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Inspiring curiosity in youth: StFX science and math outreach programs receive nearly $200,000 in PromoScience funding

Thu, 2018-09-20 13:56
2018 StFX NSERC PromoScience grant recipients include, seated, l-r, Dr. Robert van den Hoogen (Connecting Math to Our Lives and Communities) and Dr. Geniece Tapley (X-Chem). Back row: Dr. Lisa Lunney Borden (Connecting Math to Our Lives and Communities), Dr. Truis Smith-Palmer (X-Chem), Jennifer Fraser (X-Chem), and Dr. Tara Taylor (Connecting Math to Our Lives and Communities.)

Two StFX-based outreach programs that inspire curiosity in youth and an interest in science and math have received very good news.

X-Chem Outreach and Connecting Math to Our Lives and Communities—two separate programs, each facilitated by StFX faculty—have received a total of nearly $200,000 in funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) PromoScience Program. 

The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, made the announcement on Sept. 17, 2018, as part of $11.9 million in funding for 163 grants through the PromoScience Program, which supports hands-on learning experiences for young Canadians and teachers. The funding is used to encourage youth to make science part of their education, their careers, and their lives. 

The news was welcome on the StFX campus. 

“It means we can really increase our range, visit more students, improve our activities, buy more equipment, and reach more youth, more often,” says StFX chemistry professor Dr. Truis Smith-Palmer on the $75,000 in funding X-Chem will receive over the next three years. The program also received one-time grants of $5,000 for Science Odyssey and $9,500 for Science Literacy Week. She leads the program with Dr. Geniece Tapley and Jennifer Fraser. 

“It’s really helpful. It will allow us to bring more programming to the communities we serve,” says education faculty Dr. Lisa Lunney Borden, who with Drs. Tara Taylor and Robert van den Hoogen in the Department of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, facilitates Connecting Math to Our Lives and Communities, an after school, in-community mathematics outreach program in several Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian communities. The program has received $112,500 in funding over three years. 

“It will help keep programming going, pay for travel, and it also allows us to bring people together to see how we can grow the program,” she says. 

Both programs make a deep impact in the region. 

Offered through StFX’s Chemistry Department, X-Chem is a multifaceted outreach program with over 30 years experience engaging youth in science. They provide children, from about four years old through to Grade 12, with opportunities to do hands-on science and to connect with working scientists. For decades, they’ve been bringing science to children.

They visit schools, host Saturday afternoon science and coding camps, and run seven science and six coding summer camps on campus, including two all-female camps, as well as eight off-campus summer camps, including in Indigenous communities. 

Last year alone, the program impacted about 7,000 students, including about 5,500 in May and June alone, says Ms. Fraser. 

Connecting Math to Our Lives and Communities, now in its fourth year, helps make mathematics meaningful to students while showing them the power of using math as a tool to address problems in the world. Ellen Carter, a doctoral student in StFX’s Faculty of Education, is the program coordinator.

Throughout the academic year, about 15-20 StFX undergraduate and B.Ed. students travel to communities to engage students in Grades 4-12 in hands-on investigations of mathematics related to their everyday lives. At year end, they host a gathering at StFX with workshops put on by community elders and knowledge keepers as well as faculty. In the afternoon they take part in an amazing math race around campus. Dr. Lunney Borden says the program is aimed at helping kids see that math is a really important part of STEM. “It’s increasing engagement and attitude, and helping to demystify mathematics.”

One of the program’s main benefits is it allows students to explore the math inherent in their own culture and to see it is an important part of their heritage. 

“That’s a big part of it, connecting to the community,” Dr. Lunney Borden says. “We’re looking at issues, problems and knowledge from the community to make the links.

“It’s helping kids to see how we can use math to read and write the world.” 

“We’re learning from them, and they’re learning from us,” Dr. van den Hoogen says.

Dr. Taylor notes it is great learning for the student leaders as well. “It’s outreach to them too, to help them learn about the community,” she says. 

The outreach has even extended to school teachers, several of whom have taken program ideas relating to Indigenous and African knowledge back into math classrooms to use with students.

Dr. Lunney Borden says the Mi’kmaw word, Mawikinutimatimk, which means coming together to learn together, can really sum up the program. “That’s the whole goal, to learn together.” 


