Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Exploration and innovation: 11 StFX graduate students receive Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarships

September 11th, 2017
L-r, Alex Young, Bry Crabbe, Greg Hadley, Andrew Flower, Nadia Tarakki, Lori Paslawski, Meredith Karcz and Zihao Jiang. Missing are Abu Baker, James Williams and Hina Shehzadi.

Eleven StFX graduate students—10 master’s students and one PhD student—are 2017 recipients of the Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarship, awarded to research graduates at Nova Scotia universities to help advance the economic and social well-being of Nova Scotians by investing in graduate thesis-based research in several priority sectors.

The awards encourage exploration, discovery and innovation.  

At StFX, the students are involved in research projects that range from exploring educational avenues to slow out-migration in the province to the impacts of rockweed harvest.

Recipients include master’s students Andrew Flower, Hina Shehzadi, James Williams, Nadia Tarakki, Zihao Jiang, Bry Crabbe, Abu Baker, Meredith Karcz, Lori Paslawski, Alex Young and PhD student Greg Hadley.

All say the scholarship is invaluable.  

“Being awarded funding through the Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarship in the area of social innovation has allowed me to create a robust research plan of a truly provincial scope,” says Greg Hadley of Antigonish, NS, who is completing his PhD (educational studies) under the supervision of education professor Dr. David Young.

His research examines the potential for entrepreneurship education in Nova Scotia public schools to serve as a mechanism to slow out-migration and enhance economic development.


“I am particularly interested in rural areas, as population decline and economic stagnation has threatened the stability of many, once vibrant, communities. As a former public school teacher in rural Nova Scotia, I have seen what population decline has done and am keen to explore what educational avenues might help to slow this troubling phenomenon,” he says. “The funding will allow me to engage with stakeholders, academics and policymakers and, I predict, will open many other doors that may have remained closed by economic forces. This funding offers me a great deal of research flexibility and has been truly transformative for my work.” 

Meredith Karcz of Burlington ON, who is completing a MSc in biology under the supervision of Dr. David Garbary, says the scholarship both helps her afford to study and conduct a project she cares about.

She is looking at the impacts of rockweed (Ascophyllum nodosum) harvesting in Nova Scotia on the other algal species and invertebrates that inhabit the rockweed canopies on rocky shores across the province.

“Rockweed harvesting is a growing multi-million dollar industry,” she says. “The seaweed is used primarily in agricultural applications and fertilizers. Research has primarily taken a species focused approach up until this point, but to properly ensure that current harvest methods are sustainable, the impact on the entire community needs to be assessed.”


Hina Shehzadi of Lyari Karachi, Pakistan is completing a M.Ed. under the supervision of education professor Dr. Joanne Tompkins. She is working on qualitative research, a comparative analysis of two curricula relating to the understanding of university students regarding sexual and reproductive health rights of women in Nova Scotia and Karachi.

Hina Shehzadi

“This scholarship is a life-changing opportunity for me because coming from an under-developing country, Pakistan, where as a young woman it was a major challenge for me to continue my higher education, this scholarship is not only supporting me to achieve my dream for becoming a university professor, but my community as well as I am the only woman travelling abroad for study and setting examples for other girls in my community to work hard and explore the opportunities in the world. I am so grateful to receive this Nova Scotia graduate grant.”

MSc biology student Alex Young of Berwick, NS, working with biology professor Dr. Russell Wyeth, is examining the nervous system of a snail species (Lymnaea stagnalis), identifying genes and cell types responsible for producing different neurotransmitters inside of its sensory organs (lips, tentacles) to get an idea of how the snail processes sensory information.

“Once we understand the genes and cells present in its nervous system, those genes can be interfered with to block their action and give us an idea of their function. The goal of my research is to get a better understanding of how the snails' genetics and nervous system are responsible for controlling its behaviour at the molecular level,” he says. “Ultimately, my research can lead to large scale sensory manipulation of snails with chemicals to prevent them from entering gardens or precious crop fields in countries where they are currently a major pest and a vector for several diseases.

“Receiving a Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarship supplement means that I will be able to complete my master’s solely on external funding. One great thing about that is it saves internal funds to dedicate towards my research, hopefully increasing the quality of my projects.”


“The Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarship is an honour for me and it is also a confirmation of my hard work,” says Zihao Jiang, of Changzhou, Jiangsu Province, China, a first-year master’s student working with computer science professor Dr. Laurence T. Yang on research focused mainly on big data and matrix computation.

“Receiving the Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarship is a great honour for me,” agrees master’s of science student Nadia Tarakki of Bangladesh, who is working with earth sciences professor Dr. Dave Risk.

“This scholarship inspired me to create an effective tracer suite using isotopes to detect seepage and various emission sources. The results can be applied to mitigate health impacts in Nova Scotia, through use in issues such as emissions into residential basements and groundwater supplies,” she says.

She is working on soil gas monitoring at the Carbon Capture and Storage project at Aquistore, Estevan, Saskatchewan. This involves monitoring of soil gas concentrations of CO2, O2, N2 and CH4 and isotopic value analysis of stable isotope, d13C of CO2 and radiocarbon isotope, D14C of CO2 in addition to soil CO2 surface flux from pre-existing wells. The objective of the research is to monitor the containment of her research site and develop an isotopic tracer suite that can differentiate between biogenic and thermogenic surface gas sources.

“As a second-year recipient of the NSGS, this funding provides the financial support that allows us researchers to be more able to focus on our academics and research without having financial burdens in the background,” says Bry Crabbe of Woodstock, NB, completing a master’s of science in chemistry under the supervision of Dr. Geniece Hallett-Tapley and Dr. BJ MacLean.

He says through the use of niobium based perovskite semiconductor materials, they are studying the light induced reactions involving carbon-carbon coupling using this more energy efficient and more ‘green’ reaction process in the absence of heat and harsh organic materials.

“Receiving the Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarship will allow me to use scientific instruments that study the chemistry of hundreds of rock samples and create thin sections to study the samples at a microscopic level. Each of these methods, supported by the NSGS, are essential to the development of a new structural geologic model and ultimately, the completion of my master’s research,” says Andrew Flower of Calgary, AB, taking a master’s in earth science (geology) under the supervision of Dr. Mike Melchin.

“My study of graptolites and carbon isotopes will help create a model of mineral deposition that could potentially be used to help ore exploration in shale hosted mineral resources in Nova Scotia.”

The research is based on geological findings in the Selwyn Mountain range, located in the Howards Pass district, Northwest Territories. 

This research is, in part, made possible by the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.


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