Highlights

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 Highlight

RBC establishes the RBC Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence Project

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.

Banker looking at analysis with computer aid“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.

Past Highlights

International Week Seminar Talk: "There and back again: Ocean wanderers in an ever-changing system"

Guest Lecturer: Dr. Jonathan Houghton (Queen's University Belfast, UK)

November 15, 2019: 12:30 - 1:30 pm
BGS 0165

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.

Learn more about Western's International Week.

2019 Elizabeth Laird Memorial Lecture: Professor Melanie Campbell

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

Biography

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.

International Week Lecture: "The sea turtles of the Galapagos: Keeping a good thing good"

Guest Lecturer: Dr. Jonathan Houghton (Queen's University Belfast, UK)

November 13, 2019: 4:30 - 5:30 pm
UCC 56

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.

Learn more about Western's International Week.

2019 Florence Bucke Science Prize

Frozen Bug

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

Talk Abstract

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.

Biography

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 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.

Bellhouse awarded honorary fellowship

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.

Daley targets data strategy in role

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

Jörn Diedrichsen receives CFI backing

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.

Apollo 11 Moon Landing: 50th Anniversary Celebration Activites

Apollo 11 Mission Images

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.

June 6: An Intelligent Investment by the Vector Institute

The Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence recently announced the recipients of The Vector Scholarships in Artificial Intelligence (VSAI). 115 scholarships were awarded to students across Ontario who held a first-class standing in the last two years of their undergraduate studies and have been accepted into AI-related master’s programs for 2019-20 that are recognized by the institute; 4 Master of Data Analytics (MDA) students were acknowledged among this group.

“We are pleased and appreciative that Vector’s VSAI scholarship program has recognized the quality of our forthcoming AI cohort and their potential as MDA-trained technical data analytics professionals by virtue of this financial award,” commented Professor Doug Woolford, MDA Director and TD Chair in Data Analytics at Western University.

Yizhe WenYizhe Wen a Western Applied Mathematics student, completing an Honor Specialization in Mathematical Science, is one of the scholarship recipients. Wen aspires to employ his advanced training in AI analytics with Western’s MDA program in the health management field, where he hopes to perfect natural language processing and computer vision to determine the real cost of disease to the healthcare ecosystem.

“I am excited and humbled to have received this award from such a respected institute,” Wen remarked, “and I look forward to taking full advantage of my analytics training with the MDA so that I qualify for a challenging technical position upon graduation”.

The Vector Institute supports AI education programs through scholarships in Artificial Intelligence to increase the number of graduates from AI-related master’s programs in Ontario universities and create a diverse pool of professionals with the knowledge, skills, and competencies sought by industry.

The Faculty of Science Professional Master’s in Data Analytics (MDA) at Western University is a 12-month program which includes a work-integrated learning component, designed to produce professionals ready to start a technical analytics-focused career.

May 2019: Congratulations TA Award Recipients

On May 27, 2019, a group of highly qualified and deserving Teaching Assistants gathered in Middlesex College to received Awards, presented by Jisuo Jin (Associate Dean, Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies), for their contributions to higher education within the departments of Western Science.

See our Flickr Album to see this year's winners!

Applied Mathematics: Winner – Yang Wang | Presenter – Xingfu Zou
Biology: Winner – Yanira Jimenez Padilla | Presenter – Greg Thorn or Nina Zitani
Chemistry: Winner – Vanessa Beland | Presenter – Paul Ragogna
Computer Science: Winner – Reco King | Presenter – Laura Reid
Earth Sciences: Winner – Joanna Holmgren | Presenter – Robert Shcherbakov
Environmental Science: Winner – Carlos Barreto (Lab mates Caitlyn Lyons and Madelaine Anderson will receive the award)
Mathematics: Winner – Marco Vergura | Presenter – Chris Hall
Physics and Astronomy: Winner – Ryan Hopkins | Presenter – Eugene Wong
Statistical and Actuarial Sciences: Winner - Wenjun Jiang | Presenter - Marcos Escobar-Anel

May 21: Taurid Swarm

Somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 years ago, a mammoth body streaking across the great expanse of space began to deteriorate. What once was the comet, became a stream of heavy, fiery meteoroids, stretched the distance between Jupiter and the sun. This long chain-link of cometary material, that takes three years to orbit the sun just once, became known as the Taurid Meteoroid Stream, and a dense core within it the Taurid Swarm. As civilian reports of “Halloween fireballs” searing across the sky compounded with four annual meteor showers, the Taurid Swarm quickly became an A-list fireball producer of the Solar System. Previous geological catastrophes such as the Tunguska event, where 2000 square kilometres of Siberian land was flattened, seemingly randomly, were attributed to the swarm, only enhancing its notoriety.

Taurid Swarm in Night Sky

Here’s the thing: we’ve never directly observed the Taurid Swarm. Increased fireball and lunar impact suggest that it is there, but this summer, Western Science is spearheading the cause to prove the Taurid’s existence.

David Clark, a Ph.D. student from Western University’s Earth Sciences department, and his colleagues, jumped on the opportunity that nobody seemed to be focused on: confirming the existence of the Taurid’s.

Taurid Image Analysis“The idea came out of a conversation with Peter Brown and Paul Wiegert. We thought that researchers’ were over-emphasizing the potentially catastrophic consequences of this swarm, and the stream itself was becoming an afterthought. We realized an opportunity was coming where this storm would intersect with Earth’s orbit again.”

Clark alludes to the menacing perception of the swarm. Science puts immense time and money into studying, and then cataloguing, potential material threats from both close to Earth and the outer solar system. An un-documented recurring swarm of meteoroids in our own backyard eerily illustrated the concept of ‘hiding-in-plain-sight’ for many.