StFX student success at annual ChemCon Conference

Wed, 2018-06-13 10:00
Top row, l-r, Katie Doran, Dr. Gerry Marangoni, Pablo Scrosati, Shannon MacLennan, Dr. Geniece Tapley. Bottom: Andrew Duffy and Bry Crabbe.

A group of StFX chemistry students had a very successful time in attending the 43rd annual ChemCon Conference at Saint Mary’s University from June 8-10, 2018. This Atlantic Canada regional conference is the annual local meeting of the Chemical Institute of Canada. 

StFX had five students attend, Katie Doran, Andrew Duffy and Bry Crabbe from the Hallett-Tapley Group, Pablo Scrosati from the Razul Group, and Shannon MacLennan from the Maragoni Group, as well as two faculty members, Dr. Geniece Tapley and Dr. Gerry Marangoni.  

Mr. Duffy and Mr. Crabbe presented award-winning oral presentations. Mr. Duffy received first place in the ‘Organic best oral presentation division’ in the Undergraduate Organic Division for his talk entitled “Palladium Nanoparticles Supported on Niobium Oxide Perovskites as Heterogeneous Photocatalysts in the Heck Reaction,” and Mr. Crabbe received best oral presentation in the Graduate Materials Division for his talk entitled, “Photocatalytic C-C Coupling Reactions using AuNP Functionalized Potassium Niobium Oxide Perovskites.”

As well, Ms. Doran and Mr. Scrosati presented extremely well received poster presentations. 

“The students gained valuable experience explaining their research at the conference to people from several disciplines of chemistry and discussing their research to other members of the regional chemistry community,” says Dr. Tapley.

“Both the oral and poster presentations were well received and myself and Dr. Marangoni received several compliments on the work presented by the X students. We are pretty proud of them here in the Chemistry Department.”

Eight StFX students will spend the summer conducting original research as Irving Research Mentorship Award recipients

Wed, 2018-05-23 10:21
Front row, l-r, Sophie LeBlanc, Andrew Duffy, Jessie Doyle and Thomas Ciha. Back: Erin Samson, Amy Graham and Jamie Samson. Missing is David Barry.

Thanks to the Irving Research Mentorship Awards program at StFX, eight undergraduate students will spend the summer involved in original research from investigating ethical questions surrounding organ donation to developing more environmentally friendly antifouling solutions to prevent and reduce marine mussel biofouling.

Irving Research Mentorships were awarded to StFX students David Barry, Thomas Ciha, Jessica Doyle, Andrew Duffy, Amy Graham, Sophie LeBlanc, Erin Samson and Jamie Sampson. 

The prestigious awards, offered through StFX’s Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership with an endowment established by Irving Oil, provide each recipient $6,250 in funding for 12 weeks of research. The students, from a variety of disciplines, each work under the guidance of a StFX faculty member.


“This research project presents an opportunity for me to expand my academic experiences at StFX beyond the classroom,” says Erin Samson of Louisdale Cape Breton, a fourth year BSc human kinetics student who is taking a minor in health sciences.

“I get to learn about subjects beyond my program and help drive innovation in my field, while getting to know the people I go to school with and the professors that teach my classes. This project allows me to explore potential future career paths while gaining relevant experience, and I am very grateful to be able to participate in it,” she says. 

Working with supervisor Dr. Daniel Kane, her research will focus on the effects of an antihistamine, exercise and combined intervention on mitochondrial function. Specifically, the research is concerned with oxygen uptake and the production of reactive oxygen species in mitochondria subjected to various combinations of exercise and antihistamines.

“Antihistamines are widely used in our society, including by athletes and exercisers, and it is in our best interests to understand how this antihistamine use might impact the way our bodies work and move,” she says.

Sophie LeBlanc of Ottawa, ON, a fourth year honours chemistry student supervised by Dr. Truis Smith-Palmer and Dr. Geniece Hallett-Tapley, is conducting research on biofouling, when organisms adhere to and grow on a surface, and will be working on developing more environmentally friendly antifouling solutions to prevent and reduce marine mussel biofouling on surfaces such as the nets that are used at the Waycobah trout farms in Cape Breton. 

“We will be testing various polydimethylsiloxane-based fouling-release surfaces in the Bras d'Or lakes this summer to evaluate their antifouling potential.” 

She says this summer of research will allow her to become immersed in new scientific knowledge and techniques, providing a solid foundation of knowledge and experience to allow her to hit the ground running in the fall with her thesis work.

