Grad Student Research Made Possible by NSERC

Posted on Thursday, November 5th, 2020

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Seven CEPS graduate students were awarded NSERC in 2020. We are excited to track their research as it progresses.

Seven CEPS graduate students have received NSERC funding to support their research.

We are incredibly proud that seven University of Guelph graduate students from the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences (CEPS) were awarded NSERC funds in support of a variety of innovative projects. The master’s and PhD students span disciplines from across the College. 

Three CEPS master’s students received the Canada Graduate Scholarship-Master’s (CGS-M), which is designed to support high-calibre students and enable them to fully concentrate on their studies in their chosen field. At the doctoral level, four PhD students from the College received awards. Two received the NSERC Post-Graduate Scholarship, which provides financial support for exceptional students enrolled in doctoral programs and two received the Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship, which is awarded to the top-ranked PhD applicants from across Canada.

Connectivity in Remote Locations

Master’s student Marshall Asch’s research is focused on information access. In remote places, such as northern Canada, there is often no cell service and the “normal” Internet is not sufficient. In these situations, Mobile Ad Hoc Networks (MANETs) could be an alternative way to get online. MANETs occur when several phones connect via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, allowing people to send and receive messages without the use of cell towers. With the support from NSERC, and under the supervision of computer science professor Dan Gillis, Asch will explore how individuals’ social networks (who they are friends with, where they work, and who they spend their time with) impacts their ability to access information in MANETs.

“To me, this research is a meaningful way that I can contribute to a project that has the potential to actually benefit people, and is not just research for research’s sake,” says Asch.

Math to Understand Biology

For his NSERC-funded master’s project, Jack Hughes will use mathematical modelling to study biological problems. Specifically, he will develop a mathematical modelling framework for the attachment of bacterial cells to cellulolytic biofilms (microorganisms attached to a surface). This research will build on previous work conducted by Hughes’s supervisor, mathematics and statistics professor Hermann Eberl. When it is complete, the modelling framework has the potential to be extended to understanding the attachment process for other biofilm models.

“I hope my modelling framework will reduce computation time during simulations, and allow us to expand upon this model, without having the restriction of computation time,” says Hughes.

Complex Organic Molecules

Austin Pounder, who is completing his master’s under the supervision of chemistry professor William Tam, is working to develop new methodologies in organic synthesis—a branch of chemistry that examines the structure, properties, composition, reactions, and preparation of carbon-containing compounds. The Tam Group is interested in reactions that form multiple bonds, rings, and stereocenters to construct complex organic molecules. 

“The funding from NSERC will allow me to spend even more time doing what I love, researching organic chemistry and catalysis,” says Pounder.

Screening for Hazards

PhD student Andrew Finlay received support for his work expanding the theory and applications of a general purpose rapid chemical analysis technique known as differential mobility spectrometry. Finlay is part of chemistry professor Wojciech Gabryelski’s mass spectrometry and differential mobility spectrometry lab. 

“We hope to have a clearer picture of the influence of CO2 on the thermodynamic conditions within a differential mobility spectrometry cell and determine how we can control these to further enable clear, broadly applicable detection of numerous hazardous substances,” says Finlay.

Applying Artificial Intelligence to Rivers

Cody Kupferschmidt received support for his PhD project that uses artificial intelligence to help predict how river channels will move over time. This research has practical applications for establishing protected zones along rivers and estimating erosion risk for existing infrastructure. Kupferschmidt is supervised by Prof. Andrew Binns, School of Engineering.

“I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph and have now returned to start my PhD 11 years after first coming to Guelph,” says Kupferschmidt. “Between these two degrees I completed my MSc at the University of Alberta and worked in both Edmonton, AB and Gatineau, QC! I am also a registered Professional Engineering (P.Eng) in Ontario and Alberta.”

Food Security and the Natural Environment

For her PhD, Samantha Mehltretter is working to restore Upper Winnipeg River manomin (known in English as wild rice) growth, which has been negatively impacted by settler activities, through culturally sensitive crop management and river sharing strategies. This work will help improve food and economic security for Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation (NAN). Mehtretter’s work crosses disciplinary boundaries. She is supervised by Prof. Andrea Bradford, School of Engineering, and will collaborate with Prof. Brittany Luby, Department of History, and the Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation.

“This research is paradigm shifting as it demonstrates the potential to address issues of food security by restoring the natural environment,” says Mehtretter.

Climate Change Impacts on Watersheds

Elisha Persaud will use the funding in support of her PhD project on integrated watershed investigation. Supervised by Prof. Jana Levison, School of Engineering, Persaud works in the Great Lakes Basin, which faces complex socioeconomic pressures related to population growth and land management. Persaud will examine the impacts of climate change under the stressors of agricultural land use. 

“Results from this study will provide insight on meteorological forcing practices for climate change research in the Great Lakes Basin and, more generally, for studies using large-scale integrated models.”

Congratulations to all the NSERC recipients!

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