Issuu on Google+

Eureka DISCOVER CARLETON’S FACULTY OF SCIENCE

WINTER 2017

Chemistry professor Jeff Smith

Good Chemistry Carleton researchers team up with Bridgehead to tackle a coffee mystery

Indigenous resilience

Community collaboration in northwestern Ontario

Internship, disrupted Students get real-world experience at Shopify

Under one roof

Holistic health research gets a new home


Proud partners

Yeremia Djaja

Four years ago, Carleton’s Faculty of Science celebrated its 50th anniversary, and we dedicated the Summer 2013 issue of Eureka to rediscovering our roots, telling familiar stories, and showcasing our accomplishments since those early years. Now, as we enter Carleton’s 75th anniversary year, we find ourselves not so much reflecting on the past but instead looking to the future. In either direction, what’s clear is that our mission to share our knowledge and expertise by engaging with others has resulted in our greatest accomplishments. One such achievement is SNOLAB. When Arthur McDonald was named cowinner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics, he visited Carleton to share the award with his Carleton colleagues who worked with him on the prize-winning research and who played leading roles in establishing the renowned laboratory in Sudbury, Ont. Now, several years later, Carleton has partnered with other members of the Canadian particle astrophysics community in the creation of the Queen’s University-based Canadian Particle Astrophysics Research Centre. What has changed in recent years, though, is the nature of these partnerships. More than ever before, scholars are breaking down disciplinary walls to form collaborations that take science beyond the classrooms and laboratories to our communities, our industries and our government agencies. We’ve engaged with partner organizations to host conferences and workshops, and have worked on issues that directly impact our local, national and international communities. Our new transdisciplinary health sciences and data science programs foster a culture of networking and collaboration and provide students with the skills they need to pursue a broad range of careers. We have found willing partners among policy makers, businesses, educators, engineers, sociologists and philosophers — to name a few — on projects that profoundly affect many aspects of our daily lives. In this issue of Eureka, we’ve highlighted some of the current collaborative projects underway in the Faculty of Science, including our partnerships with a local coffee business; with a rapidly-growing Canadian commerce company; and with a group of community-based researchers, First Nations members, and health, cultural, educational, economic and legal organizations that are working with us as we seek answers, provide innovative opportunities for learning, and strive to find a better way forward for Indigenous youth. The future for Carleton’s Faculty of Science promises to be as exciting as the past is remarkable. We’re delighted to share it with you.

By Malcolm Butler Dean, Faculty of Science

Eureka

FSC Label – Portrait Artwork Matrix Giving to Carleton

The Faculty of Science at Carleton has many longstanding partnerships with alumni, friends, the community and industry who share our vision and Editorial advisory board provide support in the form of collaboration and Malcolm Butler: Dean, Faculty of Science financial engagement to help us work toward our goals. Valerie Pereboom: Executive Assistant to the Dean One of our core values is our commitment to student Rima Mattar: Event & Communication Coordinator success and academic standards. Our summer research Maria DeRosa: Professor, Dept. of Chemistry internships, scholarships, bursaries and experimental Andrea Lawrance: Research Facilitator funds provide much-needed financial support to science Mistalyn Seguin: Senior Development Officer students. We look forward to a future where, with your Fateema Sayani: Advancement Portrait / Communications Positive / Colour (PPC) Portrait / Negative / Colour (PNC) Portrait / Positive / Black & White support, we are the science faculty of choice in Canada Editor: Dan Rubinstein, Dept. of University for students and alumni who value a comprehensive Communications and life-enriching science education. We encourage Designer: Richard Bootsma, Dept. of University you to explore the many ways to support the Faculty of On the cover Communications Science with a financial contribution by following us on Faculty of Science photographer: Yeremia Djaja Carleton chemistry researcher Jeff Smith photographed FSC_100_PPC.EPS FutureFunder.ca. FSC_100_PNC.EPS FSC_100_ Contributors: Tyrone Burke, Luther Caverly, FSC_100_PPC.JPG Elizabeth by Justin Tang in front of Bridgehead’s coffee roaster in FSC_100_PNC.JPG FSC_100_ Carleton University is fully compliant with FIPPA and Howell, Laura Byrne Paquet, Chris Roussakis, Justin Tang Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. FSC_100_PPC.TIF FSC_100_PNC.TIF FSC_100_ endeavours at all times to treat your personal information Brent Wesley, Dyanne Wilson in accordance with this law. It is used by the university to Cert no. XXX-XXX-XXX Cert no. XXX-XXX-XXX Cert no. XXX-XXX-XXX Eureka is published for the alumni, faculty, staff, friends inform you about programming, events and offers from and partners of the Faculty of Science. The magazine is our affinity partners, to communicate Carleton news, and intended to showcase the faculty’s researchers, teachers for fundraising purposes. To update your name or address and students, and to connect alumni to each other or stop mail, please contact the Department of University and the university. It is published in collaboration with Advancement at 1-800-461-8927. FSC_MS_1_PPC.EPS FSC_MS_1_PNC.EPS FSC_MS_1 Carleton’s Department of University Communications. FSC_MS_1_PPC.JPG science.carleton.ca FSC_MS_1_PNC.JPG FSC_MS_1 Your input is important FSC_MS_1_PPC.TIF FSC_MS_1_PNC.TIF FSC_MS_1 Please send feedback to odscience@carleton.ca

Discover Carleton’s Faculty of Science

FSC Label Artwork

FSC_Labels_PPC

Cert no. XXX-XXX-XXX

FSC_Labels_Portrait

FSC_Labels_PNC

Cert no. XXX-XXX-XXX

XX%

science.carleton.ca 2

FSC_Labels_English

Cert no. XXX-XXX-XXX

XX%

FSC_MS_2_PPC.EPS FSC_MS_2_PPC.JPG FSC_MS_2_PPC.TIF

FSC_Labels_PPBW

XX%

FSC_MS_2_PNC.EPS FSC_MS_2_PNC.JPG FSC_MS_2_PNC.TIF

FSC_MS_2 FSC_MS_2 FSC_MS_2


Rendering: Montgomery Sisam Architects; Photo: Yeremia Djaja

Carleton’s new Health Science Building will help researchers work together and address health challenges in a holistic manner.

Health research under one (new) roof an epidemic of lifestyle diseases overwhelming Canada’s health-care system, the country needs to broaden its shift from medical intervention toward a more holistic approach, says the chair of Carleton’s Board of Governors, Chris Carruthers, a champion of the fundraising campaign in support of the Health Science

We have to anticipate what the future holds. Olga Janina

Next fall, Carleton’s Health Sciences and Neuroscience programs will move into a brand new home beside the Steacie Building and Richcraft Hall. The state-of-art seven-floor Health Science Building is scheduled for completion in July and will host its first classes in September. The 120,000-square-foot building will have many notable features, including utilities and ductwork that isolate vibrations and occupy a minimal footprint, high-efficiency energy and water systems worthy of the top tier of Green Globes sustainability certification, and labs, offices and workspaces designed to encourage interaction between faculty and students. This ethos of transdisciplinary collaboration is central not only to the new building but also to the Health Sciences program itself. Researchers from different areas, from undergraduates to distinguished professors, know they

Board of Governors chair Chris Carruthers.

must work together to help address some of the fundamental health challenges faced by Canada and other countries. With an aging population and

building and program. “We can’t keep spending all our money on the delivery of health care,” says Carruthers, a retired orthopedic surgeon and former chief of staff at The Ottawa Hospital. “We have to analyze health status, study how to predict and prevent health crises, and anticipate what the future holds. “We can use a population health approach to help manage diseases

science.carleton.ca 3


The facts of digital life

science.carleton.ca 4

Computer science professor Sonia Chiasson is helping kids learn how to stay safe online.