“I am honoured to be a recipient of the Irving Mentorship Award as this opportunity allows me to gain valuable research experience in a field of applied analytical and surface chemistry combined with biology, which are areas that I find fascinating.”

She says biofouling can be a burden in many industries such as aquaculture and can have implications in the biomedical field. “Previously, toxic paints such as tributyl tin were used as antifouling materials, but these had toxic effects on aquatic organisms and were extremely damaging to marine ecosystems.” 


Jamie Samson of Louisdale, Cape Breton, starting her final year of an honours philosophy degree, working with supervisor Dr. William Sweet, will look into the ethical questions surrounding organ donation and transplantation in Canada. 

“The organ donor, the transplant recipient, and the system generally are all things which deserve further ethical exploration, as conflicts still arise between these groups in the news media. With an issue of life-saving treatment, it is important to have as full of an understanding as possible of the ethical consequences of every practice, whether simply as a member of the Canadian population or as a direct recipient of any of these procedures,” she says. 

“I hope to be able to present different views on the matter and provide ethical analyses of these ideas.”

Ms. Samson says she is extremely grateful for this opportunity. 

“Logistically this grant provides me with an interesting and rewarding summer job, but it is more than just employment. Not only am I spared much of the stress of having to write a large research project at the same time as attending classes next year, but I am also given 12 weeks to dedicate solely to thought, which is a much appreciated privilege, especially in my discipline. Looking in depth at the ethics of a certain area is something most people go their whole life without doing, though perhaps holding strong beliefs nonetheless; therefore while looking at this issue from a scholarly point of view, I also hope to be able to formulate my own thoughts and come to know more about my own personal ethics in the process.”


David Barry of Dartmouth, NS, entering his fourth year of an honours political science degree with a subsidiary in economics will focus his research on the political implications of East Asian monetary regionalism for Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) states. Its principal focus is the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization (CMIM), a regional institution whose purpose is to make large loans available to member countries in case they face a financial crisis.

David Barry Irving Research Mentorship 2018.jpg

David Barry in Singapore

His supervisor, Dr. Youngwon Cho, hired him as a research assistant last July. “The project I’ve helped him with centres on the ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO), the nascent economic surveillance branch of the CMIM. I've been lucky enough to travel with him to Singapore to help conduct interviews of senior officials at AMRO. 

“Much that has been written on the CMIM has centred on China and Japan—the larger powers involved in the initiative. In contrast, my research through the Irving Research Mentorship will focus on the perspectives of the smaller ASEAN countries. All countries in the CMIM share incentives to mitigate potential financial crises. But this topic’s appeal for an international relations student like myself comes from the inevitable presence of politics and consequences of power imbalances in efforts to address such a shared concern. After our stay in Singapore, we plan to interview central bank officials in surrounding ASEAN countries; this primary data will directly supplement my research under the mentorship award,” he says. 

“The award allows me to pursue my own avenue of research related to but distinct from what I’ve done as Dr. Cho's research assistant. It grants me the time needed to produce something rigorous and carves out space for me to produce something original, all while allowing me to continue to benefit from Dr. Cho’s guidance and expertise. I’m deeply grateful for this opportunity.”


“The Irving Research Mentorship Award has given me the opportunity to participate in novel research in an exciting field working to reduce the environmental impact of chemical processes,” says Andrew Duffy of Glenfinnan, PEI, a fourth year honours chemistry student supervised by Dr. Geniece Hallett-Tapley. 

The goal of the research, he says, is to employ the principles of green chemistry in the development of more sustainable and eco-efficient processes for the transformation of lignin, one of the main constituents of wood, into high value-added products. “One of the key factors in the development of these processes will be the synthesis of various photocatalysts containing gold or silver nanoparticles supported on a semiconductor. The principles of green chemistry will be applied throughout the project.” 


Jessie Doyle of Antigonish, NS, is starting her fifth year in an honours psychology degree with a Concentration in Forensic Psychology. Working with supervisor Dr. Margo Watt, her research is interested in elucidating the construct of ‘creepiness.’ 

“We all know what it is, yet when perusing the research literature, there have only been two studies to date that have attempted to define who and what is ‘creepy.’ I will be exploring this topic through a forensic lens, wherein detecting "creepiness" is considered to be a part of an intuitive risk analysis in everyday encounters, which we, as humans, have come to develop as a product of evolution in order to detect a potential threat to our safety. Eye tracker technology and a software called Affectiva, which has the capacity to discern emotional reactions via affect display, will be some of the ways in which determining the basis upon which we judge something or someone as ‘creepy,’” she says.  

