Engineering undergrad develops microfluidics application, publishes in top journal, recognized with Researcher of the Year Award

Undergraduate Student Researcher of the Year Cameron McDermid photo: Darren Hull

Okanagan-native Cameron McDermid knew from an early age that he liked science but it wasn’t until his final years in high school, with the help of both family and school mentors, that he set his sights on an engineering career. ”Along with my family, who always supported my interest in science, my high school math teacher encouraged me to pursue engineering,” he said.

UBC's Okanagan campus' Undergraduate Student Researcher of the Year is a multi-talented second-year civil engineering student who can now add “published researcher” to his growing list of achievements. In his first year, McDermid juggled a combination of school and research responsibilities holding a Work-Study laboratory position under the supervision of School of Engineering Professors LoЇc Markley and Ali Ahmadi.

His interdisciplinary research, which required knowledge of both electrical and mechanical engineering, led to the development of a novel method for actuating (setting in motion) small-scale droplets towards lab-on-chip and microfluidics applications. While he describes the research as “more theory than real world,” McDermid is hopeful that it can be expanded. Along with Markley and Ahmadi, McDermid co-authored a research paper on magnetohydrodynamics (the use of electrical currents to generate magnetic forces within fluids), which was recently accepted for publication by Applied Physics Letters, the highest cited journal in applied physics.

“[Cameron] far exceeded my expectations for an undergraduate researcher and, after only four months of work, was able to generate experimental results of such quality that they warranted publication in a high-end physics journal,” wrote Professor Markley in his nomination letter.

Studying at UBC’s Okanagan campus has definite benefits according to McDermid. “It’s easier to be recognized for your work and there are better opportunities to get one-on-one time with professors.”

McDermid doesn’t spend all his time in the lab; he’s a musician and hockey player who also finds the time to tutor high school students in math and physics. In addition he’s participated in extracurricular activities like the Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race and Inn from the Cold.

Now in its third year, UBC's Okanagan campus' Award for Excellence in Research and/or Creative Scholarly Activity recognizes one undergraduate and one graduate student who has made a significant contribution to research during his or her time at the University. Each award includes a $1,500 cash prize and both were presented March 11th at a special ceremony to honour the campus’s top researchers.