Luther Caverly

like cancer and conditions such as obesity through diet and exercise,” he continues. “One of best treatments for depression, for instance, is exercise. It’s good for your body and your brain. There’s more and more evidence coming out that shows if you continue to exercise as you get older, you’re less likely to get dementia. This is an example of what the Health Sciences program is looking at. It will anticipate needs and help us minimize the number of people who get sick, instead of what we do now, which is to treat people when they get sick and continue to build hospitals to meet the growing need.” Advanced health research at Carleton will get another boost with the creation of a new Institute for Advanced Research and Innovation in Smart Environments (ARISE), which will bolster innovation in health technology, clean technology and complementary fields. ARISE, made possible thanks to a multimillion-dollar injection of federal and provincial funding that was announced in November, will entail renovations and a 34,500-square-foot addition to the university’s Life Sciences Research Building. At the institute, researchers from the faculties of Science, Engineering and Design, Business, Public Affairs and Arts and Social Sciences will collaborate and train students, and there will be space for start-up incubation and interactions with industry. “At Carleton, we want to help improve the social, economic and environmental health of all Canadians,” Rafik Goubran, the university’s acting Vice-President (Research and International), said when the ARISE funding was announced. “With this investment, we are firmly on that path.”

For today’s kids, understanding how to navigate the internet safely is just as important as learning how to cross the street. “Children need to have online critical thinking skills and need to know how to be safe digital citizens,” says Carleton computer science professor Sonia Chiasson, “because that’s part of their everyday world.” Chiasson, a Canada Research Chair in Human Oriented Computer Security, has received a $150,000 Early Researcher Award from the Ontario government to help her develop educational material to teach kids how to stay safe online. She plans to do this through games developed with the digital and media literacy non-profit MediaSmarts. Although many children start using the internet as toddlers, security protocols haven’t caught up to protect them. Parents tell Chiasson that they use simple passwords because otherwise kids forget them, for example, or because kids can’t spell complicated words. Better passwords, perhaps through the use of images and simple text, is one of the areas Chiasson will explore with her new funding. She also plans to develop security and privacy tools that will let parents change the controls as their child ages and becomes more adept at navigating the web. Ontario’s Early Researcher Awards are intended to help early-career postsecondary faculty or principal investigators build research teams. Chiasson’s group has just finished running a user study on a new parent-child password manager. The system sends notifications to parents’ phones when their children attempt to log on, enabling them to allow or deny the request. Parents are already asking when it will be available for regular use. Chiasson’s ultimate goal is to create platforms that encourage kids to stay safe online, so they don’t circumvent security measures, either inadvertently or deliberately. She also wants to ease parental concerns about internet use, especially because many children spent time online without mom and dad around. Research into online safety for kids is limited, says Chaisson, even though 99 percent of Canadians between the ages 8 and 15 use the net outside of school — and their parents often don’t know how to help them. — Elizabeth Howell


Chris Roussakis

Carleton’s support for cross-disciplinary research is one of the factors that drew Kyle Biggar back to the university for his first faculty post.

Deciphering cancer’s secrets When a cancerous tumour grows larger and develops a critical mass, its core is deprived of oxygen, yet the cells adapt to these hypoxic conditions. Identifying and targeting the mechanisms these cells use to survive could lead to new strategies for drug development and treatment, a promising research front that has earned Carleton Prof. Kyle Biggar a John Charles Polanyi Prize from the Ontario government for outstanding early-career research. “I want to do work that has a direct bearing on human health,” says Biggar, who started at Carleton’s Institute of Biochemistry in September after completing a pair of postdoctoral fellowships at Western University, where the research that led to this award was conducted. “I look at research from A to Z. Specifically, we’re looking at basic cellular signalling and protein function, documenting it and characterizing it, and then using that information to design peptide-based inhibitors that stop the processes that contribute to tumour progression

and aggressiveness, and resistance to chemotherapy.” This research could not only lead to new therapeutics for breast cancer — which is the most common cancer among women, impacting one in nine Canadian women — but it also has applications for other forms of the disease, including prostate cancer and leukemia. Although any potential therapies are at least several years away, the advances during Biggar’s postdoc are now a year into animal

“Collaboration lets you take on problems that you wouldn’t be able to tackle by yourself.” trials. Initial results are positive, and the next step will likely be a major paper published in an international journal in summer 2017. Bigger, who earned his PhD at Carleton, was drawn back to Ottawa for his first faculty position

by the university’s approach to cross-disciplinary research. “That’s something I was definitely looking for in a job,” he says. “Some of my highest-impact work has been the result of collaboration, which lets you take on problems that you wouldn’t be able to tackle by yourself.” Biggar’s doctoral research, supervised by veteran biology and chemistry professor Ken Storey, explored mechanisms that allow animals to adapt to and endure severe environmental stresses. He was part of a team that investigated how wood frogs survive the winter by freezing solid, and part of an international effort that was the first in the world to sequence a turtle genome. “Kyle is tremendously hard working and an excellent multi-tasker,” says Storey. “There are a lot of good scientific ideas out there and, like a blue-collar job, you have to be willing to work hard at yours every day. “Kyle also makes his team better. He’s not just standing in front of the net, tipping in goals, to use a sports metaphor. Some students are really good, but work best by themselves. Kyle helps the people around him learn and improve too.”

science.carleton.ca 5


Chris Roussakis; Bottom photo courtesy SNOLAB

Collaborating at SNOLAB (below) with Carleton physicist David Sinclair (right) helped Art McDonald (left) win the Nobel Prize.

Miniscule particles, massive breakthrough When Arthur B. McDonald was named co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, the Queen’s University professor emeritus was quick to proclaim that he shares the award with many colleagues, including Carleton researchers. McDonald came to Carleton within days of the Nobel news to thank his collaborators at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) — an experiment which played a significant role in a breakthrough that, according to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, “has changed our understanding of the innermost workings of matter and can prove crucial to our view of the universe.” “I just want you to understand,” McDonald told a room packed with researchers, students, staff and national funding agency officials at Carleton, “that this project was done by a tremendous number of people.” McDonald shared stories about SNO’s early beginnings and the important contributions of his then-deputy David Sinclair, the distinguished Carleton physics

science.carleton.ca 6

researcher who went on found SNOLAB. “It’s great for Canadian science,” Sinclair said to McDonald about the Nobel Prize. “What we did at SNO was really pioneering.”

Research at SNO, two kilometres underground in a mine in Sudbury, Ont., demonstrated that neutrinos — elusive elementary particles produced by radioactive decay — do not disappear when travelling from the sun toward the Earth but instead change identity. For

this to occur, neutrinos must have some mass, however small. This discovery has shown physicists that the Standard Model explaining the innermost workings of matter “cannot be the complete theory of the fundamental constituents of the universe,” said the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. “New discoveries about [neutrinos’] deepest secrets are expected to change our current understanding of the history, structure and future fate of the universe.” “Particle physicists have long been working under the aegis of the Standard Model, our understanding of the basic forces of nature,” said Carleton’s Dean of Science, Malcolm Butler, a particle physicist himself. “There’s always been a hint of something more. There’s still no direct evidence. But knowing that neutrinos have mass — and such a light mass — is not consistent with the Standard Model. So now the universe is even more interesting.” The SNO experiment, which ran from 1999 to 2006, brought together 150 scientists at any given time. Data analysis that led to the first SNO paper confirming neutrinos have mass was conducted at the High Performance Computing Virtual Laboratory, a cluster of fast and powerful computers at seven Ontario universities and colleges, including Carleton. Researchers are still interpreting results from SNO, but the experiment has also been expanded into the Canada Foundation for Innovationfunded SNOLAB, which opened in 2011. Like SNO, the 10-storey-high particle detector is located deep inside the Earth to avoid cosmic rays from space and the natural radioactivity that could affect the sensitive measurements required for experiments. “It’s huge,” Butler said of Carleton’s role at SNO, SNOLAB and the new Queen’s-led Canadian Particle Astrophysics Research Centre, which received $63.7 million from the federal government’s Canada First Research Excellence Fund in September. “This demonstrates our ability to lead and collaborate on an international-scale project. SNO was made and built in Canada and has had an impact on particle physics on a global scale. And we’re a significant player in the legacy projects that are following.”