She says the opportunity to conduct such novel research is exciting for a number of reasons.

“The implications of this research could be informative of our ability to accurately assess potential risk or threat to self, but also to assess the accuracy of our assessment of risk to others. For instance, labelling someone as ‘creepy,’ thus potentially misperceiving threat, could be detrimental to marginalized populations, such as the homeless, people on the autism or schizophrenia spectrum, insofar as it may result in social ostracization, which, as we know, can have deleterious repercussions. 

“On a more personal level, receiving the Irving Research Mentorship allows me to focus my energy and time into a field that I am deeply passionate about. As someone who aspires to pursue a career in academia, the whole process of applying for this award was a valuable learning experience, and the gratitude that I experience as a result of my effort being recognized and commended in this fashion is truly overwhelming.”

Thomas Ciha of Germantown, Wisconsin, entering his third year in computer science with a minor in economics and finance will work with supervisor Dr. Laurence Yang to research machine learning applications for time series forecasting, financial modeling and algorithmic trading.

“I am so grateful to be given the opportunity to grow intellectually and to continue cultivating my passion for artificial intelligence. In the office, the hours fly by. I'm loving every minute of it and can't wait to apply these models in real-world applications,” he says. 


“This grant has given me the opportunity to develop hands on research skills. It has allowed me to connect with other like-minded researchers in my community that aspire to positively impact our health care system,” says Amy Graham of Ottawa, ON, who just completed her first year at StFX, and will work with supervisor Dr. Daniel Kane to research mitochondrial function post-exercise with antihistamine drug treatment. 

“I hope to discover how antihistamines may affect mitochondrial function, as this may have implications for exercising populations with metabolic diseases,” she says. 

StFX awards 2018 Wallace Family Internships; award helps students develop business ideas

Mon, 2018-05-14 13:40
2018 Wallace Interns, l-r, Cameron Sehl, Kirsten Gallant, Emma Logan, Jenny Bowie and Emily Chisholm

Five StFX students—three individuals and one team—will spend the summer getting their business ideas ready to launch, thanks to receiving a 2018 Wallace Family Internship.

Through the generous support of the Wallace Family Entrepreneurship Fund, StFX Extension Innovation and Enterprise Centre (IEC) has awarded the four 2018 Wallace Family Internships to five innovative StFX students: Jenny Bowie, Emily Chisholm, Emma Logan, and the team of Cameron Sehl and Kirsten Gallant. 

The internships, worth up to $6,000 each or $10,000 for a team, are for StFX students enrolled in full-time study and support full-time employment for 12 weeks from May 8 until July 31.  

During this period, interns receive coaching and assistance from StFX Extension Innovation and Enterprise staff and faculty mentors, and take part in weekly business skill training workshops, meet entrepreneurs, and work closely with experts in their fields of interest. The self-directed learning experience helps strengthen entrepreneurial skills through the exploration and development of each student’s own innovative enterprise endeavour. 

“The Wallace Family Internship is a perfect example of how StFX provides students with opportunities that combine academic and experiential learning,” says Paula Brophy, Coordinator of the Wallace Family Internship.

“The caliber of applicants this year is a clear indicator of the amazing things that are happening across campus. The Wallace Family Interns have the opportunity to explore an idea they are passionate about and get paid for it – how often does that happen?”

Ms. Brophy says faculty mentors are essential to the success of the internship, providing guidance and industry expertise.

This year, faculty mentors include Dr. Neil Maltby working with Emma Logan; Dr. Dave Risk and Dr. Ryan Lukeman working with Cameron Sehl and Kirsten Gallant; Dr. Marcia English mentoring Emily Chisholm; and Dr. Dave Risk partnered with Jenny Bowie. 

The 2018 Wallace Interns and their projects include:

Jenny Bowie is in her second year of the StFX engineering program. With her new venture, “Aero-Opt Routing,” Ms. Bowie aims to develop the hardware to collect live data (speed, position, power etc.) from vehicles, as well as the computational process that would use that data to determine the aerodynamic drag on the vehicle. Since drag is the most important determinant of fuel economy, her product would find ways to reduce it, such as improved routing to avoid headwinds, and would inevitably save money.

