Research

Dr. Danielle Tokarz's research receives boost from the federal government

The research of Saint Mary’s new chemistry faculty member, Dr. Danielle Tokarz, into the microscopic structure of large molecules in living animals and plants received a big boost, as a result of an investment of $153,026 from the federal government.

Dr. Danielle Tokarz

Dr. Danielle Tokarz

The research of Dr. Tokarz focuses on the structure of large molecules inside animals and plants which are relevant to the wellbeing of Canadians including collagen in humans and other animals, as well as cellulose and photosynthetic membranes in plants. The funding will allow Dr. Tokarz and her interdisciplinary team of chemists, physicists and biologists to build a new type of laser microscope, one that can measure the structure of microscopic regions of plant and animal tissues at record high speeds. The technology will allow the first live measurements of tiny structural changes in living creatures, allowing a fresh look at functioning biological phenomena. The research will address questions in biology such as, how does collagen degrade in organ tissues during ageing, and how woody cellulose, the leftover plant material after tree removal, can be efficiently degraded for conversion into biofuels.

In addition to the short term benefits of this research in increased knowledge of fundamental biological processes, long term benefits for Canadians are expected in healthcare and industry. Studies of collagen in the extracellular matrix during ageing will offer advances to the healthcare of Canadians. Studies of cellulose structure will have an impact on local industries including biofuels, pulp and paper, and biodegradable materials. Finally, studies of photosynthetic tissues will have applications in increasing plant growth efficiency, growing plants in colder climates and increasing global food supply. The proposed nonlinear laser microscope will be the first in Atlantic Canada, giving students and faculty the opportunity to use cutting-edge technology.

Maximizing land use and earning more money for farmers part of new federally funded research at SMU

Research into how poor-quality, marginal land can be used to produce biomass as a potential revenue stream for farmers underway at Saint Mary’s University received $1.2 million in funding from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s AgriScience program and the Nova Scotia Innovation Hub Fund.

“Community is at the heart of all that we do at Saint Mary’s University, including our research,” said Saint Mary’s president Robert Summerby-Murray. “We are committed to working with the community and sharing our expertise to find innovative solutions to real-world challenges. I want to thank the Government of Canada for supporting Atlantic Canadian researchers who are at the forefront of agricultural research, research that will benefit us all.”

Dr. J. Kevin Vessey

Dr. J. Kevin Vessey

Led by Dr. J. Kevin Vessey, the project receiving funding is called “Purpose-Grown Biomass Crops: Efficient Production, Yield Modelling and Real-world Verification.” The five-year project aims to determine what substances and organisms best promote plant growth and decrease production costs in a variety of plants including willow and switchgrass. The project will assess the yield potential of the crops on marginal soil areas on farms and AAFC research sites across Nova Scotia. The result is a database and yield prediction model for the four crops under examination.

“The long-term goal of my research is to enhance the bioeconomy, the part of the economy that uses renewable biological resources from the land and sea, of Nova Scotia. To do this we need to increase the production of biomass for processing into biofuels and other bioproducts in a sustainable way,” said Dr. Vessey.  “This research is crucial to de-risking the use of biomass by providing a sustainable feedstock supply, which can attract more biomass processors to Nova Scotia. It has the potential of greatly diversifying the Province’s biomass feedstock inventory, while also contributing to rural economies and environmental sustainability.”

Sites for the project extend from Yarmouth to Inverness County. Partners on the project include: Acadian Seaplant Ltd, ADECO BioResources Inc., The Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, Port Hawkesbury Paper, and Propel Bioenergy.

The funding comes as part of the federal Biomass Cluster announced on Monday, Feb. 11 by Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. The Cluster, led by the BioFuelNet Canada Network, includes a federal investment of up to $7 million along with an additional $3.1 million in contributions from industry, for a total investment of $10.1 million.

Celebrating African Heritage Month 2019

Join Saint Mary’s University in celebrating African Heritage Month by exploring the multitude of events taking place across campus, including a one-of-a-kind exhibit and panel discussion in the Patrick Power Library.

African Heritage Month events at Saint Mary’s.  Click here to go to the Saint Mary’s events calendar.

African Heritage Month events at Saint Mary’s. Click here to go to the Saint Mary’s events calendar.

The theme of the panel discussion is “Racial Apartheid & Black Freedom Struggles in Nova Scotia & South Africa”. The exhibit features Nova Scotian and South African materials from the Lynn Jones African-Canadian Heritage and Diaspora Heritage Collection, housed in the Saint Mary’s University Archives. The exhibit will be on display on the first floor of the Patrick Power Library, Saint Mary’s University from February 4-28, 2019.

