Class Acts

Yael Cohen (R) and her mother, Diane.
Yael Cohen (R) and her mother, Diane.

F**k Cancer

Got your attention? Good. That’s the point. Yael Cohen, BA’08, president, founder and CEO of F**k Cancer, is on a mission: end late stage cancer diagnosis by getting people talking about the disease and educating them about the importance of early detection. The non‑profit organization’s mission is to empower Generation Y – a generation Cohen believes has been omitted from the cancer conversation – and inspire them to involve, engage and educate their parents about early detection. Cohen established the organization in 2009 after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Shocked to learn that 90 per cent of cancers are curable in stage one, Cohen realized that spreading the message about early detection was imperative. Today, the passionate and creative 27‑year‑old is a recognized health advocate, philanthropist and social entrepreneur. She’s been named to the Globe and Mail’s list of 12 people who are transforming philanthropy; received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal; spoken at the White House; been named one of Women’s Executive Network’s 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada; and most recently was recognized as one of BC Business’ 30 Under 30. Thanks to early detection, Cohen’s mother, Diane, has joined her daughter’s movement.

Class Acts - Thinnest Condom
Photo: Daming Enterprise International Limited

Alumnus Creates 
World’s Thinnest Condom

Who knew there was a Guinness World Record category for the thinnest condom? UBC Engineering grad Victor Chan, BASc’09, certainly did. Chan’s product, the Aoni condom, developed by Guangzhou Daming United Rubber Products in Hong Kong, was recently crowned the world’s thinnest latex condom by Guinness World Records. Measuring a mere 0.036mm thick, the Aoni trumped Japan’s record of 0.038mm. Chan, managing director and project lead, told The Province that developing the condom was a challenge: “It took a lot of work to arrange the right mix and fine‑tune the ingredients to give us the right performance,” he says. Condom research and development has been on the rise recently, no pun intended, since the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced it would shell out $100,000 in grant money to innovators who develop a more comfortable condom that enhances pleasure for both parties. The challenge aims to encourage condom use, and ultimately decrease unplanned pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. The Aoni is sold primarily in Mainland China, but Chan plans to eventually introduce the condom into the North American market. Chan is now working on developing a vibrating condom and a “silver nano particles‑coated sanitizing condom.“

Photo: kiip
Photo: kiip

Starting Something

At the ripe old age of 23, Brian Wong, BCom’09, has made Forbes magazine’s 30 under 30 list for the third time… The Sauder School of Business grad is the co‑founder and CEO of Kiip (pronounced KEEP), a rewards‑based mobile ad start‑up that offers prizes from major brands to players who reach new levels or achievements in games or apps. Wong explains that Kiip transforms mobile advertising into a positive experience by rewarding consumers with prizes when they reach new milestones, and enabling brands and companies to engage with consumers during their “achievement moment.” Since its creation in 2010, Kiip has raised $15.4 million and is used by more than 500 major brands, reaching 70 million users through 2,000+ games and apps. Based in San Francisco, Kiip has offices in in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Bogota, and recently added an office in Vancouver. In addition to his most recent accolade, Wong’s been recognized with many awards for his accomplishments and leadership, including the Top 20 Under 20 awards for all of Canada, Business Insider’s Top 25 Under 25 in Silicon Valley, 18 Most Important People in Mobile Advertising, Mashable’s Top 5 Entrepreneurs to Watch; and the AdAge Creativity Top 50.

Photo: Gordon Lonsdale
Photo: Gordon Lonsdale

Autograph, Please?

UBC Creative Writing students were a little star‑struck recently when Hollywood heavy‑hitter Hart Hanson, MFA’ 87, writer and producer of the long‑running TV series Bones, returned to the department as its writer‑in‑residence. Hanson, a former professor there, talked to creative writing students about his award‑winning TV writing career and also gave a free public lecture entitled From Here to There: A Nice Canadian Boy Goes to Hollywood. His impressive list of writing credits includes many Canadian and American shows, ranging from Road to Avonlea to the Emmy‑nominated Judging Amy. His most recent series, a crime drama called Backstrom, was recently picked up by Fox. The show is a dark comedy, dubbed a “crime‑edy” by Hanson, and stars Rainn Wilson – who played Dwight on The Office – as a cranky and offensive detective who continually strives to change his self‑destructive behaviour, but fails. The series has filmed scenes at various locations on the Vancouver campus, including alumni UBC’s classy digs at Cecil Green Park House. While scouting locations on campus, Hanson told The Province that it was a bit strange looking up at his old office in the Buchanan Building. He admits that it wasn’t something he could have predicted when he was teaching at UBC – a nice Canadian Boy making it in Hollywood.