Scientific leaps forward are rarely a straightforward process. “When you’re doing a project, you think it’s about something, and then you see something unexpected and the research changes direction,” says Carleton biologist Lenore Fahrig, who studies the effects of landscape structure on biodiversity and wildlife populations. “You have to be open-minded and be able to step back and notice things that you might not otherwise see.” Fahrig, who was inducted into the Royal Society of Canada in November, is credited, alongside Carleton emeritus professor Gray Merriam, with introducing the concept of habitat connectivity. She first came to Carleton in 1981 to do a master’s degree with Biologist Lenore Fahrig. Merriam, Canada’s preeminent landscape ecologist and one of the founders of the field. They used the term “habitat connectivity” in a co-authored paper published in 1985, part of her research that concluded mice populations have a better chance of surviving if

they live in patches of forest that are linked together by hedgerows than if they live in habitat isolated by farm fields or urban development. Fahrig, whose work combines simulation modelling and field study, shifted to butterflies while doing a PhD at the University of Toronto. “The butterflies I studied didn’t use habitat corridors,” she says. “I realized I couldn’t take one type of population model and slap it onto everything.” While doing a postdoc in Virginia, Fahrig switched species again and started looking at coastal dune plants. Afterwards, she worked in Newfoundland for two years as a research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, doing population modelling on cod and redfish, then joined Merriam in Carleton’s biology department. “You don’t necessarily want to become an expert on one particular taxonomic group of organisms,” she says. “It’s good to be aware of a range of populations, and of different ways of viewing spatial landscape patterns.” Fahrig’s lab, which usually includes 10 or so graduate students and a postdoc or two, has evolved over the years, developing an expertise in the effects of human activities such as road networks and farmland patterning on wildlife populations, as well as mitigation measures to limit negative impacts on species. But some things have remained constant, including weekly lab discussions, open to the community, that Merriam had started decades earlier. “It’s good for graduate students to be interacting with different types of people,” says Fahrig, “so we don’t get lost in our own specific projects.”

Dinosaur discovery An international group of researchers led by Bradley McFeeters, a PhD student in Carleton’s Dept. of Earth Sciences, has confirmed the discovery of a new ostrichlike dinosaur. Rativates evadens lived during the Late Cretaceous period in what are now the badlands adjacent to Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park. “Rativates was previously identified as another specimen of the more common ostrich dinosaur, Struthiomimus altus, but it lacks the characteristics of that species,” says McFeeters. “We can tell that it is a new species based on features of its skull, tail, pelvis and feet.” Based on a partial skeleton collected by Royal Ontario Museum paleontologists more than 80 years ago, researchers believe that Rativates (rat-ai-vey-tiz) would have resembled a contemporary ostrich, but with long, fingered arms instead of wings, and a long tail. It would have been roughly 3.3 metres long, about 1.5 metres tall and weighed about 60 kilograms. Rativates means “bird foreteller” and alludes to the paradox of an ostrich mimic creature that existed before ostriches. The name evadens means to evade, in reference to this swift-footed dinosaur’s ability to escape predators. Their long, powerful legs would have made them fast runners, whether they were hunting prey or escaping from larger predators. Although related to carnivorous dinosaurs, Rativates lacked teeth and, similar to birds, had beaked mouths. They are believed to have been omnivorous, meaning they ate plants, insects and other small animals. “Rativates is another exciting example of a new species of dinosaur being discovered among museum collections,” says Michael Ryan, a Carleton adjunct professor and curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, who co-authored the paper describing the new species with McFeeters and two other contributors. “These valuable collections allow modern researchers to build on the work of earlier scientists to advance what we know about the ancient Earth and provide new insights into evolution.”

Ian Morrison

Chris Roussakis

The butterfly effect

Bradley McFeeters really digs field work.

science.carleton.ca 7


Head of the class From animal and cellular puzzles to virtual labs and inverted teaching, award-winning Faculty of Science professors light the spark By Laura Byrne Paquet, photos by Yeremia Djaja

Maria DeRosa: The classroom re-arranger Think back to your days as a student. Chances are, you spent a lot of time sitting in lecture halls taking notes while listening to a professor talk. Beyond whiteboards, PowerPoint and laptops, the basic concept hasn’t changed in decades. Which is why Carleton chemistry professor Maria DeRosa wants to turn this model on its head. DeRosa has received a Teaching Achievement Award to test a new approach called the “flipped classroom.” Instead of sitting through a lecture and then doing homework, students in flipped classrooms watch lecture videos before class, then do hands-on work during class to apply the concepts as the professor circulates around the room. Over the years, DeRosa noticed that grades fell into two distinct clusters. Some students did extremely well, while others struggled. She tried adding more assignments and extending office hours, which raised the stronger grades but had little effect on other marks. While researching engagement strategies, DeRosa came across the flipped classroom and thought it might offer a solution. While observing hands-on work, for instance, she might detect several students making the same mistake. She would be able to stop the class and take questions, ensuring that everyone understands the concept before moving forward. “In a flipped class,” she says, “they’re taking advantage of the time they have with me to actually get to the bottom of things.”

John Oommen: The pattern sleuth Since people first started looking for patterns — whether in groups of animals, voices, fingerprints or anything, really — we have focused on how similar an object is to a relevant mean. If this animal has a neck similar in length to the mean length of all giraffes’ necks, for instance, it’s more

science.carleton.ca 8

likely to be a giraffe than, say, a lion. This idea has a formal scientific name: Bayesian pattern recognition, named after an 18th-century English statistician. So when John Oommen, a chancellor’s professor of computer science at Carleton, began exploring an alternative approach to probability four years ago, it seemed like a counterintuitive search. The research began when one of Oommen’s PhD students developed an algorithm rooted in grouping elements based on their dissimilarity to a relevant mean. Or, as Oommen explains it, to determine which animals are giraffes and which are lions, “you look at the lion that sounds most like a giraffe, and you look at the giraffe that sounds most like a lion.” Just as Oommen and his student were about to publish a paper about what is now called the AntiBayesian algorithm, they learned that researchers in Australia had come across the same paradigm. But neither team knew why the new algorithm worked, so Oommen, a fellow of the International Association of Pattern Recognition, set out to answer that question — and has received a Research Achievement Award for his work.