Emily Chisholm’s new venture, “Fresh Fruit Forever,” developed out of her desire for fresh fruits and vegetables and her love of exploring food. Ms. Chisholm, a first year Bachelor of Science in human nutrition student, wants to develop a product for consumers that will maximize the preservation of fresh fruits and vegetables without altering the taste. The Wallace Internship will help her develop the product and get it market.

Emma Logan’s new venture, “Hearing for All,” is a not-for-profit hearing-aid recycling foundation. The third year Schwartz School of Business finance student wants to develop the research and planning needed to create a foundation that will collect and refurbish donated hearing aids. Once she has created a network of contacts and volunteers and the necessary funding, Ms. Logan will arrange to have the hearing aids distributed to children with hearing loss in developing countries, with the help of volunteer audiologists and audiology students.

Cameron Sehl and Kirsten Gallant are both in the StFX Bachelor of Arts honours in economics program. Their new venture, “Symbi Medical,” based on a pilot program at a hospital in India, is a digital therapeutics company that uses accessible technology to improve health outcomes. Mr. Sehl and Ms. Gallant plan to focus and refine their business strategy, identify gaps in current health care services, and complete the technical development of the digital platform, which aims to use available technology, such as text and voice messages with cell phones, to change the current disconnect between doctors and patients, and between treatments and outcomes.

StFX graduates over 900, Dr. Teresa MacNeil and Lino A. Saputo, Jr. receive honorary degrees

Sun, 2018-05-06 17:05
2018 StFX Spring Convocation was a day of achievement, celebration and accomplishment

On Sunday, May 6, StFX celebrated the Class of 2018 as it welcomed over 900 newly minted graduates into the Xaverian alumni family on a day marked by cheers, tears, and advice for graduates to make a difference in the world, and to maybe make the world a little different.

Graduates came from every province in Canada and 17 countries around the world.

StFX also presented the degree Doctor of Laws honoris causa to Dr. Teresa MacNeil of Johnstown, Cape Breton, a StFX graduate and passionate leader in community development and life-long learning, and to Montreal-based entrepreneur and philanthropist Lino A. Saputo, Jr., Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Saputo Inc., one of the top 10 dairy processors in the world, during Spring Convocation 2018 held at the Charles V. Keating Centre.


“Do the things you are afraid of,” Dr. MacNeil told graduates during the morning ceremony in an address that focused on two themes—courage and lifelong learning.

2018 Spring Convocation Dr. Teresa MacNeil.jpg

Dr. Teresa MacNeil (centre) pictured with StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald (left) and Chancellor Dr. Susan Crocker

Courage is the fundamental trait that allows us to develop as human beings, and it takes courage to plunge into your endeavours, she said.

“The greatest mistake you can make in your life is to be afraid you’ll make a mistake,” Dr. MacNeil said. “So be daring.”

Be active learners, Dr. MacNeil encouraged. Take a deliberate approach to continuous learning. We are living through a time of enormous explosion of knowledge, she said.

“The most valuable asset you have learned is how to learn whatever you need, wherever you are, for the rest of your life.”

This university has given you, and continues to give the world, deliberate attention to adult education, she said, where the goal is to foster individual, social and economic change, to enable learners to see what they are up against and be able to do something about it.

Dr. MacNeil also made time to say thank you. “An honorary degree from my alma master, employment for 37 years, and then to address you, it is indeed a privilege. Thank you for this definite honour,” she said as she congratulated all the graduates.


2018 Convocation Dr. Lino Saputo Jr..jpg

Dr. Lino A. Saputo, Jr. (centre) with StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald (left) and Chancellor Dr. Susan Crocker 

“Thank you for awarding me this honorary degree,” Dr. Saputo said during his address in the afternoon ceremony. “I feel privileged to share this special day with you,” he told graduates. And he said he is ecstatic to receive the honour during the same ceremony in which son Giordano graduates. We really do feel part of the StFX family, he said.

Today is an important milestone, Dr. Saputo told graduates. Wherever your experience began and wherever you go, you all share something in common, he said—the sense of community that StFX builds.

Dr. Saputo told the Class of 2018 about how he wanted to be an X-Men nearly 30 years ago. But when considering universities he met a girl—who later became his wife Amelia—and decided to go to university at Concordia.

It was a good decision, he told graduates, as finding the right partner is one of the most critical decisions you make in life. The other is what we do in our career.

