIAS Wall Scholars have gone on to receive more than $55 million in research funding, including $30.2 million from Canadian Tri-Council research agencies.

Read on to learn more about the results of some of the important collaborations and connections that could only happen at PWIAS.

[PWIAS] is an invaluable source of support for innovative and developing ideas and partnerships, which can later mature, develop and seek out other funds.  It is also consistently driving interdisciplinary research in ways that few other entities do…

Leila Harris, 2018 Wall Scholar

Taking Action on Climate Change

Sara Milstein, Anna Casas-Aguilar, Malabika Pramanik & Jessica Dempsey collaborated across the Arts and Science faculties to create the Zero Emission University Initiative to highlight the serious impact of academic travel-related air emissions. Supporting alternative choices for academic travel related to conferences and research is now part of the UBC Climate Action Plan 2030. (November 2019)

Engineering Solutions through Theatre

Madjid Mohseni and George Belliveau collaborated to expanded Mohseni’s crucial research into water treatment solutions for remote communities by using community-based theatre to enhance dialogue and seek solutions for Indigenous drinking water systems. Together they received a $1.6M Network Centre of Excellence Knowledge Mobilization (NCE-KM) award to further develop a humanized perspective for successful water solutions. Development of the small-scale water treatment process was also a Wall Solutions Initiative.  (November 2019)

Thanks to George, the RESEAU program is not only going strong, but also benefiting from other disciplines and expertise across the campus…I look forward to opportunities to continue to benefit from RBT [research-based theatre] in our work.

Madjid Mohseni, 2016 Wall Scholar

Architecture meets Microbiology

Joe Dahmen, Steven Hallam and their students developed an award-winning design for a compostable toilet to be used in refugee camps. The team won first prize in the Museum of Modern Art Biodesign Challenge in New York.  The toilet is produced from a biodegradable biocomposite building material made from mycelium (mushrooms) and has the potential for wide reaching humanitarian impact. Dahmen and Hallam met as Wall Scholars and their prototype design was supported by the Wall Solutions Initiative. (September 2018)

MYCOmmunity Toilet Concept Design 2018

Collaborative Journalism

Peter Klein founded the Global Reporting Centre (GRC), an award-winning, independent centre for innovative journalism, and a concept inspired by his time as a Wall Scholar.  The GRC has developed other Wall Scholar collaborations, such as Xiaonan Lu & Peter Klein’s award-winning documentary  The Fish You (don’t know you) Eat, about the true costs and environmental impact of the global fishmeal industry. The film received four digital publishing industry awards. (May 2020)

Hidden costs? 25% of fish caught in the ocean is turned into fishmeal to feed farmed fish

Emotions, Empathy and Education

Tara Mayer created On Feeling and Knowing, a teaching tool for educators exploring innovative approaches to pedagogy that acknowledge the role of emotions and empathy in the classroom. Through intimate, candid conversations with seasoned scholars, the video series looks at the realities of teaching fraught material in complex times. Mayer conceived of the project during her time at PWIAS, where she became interested in how conversations between diverse scholars could inform not just research, but also the understanding and practice of teaching. (Series launches September 2021)

Intellectual and professional relationships forged within the Wall Scholars program are absolutely inimitable, transformative, and profound.

Tara Mayer, 2019 Wall Scholar

Tackling Viruses with Engineering and Mathematics

Nelly Pante, Alireza Nojeh and Jimmy Feng jointly proposed a new mechanism by which some viruses can enter cells using propulsive force, and adapted this mechanism to deliver carbon nanotubes into the cell nucleus.  Fruitful discussions with Nojeh on carbon nanotubes, and Feng on mathematical modeling during their Wall Scholar residency led to this discovery.  (August 2019)

My time in residence at the Institute provided an unforgettable and eye-opening experience of interacting with scholars from a broad variety of other disciplines, which has had a lasting impact on how I think and approach my research.

Alireza Nojeh, 2015 Wall Scholar

Expanding Neuroscience with Engineering

Guy Dumont and John Steeves, long time collaborators since connecting at PWIAS in 2011, brought the study of brain connectivity patterns in functional motor tasks to the ultra-low noise underground research laboratory, Laboratoire Souterrain à Bas Bruit (LSBB) in France, leading to the creation of a joint UBC-CNRS Laboratoire International Associé (LIA) research agreement. (January 2021)

Measuring brain wave activity in a converted underground bunker laboratory gave “mind-blowing” results

Deconstructing The Financial Crisis through Theatre and Music

Hallie Marshall, Helen Eastman and Janis Sarra, invited judges, economists, scholars and actors to produce a play about global financial markets, encouraging audiences to engage with far reaching financial issues.  Performances of Foreclosure Follies were staged around the world, including Vancouver, New York, London, Oxford, and Athens. (October 2017)

Foreclosure Follies cast members, 2017

For more in this series, please visit PWIAS: Ideas and Impact, and PWIAS: Page by Page.