Bill Willmore: The cancer tracker Cancerous tumours are unpredictable. Cells can break free and become circulating tumour cells (CTCs) that drift downstream in the blood or lymph, looking for new organs to colonize. The most common way to detect CTCs early is to inject a tumour with dye before surgically removing it. Tracing the path the dye follows allows doctors to make educated guesses


about where CTCs (if there are any) may have travelled. Often, the next step is to remove the first lymph nodes in the path and test them for cancer, an invasive process that may also comprise the patient’s immune system. Researchers have been trying to find a better way to track down CTCs. Treatments often involve the use of cancerspecific antibodies, which may bind to CTCs and allow them to be detected and treated, but the immune system often attacks and breaks down those antibodies. For the last two years, Carleton biochemistry professor and Research Achievement Award recipient William Willmore has been working with chemist Maria DeRosa and PhD student Eman Hassan to test the potential of long DNA strands called aptamers to bind to cancer cells. There are thousands of variations of these aptamers, but only aptamers of a particular shape will bind to cancer cells. In a methodical time-consuming process, the Carleton team dropped normal cells into aptamers drawn from a “library” of DNA sequences. If the aptamers bound to the normal cells, they were eliminated from further testing. Next, the researchers dropped cancer cells into the pool of remaining aptamers. If any aptamers bound to the cancer cells, the team retested to see which ones bound most strongly. Now the team has a pool of aptamers that bind strongly to cancer cells but not to regular cells. They can attach a fluorescent molecule to the end of each aptamer that glows when light passes through it, making it easy to spot the cancer cells. Working with electronics professor Jacques Albert, they have also figured out a way to attach the aptamers to a gold-coated fibre-optic strand, which they want to insert into a needle or catheter. A doctor would use the device to draw blood or other fluids from the patient, then the tiny strand would be illuminated to detect CTCs. Willmore and his team hope to use their award funding to develop a prototype instrument for testing blood samples. “This is my way,” he says, “to help combat cancer.”

Ken Storey: The nature whisperer Have you ever wondered why bears don’t starve when they hibernate? Or how some marine species survive on a beach when they’re stranded by the tide? Carleton biology professor Ken Storey has long pondered these questions. The Research Achievement Award winner studies hibernation and other ways animals withstand extreme temperatures or shortages of food, water or oxygen. “We study how you can turn off an entire organism — all their cells, all their organs — and then how you can revive them,” he says. This research, intriguing in its own right, may also have varied applications outside the lab. If researchers could switch transplant organs off and then on again,

they could gain time for transporting organs from donors to recipients. And if scientists knew how marine turtles live without oxygen for long periods, doctors might be better able to treat stroke victims. Storey’s research subjects include snails, beetles and other species that go through a process called estivation to survive heat and drought. All cells — whether they’re in a human or in a tiny roundworm called C. elegans — use the same basic mechanisms to carry out tasks such as division. If scientists can figure out which proteins and enzymes allow C. elegans to estivate, they might be able to identify and control similar cellular pathways in humans. “We look through the animal kingdom and try to see how — in four billion years of evolution — suspended animation, hibernation and estivation have been set into tissues and organs,” says Storey. “As humans, we can’t hibernate, but we have all the same machinery.”

Mike Donkers: The lab conjurer Science instructors know that hands-on labs help students learn. Seeing how phenomena play out in the real world can cement theoretical concepts. Laboratories are expensive to build and equip, however. It takes time to set up an experiment. Labs can expose people to dangerous materials and equipment. Some objects of study, such as black holes or planetary interiors, are hard to access without extremely expensive devices. And some types of experiments, such as those on living creatures, pose ethical or moral issues. To give students more opportunities to put the theories they’ve learned into practice, Department of Physics contract instructor Mike Donkers is creating a virtual laboratory environment (VLE). This set of interactive software modules will allow students to collect and analyze data in a simulated setting. There will be variations and imperfections in the data, as in the real world. Alarms will go off if a piece of virtual equipment is in danger of malfunctioning. The modules are being designed to complement lectures and physical labs, not to replace them. “I wanted students to be engaged with the material that’s being taught,” says Donkers, who has received a Contract Instructor Teaching Innovation Award to develop the VLE — another way to introduce students to the magic of science.

science.carleton.ca 9


Wake up and smell the science Carleton’s Front Door initiative partners with Bridgehead to solve a coffee bean conundrum and brew better business


By Tyrone Burke Photos by Justin Tang


Artisanal bread is baking, fermented kombucha tea is being bottled and fresh coffee beans are spilling from the roaster with the rat-tat-tat of a hailstorm on a tin roof. All of this is a backdrop to a stream of laptop-toting students and shivering construction workers stopping in to caffeinate at the café that fronts Bridgehead’s roastery on Preston Street in Ottawa’s Little Italy. In the glass-walled “Coffee Lab” at the back of the 14,000-square-foot retail and industrial space, a pair of bearded sneaker-wearing coffee connoisseurs are measuring out a morning cup. Or rather, 15. Ian Clark and Cliff Hansen are cupping, a quality grading process in which trained tasters slurp teaspoon-sized samples of fine coffees to evaluate characteristics such as acidity, aroma and body. Clark is the director of coffee at the Ottawa-based chain; Hansen is their head roaster. Founded

If you look at this Rwanda, which is rich and toffee-like and caramel-y right now, in 12 months it’s guaranteed that the same coffee will taste like stale branches and cereal.” Neither Clark nor Hansen knows when that change will occur. No one does. Coffee from the same region — even the same farm — ages differently. Different lots from the same shipment can turn stale at different times. It’s a persistent problem that shows up not only in the taste of a cup of java, but on the bottom line. Bridgehead

Coffee from the same region — even the same farm — ages differently. It’s a persistent problem that shows up not only in the taste of a cup of java, but on the bottom line. in 1981 by United Church ministers concerned about the exploitation of small-scale Nicaraguan coffee farmers, Bridgehead became the first company in Canada to sell fairly traded coffee. It was acquired by Oxfam Canada and turned into a for-profit company, and in 1999 was sold to Ottawa’s Tracey Clark. Today, there are 20 locations across the city. From the moment that Clark and Hansen speak, it’s clear this isn’t their first coffee of the day. “In a sense, cupping is inherently subjective because it’s my perception of the coffee,” Clark (no relation to Tracey) says in the accelerated staccato of the over-caffeinated. “There is a pretty good level of calibration around what the different scores mean in cupping, but the subjective ultimately is what matters, because the coffee is also being perceived by the customer.” Still, there are unknowns. Each of the 15 cups represents 8,000 pounds of newly landed coffee beans. Five from Colombia. Five from Rwanda. Five from Congo. All smell delectable — for now. “Aroma is the most relevant characteristic when it comes to the aging of green coffee,” says Clark, who, along with Hansen, has passed the Coffee Quality Institute’s Arabica Grader exams, an advanced certification that underpins their sensory evaluations. “Usually, it’s the aroma that fades.

science.carleton.ca 12

pays up to four times the standard price for the finest beans, and when an exceptional coffee fades, its price point does likewise.

Ian Clark, Bridgehead’s director of coffee, is serious about his java.


Previous spread, left to right: Bridgehead’s Ian Clark, head roaster Cliff Hansen and Carleton chemist Jeff Smith in the company’s warehouse. Above: Bridgehead’s café and roastery in Ottawa’s Little Italy.

Seeking to solve this problem, Clark and Hansen checked out an open house at Carleton’s Front Door initiative in January 2016. The program links local businesses with Faculty of Science expertise and infrastructure, and provides guidance on which people and techniques are best suited to address problems particular to their business. Working with more than a dozen facilities on campus, Front Door, through fee-for-service contracts, consulting services, R&D partnerships and other interactions, generates revenue for university researchers and, at the same time, helps companies get smarter. Canada’s $6.2 billion coffee industry is big business. More than 160,000 people work in cafés and coffee shops, and roughly 5,000 are employed on the manufacturing and roasting side. But the opportunities in this industry come coupled with risk. The five cups of exceptional Congolese coffee sitting on the table in front of Clark and Hansen are a case in point. “Historically, we’ve had problems with Congos,” says Clark, who has a bachelor’s degree in Law and Legal Studies from Carleton. “This one smells beautiful. It’s got a really floral character. Congos, in our experience, can be really good at first, but we have to be really careful about buying too much because they do die pretty quickly. They turn, and develop this bushy, woody flavour instead of the elegant floral character. So it’s smelling great — right now, it’s fantastic — but there’s this uncertainty. How long is this going to last? We don’t really know. We can use our experience and be a bit cautious, but say this is an amazing coffee that will last

for six months, we lose the opportunity to take advantage of that, if we don’t buy now. And we just don’t know, so we have to manage the risk.” There are theories in the industry about why this happens. The prevailing thinking is that uneven moisture content created by drying processes contributes to ongoing cellular respiration, consuming nutrients that result in better flavours. “The bean is essentially a seed,” Hansen says, “and the point of that seed is to germinate: it wants to stay alive so it can grow a new coffee tree. It’s going to do everything that it can to do that. If you make it harder to do that, it’s going to use up all of its energy stores. Those energy stores are delicious to us. Because we like sugar, and we like fruit acids, and those are the things that actually develop into coffee flavours. So when the bean uses those up trying to stay alive, it’s way less delicious for us.” But this is only a theory. Very little is known about how coffee beans age on a cellular level.