“Historically we’ve been concerned with two sources of hazardous objects; near-Earth objects that orbit fairly nearby, and comets that orbit only once every thousand years. The Taurid swarm is a third animal where we see a cluster of large objects that periodically cross the Earth’s orbit but with less random patterns.”

Next, Clark, Brown, and Wiegert needed to figure out the optimal date to view the meteoroids. The lab began to model realistic orbits of the stream, viewed from the perspective of Earth.

“We were simulating size and brightness in a way that made us comfortable with the margins. We didn’t need to see the whole stream, we just need to see a very small part of it, so our filters were set for very large, bright pieces of rock that we felt confident would overcome problems of rapid in-sky motion and objects hiding in the Milky Way.”

After this summer, the Taurid Swarm will not enter Earth’s orbit for approximately 15 years. significantly upping the stakes for Clark and his teammates. When probed on the short-term vulnerability of the swarm, Clark doesn’t seem unnerved by the moment.

Taurid Image Analysis“If we get nice shots, all we’ll be seeing is very dim, little dots. The scientific benefit is that we only need to get one. After we get one meteoroid captured, everything else is house money. If we see, say 100, that doesn’t mean there’s 100 in the swarm, it means there’s 100 in our little perspective of it, which will give us an idea of how large the stream is in totality.”

The accompanying paper has garnered significant interest in the astronomy community at large, with a variety of regions committing telescopes to capture the Taurid’s from their unique vantage point. Western plans to observe the stream in August using the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope.

The Taurid Meteor Stream, like most things in our corner of the cosmos, represents change and transformation. The Western researchers seeking to pull it out of existential crisis and confirm its place in our skies, are embarking on a pivotal first step in unlocking more answers to the universe.

See additional coverage by Western News and CBC.

May 16: The Summer of Space, Ontario Science Centre Collaboration

The Ontario Science Centre, with Western Science as its Knowledge Partner, has launched The Summer of Space Exhibition. The exhibition will offer students, families and space interested guests the opportunity to learn about Canada’s current and retired astronauts, and their role in the global space program while also becoming aware of (and maybe even meeting and learning from) Canadian women who have and continue to contribute to space research and exploration. There will be an on-going series of events at the OSC throughout the summer from media launch day on May 16th right to Labour day, to celebrate humanity’s major steps in off-planet research and exploration.

Western’s Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration, a sponsorship collaborator along with Western Science and Communications and Public Affairs, will bring their brand of family-friendly outreach and hands-on activities to the exhibition at a variety of points throughout the summer and there will also be opportunities to meet, workshop with and learn from members of Canada’s retired and current astronaut corps.

For more information check out: The Summer of Space Exhibition at the Ontario Science Centre as of the evening of May 17th.

We would love to hear about your experience. Feel free to share your comments and photos at science@uwo.ca, or tag us in your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram posts - @westernuscience; @westernu; @westernucpsx; #summerofspace. Have a great Summer of Space!

May 8: Madalena Kozachuk among top 100 Scientific Reports papers in 2018

Madalena KozachukCongratulations to Madalena Kozachuk whose article Recovery of Degraded-Beyond-Recognition 19th Century Daguerreotypes with Rapid High Dynamic Range Elemental X-ray Fluorescence Imaging of Mercury L Emission received 6,993 article views in 2018, placing it as one of the top 100 read papers for Scientific Reports in 2018.

In addition to receiving a Top 100 in 2018 accolade, Kozachuk's paper also ranked in the 99th percentile of 270,000 papers of its age. Hats off to Madalena on this momentous achievement! 

The research featured within the Top 100 paper has been privy to press attention for its extraordinary approach to recovery lost 19th-Century images. Read out the Western News feature today to learn more.

May 3: Congratulations NSERC Strategic Partnership Grant Winners

On May 3, NSERC announced the following Western Science projects and collaborations funded under the Strategic Partnership Grant:

  • François Lagugné-Labarthet (Chemistry): Development of a super-resolution stochastical optical reconstruction Raman microscope for online nanoscale electronic and photonics devices quality control,
  • Mark Bernards (Biology): Changes in ginsenosides and soil biodiversity related to management of ginseng replant disease,
  • Abdallah Shami (Electrical and Computer Engineering): Smart Virtualized Platform for Cloud Management Systems,
  • Danielle Way (Biology): Integrating acclimation capacity of tree species into assessments of climate change impacts on Canada’s boreal forest productivity,

As described by NSERC, the goal of the Strategic Partnership Grants is to increase research and training in targeted areas that could strongly enhance Canada’s economy, society and/or environment within the next 10 years. Research and training under these grants must be conducted through a partnership between academic researchers and industry or government organizations. Our Western Science awardees will generate new knowledge or technology and increase qualified industry personnel through transferring the knowledge or technology to those Canadian-based companies best suited to lead and strengthen economic development, government organizations, and public policy items.

Read more about NSERC's Strategic Partnership Grants.
Click here to read the Western News feature.

May 2 - 5: Topological Data Analysis, with Applications

The Research Unit of the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences (SMSS) in the Faculty of Science will be hosting a workshop on Topological Data Analysis in the Western Science Centre from May 2 - 5. Featuring talks, informal discussion, and a collaborative environment to discuss applications of current and emerging topological data analysis methodologies.

The conference will start on Thursday, May 2 with a coffee hour in the Western Science Centre, Room 187 at 9:00 am, followed by the first lecture in WSC 240 at 10:00. There will be three lectures per day for the four days of the meeting.

This meeting has is supported by the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences (SMSS) and a grant from the Tutte Institute.

For more information, including a schedule and abstracts, please see the TDA Meeting Page.