Norm Watt, BSc’67, MBA’69, recently released a second edition of his book, Off the Beaten Path: A Hiking Guide to Vancouver’s North Shore. The book focuses on lesser known, but interesting trails throughout the forests of North and West Vancouver, many featuring sites of local historical interest, such as early 1900s logging, homesteading or sporting activities. The expanded version provides up‑to‑date information on changes to trailheads, signage, winter use and more.

After spending his entire working career in the pulp and paper industry, engineer Dave Baker, BASc’69, retired early because of a stroke. In retirement, he’s been enjoying success writing, singing and recording folk songs about Canada’s west coast. Local choirs that have performed his work include Chor Leoni, the Vancouver Welsh Men’s Choir, the Vancouver Orpheus Male Choir, the Enchor mixed choir, and the Jubilate Chamber Choir. In 2013, Baker was awarded the Phyllis Delaney Life After Stroke Award in recognition of his achievements and contributions to the Canadian music industry.


The Great Gazzoon, a 4‑CD musical audio novel co‑written and produced for Rick Scott by Valerie Hennell, BA’70, MA’72, won Children’s Recording of the Year in the 2013 Western Canadian Music Awards, received a nomination for Producer of the Year in the 2013 Canadian Folk Music Awards, and was recently featured at the 2014 Vancouver Children’s Festival. Hennell and Scott also wrote an educational program, My Symphony, which premiered with the Vancouver Island Symphony in February 2014.

This March, Lyall Knott, QC, BCom’71, LLB ’72, was appointed chair of the Canadian Forces Liaison Council for BC and in April was appointed as a member of the Advisory Board to the Canada Institute of The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Knott is a senior partner of Clark Wilson LLP and is the Honorary Captain of the Canadian Fleet Pacific, Royal Canadian Navy. He served as a Canadian Commissioner on the International Joint Commission from 2009‑2013.

Brian J McParland, BASc’79, MSc’81, PhD’85, recently published his third book, Medical Radiation Dosimetry: Theory of Charged Particle Collision Energy Loss. McParland will return to the Middle East this year to take up the new post of head of Medical Physics at the Sidra Medical and Research Centre in Doha, Qatar.

In June 2013, Andy MacKinnon, BSc’79, MSc’82, received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from SFU for his contributions to forest ecology research, land use planning on BC’s coast, and his role as co‑author of six best‑selling field guides to plant identification in western North America. MacKinnon is a researcher with the BC Forest Service and an adjunct professor in the School of Resource and Environmental Management at SFU. He lives in Metchosin, BC, with his family.


Daniel Lefebvre, MSc’80, won the Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Queen’s University Alumni Association. The award recognizes a Queen’s professor who shows outstanding knowledge, teaching ability, and accessibility to students. Students say Lefebvre goes above and beyond his job title to connect with students and provide an excellent learning environment.

Dr. Samuel Pang, BSc’82, MD’83, medical director of the Reproductive Science Centers (RSC) of New England, was rated “Top Doc” in Infertility Diagnosis and Treatment by Boston magazine in 2013. Physicians selected for inclusion in the magazine’s “Top Doctors” list are among the nation’s top one per cent of physicians in their field. Dr. Pang is also director of the Donor Egg and Gestational Surrogacy program at RSC New England. He has conducted research, published professional articles, and is frequently invited to speak on menopause, male infertility, third‑party assisted reproduction, and other topics related to fertility treatments.

Howard Jang, BMus’83, has been appointed as the new director of SFU’s Woodward’s Cultural Unit. In addition to this new role, Jang will also serve as professor of Professional Practice within SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts. Jang was previously the executive director of the Arts Club Theatre for 14 years.

