By tackling the challenges that our society faces, researchers at Western Science often publish papers highlighting new discoveries, receive awards for outstanding and novel science, and produce patents that transform discovery to application. Featured below are the most recent announcements from different research groups at Western Science regarding publications, awards, and patents. Explore the accomplishments of Western Science and be sure to come back to see the new and exciting projects that being are undertaken at Western Science.

Featured Highlights

2018 Science Rendezvous @WesternU

Thank you to everyone who joined us for Science Rendezvous @WesternU this past Saturday! It was amazing to see so many families running around TD Stadium exploring the exciting complement of science booths and activities. Despite the rain, over 1500 people joined us for a day filled with scientific exploration.

Science Rendezvous @WesternU is part of a national celebration of science held across Canada. For Western Science, it is an opportunity to open our doors to the community and welcome you to campus to see the exciting science taking place here. Whether it was making your own slime, driving a mini-space rover, or simply holding a stick insect for the first time, we hope that you now love science as much as we do.

If you missed us on Saturday, click here for photos and be sure to catch us next year! 

We would especially like to thank our sponsor. This day was only possible because of your generous support.

2018 Florence Bucke Science Award

The Florence Bucke Science Award recognizes excellence in research conducted by a young and upcoming faculty member. The award was made available through an endowment from the late Florence Bucke who received a BA from Western University in 1926 and went on to teach in Fort Erie until 1971.

The prize consists of a certificate, a $2000 award, and public lecture which will take place on Wednesday, April 25th at 3:30 pm in the Physics and Astronomy Building, Room 100. A reception will follow.

This year's recipient is Dr. Paul Ragogna from the Department of Chemistry. Paul's research focuses on the synthesis of new molecules containing the main group or transition metal elements and their application in practical chemical processes. An abstract for Paul's lecture can be found below.

Fun with Main Group Chemistry

The Ragogna Research Group

The main group elements, a sub-group of the iconic Periodic Table of the Elements, have long been the vanguard for establishing parameters for principles of chemical structure (molecular shape) and bonding (forces holding atoms together). A main group chemist often tries to push the boundaries of established rules for structure and bonding, which makes the research area both interesting and frustrating.

Chemists working with compounds derived from this part of the Periodic Table have not only made ground-breaking, fundamental discoveries (e.g. Noble Gas compounds), but have also generated new materials that are of immense practical benefit to humanity (e.g. Silicone polymers).  Since 2005 our group has spent considerable effort investigating the fundamental chemistry the main group elements, and although we cannot lay claim to such impactful discoveries such as silicones, we do indeed look to discover applications for our new knowledge.  In this context, key fundamental discoveries that have emerged from our lab and the spin-off, industrially-relevant research will be highlighted.  Most importantly, the lecture will be a tribute to the clear dedication, skill, and tenacity of the many undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral researchers that have passed through the Ragogna Group laboratories.  As we all know, without such a team, none of the discoveries would have come to fruition.

Western University's Three Minute Thesis Winner

Image of Western Science's 3MT competitors, including Tianqi

Western Science's 3MT finalist, Tianqi Xie is second from the right.

Tianqi Xie, Western University’s 2018 winner of the campus-wide Three Minute Thesis Competition, is on a journey to unlock the secrets of the Moon. Through her research, she dives into the explosive history that shaped our closest neighbor, trying to understand how it’s surface evolved over billions of years.

We’ve all seen a full Moon on a clear night, some of us might have even been fortunate enough to catch the “Super Moon” this past year, but if you’ve ever looked at a snapshot of the Moon you will see thousands of circular, bowl-shaped features covering the surface. They can range from a few meters to hundreds of kilometers wide. Called impact craters, these geologic landmarks are formed by the collision of material whipping around in space at kilometer per second speeds, often ten times the speed of most bullets.

When rocks collide at these speeds, a catastrophic explosion results. The impactor is vaporized in seconds and the bodies that have been hit are fundamentally changed. When these collisions unfold on the Moon, solid rock is instantly turned into liquid, molten material. Even more material is displaced, ejected, and thrown across the surface. The energy of the impact unleashes a shockwave several times greater than those experienced during the nuclear testing of the Cold War. It is how this shockwave travels through solid material that Tianqi is most interested.

