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.
COVID-19 Faculty of Science Updates
March 19, 2020
Starting Thurs March 19, the Dean’s office will be physically open Monday to Friday with reduced hours from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Staff will also be available virtually to respond to emails.
Phone calls to the Science departments will be forwarded to emails. A department representative will check and respond to these messages.
Department General Numbers
- Applied Mathematics: 519-661-3649
- Biology: 519-850-2542
- Chemistry: 519-661-2166
- Computer Science: 519-661-3566
- Earth Science: 519-661-3187
- Mathematics: 519-661-3639
- Physics and Astronomy: 519-661-2111 x83283
- Statistical and Actuarial Sciences 519-661-2098
The perimeter doors of the Science buildings will be closed, with the exception of buildings with dedicated study spaces as listed below. Members of our community will need card access to enter, or to present appropriate identification to Campus Community Police Service.
The university is making study space available. Students may study in these dedicated locations which will be frequented by security staff and cleaned regularly.
The following locations will be available to students from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.:
- University College – Rooms 1105, 1225, 2105, 2110, 3220, and 3225
- University Community Centre – Rooms 58, 59, 60, 61, 63, 65, and 67
- Somerville House – Rooms 2316, 2317 and 2355
- North Campus Building – Rooms 114, 117, 293, 295, and 296
At this time research labs, with appropriate supervision, will remain operational
Update: This event has been cancelled.
You are invited to attend the Fallona Family Interdisciplinary Science Award & Lecture, our annual celebration of interdisciplinarity by researchers representing the Faculty of Science.
Date: Thursday, April 2, 2020
Time: 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m., followed by a catered reception (Physics and Astronomy Atrium)
Talk Venue: PAB 100
This year, Patricia Corcoran, the Chair of the Department of Earth Sciences and the 2020 recipient of the Fallona Interdisciplinary Science Prize will present her research on pollution in the Great Lakes with a talk entitled:
The Field, the Lab, and the Museum: A Tripartite Approach to Battling Plastics Pollution in the Great Lakes Watershed
The global proliferation of plastic debris has been widely documented in both marine and terrestrial environments, but only recently has some of the focus shifted to freshwater settings. Following over a decade of research into plastics pollution in the Great Lakes watershed, our research team is composed of experts who investigate the sources, transport, and distribution of plastic particles in a system containing approximately 20% of the world’s freshwater. Our field and laboratory results have provided insight into how: i) low-density microplastics (MPs) can sink to the lake floor, ii) rivers and creeks are the main pathways through which plastic is transported to the lakes, iii) MP abundances are greater near high population centres containing plastic industries, iv) the amount of MPs are controlled by grain size of the sediment in which they are deposited, and v) plastic debris can be buried and become part of the future rock record. Scientific investigations focus on providing accurate data on the distribution, effects, and composition of plastic debris, but our research group goes one step further by including visual artists and writers who convey their work in an interpretive and creative way. This then works as a catalyst for consumer and industry change by making plastics pollution visual and conceptual.
Patricia Corcoran is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Earth Sciences at Western University. Recruited to Western in 2003, her research focuses on natural and anthropogenic sedimentary deposits in order to gain an understanding of Earth’s changing surface and atmospheric processes through time. One significant element of Corcoran’s research concerns the distribution, accumulation, and degradation of plastic debris in benthic sediment, surface water, and fish of lakes, rivers and oceans Her work on microplastics pollution involves collaboration with members of the Federal and Provincial Governments, local Conservation Authorities, First Nations Communities, and academics in the disciplines of chemistry, biology, engineering, statistics, mathematics, visual arts, and the humanities. Patricia Corcoran’s research has been featured by media outlets across the globe, including National Geographic, the Huffington Post, Science Magazine, the New York Times.
Invited Student Talks
Five Science students will also be invited to deliver a 3-5 minute presentation regarding their research project. The best presenter will receive a prize of $500 to support their attendance at a domestic or international conference in their area of research within the following 12 months.
Those students who are interested in participating are invited to send up to a 30-second video summarizing their research using lay language to firstname.lastname@example.org by noon on March 20. The Dean’s office will reach out to those selected as presenters by March 25.
Applied Mathematics student Navid Afrasiabian makes the top 20 finalists in the Three Minute Thesis Competition. Navid will now compete for the opportunity to represent Western at the provincial finals in April.
Show your support for Navid by attending the next round of the competition and cheering for him.
Date: Thursday, March 12, 2020
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Wolf Performance Hall, London Public Library (Central branch)
A reception will follow the competition This is a FREE event for students, staff, faculty, and all members of the community.