Shannon Selin, MA’86, recently published her first novel, Napoleon in America, which imagines what might have happened if Napoleon Bonaparte had escaped from exile on St. Helena and wound up in the United States in 1821.

In 2013, Lynn Price, BMus’87, graduated with a BFA from Emily Carr University of Art and Design and was also the 2013 recipient of both the Mary Plumb Blade Award for Excellence in Painting/Printmaking, and the Governor General’s Silver Medal. Price’s work was included in the Art Mur’s Fresh Paint/New Construction exhibition in Montreal.


Class Acts - Indonesia Alumni GroupSpecial thanks to the UBC Alumni Group in Indonesia (above) for generously committing $125,000 to help build the UBC Alumni Centre – and especially to Chris Bendl, BSc’91, for leading the effort. The new 41,700 square foot Alumni Centre located at the heart of the Vancouver campus will be the first of its kind in Canada.

Carol Lane, BSc’91, PhD’99, neuroscientist and assistant clinical professor in UBC’s Faculty of Medicine, recently received the Minerva and the Women In™ Science Philanthropy Award. Lane works primarily in university-industry partnership research developing treatments and diagnostics for patients, and has clinically developed numerous medications working with multinational pharmaceutical companies, local biotech and global contract research organizations. Lane is dedicated to the advancement of women in science and mentors undergraduate and graduate students, as well as academics, young industrial scientists in industry, and paramedics in the rural community. She is currently VP Medical and Scientific Affairs for Megassistance, a medical emergency transport and travel assistant company.

In fall 2013, Kirstin Evenden, MFA’92, was appointed executive director of Lougheed House and Gardens in Calgary. Evenden has worked in diverse aspects of the museum sector for two decades, being with the Glenbow Museum for a number of years, most recently as its president and CEO. Built in 1891, Lougheed House is a national and provincial historic site and one of the earliest surviving mansions of its kind on the Canadian prairies. Evenden is working to increase community engagement with the house and its gardens – the place has many stories to tell!

Peter Raabe, BA’94, MA’95, PhD’99, argues in his new book, Philosophy’s Role in Counseling and Psychotherapy that philosophy can effectively inform and improve conventional methods of treating mental illness.

Daphne M. Higgs, LLB’98, has been promoted to partner at Perkins Coie. Higgs is a member of the firm’s Technology Transactions and Privacy practice and the firm’s Emerging Companies and Venture Capital practice. She counsels companies on complex technology transactions, with a focus on digital media, entertainment, open source, privacy, advertising and the transfer of technologies from universities.

Emberton by Peter Norman, BFA’98, is a literary gothic novel with a dash of humour. Norman’s poetry, short fiction and non‑fiction have been widely published in anthologies and magazines, including The Walrus, This Magazine, Malahat Review, Literary Review of Canada, Canadian Geographic and the Vancouver Sun. While attending UBC, Norman not only worked at the station as a DJ and on‑air host, but also met his wife, novelist Melanie Little, MFA’00.

Gabrielle (Gray) Phyo, BA’99, and her husband, Chris, welcomed Antonia Eloise on November 9, 2013. Gabrielle has recently been appointed as Group Corporate Counsel at Spirax‑Sarco Engineering plc, based in Cheltenham, UK.

Return to the Land of the Head Hunters is a book by Aaron Glass, MA’99, based on the recently restored 1914 film by Edward S. Curtis, In the Land of the Head Hunters. In recognition of the film’s centennial, and alongside the release of a restored version by Milestone Films, Return to the Land of the Head Hunters brings together leading anthropologists, Native American authorities, artists, musicians, literary scholars, and film historians to reassess the film and its legacy.


James D. Kondopulos, BCom’00 (Hons), LLB’03, has been named one of Lexpert®’s Rising Stars: Leading Lawyers Under 40 competition. Kondopulos has a partnership interest in Vancouver‑based employment and labour law boutique Roper Greyell LLP.

Pete Koat, BSc’01, has been appointed as chief technology officer for Vancouver‑based Incognito Software, where he is responsible for defining the strategic agenda for the company’s product line.

