Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Think and question differently: UCR research awards make “a world of difference” to StFX students 

September 29th, 2022
L-r, Brynn Webber and Kali Hudson. Missing from photo are Samuel Poirer and Kyla MacDonald.

The ability to push themselves as individuals and as learners was just one of the benefits of spending the summer doing hands-on research work under the supervision of a StFX faculty member, says this year’s recipients of the University Council for Research (UCR) award. 

The UCR annually provides funding for several undergraduate student research awards. This year’s recipients are Brynn Webber, Kali Hudson, Samuel Poirer and Kyla MacDonald. Each student received $7,500 for 16 weeks of research work. 

Ms. Webber, of Barrie, ON who is going into her third year in the BASc in Health program, says being able to complete research while being funded through the UCR Undergraduate Research Award made a world of difference. 

“It meant I could gain experience and push myself as an individual and as a learner without sacrificing income. Truthfully, I didn’t know if research was something I would enjoy but, I wanted to give it a fair shot. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to explore my interests at a new depth, to make connections within the research community, and to have a better idea of where I am headed in the future,” she says. 

Ms. Webber worked in the Biology Department with Dr. Jantina Toxopeus conducting research on freeze tolerant crickets. “I spent most of my time running assays on cryoprotectants obtained from both hemolymph samples and fat body tissue of acclimated crickets. Put simply, I was working with the molecules that allow crickets to survive freezing.”

She says there are so many benefits of doing research and she believes it is something that would benefit most people even if they don’t plan to pursue research in the future. “I was very lucky this summer to be placed with peers who not only supported me but, also made my time doing research so much fun. Through them, I realized research can be beneficial regardless of your goals. Some students do research for their honours or directed studies, some hope to complete a masters after graduation, and others just want to see what research is about. At the end of the day, you are pushed to think and question differently than in a classroom and I think that type of exposure is very important. Each student conducting research not only has the opportunity to work with knowledgeable professors who guide them through the ups and downs of research; but also, they are given freedom and independence to ask questions, designs experiments, try, fail, and try again.” 

FIELD WORK, AMAZING EXPERIENCE 

Samuel Poirier, a fourth year BASc in climate and environment student from St. Stephen, NB, this summer began the field work related to his senior honour thesis. “I am examining different methods of Measurement, Monitoring, and Verification (MMV) of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) facilities. This involved traveling to Saskatchewan and working with two industry partners, Whitecap resources and Sask Power,” he says. 

Samuel Poirier, top photo, in the field

The research aims to develop a more standardized method of MMV. With recent policy changes and climate change commitments, the Government of Canada is looking to invest large sums of money into CCS to offset industrial emissions, he says. “As of right now, each CCS project has its own method of MMV making it difficult to develop research into the possible effects of the project. Standardization of MMV method could lead to safer and more comparable CCS projects.” 

Mr. Poirier, who is supervised by Dr. Dave Risk, says it was an amazing opportunity. “Not only did it provide me with fun summer employment in a subject related to the career I want to pursue, but it also allowed me to learn invaluable life lessons that will be applicable in a wide variety of situations. For me, it's the first step toward an impactful career. I primarily study climate change, I believe that CCS will be an important piece of the climate puzzle as we move towards a more sustainable and equitable planet. It drives me to know I am doing something that could have a positive impact on those around me.” 

The benefit of this summer work, he says, has really been the experience of working in a lab, with a team and producing high-quality work. “I had the opportunity to plan and execute my first field campaign, something many students do not get to do until they have begun their master's work. I got to participate in a large lab culture, with all of the benefits of having an overwhelming amount of support available when needed. I learned so much about how the research and academic industries work and the way science is really done after university. All of it has been incredibly valuable.”

 

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