German President Steinmeier Visits UBC

President Steinmeier

Vancouver, BC – April 26, 2023 – Yesterday on Tuesday, April 25th, UBC hosted German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, First Lady Elke Büdenbender, the happy-looking Minister of Education & Research Bettina Stark-Watzinger and Ms. Sabine Sparrwasser the German Ambassador to Canada, among others in the 70-member delegation as part of the President’s first official visit to Canada.

©Photo provided by UBC Media Relations Team

President Steinmeier was welcomed by German Consul General in Vancouver General Marc Eichhorn.

©Westcoast German News

The delegates were then welcomed by Dr. Walter Merida, applied science associate dean, research and industrial partnerships, who was excited to lead the tour of the “SHED” – Smart Hydrogen Energy District. This is an unique project developed by MeridaLabs, a research group within the faculty of applied science, and projected to open later this year.

©Westcoast German News

The guests were shown the first and only working hydrogen fueling station in UBC, currently available for cars and busses.

Hydrogen fueling station at UBC
©Provided by UBC Media Relations Team

President Steinmeier was given a tour by the passionate Dr. Merida, who was very excited to explain the ins and outs of the soon-to-open hydrogen research platform. He also met faculty of applied science researchers working on clean energy and climate change solutions, including engineers collaborating with German research institutions, along the way.

©UBC Media Relations Team

President Steinmeier and the First Lady , as well as other members of the large German delegation, greeted representatives of UBC including UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Deborah Buszard, Musqueam Indian Band Chief Wayne Sparrow and Researchers working in the UBC Faculty of Applied Science.

The President had just come from a boat tour with the mayor of Vancouver Ken Sim and the Premier of BC David Eby, and luckily for them the weather had suddenly transformed into sunshine, after weeks and months of rain.

©Westcoast German News

After all the greetings were over, and the SHED tour was finished, President Steinmeier and his delegation were able to attend the research showcase, with 7 projects relating to clean energy, digital manufacturing, quantum materials and smart energy storage held in the Pharm-Sci Building-Atrium on display.

UBC is one of the few Canadian academic institutions with research partnerships with the three major German research institutions – Fraunhofer Society, Max Planck Society and Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, which includes the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) – as well as partnerships with leading German organizations including Siemens and BASF.

©UBC Media Relations Team
©Westcoast German News

Below, left to right are:

  • Dr. Andrea Damascelli, a Researcher for the Max Planck-UBC-UTokyo Centre for Quantum Materials,
  • Valentin Zimmermann, who recently received a prize of the Faculty for Physics and Mathematics at the University of Stuttgart for his MSc degree in Physics,
  • Rafael Haenel, Joint PhD Candidate, University of British Columbia & Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research and
  • Dr. Anoush Poursartip, leading the DLR@UBC, a long-term German-UBC collaboration project on improving materials and structures for aeronautics and ground transportation.

Says Rafael Haenel, a joint PhD student at UBC, the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research and the University of Stuttgart, “My program gives me the chance to experience a second academic environment. I get to meet interesting people and participate in cutting-edge research and collaboration between two institutes, two cultures.”

©Provided by UBC Media Relations Team

Dr. Merida introduced the topic of international collaboration and why this is so important in the world today.

“UBC applied science researchers excel at collaborating across large, multidisciplinary projects that lead to relevant, practical solutions to the complex challenges of climate change and clean energy,” said Dr. Mérida. “This work puts our faculty and students at the heart of what matters most in Canada and the global economy.”

©Westcoast German News
@wWestcoast German News

“We were delighted to welcome President Steinmeier to UBC and to showcase our commitment to sustainable energy and advancing research that addresses climate change,” said UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Deborah Buszard. “President Steinmeier’s visit underscores the importance of international collaboration in the field of clean energy and we look forward to continued partnership with German institutions.”

@Westcoast German News

Chief Wayne Sparrow talked about the importance of clean energy and leaving something behind for our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and everyone born in the future.

Chief Wayne Sparrow

Afterwards they presented the President with a beautiful piece of artwork by Coast Salish artist from Musqueam Susan Point and a blanket from the Musqueam Nation. UBC is situated on the ancestral, traditional and unceded territory of the Musqueam peoples.

Canada welcomes several thousand German students every year and the German visit highlights how these students can tap into opportunities to engage in top-tier research, particularly at UBC.

The visit ended with a photo opportunity with the President and the First Lady on either side of Chief Sparrow.

Other projects included:

  • UBC Orbit is a satellite design team led by UBC engineering students and advised by electrical and computer engineering professor Dr. David Michelson, who are building a training satellite that can assist in disaster mitigation and response
  • A research group led by Dr. David Wilkinson, Canada Research Chair in clean energy and electrochemical technologies, is developing advanced electrochemical methods to produce clean energy and clean water with minimal carbon emissions
  • Dr. Mohammad Arjmand, Canada Research Chair in advanced materials and polymer engineering, leads a team that is embedding enhanced properties into next-generation nanomaterials for applications that include improving defence capabilities
  • DLR@UBC, a long-term German-UBC collaboration led by Dr. Anoush Poursartip, involves 30-plus scientists working together on eight projects including improving materials and structures for aeronautics and ground transportation

About this Visit:

Althought it was very exciting to be that close to the President Steinmeier, it would have been nice to also formally be able to introduce myself, as his wife and I share the same first name. Apparently protocol prevented this from happening. The other disappointing aspect of this event is that the President of the German Canadian Business Association was not directly invited, which I think is a significant loss.

This event was highlighting business connections, educational opportunities and collaboration projects between Germany and Canada and Beatrice Schreiber – who received the Federal Order of Merit, awarded to domestic and foreign citizens for political, economic, social and intellectual achievements – would have been able to share some of the experiences she has gathered in her last 30 years as a German Canadian Board Member for Businesses in Canada.

What I did enjoy was the well-organized flow of events for the media. We had a media briefing led by Erik Rolfsen, Senior Media Relations Specialist, which thoroughly explained protocol, projects, introduced professors and let us know the order of events. We were allowed to take pictures, but they also provided us with pictures from the UBC Media Relations Team, which was very helpful. They were thorough, professional and made it easy to attend the event and then write about it afterwards.

Kudos to the The Media Relations and University Affairs team, UBC Faculty of applied science, the UBC Researchers who answered my basic questions patiently and most of all to the kind member of the UBC IT Team who let me borrow a smartphone cord, since mine broke and my battery was only at 23% at the time. Thank you so much!

About President Steinmeier:

Frank-Walter Steinmeier was born in Detmold (Lippe district) on 5 January 1956. He has been married to Elke Büdenbender since 1995. They have one daughter.

In 1998, he was appointed State Secretary at the Federal Chancellery and Federal Government Commissioner for the Federal Intelligence Services. He also served as Head of the Federal Chancellery from 1999. Frank-Walter Steinmeier was appointed Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs in 2005 and was also Deputy Chancellor from 2007. In 2009, he won a directly elected seat in a constituency in Land Brandenburg and became a Member of the German Bundestag. The parliamentary group of the Social Democratic Party of Germany in the German Bundestag elected him as chairperson. Four years later, he became Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs for the second time, and served in this role until January 2017.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier was elected as the twelfth President of the Federal Republic of Germany on 12 February 2017 and re-elected for a second term of office on 13 February 2022.

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