“It should be something you feel passionate about, and more importantly, something that taps into your curiosity,” he advised. “When you find the career that’s right for you, you’ll know it. When it’s time to change careers, you’ll know it.”

Dr. Saputo says when you find these two things, the right partner and the right career, it makes it easier to fulfill a third key part of a truly balanced life, helping your community.

We all want to make our community better, and there are many ways to do this, he said. And not all are financial. Volunteer a few hours, coach a sport team and follow your passion to right an injustice, he told graduates. “My conviction is we don’t live on this earth alone. It means so much to us to be able to give back.”

Over the past four years, he says he and his family have come to feel part of StFX and the Antigonish community and are proud of their son Giordano for the way he’s become a part of this community. “This is a wonderful part of Canada, made even better by the contributions of everyone associated with StFX.”

After 30 years, he says he’s finally and proudly now able to wear an X-Ring.


StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald welcomed all to convocation and thanked family, friends, faculty and staff for their many contributions leading to this day.

“We are here for one reason and that is acknowledge some incredible students,” he said as he feted the Class of 2018.

“Think about contributing positively to the world,” he advised graduates, telling them they have many choices as they enter the world: the choice to be kind, to be optimistic, to forgive, to be humble, to respect everyone around them, to serve others, to be generous and to show gratitude.

“You have a great future ahead of you.”

Dr. MacDonald also took time to recognize StFX Chancellor Dr. Susan Crocker, the university’s first lay chancellor and the first female chancellor, who soon concludes her term, noting she served this institution with dignity, grace and generosity.

In her remarks, Dr. Crocker said she is honoured to open and preside over Spring Convocation 2018. “This day of recognition and celebration is the day you've worked to reach,” she told graduates.

“While we all came to StFX for different reasons and have incredibly unique journeys, we leave this beautiful campus with a shared gift,” said 2018 grad and senior class speaker Cameron Sehl.

Your StFX experience is like a lighthouse, he said, your ethos, your internal set of values that will steer you through the rocky waters of life. “It’s the sense of community you developed being part of something bigger than yourself…Count on the lights of our StFX experiences to guide us on the next steps of the journey.”

Senior class speaker Alex Corrigan, who spoke during the morning convocation, told classmates that today, with parchment in hand, they begin an entirely new journey. That transition is scary and uncertain, but also liberating and incredibly exciting. Pursue your dreams and keep believing in yourself, he encouraged classmates. “No matter where you are, you can always reach out to classmates and fellow StFX alumni. We may be leaving StFX, but StFX is not leaving us.”

StFX Alumni Association president Glenn Horne asked graduates to remember the Alumni Association is always there to support them. He also left graduates with three suggestions: push your boundaries, give back, work hard and have fun. Life is to be enjoyed, not enduring.

“This is a special day, celebrating significant accomplishment. On behalf of all alumni, congratulations,” he said.


Major honours presented during the ceremony included the designation of professor emeritus upon retired StFX history professor Dr. Paul Phillips. Philosophy professor Dr. William Sweet received the University Research Award, and the Outstanding Faculty Teaching Awards were awarded to psychology professor Dr. Erin Austen and to development studies professor and Canada Research Chair Dr. Jonathan Langdon. Patricia Budicky, senior lab instructor in the Department of Chemistry, received the Outstanding Staff Teaching Award.

Class of 2018 university medallists:


These medals are awarded to the student with the highest average in the final three years of an honours, advanced major or major degree program or the final two years of a diploma or education degree program.

Bachelor of Science to: Matthew Thomas Martell, Bedford, NS

Bachelor of Science in Nursing to: Alyssa Mariah Guitard, Riverview, NB

Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition to: Aiyu Liu, Beijing, China

Bachelor of Arts/Science in Human Kinetics to: Amy Elaine Bobyn, Calgary, AB

Diploma in Engineering to: Megan Elizabeth Hawkins Fudge, St. George, NB

Bachelor of Education to: Renelle Ariel John, Trinidad and Tobago

Bachelor of Arts to: Jamie Julia Forsyth, Truro, NS

Bachelor of Music/Bachelor of Arts in Music to: Cassandra Lynn Mann, New Glasgow, NS


The following medals are awarded to the students with the highest average in the final three years of a Bachelor of Business Administration or Bachelor of Information Systems program.

