Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Summer of research: UCR Awards give StFX students opportunity to conduct hands-on research

May 31st, 2017
2017 UCR student research award recipients include, l-r, Patrick O’Brien, Jay Nero, Sachin Mohandas, and Amelia MacKenzie. Missing are Shuaijie Liu and Jack Bowness.

Being able to conduct hands-on research under the supervision of a StFX faculty member this summer is a priceless opportunity to grow and learn, says one of the recipients of this year’s StFX Student Research Awards and University Council for Research (UCR) Awards.

This year, StFX students Jay Nero, Shuaijie Liu, Amelia MacKenzie, Patrick O’Brien, Sachin Mohandas and Jack Bowness have each received a $4,500 UCR award that will allow them to spend their summer conducting research.

“It allows me to go beyond what is done in the classroom, and have a firsthand experience of the failures and successes of research. As someone who would like to pursue a career in research, learning how to ask questions, talk to professors, and problem solve is priceless, and these are skills I will keep for life,” says Patrick O'Brien, a third year physics student from Fort McMurray, AB.

His research this summer, with Dr. Balaji Subramanian, focuses on using new materials, such as graphene, to make electrochromic devices. “These devices consist of layers of glass, thin crystal films, and ion conducting layers to allow different amounts of light through. There are many applications for these devices, such as using them in building windows, or improving transition lenses in glasses,” he says.


“It is so rewarding to take concepts that I learned in the classroom and be able to apply them in the field to try to solve a real-world industry problem at the local level, and it is even more exciting to do so immediately after completing my degree,” says Amelia MacKenzie of Sherbrooke, NS, who graduated this year with a B.Sc. in biology and a minor in development studies.

She will spend the summer researching methods of preventing marine biofouling, the accumulation of organisms on immersed human-made structures such as nets and ships, under the supervision of biology professor Dr. Russell Wyeth.

“Working with the Waycobah First Nations Aquaculture Farm, I am testing eco-friendly materials designed to impede the attachment of biofouling and reduce its impacts in aquaculture and other marine industries,” she says.

“At the aquaculture farm, mussels accumulate on the net pens used to hold the trout and cause a number of problems, both ecological and economic,” she says. 

Honours psychology student Jay Nero of Oakville, ON is working with psychology professor Dr. Lindsay Berrigan. He says being given the opportunity to conduct research with the UCR award funding has been extremely encouraging. “The award has provided me the opportunity to improve my research skills, improve my CV, and to explore topics and gain experience that I could not have acquired inside the classroom,” he says.

“Dr. Berrigan and I will be conducting research that explores the cognitive symptoms of MS, and how those symptoms are exacerbated or synergistic in patients with a comorbid depressive disorder, such as major depressive disorder,” he says.

“Our research aims to better understand the neurological and psychological processes behind these symptoms, as well as to better inform clinical practices to improve patient quality of life.”

Sachin Mohandas, a third year physics student from Antigonish, NS, is working with Dr. Peter Marzlin doing theoretical work as it pertains to making precise measurements of gravity using molecular matter-wave interferometry in the mathematical setting of curved spacetime. 

“I am extremely grateful to have been given such a fantastic opportunity to explore a field that I appreciate so much and have such a great passion for, in addition to the fact that the experience I will gain by researching will undoubtedly prove advantageous in the progression of my academic career,” he says. 

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


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