The panel discussion will feature South African writer and SMU scholar Gugu Hlongwane, Dr. Lynn Jones (Global African Congress, NS Chapter), researcher and filmmaker Francesca Ekwuyasi, and social justice strategist, songwriter and educator Delvina Bernard. The panel will speak to similarities and differences between Black history and freedom struggles in Nova Scotia and South Africa. This event takes place on Tuesday February 12th, 6:30-8pm, Patrick Power Library Classroom (LI135).

The Saint Mary’s University Archives is the proud home of the Lynn Jones African-Canadian Heritage & Diaspora Heritage Collection, which “documents the lives of Lynn, her family, and over 50 years of African, African Diasporic, and African-Nova Scotian heritage and history”.

Dr. Lynn Jones

Dr. Lynn Jones

Learn more about the Collection and how to access it at https://smu.ca/academics/archives/lynn-jones-african-canadian-collection.html

For more information about African Heritage Month and the events taking place throughout the province, visit https://ansa.novascotia.ca/, Facebook, @AfricanNSAffairs or Twitter, @OfficeofANSA.

CLARI creates powerful partnerships between universities and communities

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On the surface, implicit bias training for police, tidal energy development and bringing the family pet to the nursing home seem to have little in common.

At Saint Mary’s, they represent successful community-based collaborations for CLARI, the pan-university Change Lab Action Research Initiative, based at the university.

This work was celebrated on Tuesday, January 22 when team members from participating universities and community organizations gathered at the CLARI space on campus.

‘“CLARI connects university professors, experts in their fields, with community groups in need of that expertise for community-based projects,” said Adam Sarty, AVP Research and Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research.

“These projects are proof of concept and would not have been possible without the partnerships and funding available through CLARI. The demand is there, and we look forward to the new opportunities for collaborations that 2019 will bring,” he adds.

In addition to the projects mentioned above, CLARI has also supported partnerships to:

See the CLARI progress report for more:  https://smu.ca/webfiles/CLARIReport2018.pdf

See the CLARI progress report for more: https://smu.ca/webfiles/CLARIReport2018.pdf

  • promote cultural food security for newcomers,

  • evaluate an arts-based entrepreneurship program for youth,

  • research barriers faced by people living with disabilities through evidence-based solutions,

  • explore what justice means to those who have experienced gender-based violence, and

  • research ways to improve outcomes for incarcerated people returning to the community.

"CLARI has enabled community needs to be addressed by faculty expertise, a truly novel approach to research in Nova Scotia," said Gayle MacDonald, the associate vice-president, research at Mount Saint Vincent University. "‎Faculty learn the complexity of working with community, community groups learn the precision and patience applied research requires, and in the mix, students are direct participants in the process. As a Change Action Laboratory, CLARI has lived up to its claims. The Mount is proud to be part of this initiative."

The CLARI network spans the province, combining the talents and resources of its six founding partner universities: Acadia University, Cape Breton University, Mount Saint Vincent University, St. Francis Xavier University, Saint Mary’s University, Université Sainte-Anne and the Nova Scotia Community College’s 13 campuses. CLARI partners assist communities in all parts of the province to develop social and economic change projects while providing enhanced learning opportunities for students.



Bridges to Thailand: Saint Mary’s signs MOU with Srinakharinwirot University

The start of a partnership: Dr, Malcolm Butler, VPAR with Associate Professor Prit Supasetsiri, Vice President for International Relations and Communications, SWU and the visiting delagates in the McNally Boardroom.

The start of a partnership: Dr, Malcolm Butler, VPAR with Associate Professor Prit Supasetsiri, Vice President for International Relations and Communications, SWU and the visiting delagates in the McNally Boardroom.

The signing of a MoU between Saint Mary’s University and Srinakharinwirot University (SWU) in Thailand marks the beginning of a new partnership and opens the door to increased international mobility for both institutions.

A ten-person delegation from SWU came to campus on November 28 to visit Saint Mary’s, sign the MoU and discuss further opportunities for potential collaboration including joint degree programs, student exchanges and ESL summer/short-term courses.

In addition to Dr. Butler, delegates spoke with Dr. Adam Sarty, AVP Research, and Dean, FGSR; Dr. Harjeet Bhabra Dean, SSB; and Nicola MacNevin from the The Language Centre.

The Thai delegation included faculty from their College of Social Communication Innovation and Faculty of Economics who want to build ties with relevant Saint Mary’s programs at both undergraduate and graduate levels.

The Language Centre is also considering building a customized short-term program that focuses on English training, intercultural communication, or other specific subjects. SWU students could potentially start taking part in language training programs as early as next summer (2019).

Saint Mary’s was first introduced to SWU in June 2018 with the support of Nitchawan (Pan) Sriviboone, Trade Commissioner at the Canadian Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, who identified the institutions as a good match for Saint Mary’s University in terms of partnerships.