Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Eight StFX graduate students awarded Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarships for innovative research

May 17th, 2016
L-r, Katlyn MacKay, Amanda Vosman, Stephanie Macintyre, Bry Crabbe and Yousef Abu Baker. Absent are Alex Young, Meredith Karcz and Pritam Saha.

Eight graduate students at StFX have been awarded provincially funded scholarships that will help them conduct research ranging from computer vision to greenhouse gas emissions. 

The students are all recipients of the Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarship, each valued at $10,000.
 
The awards, open to research graduates at Nova Scotia universities, were created to help advance the economic and social well-being of Nova Scotians by investing in graduate thesis-based research in a number of priority sectors. They encourage exploration, discovery and innovation.  
 
Recipients, with their supervisors listed in brackets, include Alex Young (Dr. Russell Wyeth); Amanda Vosman (Dr. Lisa Kellman); Katlyn MacKay (Dr. Dave Risk); Meredith Karcz (Dr. Ricardo Scrosati); Pritam Saha (Dr. Alan Anderson); Stephanie Macintyre (Dr. Lisa Kellman); Yousef Abu Baker (Dr. Iker Gondra); and Bry Crabbe (Dr. Geniece Hallett-Tapley).
“The Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarship will enable me to continue to carry out research in a field that has the potential to contribute towards the development of more environmentally friendly processes, at an institution that provides the opportunity to work side-by-side with some great researchers,” says Bry Crabbe.
 
The Woodstock, NB native graduated from StFX in May 2016 with a B.Sc. advanced major in chemistry and will begin his M.Sc. in chemistry in September. His research with Dr. Geniece Hallett-Tapley and Dr. Brian MacLean focuses on the reduction of carbon dioxide using new light-activated and electrochemical catalysts. The goal of the work advances Nova Scotia priorities by developing a potential clean fuel or energy source, deferring from the present coal dependence Nova Scotia possess, he says.
 
Earth sciences master’s student Amanda Vosman says this scholarship allows her to focus on her academic studies and research by easing the financial pressures as a full-time student. “I am very grateful for this award and feel fortunate to be selected as a recipient this academic year,” she says.
 
“The Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarship is a great initiative to assist graduate students to achieve research that helps advance Nova Scotia in key sectors. In a very general sense, my project aims to sustain Nova Scotia water resources and reduce air pollution under agricultural production,” she says. 
 
Her research focuses on understanding the gaseous (N2O) and water (NO3) nitrogen losses associated with imperfectly drained agricultural soils under various drainage systems. Tile drain systems are commonly employed on farms across Nova Scotia due to high annual precipitation, she says. Without their use, many fields would not be feasible for crop production. By creating a pathway to efficiently remove excess water, there is potential of enhancing nitrogen losses, a negative impact to farmers and the environment. By better understanding these losses, they can establish best management practices to minimize nitrogen losses, conserving the farmer’s original investment and reducing the environmental impact. 
 
ALLOWS FOCUS ON RESEARCH
 
“I was fortunate enough to receive a Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarship last year, and am honoured to receive this award again. It’s encouraging to receive continued support for this research, and the scholarship allows you to really focus on your project,” says fellow master’s earth sciences student Stephanie Macintyre of Antigonish, NS who is investigating the links between clearcut harvesting and changes in carbon lost from soil profiles. 
 
She says from both economic and environmental perspectives, forest harvesting represents a major component of Nova Scotia’s resource sector. “The sustainability of this resource in the long term is very sensitive to current management practices, however, there is insufficient information regarding how soil fertility and land carbon budgets in temperate regions are affected by forest harvest cycle lengths.”
 
Ms. MacIntyre says the research will contribute to understanding the implications of forest harvesting practices on the stability of the mineral soil carbon pool under changing climate in temperate zone ecosystems. It will also contribute to developing solid land use management policies related to C accounting, bioenergy endeavors, water quality concerns, and adaptation and mitigation strategies regarding climate change.
 
Yousef Abu Baker’s research is in the field of computer vision, a subfield of computer science/information technology. “As we seek to build more intelligent computer systems, computer vision, i.e., the ability to extract useful descriptions of the world from images, is unequivocally useful,” he says. 
 
“The field of robotics itself has the potential to profoundly change our lives by, for example providing assistance or performing medical surgery. However, computer vision is now much broader. Applications, such as industrial automation and inspection, image search, gesture recognition for human-computer interaction, driver assistance, biological imaging and diagnosis, aids for the visually impaired, security and biometrics, just to name a few, keep arising. All of these applications have a huge impact on the economic and wellbeing of Nova Scotians,” he says.
 
For Katlyn MacKay, a master’s student in earth sciences from Antigonish, NS, her research is aimed at helping oil field operators understand their fugitive emissions to a highly detailed level, which she says can aid in emission reduction strategies with low overall cost. 
 
“As greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector are a global issue, I believe my research and our technology can play a significant role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the industry as a whole. This impact means a great deal to me as I am very passionate about the environment, and it would not be possible without funding to support my ongoing research. That being said, I am very thankful for this opportunity.”
 
She says the technique used in her research is not specific to one region or industry, and can be applied to a wide range of environments. In Nova Scotia, their mobile surveys have already been used to monitor releases of coal bed methane in New Glasgow, and it can be useful for other areas of the province as well. 
 

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