The Computational Brain Sciences Research Group was recently established within the Brain and Mind Institute at Western University. With four new faculty hires, the group forms an interdisciplinary team of researchers that seeks to uncover how the brain solves the computational problems that ultimately give rise to intelligent behavior. Core members of the group are affiliated with the Department of Computer Science, Applied Mathematics, Medical Biophysics, Psychology, and Statistical and Actuarial Sciences.
Founded through support from the BrainsCAN program, the group builds models depicting how the brain works using new mathematical and statistical ideas and develops analysis techniques for the increasingly rich data coming from modern neuroscientific experiments. To undertake this activity, the group draws on expertise in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Mathematics, and Computer Science. A particular strength of the new research group is that it is very closely embedded into the strong and vibrant research community in basic and clinical neuroscience on campus.
“These are exciting times”, says Jörn Diedrichsen, one of the core members of the group. “The current confluence of the exciting new developments in artificial intelligence, and the breathtaking new measurement techniques in neuroscience have created the perfect storm. I think our theories of how the brain works will dramatically change and develop in the next 10 years. We hope our team can be at the forefront of this evolution”. Results from the group’s research ultimately aim to impact the understanding of neural processes in cognition and potential treatments in neurological and cognitive disease.
Congratulations to Cam Hebert , winner of our podcast prize. Thank you to all who listened and entered. Be sure to check out all of our other Western Science Speaks episodes .
- Contest Opens February 10, 2020, and closes at 12:00 pm EST on February 12, 2020.
- Must be 18 years or older to enter
- Tune in to the podcast, featuring Amanda Moehring and Geoff Wild, either on-air at Radio Western (94.9FM) on Monday, February 10 at 11:30 am or stream the episode from our site or other streaming services .
- Host Henry Standage will provide instructions on the phrase to be submitted at email@example.com or DM @WesternUScience on Twitter, to enter into our draw.
- Correct entries will be entered in a draw that will take place on February 12. Entries must include: Name, Affiliation (Student, Faculty, Staff, External Member of Public), and the correct phrase.
- The winner will be announced at 2:00 pm EST on February 12 via @WesternUScience twitter and the Faculty of Science homepage .
- Click to listen to our Valentine’s Day Special (once available online).
Hi, I'm Matt Davison Dean of Science. As you may be aware, the university is launching a faculty and staff engagement survey called We Speak on January 27th. It's important for us to know what you're thinking about Western and your workplace. And that's not true only during we speak, it's always true. So I welcome the chance to hear from you about anything that may be of concern on a regular basis.
However, to reframe it to the We Speak survey. This survey will be conducted by an external organization called Metrics@Work. The individual results of the survey are completely confidential. Your participation will not be known either by your leader or by the university administration. I'd like to really encourage everyone to participate in the we speak survey. This will help foster a culture of engagement and inclusivity in the Faculty of Science and it cannot be achieved without broad input from across the faculty. From faculty members, from staff members, across all units and from people in different career stages. I would love to hear from you about what you enjoy and about what needs attention. Together, I think we can build upon our strengths and address areas that may need more work. I hope you can find the time, which will be about 20 minutes, to complete the survey. This will help provide us with a substantial and useful roadmap as our faculty moves forward. Thank you.
About the We Speak Survey
The survey begins on January 28, 2020, and it is a great opportunity to have your voice heard. We want to know how you feel about your work, your department or faculty, and Western. The data from this survey will provide insight for your team into strengths, and into areas that may need improvement.
The survey, conducted at arm's length by the Canadian company Metrics@Work, is confidential and optional. You will receive an email providing a link to complete the survey
Congratulations to Elizabeth Gillies, Frank Beier, and their co-supervised student, Ian Villamagna, for their collaborative research having been named among the top 10 research advances of 2019 by the Arthritis Society . This achievement arises from their work on advancing drug delivery for osteoarthritis. Since drugs for osteoarthritis circulate throughout the whole body and often have undesirable side effects, Western researchers developed a new delivery method for an anti-inflammatory drug by converting it into tiny particles that could be injected directly into the joint.
Western University is set to prepare the next generation of leaders to grapple with the effects of the Digital Revolution, thanks to a $3-million investment from the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). Together, the Faculty of Science, Faculty of Engineering, and RBC will establish a highly qualified pipeline of data and AI professionals from diverse disciplines, backgrounds, and cultures to support the 21st-century banking sector.
