Science

Saint Mary’s celebrates new and existing Canada Research Chairs

Members of the Saint Mary’s University community formally welcomed the institution’s newest Canada Research Chairs (CRC), Drs. Ivana Damjanov and Mohammad Rahaman, and celebrated existing CRCs at a reception held today.

Created in 2000, the CRC Program invests $265 million per year across Canada to attract and retain the world’s best researchers in the fields of engineering, the natural sciences, health sciences, humanities, and social sciences.

“Whether investigating the consequences of low-wage practices on the worldwide economy or using the world’s most advanced telescopes to delve into details of galaxy formation and evolution, Saint Mary’s CRCs are making an impact on our world and on society’s foundational knowledge,” says Dr. Malcolm Butler, Vice President of Academic and Research at Saint Mary’s University.

With the addition of Dr. Ivana Damjanov, CRC in Astronomy & Astrophysics, and Dr. Mohammad Rahaman, CRC in International Finance and Competitiveness, Saint Mary’s University is proud to host nine more Canada Research Chairs.


The following is a list of Saint Mary's University's Canada Research Chairs:
 

•    Dr. Todd Ventura, CRC in Petroleum Systems, Geochemistry, and Reservoir Characterization

•    Dr. Christa Brosseau, CRC in Sustainable Chemistry and Materials

•    Dr. Marcin Sawicki, CRC in Astronomy

•    Dr. Gavin Fridell, CRC in International Development Studies

•    Dr. Karly Kehoe, CRC in Atlantic Canada Communities

•    Dr. Kevin Kelloway, CRC in Occupational Health Psychology

•    Dr. Najah Attig, CRC in Finance

•    Dr. Ivana Damjanov, CRC in Astronomy & Astrophysics

•    Dr. Mohammad Rahaman, CRC in International Finance and Competitiveness


Dr. Ivana Damjanov, Canada Research Chair in Astronomy & Astrophysics

Dr. Ivana Damjanov, Canada Research Chair in   Astronomy & Astrophysics and Dr. Malcolm Butler, Vice-President, Academic and Research

Dr. Ivana Damjanov, Canada Research Chair in Astronomy & Astrophysics and Dr. Malcolm Butler, Vice-President, Academic and Research

Dr. Damjanov’s research involves using images and spectroscopic signatures of massive galaxies to follow the evolution of their stellar and dark matter content over 7 billion years of cosmic time. As Canada Research Chair in Astronomy and Astrophysics, she seeks to expand the spectroscopic and imaging surveys of galaxies to cover large areas of the sky and provide the highest-quality data. By carefully analyzing these information-rich datasets Dr. Damjanov and her team hope to reveal how the biggest building blocks of the universe form and evolve.

Dr. Damjanov is a Professor in the Department of Astronomy & Physics.


Dr. Mohammad Rahaman, Canada Research Chair in International Finance and Competitiveness

Dr. Mohammad Rahaman, Canada Research Chair in International Finance and Competitiveness and Dr. Malcolm Butler, Vice-President, Academic and Research

Dr. Mohammad Rahaman, Canada Research Chair in International Finance and Competitiveness and Dr. Malcolm Butler, Vice-President, Academic and Research

Dr. Rahaman’s research is in the area of international finance, international competitiveness, corporate finance, and cross-country financial development. As Canada Research Chair in International Finance and Competitiveness, Dr. Rahaman is investigating how manufacturing and job losses induced by competition from low-wage countries are influencing the way capital is accessed in high-wage countries. His work will contribute to our understanding of how small and medium-sized enterprises in Canada can overcome their financing constraints and contribute to employment growth in our increasingly globalized and competitive world economy.

Dr. Rahaman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Finance, Information Systems, and Management Science.

Saint Mary’s biologists receive federal funding for Fish Behaviour and Physiology (FiBP) Lab

Dr. Laura Weir and Dr. Anne Dalziel

Dr. Laura Weir and Dr. Anne Dalziel

Two Saint Mary’s biologists have received funding to investigate how environmental variation influences fish populations in Atlantic Canada, which should help predict how fish will fare with continued changes in climate. Drs. Laura Weir and Anne Dalziel will use their $200,000 John R. Evans Leaders Fund award from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to develop a Fish Behaviour and Physiology (FiBP) Lab at Saint Mary’s University.

 “Saint Mary’s is delighted that Drs. Weir and Dalziel have received a prestigious CFI research award,” says Dr. Malcolm Butler, Vice-President Academic and Research. “This investment supports not only the world-class research taking place at Saint Mary’s, but also our students access to state-of-the-art infrastructure and technologies.”

Integrative studies that combine the genetic, biochemical, physiological, and behavioural mechanisms are needed to understand how fish populations adapt to environmental change. The FiBP Lab will investigate how these mechanisms contribute to differences in environmental tolerance, physiological performance, and reproductive behaviour among populations and species of fish common to Atlantic Canada, including salmon, trout, stickleback, killifish, alewife, and herring.

“Fish are a valuable natural resource,” says Dr. Laura Weir, assistant professor in the Department of Biology. “Our research will provide important baseline knowledge and inform policy and conservation efforts for our local fish populations.”

Research in the FiBP Lab will also help scientists and the public understand how biodiversity in aquatic environments is affected by coastal development.

“Canada has the longest coastline in the world, and understanding how changes to coastal waters will impact the animals living there is essential,” says Dr. Anne Dalziel, assistant professor in the Department of Biology.

