President's Excellence Chair in Forest Bio-products

The UBC Forest Bio-products research cluster is an internationally recognised, multi-disciplinary research team comprised of scientists, engineers, and market and policy experts.

It brings together the five UBC strategic research centres in support of bio-economy research and education. The research team is accelerating the development of high-value products including bio-materials, bio-energy and bio-chemicals from Canada’s renewable bio-resources.

Fig. 1 Canada’s bio-based economyThe vision of the Cluster is to develop a deeper understanding of the biosynthesis of forest and agricultural biomass and its transformation, to unlock Nature’s infinite biocatalytic potential.

This fundamental knowledge will then be applied, together with leading-edge catalytic polymer chemistry, to create molecular-engineered and functionalized nano-, fibre and polymeric composite materials as well as high value chemicals and biofuels that are at the vanguard of a dynamically changing global commodities market. Unleashing this technology will revolutionize products from biomedicine to chemical feedstocks to clean fuels for the transportation sector.

Pictured right: Canada's bio-economy

This research vision is uniquely positioned to provide revolutionary science combined with strong economic impact to the Canada’s urban and rural communities served by Canada’s agro-forest sector, while providing clear climate change solutions as society transitions to renewable materials, chemicals and fuels.

UBC is the ideal environment to meet this exciting potential with its world-leading researchers that span plant and microbial genomics, to catalysts, to polymers, to material science, and collectively are well positioned to become a clear global leader.

UBC’s vision has strong economic and social impact as Canada’s forest products industry is of vital to the Canadian economy, contributing $67B in revenues, $34.6B in exports, 12.5% of Canada’s manufacturing GDP, and approximately 300,000 direct and indirect jobs. This proposal champions the development of technologies that will convert locally-grown biomass into renewable, high-value bio-materials, and concurrently enables Canada’s global innovation leadership position in the bio-economy (Fig. 2). The global market for bio-materials, bio-chemical and bio-energy products is projected to be worth $900 billion by 2030 (FPAC/FPI Biopathways Phase II Report, 2011).

How the Presidents Excellence Chair will catalyze research and innovation in the cluster

This comprehensive research program requires the ability to integrate advanced enzyme / catalysis discovery and design with nanotechnology from renewable materials. Catalysis and bio-catalysis are at the heart of our ability to deconstruct the complex polymeric structures derived from biomass and to reconstruct and functionalize these nanostructures and polymers into advanced materials and chemicals, including liquid crystalline films and supercapacitors, to mention only a few.

Expertise in the emerging field of nanotechnology and synthetic biology would bring together UBC’s existing excellence in bio-catalysis discovery and design with its prominence in materials science that is essential to propelling UBC to the global forefront of forest bio-products innovation.

Fig. 2: UBC’s Forest Bioproduct 'Genomics to advanced materials' strategy to molecularly engineer next generation products.  Key to this strategy is application to advanced biocatalyst/catalyst discovery and design to materials science
Potential for UBC to demonstrate global research leadership:

The research program’s ‘Genomics to Forest Bioproducts’ strategy leverages the team’s multi-disciplinary global excellence in biotechnology, plant and microbial genomics, chemistry and material science to position UBC as the global leader in both groundbreaking fundamental science and bio-product innovation. UBC is uniquely positioned to deliver this highly original research cluster, as no other Canadian or international University has all the world-leading components of forest-relevant genomics, biochemistry, chemistry and materials science expertise, and capacity to address the objectives and deliver the outcomes.

Potential to provide breakthrough impact on a global scale:

The integration of functionalized fibres, polymers and bio-chemicals into molecular functional advanced composites has the potential for global impact by revolutionizing common-day products and enabling disruptive innovation, such as, 3D printed bio-compatible implants and scaffolds for wound dressing, drug delivery platforms and synthetic organs; lightweight, high-strength composites in ultra-efficient cars and airplanes; to carbon neutral jet fuel and chemicals that are integral to ameliorating climate change. These made-at-UBC technologies will cement the university’s global reputation as a science, innovation and environmental powerhouse, while ensuring economic prosperity for Canada.

These goals will be realized via an integrated fundamental and translational research program that will enable:

  1. deeper understanding of the biosynthesis of constituent polymers and biochemicals, dramatically impacting global understanding of nature;
  2. the discovery of new classes of enzymes and the creation of new-to-nature biocatalysts and small molecules through cutting-edge techniques like directed evolution, implemented through synthetic biology;
  3. the discovery, design and application of advanced molecular-engineered, highly-selective novel catalysts enabling biomass conversion for green bio-fuels and the creation of molecular functionalizations of materials,
  4. the undertaking of bottom-up design of materials using highly functional renewable building blocks.

This research vision is: (i) grounded in a genomics-informed, biosynthesis-discovery based, thematic framework that embraces the almost infinite diversity of Nature for inspiration, (ii) couples molecular engineered polymer functionalization and conversion using natural and new-to-nature chemical and bio-catalysts with the tools of novel catalytic polymer chemistry, and (iii) integrates advanced fibre and polymer processing and composite materials science to create paradigm changing bio-products.

Position description

The position would be at the late-stage Associate Professor or early Full Professor position and be appointed jointly in the Departments of Wood Science (Forestry) and Chemical and Biological Engineering (APSC). This position will be one of the important building blocks (which is a function of the successful candidate) to UBC’s overall strategy for this research cluster.

To apply, please view the full position recruitment advertisement below:

Excellence Chair in Forest Bio-Products Ad

For additional information please contact:

Dr. Stavros Avramidis
Professor and Department Head
Department of Wood Science
Faculty of Forestry
Dr. Peter Englezos
Professor and Department Head
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Faculty of Applied Science
Marcia Lang, Consultant


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