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Knowledge and networks

Faculty of Science holds interdisciplinary research conference


By Kelly Foss

The Faculty of Science held its first interdisciplinary research conference April 8-9.

Dr. Michael Peers, a post-doctoral fellow in Biology, moderates the Climate Change and the Environment session at the Scientific Endeavours in Academia Conference.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Scientific Endeavours in Academia (SEA) brought together undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and faculty from across the faculty’s nine departments and five interdisciplinary graduate programs.

Featuring Dr. Janice Fitzgerald

It featured talks from presenters from within the Faculty of Science, including Dr. Amy Hurford, Mathematics and Statistics and Biology; Dr. Sheila Garland, Psychology; Dr. Rob Bertolo, Biochemistry; Dr. Xianta Jiang, Computer Science; and Dr. Sue Ziegler, Earth Sciences; and a keynote presentation from Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, chief medical officer of health with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and an alumna of the Department of Biology.

“Over the past two years our students, research staff and faculty have lost many opportunities to travel to conferences to present their work and exchange ideas with other scientists,” said Dr. Travis Fridgen, acting dean of Science. “It’s also a wonderful opportunity for us to hear about the incredible breadth and depth of research currently underway across the Faculty of Science.”

Dr. Amy Hurford, of the departments of Mathematics and Statistics and Biology, presents her work on modelling COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“It was so amazing to hear and participate in the discussions throughout the oral and poster presentations. It was particularly gratifying to hear students at the poster sessions discussing their own research with each other one-on-one or within a small group.”

Presentations and networking

The SEA conference showcased more than 80 scientific posters and 65 oral presentations under three main themes: climate change and the environment; health and wellness; and innovation, technology and exploration.

Mackenzie Patrick, Earth Sciences, presents her work on topographic controls on soil organic carbon in most boreal forest mineral soils.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“The valuable skills being developed by these presenters cannot be overstated,” said Dr. Jacqueline Blundell, interim associate dean of research and graduate studies and conference chair. “Whenever we talk to colleagues, the media or the public, we need to be able to present our research clearly and concisely. Participating in opportunities like this provide us with important practice in this area.”

She says it also gave participants the chance to network, develop new collaborations and hone presentation skills, while finding out more about career development and other student supports at Memorial University.

The Faculty of Science is hoping the SEA conference will be an annual event.

Olivia Wyper was  thrilled to be able to present her work in person.
Photo: Submitted

Olivia Wyper is a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry. She presented a poster at the conference.

“As someone who struggles with public speaking, presenting at the SEA conference was such an eye-opening event for me,” she said. “I have attended other conferences in an online setting, but nothing beats the feeling of someone looking you in the eye and telling you that you made them about excited about chemistry again from the research you did.”

Ms. Wyper says one of her favourite parts about the conference was seeing all the incredible research being done in the Faculty of Science.

“It was extremely interesting to hear about other research from different departments or specialities than my own, which has really broadened my horizons in the way I think about certain aspects of science,” she said.

“I also made connections with other faculty and students that I would not have made if the event was online, and I will always be grateful for this new knowledge and the networks I have gained from this event.”

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