On the ground floor of Carleton’s Steacie Building, the buzz of bean roasting is replaced by the resonating hum of machines inside the Carleton Mass Spectrometry Centre (CMSC). This multi-million-dollar lab is brewing a new approach to understanding coffee: gas chromatography techniques enable scientists to observe chemical changes that accompany changes in aroma. Funded by a $50,000 grant from the Ontario Centres of

science.carleton.ca 13


What Ottawans are tasting in their morning java is what Carleton’s mass spectrometers are actually measuring. Excellence Voucher for Innovation and Productivity program combined with NSERC Engage support, Carleton’s coffee project focuses on beans from Huehuetenango, Guatemala. All of the coffee being tested is from specific farms in this one area; all of the beans have experienced the same storage, milling and transportation conditions. Clark and Hansen head to Huehuetenango every March to choose the best beans, but back home, the results are a mixed bag. Some will have aged prematurely while others have not, so Bridgehead has to buy a large number of small lots in order to make sure it has a few extraordinary coffees to choose from when they arrive in Canada. “They produce some of the best coffee we’ve ever tasted,” Clark says, “but they also produce a lot of not so great coffee. So we have to filter through it quite carefully. We’re picking through the community’s coffee for the very best, and these coffees are about as similar to each other as you can get, yet they have their own flavours and their own unique aging processes that we need to understand in order to have a more reliable buying process. It’s worth the risk because we get amazing coffees, but there’s this uncertainty that we’d like to overcome.”

Chemistry professor Jeff Smith, director of CMSC, thinks he can help do that using mass spectrometry. He likens a mass spectrometer to a hyper-precise scale that can identify compounds in coffee’s aroma. Knowing what compounds are present as coffee begins its downhill slide could help Bridgehead manage its inventory by selling at-risk beans sooner, while rationing sales of beans that are likely to last. “If you had a thousand people in a stadium, and you could measure every person’s mass to three decimal places, and you knew that their mass corresponded to the name, you could name every person simply by putting them on a very good scale,” says Smith. “That’s essentially what we’re doing with the coffee.” The research design follows Bridgehead’s roasting cycle. Weekly samples are received immediately after roasting, mirroring what’s being served in local cafés. What Ottawans are tasting in their morning java is what Carleton’s mass spectrometers are actually measuring. Once the coffee is in the CMSC it’s brewed in painstaking detail. A specialized grinder ensures an identical grind. A high-end handmade Moccamaster coffeemaker measures water and temperature. Even the water comes from the

Smith and master’s student John McFarlan analyze data in the Carleton Mass Spectrometry Centre.

science.carleton.ca 14


Carleton microbiologist Myron Smith is helping Ottawa’s Buchipop produce a consistent product.

The kombucha project Understanding the fermented tea drink’s microbial mix is the key to a consistent product Its fiercest advocates claim that drinking kombucha can help address a dizzying array of health problems, from diabetes to a weak libido, but Ottawa’s Buchipop isn’t brewing the fermented, fizzy tea-based beverage as a folk remedy — they want to bring it to the soda-swilling masses. “Our focus isn’t really on the health side,” says Patricia Larkin, who started the company in early 2016 after five years as a chef at one of the city’s top bistros. “That’s part of who drinks kombucha, but we want soda drinkers to love it too. I see us as a lifestyle brand. An alternative to soda, with health benefits.” Kombucha traces its lineage back two millennia to ancient Manchuria, but despite this pedigree, little is known about exactly what it is. That’s because of kombucha’s microbial complexity. Drinks such as wine and beer ferment a single yeast, but kombucha — which, like many foods and beverages, has an alcohol content of less than one percent — relies on a complex fermentation process using a symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast. To complicate matters, it uses an open system that allows external microbes to become part of that community, contributing unique local flavours. “You don’t try to keep it clean of environmentally introduced microbes,” says Carleton microbiologist Myron Smith, a genetics expert whose lab is working with Buchipop on a research project. “Different regions have different microbes. So there won’t be the same species, or the same strain, but there will be something that lives well in a region that does the same job.” With global sales forecast to climb 25 percent every year until 2020, kombucha is a growing segment in a crowded beverage industry. In a food culture increasingly driven by

the local, the drink’s regional specificity is a marketing asset, but a challenge to growth. To expand, Buchipop needs to produce consistent kombucha on a large scale, and a dynamic production process with unknown microbial components presents a hurdle to consistency. Smith’s lab in the Nesbitt Biology Building is sequencing the DNA in Buchipop’s symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast using a high throughput sequencer. By examining the metagenome — the genome of the entire community — the lab can identify microbial DNA to determine the proportion of a particular species in the mix, and identify exactly which components are present at each stage of fermentation. “You can imagine a pie chart that says 10 percent of the cells are from this bacterium, and 20 percent from this yeast,” Smith says. “Then a week later, you can see how that community has changed.” Understanding what is happening as kombucha ferments could enable Buchipop to better manage flavours in the end product, and achieve the consistency the growing company needs to expand beyond the roughly 40 local restaurants currently selling its products. “I’m very proud to be an Ottawa company,” says Larkin, “but I’d like to be an Ottawa export. For Buchipop, this is just the beginning.” — Tyrone Burke

science.carleton.ca 15


Knowing what compounds are present as coffee begins its downhill slide could help Bridgehead manage its inventory by selling at-risk beans sooner, while rationing sales of beans that are likely to last.

Barista Kyle Woods crafts the coffee at the core of this research.

same source each week. Inside the mass spectrometer — a plain 1.5-metre-high box that could pass for a photocopier — a technique called gas chromatography separates molecules present in the aromas. Inert helium pushes gaseous aromas extracted from vacuum-stored coffee through a hollow fused silica coil. Inside that slender coil — 30 metres long but just a quarter of a micron wide on the inside — molecules are separated based on their mass and ability to evaporate. The technique breaks down the complex aroma of coffee into component parts, allowing the team to identify each molecule individually. “We have data now that show upwards of 45 to 50 different compounds,” Smith says, noting that about 80 percent of what we taste are molecules with the ability to evaporate from the medium that they’re in, as coffee aromas do. “Those compounds combined together are responsible for what makes coffee taste the way it does. You can separate each one out, and the chemistry of what’s actually in there is fascinating. You see these cer-

science.carleton.ca 16

tain molecules that, on their own, would probably taste terrible. Or you look at it and say, ‘Why is that in coffee?’ It’s all part of the complexity of what coffee actually is.”

