Science Alumni Spotlights from UFV’s Top 40

For UFV’s 40th Anniversary, Dave Dhat, Jennifer Owen, and Evan Wiens were the three science alumni that were chosen as part of UFV’s Top 40 Alumni.

JDH_DaveDhat-VerticalDave Dhat

Dr. Dave Dhat didn’t take a very direct route to a career in medicine. Now an emergency room physician at Abbotsford Regional Hospital, he started his post-secondary studies with plans to become an engineer.  After completing his Associate in Science two-year degree at what was then UCFV in 2000, he went on to complete an engineering degree at the University of Victoria. Dave’s life has been transformed by his experiences working with the Dhata Foundation, a family-run charity that seeks to eliminate curable blindness by providing free access to preventive exams and surgical care for impoverished people living in India’s Punjab state.  Now in its 12th year, the Dhata Foundation funds more than 1,000 eye surgeries to impoverished people each year.

Dave says his time at UFV (then UCFV) provided him with a solid foundation for further study.

“Not only did it offer great professors with a true love for their respective disciplines, but they were also dedicated to preparing us to think about science and how to approach scientific problems. For sure it prepared me well for medical school and engineering school. I had an easy time in my further studies because of the proper grounding I received.”

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Jennifer Owen (nee Godfrey)

082814_UFV_00070Jennifer-Owen-LRPhysics offered her front-row seat in scientific history by being a part of scientific history and working at the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator at the CERN particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. She visited and/or worked at the CERN facilities continuously over six years as part of her graduate studies at Simon Fraser University, and was there when the Higgs Boson was discovered, one of the major recent scientific breakthroughs.

“It was amazing and very exciting to be right up front at the cutting edge of science with discoveries occurring all around me,” she recalls.

Owen now has her PhD and is currently exploring a career options in medical physics.

“Although I found it both interesting and exciting, I decided to leave particle physics research after completing my PhD in order to establish a career in something new. To that end, I recently began a postdoctoral certificate in radiation oncology through the University of Calgary.  It was George (McGuire) who suggested that I ought to be pursuing physics as a major. It was the kind of encouragement I needed,” she recalls. “Once I got through my first university-level physics course I realized I could do it. I had professors all along the way encouraging me and telling me I was ready for the next level.”

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Evan-Wiens-010-LREvan Wiens

UFV’s 2013 Distinguished Young Alumni award winner — reserved for a high achiever under the age of 35 — has been making an impact at every stage of his education and career. Even before graduating with his Bachelor of Science degree (with a major in biology and minor in kinesiology) in 2006 he was beginning to make his mark.

While at UFV as an undergraduate he made the dean’s list every year, won the award for highest achievement in fourth-year biology, and volunteered in local classrooms.  Following graduation, Evan headed for UBC’s dental program, winning multiple awards including the BC Dental Association’s award for high academic standing, leadership, and community service, and he also won an award for outstanding leadership from the American College of Dentists. He sat on the admissions board to help select future dental students while still a student himself, mentored third-year students while in fourth year, and served as clinic chief for UBC’s community dental clinics.

He’s also actively involved in several volunteer community dental projects around B.C., serving underprivileged communities with no access to dental care. In July, 2013, he led a team of volunteer dentists and hygienists from UBC to provide much needed dental care to the Anaham First Nation community near Williams Lake.

“Helping people and giving to the community is kind of an addiction for me,” he says, crediting Jennifer for providing moral support for his many volunteer projects. “When you’re doing something to help people just because you want to, not for money, they really appreciate it, and the good feeling you get from doing it is infectious.”

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