“This gift is a catalyst to help Western provide tomorrow’s leaders with the skillset they’ll need to navigate a world full of data and find solutions to the challenges they will inevitably face during their future careers. We’re excited to be partnering with RBC to help provide and promote training of 21st-century talent that’s not only technically proficient, but also ethically and socially aware.” - Western President, Dr. Alan Shepard
The establishment of the RBC Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence Project presents a unique opportunity for Western to expand its ongoing cross-disciplinary work in the fields of Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence. This project consists of a series of integrated components including courses in the ethical and social aspects of Data Analytics, scholarships in both Data Science and Software Engineering fields, and a Design Thinking Program. The new courses will be designed by experts in big data, artificial intelligence (AI), and financial technology (Fintech). RBC will contribute business cases and count themselves among the instructors who will bring unique, authentic and engaged learning, to graduate and undergraduate students.
With this investment, our graduates will be ready to join the sector teams who will drive the development of financial technology and design the code that forms the backbone of AI systems.
Guest Lecturer: Dr. Jonathan Houghton (Queen's University Belfast, UK)
November 15, 2019: 12:30 - 1:30 pm
Pressure upon marine systems continues to mount year on year. Complex issues such as overfishing, pollution, and climate change seamlessly interweave to bring about wholesale shifts in marine communities over regional and global scales. The challenge facing marine scientists is not only to identify when such changes have occurred but to do so before it is too late. In this talk, we will consider how top-predators can act early warning systems or 'indicators' for biologists and unravel how such species locate their prey in a cast and ever-changing environment. Examples will be drawn from a wide range of species found in the North Atlantic from jellyfish through to leatherback turtles, basking sharks, and ocean sunfish. Recent technological advances will also be brought to light to demonstrate how marine biologists gather data from marine predators that range from thousands of kilometres from land and into the ocean depths.
Date: Wednesday, November 13: 6:00 pm
Location: Conron Hall (UC 3110)
Speaker: Professor Melanie Campbell, University of Waterloo
The Eye as a Window on the Brain
Melanie Campbell earned a BSc in Chemical Physics, Victoria College, University of Toronto, an MSc in Physics, University of Waterloo and, from the Australian National University, a PhD in Applied Mathematics and Physiology. Following a CSIRO Fellowship at the Institute of Mathematics and Statistics in Canberra, Campbell returned to Canada with an NSERC University Research Fellowship.
Prof. Campbell collaborated in the first real-time images of cone photoreceptors, using adaptive optics and she uses polarization imaging to make invisible structures visible. Imaging applications include a biomarker of Alzheimer’s disease, using the retina as a window on the brain. She undertakes research on the optical quality of the eye and improved imaging of its structures. She studies eye development, eye disease and linear and nonlinear optics of the eye. Campbell is known for her work on the gradient index optics of the crystalline lens, its changes with ageing and effects of visual experience on its refractive index distribution. Recently she has discovered putative optical signals to guide eye growth which follow a circadian rhythm.
Campbell is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America and a former member of OSA’s Board of Directors and is a former President of the Canadian Association of Physicists. Campbell was a co-founder of Biomedical Photometrics Inc, now Huron Technologies and co-founded LumeNeuro. Campbell shared the 2004 Rank Prize in Optoelectronics for her work cited as "an initial idea (that) has been carried through to practical applications that have, or will, demonstrably benefit mankind." In 2014, she was awarded the CAP INO Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Applied Photonics in recognition of her contributions to the field of visual optics and improved imaging of structures within the eye. In 2015, she was awarded the OCUFA Status of Women Award of Distinction for her work to improve the position of academic women through organizational, policy, and educational leadership.
Guest Lecturer: Dr. Jonathan Houghton (Queen's University Belfast, UK)
November 13, 2019: 4:30 - 5:30 pm
The Galapagos Archipelago is an iconic biodiversity hotspot. The region hosts second-most important nesting site Pacific green turtles, with many individuals residing around the islands year-round. Although sea turtles are protected extensively by the National Park Authorities, boat strikes have emerged as pressing conservation issues in light of the rapidly expanding tourist industry. Here, we outline the collective efforts of researchers in the Galapagos and beyond to find a long-term solution to this problem that benefits the local community and turtles alike.
The Faculty of Science is pleased to announce that the recipient of The Florence Bucke Science Prize for 2019 is Professor Brent Sinclair from the Department of Biology.
Sinclair will deliver a 45-minute talk on Wednesday, October 30 at 3:30 pm in Physics and Astronomy Building 100.All are welcome to attend.
