Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Nine StFX students receive prestigious McKenna Centre Irving Research Mentorship Awards

April 12th, 2016
Irving Research Students
L-r, Anthony Aquino, Carley Bekkers, Michaella Donovan, Cecilia Scoles, Briony Merritt, Madison Lewis, Sierra LeBlanc and Calvin DeWolfe. Missing is Devin Manning.

From research looking into freezing and storing lobster long term to assessing patient trust in community pharmacies, nine StFX students will have the opportunity to gain valuable research experience in their field of study over the summer months. 

The students are each recipients of a $6,000, 12-week Irving Research Mentorship Award through the Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership. 
The prestigious awards from the Irving Mentorship Program allows students from a variety of disciplines to work under the guidance of a StFX faculty member. The students benefit from hands-on experiential learning and a personalized education. Faculty members are also able to produce more research thanks to student help.
“We are excited to have nine students from a wide variety of academic disciplines, working with their faculty mentors on these important summer research opportunities,” says McKenna Centre executive director Mary Coyle. 
“We are very pleased to be able to provide StFX students with hands-on leadership opportunities through the Irving Research Internships Endowment within the Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership.”
This year’s recipients include Sierra LeBlanc, Madison Lewis, Michaella Donovan, Devin Manning, Cecilia Scoles, Briony Merritt, Calvin DeWolfe, Carley Bekkers and Anthony Aquino.
The students say the award will open the door to invaluable experiences. 
“The opportunity to conduct research with the support of the Irving Mentorship fund is an immense honour,” says third year mathematics student Madison Lewis of Charlottetown, PEI, who will research Sjogren’s syndrome, one of the most common systemic rheumatic autoimmune diseases, under the supervision of Dr. Xu (Sunny) Wang.
“I will be able to further develop my academic and research skills, and I will be able to apply my knowledge in new ways to a topic that I am passionate about,” says Ms. Lewis who will work to understand the natural history of Sjogren’s syndrome and provide a timeline of the development of the disease. 
“Being a recipient of the Irving Award means a great deal to me,” says third year student Michaella Donovan of Summerside, PEI who plans to do a joint advanced major in mathematics, statistics and computer science and economics with a concentration in statistics.
Also under the supervision of Dr. Wang, she will research nowcasting (forecasting the present) inflation using mixed-frequency data. 
“Working with Sunny this summer will be an invaluable research opportunity and it will enhance my educational experience at StFX. This research opportunity will also help me make important decisions later as I enter my final year at StFX. I am so grateful for Sunny’s mentorship. I will learn a lot from her this summer, and I look forward to gaining skills in data analysis that I would not have otherwise been exposed to.” 
Similarly, third year student Cecilia Scoles of Ottawa, ON, who is planning to do an honours degree in anthropology with a subsidiary in history, is looking forward to working with anthropology professor Dr. Jane McMillian and the Mi'kmaq community in Nova Scotia. 
They plan to seek and collect additional relevant materials related to the experiences of residential school survivors in Atlantic Canada, and collaboratively construct an exhibit related to regional community desires for the ongoing mobilization of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. The central goal of her research is to monitor and document the regional activities of implementing the 94 Calls to Action. 
“I am very excited to be a part of this research opportunity here at StFX. Doing research with Dr. McMillian is an opportunity that I would not have otherwise had if it was not for the Irving grant,” she says, noting she is hoping the research will provide important insights and connections moving into her last year at StFX.
Honours philosophy student Calvin DeWolfe of Conquerall Mills, NS will work with philosophy professor Dr. Steve Baldner on research around Rene Descartes. “I am truly grateful to be granted this award,” he says. “Invaluable guidance from Dr. Baldner, whose own research deals with Cartesian Occasionalism, will allow me to investigate a problem that is of great interest to me in a way I never could have without being afforded this opportunity. StFX and Irving are taking an important initiative in their support of undergraduate research.”
Devin Manning of Saint John, NB, a third year honours human kinetics student, will work under the supervision of Dr. Daniel Kane, studying the mechanism as through which energy is produced in mammalian mitochondria. Specifically, they will examine the effects of exercise on lactate metabolism in the brain of mammals. 
“The Irving Mentorship Scholarship will allow me the unique opportunity to gain invaluable experience working in the laboratory of a field-leading scientist in Dr. Kane. By creating an environment that delves deep into my chosen field of study, such experiences are catalytic in the development of knowledge and leadership qualities.”
For third year honours psychology student Briony Merritt of Halifax, NS the award will allow her to delve into research focusing on evaluating the relationship between formal risk scores and clinical judgements of risk as stated in clinical reports to better target the needs of justice-involved youth. 
“I am excited and grateful to be able to pursue research that may have implications for the youth offender population in Nova Scotia. Being able to work with the IWK Forensic Research Team is an amazing opportunity and I am looking forward to better understanding the standard procedure for assessing clinical risk,” she says.
Third year honours marketing student Sierra LeBlanc of Antigonish, NS whose research will focus on the same area as her honours thesis, in the field of community pharmacy and patient trust, says this is an important opportunity.
“I will not only be able to continue the work I have started towards my honours thesis, but will also have the chance to gain valuable research skills and improve my abilities in data analysis,” she says 
Under the supervision of business professor Dr. Bobbi Morrison, Ms. LeBlanc says she is interested in examining the role of patient trust in the young adult population, and will be surveying and analyzing responses of undergraduate students in an attempt to learn more about this age group with a focus on different forms of trust surrounding community pharmacy. 
“Many hours of this past school year have been spent buried in the research and literature of this field; it feels amazing to be able to further this education by conducting my own study. I'm incredibly grateful to be a recipient of this grant and grateful to be given the opportunity to spend a summer learning from Bobbi, as thus far she has been an incredible mentor.”
This summer, Anthony Aquino, a third year chemistry student from Antigonish, NS, will be looking at the cryoprotectant properties of trehalose, a sugar, and other materials and their possible benefits in freezing and storing lobster long term. He will be working on the experimental characterization of these properties and benefits, using various methods in the lab.
“This is a very important opportunity for me, it will allow me to apply my chemical knowledge in new and interesting ways, and it will give me great experience working in the lab on new, innovative, and possibly patentable research, which I can hopefully use in my future endeavours.”
Fourth year honours chemistry student Carley Bekkers of Halifax, NS will study the process of biofouling in the hopes of producing transparent glass surfaces with the ability to inhibit the formation of bacterial biofilms. 
“Receiving an Irving Research Mentorship this year has been a great honour. With this award I will be able to work closely with my supervisor on a complex and highly engaging project that will prepare me for my honours project. I feel incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity.”
McKenna _Centre

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