The study of coffee on a molecular level is an emerging field, and observed on that level, it could be obvious which molecule is making good coffee go bad. But that isn’t the likeliest outcome. Luckily, it also isn’t necessary. “Even if we can’t find the root cause of the problems, we’ll still be able to see a problem coming before the taste gets there,” Smith says. “The reality is that we may not figure out what’s really causing it, but we can still


Like a DJ at the decks, Cliff Hansen brings an expert touch to the controls of Bridgehead’s enormous coffee roaster.

develop an analytical method where we can identify it before they lose business. The consolation prize still saves them money. I’m confident that can happen.” For Bridgehead, a little advance warning could be the difference between a satisfied customer and a financial loss. Because specialty coffees can come at a price so much higher than their more common cousins, being able to predict that an exceptional coffee will lose its finest flavours even a few weeks before it happens could allow the company to push coffee at risk of going stale before the change actually occurs. “This project sets us up nicely too — it’s reciprocal.” says Smith, who has been able to hire a graduate stu-

dent to work specifically on this research. “Now we’re set up to do coffee analysis, and there may be an appetite for that from other coffee roasters moving forward. If we’re able to tell a smaller company that their product is starting to go off, through the analysis of a few key molecules, that could represent a new business avenue for us as well. “This was the vision we had right off the bat, that we’d be able to interface with companies — provide a tangible benefit to them — while generating revenue that brings a benefit to us, such as having the latest infrastructure in our lab to contribute to our core work in health sciences. It’s a vision that’s working.”

science.carleton.ca 17


It takes a village Indigenous leaders partner with Carleton researchers to nurture youth resilience in northwestern Ontario By Dan Rubinstein Two years ago, when a report called “Origins of Lateral Violence in Aboriginal Communities” was launched at a sunrise ceremony on the site of the former residential school in the northwestern Ontario town of Sioux Lookout, a local leader and residential school survivor had a suggestion for the study’s main author.

science.carleton.ca 18

“Why don’t you do something up here,” Garnet Angeconeb said to Amy Bombay, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation research consultant and Carleton PhD graduate who wrote the report with her thesis advisors, health psychologist Kim Matheson and behavioural neuroscientist Hymie Anisman. “Can you do something for our youth?” That question — and a desire among

Indigenous leaders and academic researchers to work together for positive change — was the inspiration behind “Youth Futures: Bringing Together Indigenous and Western Approaches to Promote Youth Resilience and Prosperity in First Nations Communities.” The ambitious seven-year project aims “to identify and act on the multiple factors that enable First Nations communities


Brent Wesley

in Indigenous communities. The entire project — including its processes and priorities — will be guided by conversations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous university and community-based researchers and members of the 33 First Nations in the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority (SLFNHA) catchment area north of Thunder Bay, with health, cultural, educational, economic and legal organizations in the region contributing to the dialogue as well. Youth Futures could help address a diverse spectrum of issues such as education, economic development, community well-being programs, parenting skills, or the need for more opportunities for extracurricular activities and skill development among youth. But these directions won’t be set — and the work to co-create solutions won’t begin — until communities have a chance to identify specific challenges that they face, and their priorities for addressing them. Indigenous methodology, such as the importance of giving voice to oral history, will inform this process. And there’s a reciprocal dimension: “To achieve reconciliation,” a project summary explains, “it is also incumbent on nonIndigenous Canadians to understand how to contribute to the healing and growth of Indigenous peoples.”

Shooting hoops in Sioux Lookout.

in northwestern Ontario to build on their strengths in order to foster youth resilience and to empower them to prosper as leaders in their communities.” Youth Futures, which is supported by a $2.5-million Partnership Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and is led by Matheson, the director of Carleton’s Canadian Health Adaptations, Innovations and Mobilization (CHAIM) Centre, represents a new collaborative approach to research and intervention

When communities identify what they would like to focus on, and share information about their strengths and assets, Matheson and her colleagues will be able to bring to the table people who have the expertise to work with communities to design, implement and evaluate possible solutions. “We’re a very large interdisciplinary group,” she says, “and our goal is to provide a set of tools that help create the conditions that allow youth to flourish in their communities. We want to get a broad sense of what services and supports already exist, and what the challenges are, and then we can work together to coordinate a response.” This approach reflects a sea change from the days when well-meaning but often misguided outsiders would parachute into Indigenous communities,

intending to help without understanding the terrain they were entering. “People who live in these communities understand the historical context that others may not know,” says Matheson. “That matters, even if one of our main goals is to identify points of entry where we can contribute to making things better. They need to have a voice and the power to direct the projects they’re participating in, which is a much more effective way to address community needs.” One need that many SLFNHA communities face is that with only four high schools in the region (two in Sioux Lookout, one in Sandy Lake and one in Thunder Bay), teenagers are often away from home for much of the school year, then have a hard time finding things to do when they’re back for the summer — and a harder time finding a reason to remain after graduation. “How do we change things in a community so when they finish high school they can be productive members of society in their home communities?” asks Matheson. “To turn things around, youth have to be able to flourish within their communities. They’re the ones who are going to make a difference.” Youth Futures is organized around four thematic hubs that will guide the research activities: encouraging youth empowerment and well-being; building resilience and supportive relationships within communities; facilitating economic development and good governance; and privileging Indigenous ways of knowing and being. Each hub is co-led by an academic researcher and a community partner. As the funding application submitted to SSHRC declares, “Indigenous youth are the fastest growing population in Canada, and their success will be integral to the future leadership and productivity of the nation. Yet, the

science.carleton.ca 19


Ariel Root

intergenerational consequences of colonization and continued practices associated with federal funding, legislative and treaty rights, resource extraction and land development, out-migration due to lack of economic or educational prospects, and, increasingly, changing climates and environments put many Indigenous youth at risk. “Numerous programs have been introduced in First Nations communities over the years to foster youth resilience and prosperity. Some

Amy Bombay

Left and middle Chris Roussakis; Daniel Abriel

Kim Matheson

Frances Abele, policy and evaluation expert Rob Shepherd, Aboriginal Enriched Support Program coordinator Rodney Nelson, Sprott School of Business entrepreneurship specialist Tony Bailetti and university archivist Patti Harper — is working with academic partners from Dalhousie University, Lakehead University and Cape Breton University. Researchers from nine other universities in Canada, the United States and Australia are also playing a role. This is in addition to the seven

in the Sioux Lookout area will present challenges for the researchers “Really, the ultimate goal is to help them build on their strengths,” says Bombay, “and support their best ideas for how to move forward.” Those strengths could include community initiatives as varied as a successful suicide prevention program in one community and a solar power project in another. The demographics argument, that Indigenous youth are the fastest growing population in Canada, is one reason Youth Futures is important, says Bombay. But so are social, cultural and economic arguments, not to mention funding disparities and shortfalls. “Improving well-being among Indigenous youth,” she says, “will benefit everybody.” It took two years of relationship building after Bombay’s report was released in Sioux Lookout to get Youth Futures to the starting line. The shortterm goal of the project is to establish active relationships with three to five

Improving well-being among Indigenous youth will benefit everybody. successes have been evident. At the same time, problems continue to be present in the lives of First Nations youth, as evidenced by the low high school completion rates (and still lower rates of pursuing post-secondary education), gang involvement, substance and alcohol abuse, and rates of suicide. Clearly there is no single solution or pathway forward. By bringing together the partnership team represented in this proposal, it is possible to take a multi-pronged approach that is shaped by, and with, First Nations communities … to implement and evaluate pathways forward to foster youth resilience and create the conditions for youth to prosper as leaders in their communities.” Carleton — whose participants include Aboriginal and northern development emeritus professor Katherine Graham, neuroscientist Hymie Anisman, public policy expert

science.carleton.ca 20

partner organizations already playing a lead role in Indigenous youth education, health and well-being in the region. Amy Bombay, Matheson and Anisman’s former graduate student, now a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and School of Nursing at Dalhousie, is one of the project’s leaders. Her research interest in the long-term impacts of residential schools, in particular on mental health, has personal roots — Bombay is from Rainy River First Nations, an Ojibway community west of Lake Superior on the Ontario-Minnesota border. Youth Futures, in a sense, is a continuation of the work that led to her report on lateral or peer-topeer violence. The partnership’s “participatory methodology,” she says, holds great promise. However, just as there are differences between Rainy River and Sioux Lookout, differences between the individual First Nations

communities within first couple years, and grow from there. “We want to learn what works in one place, and then see how communities can work together to apply the approach elsewhere,” says Matheson. “We want to do something that actually makes a difference — and to understand what factors led to that difference.” From a research perspective, explaining and disseminating information about these factors could have important outcomes far beyond northwestern Ontario. If the right kind of evidence is assembled, Youth Futures could have national policy implications. One local success story, which is being evaluated by Carleton’s Social Diversity Lab, is the Sioux Mountain Public School’s Mitacs-funded Hockey Skills Academy, where students participate in on- and off-ice skills development and training. As part of the program, students also learn


