Research

Saint Mary’s PhD graduate wins international award

Dr. Samantha A. Penney

Dr. Samantha A. Penney

Saint Mary’s University is proud to announce that Dr. Samantha A. Penney, a recent PhD graduate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, has received the prestigious 2019 Kenneth E. Clark Student Research Award from the Center for Creative Leadership and the International Leadership Association.

“It is an absolute honour to have my dissertation research recognized internationally,” said Dr. Penney.

In her award-winning paper on leadership titled Fostering a Psychologically Healthy Workplace through Leadership, Dr. Penney created and validated a scale to assess leadership behaviours that contribute to a healthy workplace, and then designed a workshop and phone-based coaching program which she delivered to leaders in eight organizations across seven provinces.

The training includes knowledge of what a healthy workplace is, leaders’ roles in creating that healthy workplace, and goal setting and skill development to act on that knowledge. “For example, infrequent feedback, such as only having annual performance reviews are a concern in organizations. Research has suggested that employees are more likely to change their behaviour and attitudes when they receive frequent positive and constructive feedback,” she explained.

 “The results demonstrate that leadership behaviours can be trained,” said Dr. Penney, adding that while many of the leadership behaviours identified aren’t new information, giving leaders the tools and training to apply the knowledge is key. “Employees often move up within an organization into a leadership role because they’re good at their jobs, but they don’t always have leadership skills.”

 “Working with leaders and organizations to provide practical recommendations is something that I am very passionate about, and my research ties into my new role of conducting leadership assessments for the purposes of selection and development,” she said.  

“Dr. Penney, and her research, are very deserving of this international recognition,” said Dr. Arla Day, her dissertation supervisor. “Not only does this award demonstrate her expertise and innovation in the area, but it also reinforces the reputation of Saint Mary’s as a high-caliber training institution with a strong level of research expertise in occupational health psychology.”


Background

Dr. Penney recently completed her PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at Saint Mary’s. She completed her Master of Science in Applied Psychology at Saint Mary’s and has an Honours Bachelor of Arts from Lakehead University.

She has authored several journal articles and book chapters on leadership and employee well-being, and has presented her work at national and international conferences.

Her experience as an independent consultant and leadership coach, developing both leader-level and employee-level training programs, and as a facilitator, delivering workshops and seminars to corporate clients aligns with her background in Industrial/Organizational Psychology.

She recently accepted a role as a Talent & Leadership Development Assessment Analyst at Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge in Toronto.

About the Kenneth E. Clark Award

The Kenneth E. Clark Student Research Award recognizes one outstanding unpublished paper by undergraduate and graduate students each year. It is sponsored by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) and the International Leadership Association (ILA).

Papers are evaluated by 13 CCL research faculty members through a multi-rater, blind review process. Winners of the international award receive a cash prize, and a trip to ILA’s Annual Conference to present the winning paper there and in various multimedia ILA publications.

Dr. Penney follows in the footsteps on another Saint Mary’s alumna in winning this award. Aleka MacLellan, who was then a recent PhD graduate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and won the same award in 2017.

 

 

Unlocking overlooked history from a 2,200-year-old Roman villa

When modern technology meets buried remnants from the early Roman Empire, collaborative research has the potential to unearth new chapters of human history never previously analyzed.

That’s the thinking behind The Villa di Tito Project: Reexamining Roman Villas, helmed by Dr. Myles McCallum of Saint Mary’s University. The project received nearly two thirds of SMU’s most recent round of federal research funding, announced July 17 by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

Home to an annual archaeology field school for Saint Mary’s and McMaster University students, the rural Villa site is located amid olive groves on the north slopes of the Velino river valley in central Italy, in the province of Reiti. It’s along the Via Salaria, an ancient road used to transport salt into the interior of Italy, which ran from Rome to the Adriatic. The Villa sits high above a freshwater lake that is also ripe for archaeological study – the Lago di Paterno, once considered the geographical centre of Italy and a sacred site connected to the goddess Vacuna.  

Over its five-year lifespan, the SSHRC Insight grant will – among other things – reduce costs for students participating in the field school, and allow McCallum to hire and train several undergrads each year to work as research assistants on the project. Including three this summer, plus a fourth hired with funds from SMU’s Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research.

“The research results were pretty spectacular this summer and will just get better over the next few years,” says McCallum, Chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Classics. The students “did an amazing job, they worked incredibly hard, and learned a bunch of new things like using our database system, flying a drone, doing some detailed photography and photogrammetry, and more.”  

The field school also teaches the fundamentals of archaeological excavation, field surveying, drawing, and artifacts analysis. The drone footage will help to create detailed views, maps and 3D models of the area.  

“This particular structure is monumental in size. Whoever built it in the 1st century B.C. invested a lot of time and money into it. It was a showpiece in the countryside for them, and probably the local centre of the social and economic network,” says McCallum.

One of the project’s goals is to find evidence to prove the theory that the Villa was originally built by Titus (Tito), a member of the Flavian family and the Second Dynasty of the Roman Empire. More importantly, it aims to reconstruct the lives of the workers – the people who made bricks and wine, grew crops, pressed olives for oil, or engaged in mining, woodworking and metalworking.

