Research Opportunities

Research Opportunities

There are four main research and teaching groups in the Department: Applied Mechanics and Design, Biomedical Engineering, Manufacturing and Control, and Thermofluids.

Research is generally associated with graduate students in the department, but for undergraduate students who wish to get involved, there are technical electives offered in the areas of certain professors’ specialties. Availability of these courses will depend on student interest and may change from year to year. For information on the various research groups our faculty members are part of, and the projects our faculty members are working on, visit the Research Section of our website.

MECH 493 is an undergraduate course specifically designed to introduce fourth-year students to academic research. To apply for this course, students submit a research proposal, typically related to the work of a supervising professor. They then use this course, and the guidance of their supervisor(s), to prepare a research thesis. For more information on MECH 493, please visit their wiki: MECH 493: Introduction to Academic Research

NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards

The NSERC USRA program is an excellent way for undergraduate students to gain exposure to university research. It can also help students decide if they want to pursue research in the future, whether through graduate studies or industrial research positions. The program is open to Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have completed all required first year engineering courses, hold a cumulative average of at least 68% (note that the competitive average is usually above 80%) and who have not started graduate studies (although you can hold a USRA for the term directly after your graduation requirements are met). Students do not need to be in mechanical engineering to work with a mechanical engineering professor.
Important: For information about undergraduate student research awards, and the application process, please look at these documents:

Application packages for Summer 2019 – Spring 2020 awards are due to Mechanical Engineering Student Services ( by Friday, March 8th at 4pm.

When applying, please be advised of the following points:

  1. All applications must first be submitted electronically directly to NSERC, including the upload of transcripts. A copy of your Form 202 (Parts I and II),  transcript, cover letter, and resume are also required to be submitted to the Mechanical Engineering Student Services Office electronically as a PDF addressed to
  2. Student-faculty pairs should apply to the department of the faculty member.
  3. International Students – Work Learn International Undergraduate Research Award Program may also be available. For more information and the deadlines, please refer to

The following links are also useful during the USRA application process:

NSERC’s website

NSERC USRA Information Page


Openings will be posted as they are received.

Faculty member Ian Friggard
Preferred contact method Interested students should contact Alondra Renteria ( and Ali Etrati ( with resume and transcript
Deadline to apply
Open to Co-op students
Special Requirements
Position name
Position description By 2013, more than 550,000 oil & gas well had been drilled in Canada. Before hydrocarbons can be produced every well undergoes primary cementing. This operation consists on sealing the annular section between the steel pipe that stabilizes the well (named casing), and the rock formation. The seal should increase production and prevent subsurface fluids from percolating to surface. Nevertheless, gas leakage to surface is common. A public perception is that 10-20% of wellbores leak, which has both health & safety consequences and environmental/ecological impact. This project will study this process from a fluid mechanics perspective.
In the field, after the well is drilled, the casing is lowered into the open well. In this point, the space inside and outside the casing is occupied by the drilling mud that keeps the hydrostatic balance between the hole and the formation. Then, cement slurry is pumped downwards inside the casing, reaches the casing’s bottom, and flows up into the annular section displacing the drilling mud upwards. A good seal will not leave residual mud anywhere.
In the lab, we use two flow loops to simulate the field process. We have carefully designed and built the loops to achieve dynamic similarity. We can control the key parameters of the process, such as flow rate, eccentricity, rheology, and fluid’s densities. The data acquisition is through imaging with high sensitivity cameras and automated instrumentation. The objective is to capture experimental data relevant to theoretical predictions of the fluid-fluid displacement flows under a wide variety of scenarios.
We are seeking 2 students, who will perform some combination of experimental work and associated computations. Experimentally, the students will assist in all operations associated with the experiment: fluid preparation, running experiment, image processing of the data, rheometry measurements of the fluids and data analysis. The students will need to understand the physical background to the experiments and may need to help in design of new components, undertake bits of machining/manufacturing, and implement changes to the current apparatus. Computationally, the students will run and analyse selected simulations using OpenFOAM.
Total pay including NSERC USRA award $4,500 award + $3,500 top-up
Will the position still be offered to the selected candidate if an NSERC USRA cannot be secured?
Total pay without NSERC USRA award Approx. $8,000 (TBD)

Faculty member Yusuf Altintas
Preferred contact method: Email Kilic Zekai:
Special requirements: C#, C++, Matlab
Position name Cyber Physical Machining
Position description The student is expected to develop software to collect sensor data from CNC machine tools. The data will need to be processed using standard signal processing methods (Fast Fourier Transforms, digital filtering).
Total pay including NSERC USRA award $4,500 award + $4,500 top-up
Will the position still be offered to the selected candidate if an NSERC USRA cannot be secured? Possible
Total pay without NSERC USRA award $8,000