Ariel Root

Brent Wesley Ariel Root

The need for more extracurricular activities — and opportunities to expand programs that work — is one potential focus for the multipronged Youth Futures project.

valuable employment skills such as teamwork, leadership, responsibility, perseverance and problem solving. “It’s extremely important to build capacity locally as a step toward communitydriven developments,” says Matheson. “There are many seeds there.” Graham, a project leader who travelled to Sioux Lookout several

times during the development of Youth Futures, says it has been important to get a practical sense of what resources exist, and how researchers might constructively engage with their local partners. “It’s very important to get a sense of the on-the-ground realities,” says Graham. “I like the toolbox analogy. We have a lot of

different backgrounds, and our job is to bring those to the table and talk to community members about where and how they’d like to proceed. “What we have to offer is an array of approaches that these communities would otherwise not have access to. The scale of this project is unique.”

science.carleton.ca 21


In real life Shopify’s manager of external education programs Gail Carmichael (far left) and the first cohort of the company’s Carleton tinterns.

Carleton’s new internship program with Shopify takes experiential learning to a new level By Dan Rubinstein Photos by Chris Roussakis Abdou Sarr had a difficult decision to make. The talented techminded teenager from Ottawa was considering computer science and business programs at several Ontario universities. Sarr, who started coding while in Grade 4 and developed a relaxation app in high school that soared to the top of North American sales charts after earning an endorsement from rapper and tech investor Snoop Dogg, wasn’t sure

science.carleton.ca 22

which route to follow. Then a new option arose, and he jumped at the opportunity. “This is perfect,” says Sarr, one of 11 students enrolled in the first cohort of a multi-year internship created by Carleton and Shopify, the booming Ottawa-based commerce company. “I’ll get real-world coding and business experience and all the benefits of a university degree.” These Shopify internships will see students split their time between the Carleton campus and Shopify’s downtown headquarters throughout

their four-year Bachelor of Computer Science program. They’ll learn both in the classroom and by doing hands-on work, with Shopify paying a salary and covering their tuition as well. Natalia Kingsbury, one of Sarr’s classmates in the program, wasn’t sure she wanted to go back to university. Originally from Colombia, Kingsbury spent the final year of her undergraduate Industrial Design program on exchange at Carleton in 2014, then worked in Ottawa for a couple years until reaching a career crossroads. She first heard about


“This program will help me develop my skills — it’ll be like advancing from a screwdriver to a drill!”

these Shopify internships at a software development workshop for women. “The fact that it was a combination of Carleton and Shopify was huge,” says Kingsbury. “Industrial design is about problem solving, but computer science gives you tools and the mindset you need to solve problems. This program will help me develop my skills — it’ll be like advancing from a screwdriver to a drill!” What’s more, she says, as a mature student who’ll be 30 years old at graduation, the internship will give her practical experience to list on her resume, not only another degree. “It’s like I hit the jackpot,” says Kingsbury. “It doesn’t feel like I’m going back to square one — it’s like I’m taking the next step.” The concept of a partnership like this was conceived by Jean-Michel Lemieux, Shopify’s senior vicepresident of engineering, when he was working for software company Atlassian in Australia. Lemieux brought the idea to Canada when he moved back home and began working Shopify in 2015. “Over the years, Shopify has hired high school and university interns as a long-term investment in talent, and we quickly realized that some of the best ideas and contributions were coming from our interns,” says Lemieux. “Our Internet-savvy interns cherished the fact that they could practice what they had learned on the Internet in real time at Shopify. Many took online courses or worked on open source projects and got the theory one day and applied it the next.” Shopify is the world’s leading cloud-based, multi-channel commerce platform designed for small- and medium-sized businesses. Merchants can use the software to design, set up and manage their stores across

multiple sales channels, including web, mobile, social media, brick-andmortar locations and pop-up shops. Shopify currently powers more than 300,000 businesses in approximately 150 countries, and is trusted by brands such as Tesla Motors, Budweiser, Red Bull, the LA Lakers and many more. “We talked with many interns about staying on at Shopify,” says Lemieux, “and although they all agreed that they were learning so much by working with the some of the best developers

had tackled integrating practice and theory in creative ways. It turns out that no one had. Universities have recognized the need for a new model for experiential learning. In fact, the majority of Canadian universities have it as a key pillar in their strategies. But they haven’t been able to do much without a strong partnership with industry. “It was definitely time to shake things up. We dove in head-first. We found in Carleton an amazing partner

Abdou Sarr had a lot of options after high school, but this internship sealed the deal.

on the planet, the majority wanted a degree for their future flexibility. Some of them saw their parents lose their jobs in the crash of 2009 and 2010, and for them a university degree is an insurance policy. “We started talking to universities and researching to see if someone

who had come to many of the same conclusions that we had but, like us, needed a partner to make something truly innovative happen.” In January 2016, Carleton Faculty of Science Dean Malcolm Butler and Doug Howe, director of the School

science.carleton.ca 23


of Computer Science, met with Lemieux and Shopify’s manager of external education programs, Gail Carmichael, who has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in Computer Science from Carleton and is threequarters of the way through her PhD. Everybody agreed that an internship could work, and staff at the university and company have spent the last few months ironing out the logistics and details. At Shopify, mentors will take on the role that professors and instructors have at the university. Members of Carmichael’s five-person external education team understand what “competencies” are required as part of Carleton’s computer science degree. Students will spend about half their time at Shopify learning material for some core computer science courses and earning credit for practicums. Advanced courses and electives will be taken traditionally on campus. Carleton will be in charge of the program’s curriculum and student evaluation — two of the measures that helped assure the university’s Senate that the internship is a good fit. The School of Computer Science has appointed a faculty liaison who will meet bi-weekly with students, and customized learning outcomes will be established for each student in each internship course as a result of discussions between the student, the liaison member and Shopify’s program co-ordinator. Students also have access to all the academic and student services at Carleton. “Shopify and Carleton worked closely together to ensure that students would have a truly superior educational experience,” says John Shepherd, Carleton’s vice-provost and associate vice-president (Academic). “The care that has been put into developing this relationship will result in a very exciting four years of study, learning and practice for every student in this program.”

science.carleton.ca 24

Butler likens the experience a computer science student will have at Shopify to a physics student doing their degree while working at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. “Carleton takes pride in its efforts to find experiential learning opportunities for our students,” he says. “A company like Shopify isn’t just a business — it’s a place where innovation happens.” Not only will students develop an

They will help ensure the employability and future success of students through experiential learning and innovative teaching. They will help meet a societal need — in this case, a shortage of more than 200,000 information and communication technology workers is forecasted in Canada by 2020. Moreover, the Shopify internships will raise Carleton’s profile as a goto institution for computer science students.

