Researcher climbs to the top

UBC Okanagan’s Philip Ainslie led a team of scientists on a six-week research expedition to Mount Everest’s Pyramid laboratory.

Most of us imagine scientific research being carried out within the confines of well-lit laboratories scattered across university campuses. But sometimes, researchers have
to travel for their work.

This April, researcher Philip Ainslie led a 25-member team of international scientists on a six-week research expedition to Mount Everest’s Pyramid laboratory. The team, which included several UBC students, was there to conduct a series of experiments measuring oxygen deprivation and blood flow through the heart, lungs and brain at high altitudes.

“People who live their lives at high altitude seem more resistant and less vulnerable to the respiratory and cardiovascular problems that we experience living at sea level,” says Ainslie, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Cerebrovascular Function in Health and Disease.

An accomplished mountaineer who has been to Everest seven times, Ainslie says the conditions in the Himalayas offered the best and most cost-effective opportunity to conduct research. The focus of his work is the integrated mechanisms regulating human cerebral blood flow in health and disease. He studies how blood flows to the brain in a variety of clinical populations: healthy adults, children, seniors, and those affected by specific health issues like heart disease, sleep apnea, dementia and stroke. His research aims to reduce risk and improve prevention.

The associate professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences was recently named Researcher of the Year at UBC’s Okanagan campus. “He is an acknowledged leader in cerebral vascular physiology whose research is answering fundamental questions about human physiology, and advancing our knowledge about an array of chronic health conditions,” says Miriam Grant, dean of research and vice provost for UBC’s Okanagan campus.

Since completing his PhD in 2002, Ainslie has authored a book, published more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, contributed 10 major book chapters and has successfully supervised 27 post-graduate students. He has attracted more than $3 million in research grants – $1.6 million of that since joining UBC in 2009.

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