“The historical record is highly biased toward the social elites and the aristocracy,” says McCallum. “They wrote the history for themselves and they didn’t tend to write about slaves or poor people. We want to understand the Villa as a community, as opposed to just a monument to one person or family’s wealth and prestige.”

A good portion of the two-storey structure was revealed over the summer. Other notable finds were coins, stamped tiles, ceramic pots and transport amphorae, chunks of mosaic flooring, and incredibly intact brick walls. The Villa went through a series of renovations over the centuries, and was briefly repurposed after apparently being abandoned for a few hundred years. Environmental archaeology will yield more clues about the people: collecting and analyzing soil samples for pollen, seeds, charcoal, food remains and animal bones can indicate whether diets changed over time, pre-Roman conquest to post-conquest.

“We’re beginning to understand this transition, and the role played by these villas and estates in the process of creating a homogeneous imperial culture in Italy,” says McCallum. 

The SSHRC Insight grants are designed to promote research collaboration and partnerships. The Villa di Tito project team includes researchers from McMaster, Oxford, the University of Rome, the University of Nevada and Texas A&M. McCallum has invited Saint Mary’s colleagues in Geography and Chemistry to get involved, for everything from carbon 14 dating and chemical analysis to geomorphology and ground-penetrating radar.

Recruitment is underway for next summer’s field course, and students in all disciplines are welcome. McCallum admits it’s not the most glamourous work: “You’re outside all day for eight to 10 hours. It can get hot, it can rain, and there are bugs.” Even so, most students agree it’s an unforgettable learning experience.

Follow the project on Facebook via the Villa of Titus Archaeological Research Project and the Saint Mary’s Department of Modern Languages and Classics.     


Saint Mary’s part of new $6.5 million offshore de-risking project

Adam MacDonald, NS Department of Energy & Mines, examines a core sample taken during an offshore coring cruise. (Source: Genome Atlantic)

Adam MacDonald, NS Department of Energy & Mines, examines a core sample taken during an offshore coring cruise. (Source: Genome Atlantic)

Saint Mary’s University is part of a major new initiative that adds genomics technologies to traditional geoscience with the aim to reduce the risk for oil exploration in Nova Scotia’s offshore. 

The $6.5 million project, Validation and Integration of Genomics Solutions for Offshore Oil Exploration in Nova Scotia and Beyond, was announced by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, as one of 20 projects across Canada awarded through Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP). 

The initiative builds on the work of a previous GAPP project in which genomics data and results were compared with petroleum geochemistry data to paint the clearest picture yet of petroleum deposits in areas of Nova Scotia’s offshore. This new project, involving the same team, will take that work to the next level by delivering high-resolution tools and maps developed with the help of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), advanced ‘omics technologies and machine learning.

 “The idea of using genomic (DNA-based) tools to help de-risk offshore oil and gas exploration efforts has transitioned from a ‘what if’ idea not that long ago into a compelling opportunity that has earned the support of this project’s many partners,” said Steve Armstrong, President and CEO of Genome Atlantic. “We are extremely pleased to have the opportunity to work with such a dedicated and talented group committed to establishing Nova Scotia as a leader within this globally competitive sector.”

Project co-lead Dr. Todd Ventura

Project co-lead Dr. Todd Ventura

The project is co-led by Dr. Todd Ventura (Saint Mary’s University), Dr. Casey Hubert (University of Calgary), and Adam MacDonald (Nova Scotia Department of Energy and Mines) and is managed by Genome Atlantic in partnership with Genome Alberta.

“This GAPP is expanding on the microbiological toolkit with the addition of lipidomics,” said Dr. Todd Ventura, Saint Mary’s University.  “This may allow us the ability to detect more ancient seepage events that can lead to the discovery of new active petroleum systems in the offshore.”

Project partners include the Nova Scotia Department of Energy and Mines; the Geological Survey of Canada, Natural Resources Canada; Research Nova Scotia; Nova Scotia Offshore Energy Research Association (OERA); Mitacs Canada; Applied Petroleum Technology (APT); the University of Calgary; and Saint Mary’s University.

“De-risking our offshore for exploration is critical for Nova Scotia to remain competitive in a global market,” said Adam MacDonald, NS Department of Energy and Mines. “Adding new tools and building innovative and integrated projects such as this collaboration with the University of Calgary and Saint Mary’s University gains recognition and attention to our quality and capacity to compete. Not only do we de-risk exploration but this project provides environmental baseline information on the benthic life and communities that may be dependent on natural occurrences of hydrocarbon on the seafloor.”

The Province of Nova Scotia’s commitment to the project is part of its $12 million investment in offshore R&D over the next four years.

“For generations, the offshore has paid off for Nova Scotians and it still holds tremendous potential to grow our economy and create jobs across the province, especially in rural areas,” said Nova Scotia Energy and Mines Minister Derek Mombourquette. “By continuing to invest in leading-edge research we will find cleaner and safer ways to look for resources and attract international investment to our shores.”