It’s all about the Ice: Freezing insects for fun and profit
When the temperature drops below zero, insects risk their body fluids freezing. Most insects are killed directly by cold, but others can prevent ice formation, or even survive internal freezing. How do they do this? I will talk about what we have learned about the physiology of insects in the cold, and what this means for overwintering insects in Canada, particularly invasive pest species.
Brent Sinclair completed his undergraduate and PhD degrees at the University of Otago in New Zealand, where he worked on alpine and Antarctic arthropods. He spent three years as a postdoctoral fellow in Stellenbosch, South Africa, and nearly two years as a postdoc at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before joining the Department of Biology at Western in 2006. Brent’s research focuses on insects at low temperatures, and he works at all levels of organization ranging from molecular biology to large-scale global patterns. His students and postdocs have gone on to faculty positions in Canada, the USA, France, and Japan, and to leadership and science roles in the NGO and government sectors. He served as President of the Canadian Society of Zoologists in 2018-19.
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.
David Bellhouse (Professor Emeritus, Department of Statistics and Actuarial Sciences) has been made Honorary Fellow of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries of the United Kingdom. This award has been based on his book Leases for Lives: The Emergence of Actuarial Science in Eighteenth Century England, as well as his biography of Abraham De Moivre and other contributions.
“I feel very honoured to receive this fellowship. I see it as the capstone to my career as a historian of statistics, probability, and actuarial science." - David Bellhouse
Read the full announcement here .
Vast volumes of data fly through our lives every day. And in the recesses of those diverse streams exist encoded patterns so complex we don’t yet have the capacity to understand what they mean. But if Western researcher Mark Daley succeeds in his newest role, the Western community will not only understand those patterns, but start using data in such a way that will transform the institution for the benefit of students, faculty and staff across campus.
Last week, Daley was named Special Advisor to the President on Data Strategy with a mandate to help the institution make sense of, and make a difference in, a data-driven world
This new role will lead the creation of an institutional data strategy “to empower its students, faculty and staff with the data acumen they need to become 21st-century citizens.” This strategy will guide Western in the development of new training programs, new means of enabling and supporting data-fueled research, and new tools for leveraging the institution’s data reserves. Western President Alan Shepard called Daley “uniquely qualified” for this role. With joint appointments in the departments of Computer Science, Biology, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Applied Mathematics, Statistics & Actuarial Science and Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Daley is passionate about multidisciplinary research.
Check out what's happening in Data Science at Western Science
On Monday, August 12, Kirsty Duncan (Minister of Science and Sport) announced support to researchers from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund.
Jörn Diedrichsen from Computer Science along with colleagues Marc Joanisse and Ingrid Johnsrude from Psychology, received $200,000 for their project: A computational platform for the discovery of predictive brain dynamics.
The human brain is the most complex organ known in nature, characterized by an intricate network of thousands of brain areas, each expressing complex activity patterns that can represent information, and very quickly changing dynamics. To understand how neuronal processes give rise to motor behavior, memory, thought, emotion, and consciousness, a number of internationally renowned research groups at Western are applying advanced computational methods to build and test model of brain function that can capture these complexities. These models have the potential not only to improve our understanding of the healthy human brain, but also to pinpoint the factors that lead to disordered brain function. This will enable the research groups to develop models that can predict the development of neuropsychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia and autism, identify targets for brain surgery, promote recovery after stroke, or forecast the impact of learning disabilities on children.
For this effort, large amounts of behavioral and medical imaging data need to be securely stored and adaptively shared between research groups. Furthermore, researchers require the computational resources to apply modern machine learning methods to these data, in order to identify important features that allow the construction of predictive models. The computational platform supported by this funding is an essential tool to accelerate the discovery of predictive brain dynamics.
As the Ontario Science Centre's Knowledge Partner for Summer of Space programming , Western Science collaborated with we invite you to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing at the Ontario Science Centre on July 20, 2019. Events included:
- Video conference with Canadian Astronaut David Saint-Jacques, recently returned from the International Space Station hosted at the OSC by Canada’s first Expedition astronaut, Robert Thirsk.
- Indigenous storytelling tradition and space with Wilfred Buck.
- The premiere of the documentary LANDER: From Avro to Apollo.
- Unearthing the secrets of impact craters on the Moon with Gordon Osinski , Director of the Canadian Lunar Network.
- Star Party
Check out these and other exciting events at the Ontario Science Centre's Summer of Space page.
Read more about Western Science's incredible contribution to space research by learning about some Western University Women in Space research.