The ONEX Corporation Gold Medal Bachelor of Business Administration John Michael Jordan MacDonald, O’Leary, PE


The Governor General Undergraduate Medal for the highest average in the final three years of study to: Matthew Thomas Martell, Bedford, NS

The Governor General Graduate Medal for the highest overall average in a thesis-based graduate program to: Stephanie Elaine MacIntyre, Antigonish, NS

2018 BIOS:


Dr. Teresa MacNeil

A passionate advocate and leader in community development, life-long learning and adult education, StFX graduate and Johnstown, Cape Breton native Dr. Teresa MacNeil spent a distinguished 37-year career at StFX. She is also noted for her contributions to numerous regional and national organizations, always with a view to making lives richer. Following early work in Newfoundland, Dr. MacNeil then moved to Cape Breton as a StFX Extension fieldworker. She completed a MSc and PhD in educational policy studies from the University of Wisconsin. From 1970-1982, she chaired StFX’s newly established Department of Adult Education, the flagship program that led to the Masters Degree in Adult Education. In 1975, she became a full professor, and in 1982 accepted the position of Director of Extension, which she held until 1993. While with Extension, Dr. MacNeil maintained a variety of positions that strengthened her work with the department including chairing the Board of Directors for Cape Breton Development Corporation; the Board of Directors for Enterprise Cape Breton; and the Provincial Task Force on the Economy of Cape Breton. From 1994-96, she served as StFX Director of Special Projects and in 1996 as StFX Advancement Director before her August 1996 retirement. Since then she has taken on numerous part-time assignments with boards, consultancies, and commissions. Professional and community highlights throughout her career span from chairing the board of directors of the Canadian Association for Adult Education to the National Advisory Group for Canada’s Adult Learning Knowledge Centre. She is a Member of the Order of Canada, the recipient of three honorary degrees and diplomas, and an inductee into the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame. She is also an Honorary Life Member, Canadian Association for Continuing University Education; Member of the Royal College of Fellows, Canadian Geographical Society; and Progress Women of Excellence of Nova Scotia.

Lino A. Saputo, Jr.

Montreal-based entrepreneur, businessman and philanthropist Lino A. Saputo, Jr. is Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Saputo Inc., one of the top 10 dairy processors in the world. Involved in the third-generation, family-run business since age 13, when he wrapped specialty cheeses, he now oversees the Quebec-based company comprised of 12,800 employees with 50 plants worldwide. Mr. Saputo, who holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Concordia University, officially joined Saputo in 1988 as an administrative assistant. Through the years he has held several positions including Vice President, Operations and Engineering; Executive Vice President Operations; and President, Cheese Division (USA). Since March 2004, he serves as President and Chief Executive Officer. In 2011, he was appointed to the position of Vice Chairman of the Board, and since August 2017, he serves as Chairman of the Board. Giving back to the community is a priority for Mr. Saputo and his family, known for their social responsibility and support of multiple organizations. Their commitment to sports, specifically soccer, is noteworthy. He is also committed to Centraide of Greater Montreal. He has co-presided over their annual fundraising campaign, and presides over the major donor campaign. He and his family have also gifted $10 million to the Montreal Heart Institute, an historic commitment dedicated to the prevention of cardiovascular disease. In 2011, he and his wife Amelia founded the Amelia and Lino A. Saputo Jr. Foundation dedicated to supporting a variety of organizations. They have particular interest in promoting healthy living initiatives and helping Montreal’s most vulnerable populations. Mr. Saputo serves on the Board of Directors of the National Bank of Canada, the Board of Directors of the Montreal Heart Institute Foundation and the Conference Board of Canada. In April 2018, he and Amelia gifted $10 million to StFX to revitalize the Oland Centre, which will become the Amelia and Lino Saputo Centre for Healthy Living, ensuring StFX and communities in northeastern Nova Scotia enjoy health and wellness opportunities for generations to come.


Dr. Paul Phillips, Department of History

Dr. Paul Phillips is a world-class scholar of British intellectual and religious history. He taught in the StFX Department of History from 1969 until his retirement in 2007. During his 38 years at StFX, he taught and mentored several generations of students, supervising 40 theses. In addition to his busy teaching schedule, he demonstrated leadership ability, serving three terms as chair of the History Department and one term as chair of Graduate Studies. Other notable examples of his service to StFX include two terms on Senate, one term on the Board of Governors, and service on multiple committees. A first class scholar, he crafted an enduring legacy, the author of five books, editor of one volume of collected essays and co-editor of one sourcebook of documents. His illustrious career has been marked by numerous academic honours. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and has been a visiting scholar at Wolfson College, Cambridge University, Cornell University’s Institute for European Studies, and Victoria College, University of Toronto where he enjoyed the title of Northrop Frye Visiting Fellow. More recently he occupied the prestigious Gatto Chair in Christian Studies at StFX for two terms. In 2002, he was recognized with the University Research Award, and since 2007, he has held the honour of Senior Research Professor at StFX.


