For local brothers Blago and Ilija Hristovski, an engineering education at UBC’s School of Engineering is just the first step in achieving their goals.
Both graduated from Kelowna Secondary School (KSS), and both reference their high school physics teacher as their inspiration to pursue an education and career that includes physics. Neither Blago nor Ilija saw themselves as scientists; engineering was a natural choice.
When Blago was choosing a university, he applied to six different schools. After contacting Dr. Jonathan Holzman, an electrical engineering professor in the School of Engineering, and learning about the research opportunities available on campus, Blago decided on UBC’s Okanagan campus.
One year later, after listening to Blago’s experiences, Ilija also connected with Dr. Holzman and chose the School of Engineering.
"Blago and Ilija are hard-working students with a passion for engineering and research,” says Holzman.
“They are shining examples of what undergraduate students can do when they become engaged in research. I look forward to seeing them apply their research experiences in their futures studies and careers."
Ilija found himself intimidated by research at first. But the more he worked on projects, the more he realized that he enjoyed the challenge of research.
His research experiences led him overseas. During his second year, a researcher from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia spoke in a meeting Ilija attended regarding the available summer research internships KAUST had to offer.
“I asked if undergraduate students were welcome to apply, followed up with him, and after much anticipation in a competitive application, got a position,” said Ilija.
He spent 7 months in Saudi Arabia, working with the international nanofabrication facility’s Sensing Magnetism and Microsystems Group on a variety of research projects.
Both brothers also have a passion for aerospace (they have been flying Cessna 172s since they were 13 years old and have 1500 hours of flight simulator time combined), but no options for aerospace studies, clubs, or organizations yet existed on campus. Wanting to extend this passion into their academic lives, they started the UBCO Aerospace Club.
“This is our passion,” said Ilija. “We love flying, and want to connect others with that same passion.”
Since its inception, the Aerospace Club has grown to more than 50 members, has organized an industry night with more than 22 companies in attendance, and has hosted a UAV training course for students.
Blago is now preparing for graduation, and is beginning his Masters of Applied Science degree at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies in September. He would like to help develop UAVs for novel applications (forest fire suppression, search and rescue, and surveying).
He would also like to develop new aircraft technology to enhance the sustainability of air transportation.
Ilija will continue working on research over the summer, and will begin his last year of his undergraduate degree in September. His goals include a PhD in electrical engineering with a focus on optics, and a career in complex autonomous artificial intelligence systems applied to space-based technologies.
When asked what makes their story unique, the brothers focused on their time together.
“We’ve had the opportunity to work together, and travel together – but we were also able to branch out into our areas of interest to reach our goals,” said Blago.
“We could also assist each other – with myself being in electrical, and Blago in mechanical, we’ve been able to assist each other on projects and coursework,” added Ilija.
“We will have a good working relationship for the rest of our lives.”