The feature film, Stress Position, was released nationally in Canadian theatres on April 18 at the Carlton in Toronto, and on May 23 at the Vancity Theatre in Vancouver. The film was created by a talented group of alumni that includes: A.J. Bond, BA’03, writer/director; Amy Belling, BA’03, cinematographer/producer; Jessica Cheung, BA’06, producer/production manager; Adam LockeNorton, BA’05, editor; and Dan Werb, MSc’10, PhD’13, composer. Stress Position is a genre‑bending feature film about two close friends who make a bet to see which of them can withstand a week of psychological torture at the hands of the other. In 2013 the film won Best Cinematography – Las Vegas Film Festival; Best Experimental Film – Lady Filmmakers Film Festival; and was the official selection at The London International Festival of Science Fiction and Fantastic Film.

Alumna RoseEllen Nichols, BMus’05, MMus’08, will be starring in a new opera by Margaret Atwood and Tobin Stokes based on the life of writer, poet and First Nations advocate Pauline Johnson. Nichols, also of First Nations heritage, will be performing the part of Pauline.

On April 1, 2014, Danielle MetcalfeChenail, MA’07, was named Historian Laureate of the City of Edmonton. Metcalfe‑Chenail is a freelance writer, speaker and historian who loves to explore Edmonton’s stories. She was the first female to be elected president of Canada’s Aviation Historical Society, and her upcoming book, Polar Winds: A Century of Flying the North, will highlight Edmonton’s aerial connections to the North from the Klondike gold rush era to the turn of the last century.

Kip Warner, BSc’07, is an ethical hacker who, with NASA’s permission, developed the technology to recover many of the first images captured from the surface of Mars during NASA’s Viking mission in the 1970s. In November 2013, Warner released the DVD‑ROM, Avaneya: Viking Lander Remastered, which allows users to see the images that were previously in jeopardy of being lost due to magnetic tape deterioration and archaic proprietary technology. Warner is currently project lead for a science‑fiction game set on Mars, called Avaneya.

Congratulations to Brittney Kerr, BA’09, for recently being named as one of BC Business’ 30 Under 30. As a senior consultant at Earnscliffe Strategy Group, Kerr is an expert in public policy, strategic communications, stakeholder relations, and project management, and is actively involved in the political landscape. She’s served as the director of Operations for the BC Liberal Party, where she managed political operations and communications strategy, and as the BC Coordinator for the Leader’s National Tour. Her mission: To change young BC voters’ perception of politics. Kerr is a dedicated volunteer who sits on the executive board of Vision Vancouver and serves as BC Chair of the federal Liberal party’s policy committee. Since graduating, she’s continued to volunteer with UBC’s Delta Gamma sorority, serving as a regional collegiate specialist advising university students in Delta Gamma chapters across North America. Kerr is currently completing a master’s of Public Policy at SFU.

Simone Osborne, DipMusic Perf’09, one of the youngest winners of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, recently completed her tenure as a member of the prestigious Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio. Osborne starred in the company’s production of Un Ballo in Maschera as Oscar, and in March was back home with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra to perform a wonderful program including Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Strauss songs. In 2013, Osborne played Pamina in Vancouver Opera’s The Magic Flute, made her debut at both the Los Angeles Philharmonic debut and Carnegie Hall, and completed the Jeunesses Musicales Canada’s first Maureen Forrester Award Tour through Ontario and Quebec.


Jared Miller, BMus’10, was recently named composer-in-residence of the Victoria Symphony. His orchestral works have been performed by the Toronto and Kitchener‑Waterloo symphony orchestras, Cleveland’s Contemporary Youth Orchestra, and Toronto’s Sneak Peek Orchestra. A composition he wrote while a student at UBC, 2010 Traffic Jam, was commissioned by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra as part of its Olympic year presentations. His composition Flickering Images premiered in Lincoln Center in New York and won the 2011/12 Juilliard Orchestra Competition. Miller is currently completing his doctoral program at the Juilliard School.

Roydon Tse, BMus’13, a master of music student studying with Professor Christos Hatzis at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music, is the 2014 winner of the Canadian Music Centre Prairies’ Emerging Composers Competition. His winning work, Three Musings – a triptych for chamber orchestra – was performed by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra on January 28 as part of the symphony’s New Music Festival.


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