Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

NSERC awards 13 prestigious student research awards to StFX students

April 21st, 2015

The research labs at StFX will be busy this summer as 13 StFX undergraduates gain research work experience that complements their studies, as recipients of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA).  

The awards are each valued at $4,500 and provide 16 weeks of summer employment.
Pictured here, seated from left are, Anthony Aquino, Emil Jurga, Warren Ferguson and Scott Bennett. Back: Jordan Vosman, Jasmine DeZeeuw, Taylor Landry, Aryn Benoit, Lynsay Spafford, Lucy Wilson, Emma Aucoin and Emily Piggott. Missing from photo is Mitch George.
Award recipients and their supervisors, in brackets, include:
Anthony Aquino (Dr. Gerry Marangoni, Chemistry)
Emma Aucoin (Dr. Dan Kane, Human Kinetics)
Scott Bennett (Dr. Cory Bishop, Biology)
Aryn Benoit (Dr. Petra Hauf, Psychology)
Jasmine DeZeeuw (Dr. Karine LeBris, Physics)
Warren Ferguson (Dr. Brandon van Zyl, Physics)
Mitchell George (Dr. Dan Kane, Human Kinetics)
Emil Jurga (Dr. David Garbary, Aquatic Resources/Biology)
Taylor Landry (Dr. Peter Marzlin, Physics)
Emily Piggott (Dr. Geniece Hallett-Tapley, Chemistry)
Lynsay Spafford (Dr. David Risk, Earth Sciences)
Jordan Vosman (Dr. Ryan Lukeman, Math, Stats, Computer Sci.)
Lucy Wilson (Dr. Truis Smith-Palmer, Chemistry).
The NSERC awards, the students say, provides exceptional opportunity.  
“This award will allow me to do meaningful research in my chosen field of study, an experience that most undergraduate students do not have in university. I will also be given the opportunity to work with some very intelligent and successful students and professors, furthering my academic development,” says Warren Ferguson, a second year physics student from Ottawa, ON, who will do research on mathematical physics. Specifically, he will explore why the Lagrangian in classical mechanics is defined as the kinetic energy minus the potential energy of a system. 

“This opportunity to me is invaluable, as it will help me further discover the world of research and assist me in deciding if I want to pursue a career in this field,” adds Mitch George, a Bachelor of Science student in human kinetics who will be involved in research trying to assess the effects of exercise on lactate metabolism in rat skeletal muscle and brain tissue.  

Jasmine DeZeeuw of Mount Pearl, NL, is a third year student completing a Bachelor of Science in mathematics while concurrently fulfilling the requirements for a Diploma in Engineering. 
“The research I will be conducting through the NSERC Undergraduate Research Award aims to determine the fingerprint of various greenhouse gases in the mid-infrared region using spectroscopy. Last summer I worked with Dr. Karine LeBris to set up the instrumentation and software programs necessary to conduct the experiments we will be performing this summer. The purpose of this research is to hopefully create an optional method to determine if these greenhouse gases are present in the atmosphere,” she says. 
“Last summer, I learned so much about careers in research and what it involves, and I learned a lot about the research that Dr. LeBris is working on,” she says. “An opportunity like this to work for and alongside professionals who are passionate and incredibly knowledgeable about their field is inspiring.”
Second year chemistry student Anthony Aquino of Antigonish, NS says the primary research he will be doing is finding his way around a chemistry research lab, learning about all the different instruments and tools, and then synthesizing novel compounds and testing them for cytotoxicity. “This is a great opportunity for me as I am looking at forensics for my post-grad work and learning my way around a chemistry lab is a very good way to prepare myself for my potential job site. As well as learning many of the techniques and methods that are transferable from the chemistry lab to my prospective career. It means I can get experience in a lab setting before my career even starts.”
Emil Jurga of Antigonish, NS, a second year biology honours student, will be looking at impacts of swamp drainage on a plant unique to an island in Digby, NS. The project will also look at economic opportunities of a seaweed off the coast of Digby. “This will allow me to get some hands-on experience in the field, which is certainly important. It will also give me some experience in research, which will be tremendously helpful for my thesis.”  
Emma Aucoin, a third year human kinetics student from Sydney, NS, will work with Dr. Dan Kane in the field of exercise metabolism. They will be looking at whether vitamin B6 supplementation enhances the effects of exercise training on glucose homeostasis in previously inactive adults. More specifically, they intend to investigate whether the effects of vitamin B6 supplementation on glycemic control occur acutely, and whether supplementation enhances the well-known improvements in glycemic control attributed to exercise training. 
“I am very excited to have been given this opportunity,” she says. “I believe that the type of knowledge and practical experience I will be able to gain from working alongside a professor will be invaluable and will benefit me in many future endeavours. I look forward to being exposed to the research process, as well as the large amount of rewarding work involved in biomedicine research.” 
Third year honours chemistry student Emily Piggott of Dartmouth, NS will work with Prof. Geniece Hallett-Tapley in her photochemistry lab. The research will focus on the catalytic activity of niobium oxide salts with and without the presence of gold metal nanoparticles. 
“This will be my second year holding an NSERC Research Award and the experience I have gained from it thus far is invaluable. The practical, hands-on learning obtained from working alongside a professor and numerous research assistants cannot be taught in the typical class setting. My exposure to the research process has sparked my interest in several possible career paths and graduate study options.”
“This summer, I will investigate the symbiotic relationship between the yellow-spotted salamander and a green alga in various ponds around the Antigonish area,” says Scott Bennett, a third year biology student from Halifax, NS. “I'm very excited to spend another summer as a research assistant. It'll be a great opportunity to have hands-on experience in molecular biology and gain expertise using a variety of machines to process data,” he says. 
“This award will give me the opportunity to work with Dr. Peter Marzlin for a third summer. I really enjoy this research position and the experience I have gained has influenced my future in ways I never expected,” says Taylor Landry, a third year honours physics student from Antigonish, NS, who will work on a project called Decoherence in Raman scattering of light by molecules
Raman scattering of light by molecules in biological samples is a candidate for novel diagnostic methods in cancer research, she says. This project will specifically deal with the incoherent processes involved in molecular Raman scattering and provides theoretical support for an experiment of the group of Dr. Kevin Hewitt at Dalhousie University. 
Lynsay Spafford of Athabasca, AB is a second year student enrolled in StFX’s Environmental Sciences Program in the biology concentration. She will be researching respiration over a lake in Cape Breton with the help of the NSERC grant. “I have never achieved an award of this magnitude previously, and am very grateful towards those who will be supporting my research,” she says. “I am excited to partake in this endeavour and make my supervisor proud of my work and utilization of this opportunity to learn independently about the chemistry and environmental principles controlling respiration in a lacustrine environment.
"It is a pleasure to be associated with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. This award will provide me with an opportunity to genuinely experience the utilization and interpretation of technology associated with my program.”
“It’s a really big honour,” echoes Aryn Benoit of Antigonish, NS, who will work with thesis advisor Dr. Petra Hauf researching the effects of singing on language development in pre-school children. “I’m a singer-songwriter, and it’s a really exciting opportunity to involve that in my research and academics,” she says. Ms. Benoit says she plans to complete her PhD in clinical psychology and the research experience gained will be invaluable, both in helping get into graduate programs as well as helping her feel more prepared for graduate school.
Jordan Vosman of St. Andrews, Antigonish County‎ NS, is a second year student taking a Bachelor of Science degree with an advanced joint major in mathematics and biology. He will be studying the collective behavior of domestic chickens and ducks. “It will be great to gain experience in the field of research, and will be very ‎helpful for any future projects/studies that I am involved with.”

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