The analytical system Tianqi uses to do her research is called Raman spectroscopy. This non-destructive technique is commonly used to identify organic and inorganic material in geologic samples. In NASA's upcoming Mars 2020 mission, a Raman spectrometer will be used to try and find evidence for life on the Martian surface.

Tianqi is one of the few people in Canada who gets to hold pieces of the Moon and explore its crystalline structure by shooting lasers at them. By looking characteristic pattern returned from this shocked lunar material, Tianqi examines how the structure of the material has changed, what pressures the material experienced, and how proximal was the material from ground zero of the impact. In doing so, she hopes that we can better understand this geologic process, which has shaped every planetary body in our Solar System.

After finishing her BSc and MSc in Beijing, she became part of the Western Science community in the fall of 2014 as she started her PhD. Whether it's catching a new play or her Flamenco lesson, she has found time to take in the rich culture around her. Tianqi has loved her time in Canada. She hopes to pursue an academic career here in Canada, but she is certainly open to exploring and discovering new destinations as her career takes off.

The Three Minute Thesis Competition

The 3MT (Three Minute Thesis) competition asks graduate students to present the breadth and significance of their thesis in 1 slide and 3 minutes to do just that to a non-specialist audience. This fun and challenging academic competition gives Western Science graduate students the opportunity to improve their communication skills while potentially winning a first place prize of $1000. 

The 3MT Competition was originally developed by The University of Queensland, Australia, but since then, it has become a truly international phenomenon with global competitions held each year. The exercise develops the ability to effectively communicate complex research using open language, allowing you to explain the significance of your research to your peers and the wider community.

2018 Fallona Family Research Showcase

Join us for a celebration of outstanding interdisciplinary research. The 2018 Fallona Family Research Showcase is your opportunity to re-engage with the research community at Western University. By highlighting recent research achievements, this event allows you to explore potential new collaborations with research colleagues across Science and Engineering and beyond the campus gates with industry, government and alumni guests.

The showcase will be held on Thursday, April 12th, 2018 from 10:30 am to 4:00 pm in the atrium of the Physics and Astronomy Building. A detailed agenda can be found here.

This year, Dr. Raquel Urtasun, Head of Uber ATG Toronto, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Machine Learning and Computer Vision at the University of Toronto will be our keynote speaker and recipient of the Fallona Family Research Award. A full biography is available below.

Poster presentations on the cutting-edge interdisciplinary research being conducted by the Faculties of Science and Engineering will be presented throughout the day.

The poster presentation registration deadline is April 5, 2018. Prizes will be presented to the top three posters.

A select group of students will also be invited to deliver a five-minute oral presentation during the main speaking portion of the event. If you would like to be considered for this opportunity, please be sure to complete and submit the registration form no later than March 30. You will be contacted during the first week of April if you are chosen to deliver an oral presentation.


Dr. Raquel Urtasun

Images of Dr. Raquel Urtasun and autonomous vechiles

Images of Dr. Raquel Urtasun and autonomous vehicles.

Raquel Urtasun is the Head of Uber ATG Toronto. She is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto, a Canada Research Chair in Machine Learning and Computer Vision and a co-founder of the Vector Institute for AI. Prior to this, she was an Assistant Professor at the Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago (TTIC), an academic computer science institute affiliated with the University of Chicago. She was also a visiting professor at ETH Zurich during the spring semester of 2010. She received her Bachelors degree from Universidad Publica de Navarra in 2000, her Ph.D. degree from the Computer Science department at Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne (EPFL) in 2006 and did her postdoc at MIT and UC Berkeley. She is a world leading expert in machine perception for self-driving cars. Her research interests include machine learning, computer vision, robotics and remote sensing. Her lab was selected as an NVIDIA NVAIL lab. She is a recipient of an NSERC EWR Steacie Award, an NVIDIA Pioneers of AI Award, a Ministry of Education and Innovation Early Researcher Award, three Google Faculty Research Awards, an Amazon Faculty Research Award, a Connaught New Researcher Award and two Best Paper Runner up Prize awarded at the Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) in 2013 and 2017 respectively. She is also an Editor of the International Journal in Computer Vision (IJCV) and has served as Area Chair of multiple machine learning and vision conferences (i.e., NIPS, UAI, ICML, ICLR, CVPR, ECCV).