“The care that has been put into developing this relationship will result in a very exciting four years for every student.” integrated set of skills, they will also bring what they’re learning back to the university. This experience will give students a head-start on their careers, or it could spark entrepreneurial ideas — or propel students on to graduate school. “Experiential opportunities create those ‘ah-ha’ moments,” says

“One of the motivations is to attract more top-quality students from across Canada and the United States to Carleton,” says Howe. “This is an elite program. Students will get the fundamentals and principles from Carleton and apply these ideas at Shopify. And because they’ll be

Student Natalia Kingsbury sees this program as a big step ahead.

Butler. “They may see things that spark really creative ideas. That’s the power of experiential learning.” The new Shopify internships address the goals of Carleton’s Strategic Integrated Plan in a number of ways.

at Shopify year-round, they can get deeply involved in long-term projects. Shopify is not just a successful software development company. They have elite developers, and compete with Facebook and Google for staff.” Helping to develop and keep talent


Carleton computer science student Anna Malchow-Perryman shows her skills to Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

in Canada is one of the attractions for Shopify, even if students don’t stay with the company after graduation. It’s part of Shopify’s focus on good citizenship, says Carmichael. “Shopify and Carleton are showing real leadership,” said Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, who attended an event celebrating the collaboration at Shopify’s downtown Ottawa offices in October. “Canada needs to do a better job of preparing people at all stages of life for a rapidly changing job market. Programs such as the unique one launched by Shopify and Carleton will help students integrate more quickly into the workforce after they graduate.” Shopify and Carleton are also working toward more gender equity in a traditionally male-dominated discipline. Six of the 11 students are women, a big step in a field that’s usually 10 to 15 per cent female. The interns were not only recruited at high

schools, but also through the local Girl Develop It community, which is run by a non-profit organization that provides affordable programs for adult women interested in learning web and software development. “A lot of women don’t apply for these types of programs because of a lack of confidence,” says Carmichael. “A little encouragement goes a long way.” Seven of the interns are coming right from high school; the others are mature students. “Students need the same background as other computer science students,” says Carmichael, “as well as something that sets them apart, such as prior software development experience.” The program, she adds, “provides an opportunity to do meaningful work much sooner in your degree — you’re contributing as part of a team. It’s also an opportunity for more personalized education. You can really do the things you’re passionate about. This is great for a certain type of learner: understanding the ‘why’ before the ‘what’ can be very powerful.

“We’ll be able to give credit for skills that are impossible to get in the classroom, where you can only simulate what people do in the real world, not contribute to a platform that thousands of people are using. Curriculum-aligned work-integrated learning — that’s what makes this program unique.” If this year’s pilot is successful, the program could be expanded to up to 25 or so students next fall — and, further down the road, rolled out so Carleton can partner with other companies, and Shopify with other universities. “Everybody on my team at Shopify is really excited,” says Carmichael. “It’s going to be amazing to see what these students can do.”

science.carleton.ca 25


Fish finder If all we did was fundamental science, I wouldn’t get yelled at during community meetings

It’s the middle of winter, but fish ecologist Steven Cooke, a Canada Research Chair of Environmental Science and Biology at Carleton, is already thinking ahead to next year’s field work. Sure, he has boatloads of data to analyze over the winter — statistics from salmon migrations in B.C., for instance — and telemetry equipment has been deployed to track the movement of electronically tagged fish under the ice in Lake Ontario. But Cooke knows the importance of laying the groundwork for the research that he and the 40 or so postdocs, grad students and undergrads in his lab will be conducting in 2017 and beyond. And at the core of these efforts is a crucial principle: collaboration. — as told to Dan Rubinstein

Field work begins well ahead of when you arrive on site. It can take years to understand the issues and co-create a research agenda. If we just dropped in and then left with our results, the science is less likely to be relevant and change people’s habits or policy. The Lake Ontario work goes back to the 1970s, when 40 or so places in the Great Lakes with significant

science.carleton.ca 26

pollution and degraded habit were deemed “areas of concern.” Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in restoration, and we’re partnering with organizations such as Fisheries and Oceans Canada to find out whether it’s been effective — if it’s safe to get into a kayak or fish or take your kids to the beach. This research is helping us develop a broader understanding

of how people interact with aquatic ecosystems. Humans are both the cause of environmental problems and the solution. Biology is just part of the picture. We collaborate with social scientists and community groups — the nexus between science and people. If all we did was fundamental science, I wouldn’t get yelled at during community meetings, but our work


Dyanne Wilson

Fish ecologist Steven Cooke on the banks of the Rideau River, which flows past the Carleton campus. Getting his feet wet across Canada makes his research interesting — and relevant.

wouldn’t have as much of an impact, and our students would not be as employable. Plus, the problems we face, such as climate change and food security, are bloody complex and need to be addressed by teams with a range of perspectives. We do a lot of work with salmon on the West Coast, and this entails collaboration with Indigenous communities. I think of this research

as a “program,” not a series of “projects” with start and stop dates, so there are fluid transitions between people who come and go. I can’t be the face of the program in every location; it’s usually a grad student. When one is leaving, they overlap with the student who is coming in, so the trust and goodwill they have developed are transferred. Ultimately, this research is for the

fish. Salmon are a migratory species that move from the ocean to their spawning grounds, through areas where recreational, commercial and First Nations fishers interact. When you work with people in a community who can help advocate for a change in fishing practice, that message really resonates — it’s not coming from outsiders who have parachuted in.

science.carleton.ca 27


Seventy-five years of science

Photo:

Carleton celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2017. There have been countless changes since a group of visionary citizens opened the doors of a new college in 1942 for students building their careers after military service in the Second World War. Over the next two decades, Carleton evolved into a university and the science programs grew to the point where a Faculty of Science was created in 1963. Today, the Faculty of Science is comprised of 12 academic units housed primarily in six buildings. More than 3,300 undergraduate and 500 graduate students enroll each year in the faculty’s 34 undergraduate and 19 graduate degree programs.

2017 Faculty of Science events Science Café with Andrew Simons Wed., Mar. 22 Sunnyside Library, 1049 Bank St.

Health Sciences Showcase Wed., Sept. 27 Richcraft Hall second floor atrium and conference rooms

Science Professor Jeopardy Thu., Feb. 2 Fenn Lounge

Data Day 4.0 (CU Institute for Data Science) Wed., Mar. 29 Richcraft Hall second floor atrium and conference rooms

Butterfly Exhibit Sept. 30 to Oct. 8 Nesbitt Biology Building

Science Café with Fred Gaidies Wed., Feb. 1 Sunnyside Library, 1049 Bank St.

Science Undergrad Research Day Fri., Apr. 7 Fenn Lounge

Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference Oct. 20 to 23 Location TBD

Science Café with TBD Wed., Feb. 22 Sunnyside Library, 1049 Bank St.

CU75 Research Event - Carleton Exchange May (date TDB) Location TBD

Physics Annual Show Sat., Oct. 28 Herzberg labs

Chemistry Magic Show (10th anniversary) Sat., Feb. 25 2200 Richcraft Hall

Chemistry Magic Show (10th Anniversary) Sat., May 13 Outdoors

Herzberg Lecture Jacqueline K. Barton from Caltech Wed., Nov. 1 Location TBD

Science Café with Kim Matheson Wed., Mar. 8 Sunnyside Library, 1049 Bank St.

Throwback Weekend Alumni Mixer Thu., Sept. 14 Richcraft Hall

For updated events info, please go to science.carleton.ca/events.

Discovery Lecture Globe and Mail health columnist André Picard Wed., Feb. 1 Richcraft Hall

Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: Faculty of Science Carleton University 3230 Herzberg Laboratories 1125 Colonel By Drive Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6 Canada

Mail To:

Publication Mail Agreement No. 40063314 ISSN 0226-5389

PM40063314


Eureka!