The FiBP Lab formalizes an existing research collaboration between Dr. Anne Dalziel, an expert in fish physiology and evolutionary biology, and Dr. Laura Weir, whose expertise lies in behavioural and evolutionary ecology. Currently, the pair are working together to discover the physiological and behavioural mechanisms that lead to the unique breeding coloration of the white stickleback, an endemic Nova Scotian fish.

About the John R. Evans Leaders Fund

The John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) supports Canadian researchers by providing them with the research tools and infrastructure required to become leaders in their field. It also helps Canadian institutions attract and retain world-class researchers by remaining internationally competitive in areas of research and technology development aligned with their strategic priorities.

SMU Astronomer Wins Qilak Award for Astronomy

Dr. Robert Thacker sharing his love of science with an engaged crowd.

Dr. Robert Thacker sharing his love of science with an engaged crowd.

Dr. Robert Thacker, Director of the Science Outreach Centre and Professor in the Department of Astronomy & Physics at Saint Mary’s University, is the 2018 recipient of the Canadian Astronomical Society’s (CASCA) Qilak Award for Astronomy Communications, Public Education, and Outreach.

The Qilak Award honours Canadian residents who have made an outstanding contribution either to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy or informal astronomy education in Canada. 

“Dr. Thacker is a passionate science communicator and a tireless advocate for astronomy research, and science in general,” says Dr. Steven Smith, Dean of the Faculty of Science. “Saint Mary’s is very proud of his outreach efforts.”

In addition to maintaining an internationally recognized research portfolio, Dr. Thacker dedicates his time to science outreach. Since 2009, he has given 68 public lectures and has participated in over 350 media interviews and sciences programs, including a weekly segment on CBC Radio’s Mainstreet NS and 1310 News’s Ottawa Today. In recognition of his commitment to science outreach in Atlantic Canada, he was named Science Champion at the 13th Annual Discovery Award in 2015.

The Science Outreach Centre at Saint Mary’s University was created in 2017 to coordinate and expand the university’s science outreach efforts. As Director, Dr. Thacker chairs the Outreach/Community Engagement Advisory Council, oversees the Marine Mammal and Forensic Science youth summer camps, and supports recruitment initiatives and on-campus events like the Nova Scotia Youth Experience Showcase

“I simply love talking with people about science,” says Dr. Rob Thacker. “But I want to make clear science is vastly more than a body of facts, it's a process and a way of discovering. It tells us as much about ourselves as it does the world and universe around us.”

Dr. Thacker also maintains an active online presence; find him on Twitter @DrRob_Thacker or visit the Sounds of Science podcast page.

 

Saint Mary's Astrophysics student publishes star-gazing book for kids

John Read, a Saint Mary's Astrophysics student and author. 

John Read, a Saint Mary's Astrophysics student and author. 

John Read, a full-time Astrophysics student at Saint Mary’s, knows how to manage his time wisely. This summer he has published three (yes three) new books and republished another book. Along with his second novel (Callisto Deception) and 50 Targets for the Mid-Sized Telescope, he has written a children’s book: 50 Things to See with a Telescope – Kids.

Read, a self-described nerd, has long been interested in astronomy. He loved reading astronomy articles in National Geographic magazines as a child but it wasn’t until he got his first $14 telescope at Walgreens drugstore in his early 20s that it became a passion. He started photographing the sky, buying increasingly better sky-gazing equipment. He also joined a local astronomy club in California, and was awarded the Joe Disch award for volunteering at almost 50 star parties in a single year. 

He wrote his first book, 50 Things to See with a Small Telescope, upon discovering that many students who owned telescopes didn’t know how to use them. Self-published in 2013, it quickly became successful, often leading Amazon’s stargazing and astronomy best-seller lists. It has been translated into 10 languages.

“For me, it’s not enough to see the wonders of the universe with my own eyes: I have this unquenchable desire to share my experience with the world,” he wrote in a piece published this year in Popular Astronomy

About the book

Read says that his book was created in response to other astronomy books that either have too much detail for beginners, or too few pictures.

In 50 Things to See with a Telescope – Kids, each colourful page contains a telescope view feature, showing young stargazers how to view galaxies, nebulae and star clusters with a small telescope or binoculars.

Read says it would be appropriate for ages eight and up, and is a great way for kids and parents to understand the night sky and foster a love of astronomy.

 Quitting Your Day Job

Now in the second year of his BSc in Astrophysics at Saint Mary’s, Read, 34, has more life experience than most of his fellow students. He first graduated from Saint Mary’s in 2005 with a Bachelor of Commerce and started climbing the corporate ladder, taking on roles with increasing responsibility at a Fortune 500 company in California before retiring to pursue his passion.

He returned home to Nova Scotia with his wife and two toddlers, and he has some big post-graduation plans. He can envision working in academia, as well as working on large scale projects as a research scientist.

Saint Mary’s is home to one of the world’s few Twitter-controlled observatories, the Burke-Gaffney Observatory. Read envisions that similar technology could someday be leveraged, so that he can study from Halifax using shared equipment in the U.S. and around the world.

Hobbyists

For anyone interested in astronomy, Read recommends joining the Halifax chapter of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. The group of over 200 amateur and professional astronomers hosts events such as Keji Dark Sky Weekends and the Nova East Star Party.