INTERNATIONAL UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH AWARD: Jannat Singh's story

I went onto the UBC online library, searched the name Jannat Singh Bachhal and the paper he co-authored popped up as the first document listed on the page. Within the peer reviewed scholarly section, titled; Characterization of channel coating and dimensions of microfluidic-based gas detectors, I was astonished - as I perused through the paper- that one could achieve such a feat before completing their first undergraduate degree. 

Jannat, a third year engineering student, spent last summer doing research through the International Undergraduate Student Research award program (IURA). This program, here at UBCO, aims to provide learning experiences for international undergraduates through engagement in research. To take part, one must identify and design their own research project and present it for consideration to a professor or approach a professor involved in research that is of interest and work with them to develop a mutually beneficial project.

The project Jannat worked on focused on microfluidics. This involves playing with gases and fluids on a micro scale. Basically, if you walked into the lab, you will not see anything without the use of a microscope. He worked on creating and using a 3-D printed gas detector for sensing different volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and identifying their concentrations. Basically, it is a low cost, portable and highly selective device that can identify and differentiate gases. Some of the proposed practical uses of this research involves using the device to check for leakages in pipelines, being able to diagnose diabetes from your own breath, growing organ cells on a chip which can allow for non-invasive treatments. 

Jannat was always interested in research. Before applying for the IURA award, he was an undergraduate research assistant starting September 2014.  He said, ‘I basically went up to my prof and asked her can if I can volunteer with her and she said no, I will pay you.’ And from that day on, he has been in the lab.  He was enthralled at the opportunity of working with Mina Hoorfar, the current director for the school of engineering and 2016 researcher of the year. With the way he talked about her and her work, it was easy to conclude, that he cherished the learning experience as much as working with someone he looked up to.

He is somewhat an expert in this field now, using complex scientific terminologies with great ease. As we spoke, he was headed to Vancouver, right after our conversation, for a co- op work placement with a biotechnological company that makes cheap surgical drills which will be affordable for hospitals in poor countries. He expressed how this was a tough decision given that Bosch in Germany (this really huge popular company that made the fridge at my house) offered him a placement too. The credentials and experience from taking part in the IURA program made him a lucrative candidate for really good job placements.

For those intending on going to graduate school, Jannat couldn’t stress enough how huge having your name on an academic paper is. Having a research background not only helps in getting you accepted to grad school but also helps one in being conversant with research skills. Its also very enlightening to be around super intelligent and knowledgeable people such as professors and PhD scholars on a regular. 

To find out more about the IURA, visit the Office of Research Services website, click "Students," find the award, and click for your faculty's details!