2018 C. Gordon Winder Memorial SCUGOG Public Lecture

Join us for the 2018 C. Gordon Winder Memorial SCUGOG Public Lecture given by Dr. Natalya Gomez.

Dr. Gomez is the Canada Research Chair in ice sheet - sea-level interactions at McGill University and will be giving a talk on Ice, Sea Level, and the Solid Earth. An abstract and Dr. Gomez's biography can be found below.

The talk will be Thursday, February 1st, 2018 at 7:00 pm in Middlesex College, room 110. A reception will follow.

Ice, Sea Level, and the Solid Earth

Sea-level rise is projected to displace communities around the world in the coming centuries, and the melting of the polar ice sheets is expected to make a significant contribution to the rising water levels. In particular, recent research suggests that unstable, runaway retreat may already be underway in certain sectors of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. A critical task of climate change research is to understand the response of present-day ice reservoirs to climate warming and estimate their contribution to future sea-level rise. In this talk, I will discuss the stability and evolution of the polar ice sheets, the physics of the associated sea-level changes, and the role that the solid Earth plays in these changes.

Natalya Gomez's Biography

Natalya Gomez is an assistant professor in the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department at McGill University and a Canada Research Chair in the Geodynamics of Ice Sheet - Sea Level interactions. She works at the intersection between two rapidly progressing areas of research: Solid earth geophysics and climate science. Her research centers around modeling the interactions between ice sheets, sea level and the solid Earth and understanding how these earth systems evolve in response to past, present and future climate changes in regions such as Antarctica, Greenland, North America and the Arctic. A highlight of her work has been to identify and quantify a previously neglected feedback between sea level changes and ice sheet dynamics. Her approach to modeling this sea level feedback has been adopted by groups around the world to study a wide range of problems in paleo, modern and future climate change. She has recently applied the approach to demonstrate the potential importance of local sea level changes and variations in Earth structure on ice-sheet evolution and the interpretation of geologic and geodetic records in Antarctica. She is also interested in the implications of climate change for coastal communities and environments in the Canadian Arctic.

3MT - Three Minute Thesis Competition

Imagine having to explain the entire breadth and significance of your thesis in 1 slide and 3 minutes. The 3MT (Three Minute Thesis) competition asks you to do just that to a non-specialist audience. This fun and challenging academic competition gives Western Science graduate students the opportunity to improve their communication skills while potentially winning a first place prize of $1000. 

The 3MT Competition was originally developed by The University of Queensland, Australia, but since then, it has become a truly international phenomenon with global competitions held each year. The exercise develops the ability to effectively communicate complex research using open language, allowing you to explain the significance of your research to your peers and the wider community.

The qualifying heat for Western Science is Tuesday, February 13, 2018, from 9:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. in the Physics & Astronomy Building, Room 100. The winner from the heat will go on to compete at Western's 2018 3MT Final and will have the opportunity to win the $1000. You must register before Tuesday, February 6, 2018, to compete.

Western Science wants to see science graduate students come out on top! We have organized two, free workshops: Secrets of Professional Storytelling (Monday, January 22, 2018) and Voice Dynamic & Body Language (Tuesday, February 6, 2018) to help you prepare and maximize your potential for success. Interested participates must register for each workshop before January 18.

We encourage you all to participate and the best of luck in the competition!

Discovery circumstances of the first interstellar asteroid

Join us on Friday, December 8th, 2017 at 1:30 pm in Physics & Astronomy Seminar Room 100 to uncover the circumstances that led to the discovery of the first interstellar asteroid. Dr. Robert Weryk from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, a Western Science alumnus, will be talking about his role and the science that led to the identification of this interstellar object. The full abstract of the talk can be found below:

For the first time ever astronomers have studied an asteroid that has entered the Solar System from interstellar space. Observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile and other observatories around the world show that this unique object was traveling through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system. It appears to be a dark, reddish, highly-elongated rocky or high-metal-content object. Our team from the Pan-STARRS observatory – being the first to detect the interstellar visitor – has chosen the name 'Oumuamua’ for our discovery. The name is of Hawaiian origin and means a messenger from afar arriving first. I will discuss the results that appeared in Nature on 20 November 2017.