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‘Engines of discovery’

Graduate students playing key role in OFI’s multidisciplinary research

Research | Frameworks in Action

By Jeff Green

Enthusiasm and optimism.

In the past two months, those are the two words Dr. Aimée Surprenant has heard the most when it comes to the single largest federal investment for research at Memorial.

In early September, Ottawa announced nearly $100 million for the creation of the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI), an historic partnerships between Memorial, Dalhousie University and University of Prince Edward Island. The federal investment was made through the Canada First Research Excellence Fund.

Tomorrow’s innovators

Now more than ever, it’s an exciting time to pursue graduate studies in oceans-related research, says the dean of the School of Graduate Studies.

“Given the breadth and the scope of the OFI, students will be contributing to innovation and discovery at all levels from data collection and analysis to intellectual contributions, including theories and models,” Dr. Surprenant told the Gazette.

“Involving graduate students in the research helps prepare the next generation of scientists and innovators who will be leading the world in the future.”

‘Engines of discovery’

The OFI will concentrate efforts on solutions for safe and sustainable ocean development. Memorial researchers — from multidisciplinary areas including the Faculty of Science, the Marine Institute, the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences — will lead breakthroughs in four key areas: sustainable fisheries; sustainable aquaculture; marine safety; and ocean data and technology.

“Potential students from around the world will be attracted to our programs.” — Dr. Aimée Surprenant

Graduate students will play active key roles in all of this work, says Dr. Surprenant.

Through the OFI, Memorial will recruit and support an anticipated additional 44 post-doctoral fellows, 40 doctoral students and 63 master’s students.

“Graduate students are the engines of discovery and the OFI will allow researchers in a variety of areas to recruit some of the top students and post-doctoral fellows in the world,” Dr. Surprenant said.

“These students will be engaging in and contributing to world-leading research that could lead to game-changing innovations in ocean changes and solutions.”

Global partnerships

In addition, she says graduate students will be on the receiving end of the OFI’s collaboration among the three Canadian universities, as well as international research institutions. There is potential for bilateral graduate exchanges with partner institutions and industry, and the creation of a global hub for ocean discovery.

“The funding that this grant provides to students and post-doctoral fellows allows the university to leverage more funding from government and industry sources,” Dr. Surprenant added. “This frees up other resources so we can recruit and support more students than ever before.”

Real-life issues

Additionally, Dr. Surprenant says the OFI will have social and economic impacts for graduate students. Not only will students will be involved with leading-edge research focused on the fisheries, climate change and the ocean, but there will also be opportunities to expand Canada’s ocean economy as well as explore and invigorate fishing communities by creating sustainable fisheries.

“This focus will allow us to train future leaders who are aware of and able to incorporate public policy and social governance issues in their research,” she said.

“This grant will increase the visibility and reputation of the university. Thus, potential students from around the world will be attracted to our programs.”

The Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) is an historic partnership between Memorial University of Newfoundland, Dalhousie University and the University of Prince Edward Island. Created through a nearly $100-million federal investment, the OFI will focus on solutions for safe and sustainable ocean development. Through its unique partnership with its research partners, Memorial will lead breakthroughs in four key areas: sustainable fisheries; sustainable aquaculture; marine safety; and ocean data and technology. Learn more about the OFI here.


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