Faculty member Patrick Kirchen
Preferred contact method
Deadline to apply
Open to Co-op students
Special Requirements MECH or ENPH, strong academic standing, Matlab and/or Python, comfortable working in laboratory environment
Project Name Development of an Injection Visualization System for Optical Engines
Position description An optically accessible, single cylinder engine research facility is used at the University of British Columbia’s Clean Energy Research Centre (CERC) to study combustion with alternative fuels and fuel injection systems. To complement existing in-cylinder imaging diagnostics, a new imaging system is needed to visualize diesel fuel vapour and natural gas jets. The imaging system must use existing high-speed imaging equipment and be able to operate via the single existing optical access to the engine’s combustion chamber. A survey of appropriate optical diagnostics has identified two architectures for which prototype systems have been developed: i) Reflective schlieren imaging (similar to traditional schlieren imaging), and ii) Background-Oriented Schlieren (BOS, an image post-processing method performed in software). The focus of this project is to develop and refine both diagnostic architectures through bench-top testing for application to on-engine measurements. The project will comprise several tasks:

1) Literature review and development of underlying theory: A concise mathematical description relating the measured parameter of interest (NG or diesel concentration) to the measured variable (light intensity on camera sensor) is core to the interpretation of measurements by both diagnostics. This relation is also crucial to the effective development and refinement of the prototype systems.

2) Development and refinement of BOS system: The main component of the BOS system is the image analysis software. This requires tuning/optimization to maximize the diagnostic performance (code will not be written from scratch). Some custom hardware (i.e., target background) will need to be designed, and characterized in terms of the most important design features (e.g., background pattern density, reflectivity, etc.).

3) Development and refinement of reflective schlieren system: Hardware and system architecture design for the reflective-schlieren system are complete. Application of underlying theory (resulting from the literature review performed here) to interpretation of bench-top measurements is needed for further refinement.

4) Design and development of off-engine test-bench: Development of both diagnostic systems requires a test-bench facility that simulates the on-engine measurements. In general, the facility should include a tunable (e.g. pressure, orifice size, angle) gaseous jet (simulating the NG/diesel jets) which impinges on a wall (simulating the piston wall).

5) Quantification and comparison of reflective schlieren and BOS imaging systems: Using the developed test-bench, both optical diagnostics will be compared. Ultimately, a comparison of the measurements made by each system to one another and also to appropriate theoretical values should be quantified (e.g. sensitivity of each diagnostic, resolution of measurements, etc.).

6) Application of reflective schlieren and/or BOS imaging systems (stretch-goal): If the development phases of the project (i.e., tasks 1-5 above) are accomplished in a timely manner, the developed systems will be applied to on-engine measurements. On-engine results will be compared to benchtop and theoretical expected results.

7) Documentation of development work and deliverables: A final report covering the literature review, development of both diagnostics, test-bench design, and all measurement results will be compiled.

This project will provide the student with experience in: performing academic literature surveys, experimental research techniques, project management, optical diagnostic systems, image processing, and state of the art engine and combustion research.

Student’s Role

The student is expected to champion all tasks associated with the project as outlined above, and will propose a project schedule that appropriately considers these tasks. Commissioning of experimental lab equipment or tasks involving the engine research facility will be directly supported by the research team. In all other aspects of the project, the support of the Dr. Kirchen, a senior PhD student, and a Postdoctoral Fellow will be available to the USRA student as required. The student will be expected to provide regular progress updates to the research team and to participate in regular group meetings. Periodic project reviews will be conducted with the research group to provide formal feedback. In addition, the student will be responsible for managing the fabrication of any custom mechanical components that are required by the proposed design (production of machinist’s drawings and liaison with the UBC Mechanical Engineering Machine Shop, if necessary), as well as documenting the design and SOPs for the diagnostic, including the operating principles of the system. Finally, it is expected that the USRA student will be an active participant in our research group. Through this USRA project, they will have the opportunity to engage with the research team on a variety of exciting projects related the objectives described above.

Total pay including NSERC USRA award $4,500 award + 4500 top-up
Will you hire for position if the student does not receive the NSERC USRA award?: TBD
Total pay without NSERC USRA award $8000

Faculty member
Preferred contact method
Deadline to apply
Open to Co-op students
Position name
Position description
Total pay including NSERC USRA award
Will the position still be offered to the selected candidate if an NSERC USRA cannot be secured?
Total pay without NSERC USRA award