Dr. William Sweet, Department of Philosophy

Philosophy professor Dr. William Sweet joined the StFX faculty in 1990. He is one of the foremost Canadian academics on the history of 19th- and early 20th-century British philosophy, and one of the world’s leading scholars of British idealism. His careful, historically-grounded and innovative scholarship on this movement has led to a re-evaluation of the work of some of its key figures and of its bearing on contemporary political philosophy as a whole. He has also contributed significantly to the philosophy of culture, discussions of dignity and human rights, and the philosophy of religion. His research has led to new insights into the impact of idealism in East Asia, India, and southern Africa, and the promotion of intercultural philosophy. In addition to his many publications, Dr. Sweet has contributed to scholarship by organizing international conferences and editing collections of scholarly essays. These have stimulated many, particularly junior scholars, to expand and deepen the study of these fields. Also significant are his many publications and translations of the work of the 20th-century French philosopher, Jacques Maritain. Dr. Sweet’s work has been recognized by his election to the presidency of a number of learned societies, such as the Canadian Philosophical Association, and to the executive committees of international organizations. The recipient of numerous awards and honours, he has been invited to present his work across the globe. In 2017, he was elected by his peers as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC), a national recognition as one of the best in the field of philosophy.


Dr. Jonathan Langdon, Development Studies Program

Dr. Jonathan Langdon, StFX development studies professor and Canada Research Chair in Sustainability and Social Change Leadership, is described as a mentor and educator who brings important concepts to the surface and puts his heart and passion into teaching. An excellent professor willing to go the extra mile, students say his teaching ensures everyone is on the same level—including himself. He encourages students to work hard and explore outside their comfort zone, leading to personal and academic growth, and he works to provide student opportunities, including service learning opportunities and local and international research work. For over 15 years, Dr. Langdon has worked with social movements in Ghana, and in particular in the Ada region defending communal access to a salt yielding lagoon since 2008. More recent work has branched out to connect with other resource disputed hot spots in Ghana and Guatemala. He also works closely with renewable energy movements in Nova Scotia. His work has been published in prominent international and Canadian journals, and he is the editor of Indigenous Knowledges, Development and Education. His forthcoming book on social movement learning in Africa will be released later this year.

Dr. Erin Austen, Department of Psychology

Psychology professor Dr. Erin Austen, a passionate and knowledgeable educator and committed researcher, knows how to get the best from her students. She wants students to succeed and this desire encourages students to pursue academic excellence.  Students say she uses a teaching style that is interactive, engaging and fun, and that she is committed to providing current empirical evidence and opportunities for students to engage with the material in various ways. The student learning experience is at the centre of her work. Among her efforts, she builds in service learning experiences in her course work and ignites a passion for research in her students. She also pushes students to think critically, engage in their learning and be proud of what they have accomplished. Her unique classroom environment and varied assignments allow different learning styles to thrive, students say. Her support and guidance helps students to flourish and realize what they are capable of accomplishing. Says one former student: “She helped me find my voice, passion and ultimately helped me believe in my abilities.” 


Patricia Budicky, Senior Lab Instructor, Chemistry

Patricia Budicky, a senior lab instructor in the Department of Chemistry, has for well over a decade poured her heart and soul into helping students at StFX learn as much as possible in a supportive environment. She has worked as a lab instructor at StFX since 2005, and consistently goes above and beyond expectations in everything she does. Colleagues say she cares deeply about the students. She expects a lot from students and they tend to live up to expectations. Many cite her as an important contributor to their success in the course. She does much work to make the labs and instruments run smoothly, is a champion for students, for technology and for chemistry, keeping up with all things in the field, and is involved in supporting the X-Chem Outreach Program in regional schools. She holds an honours BSc from the University of Waterloo and an MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University.


Cameron Sehl

Cameron Sehl of Ottawa, ON, graduates from StFX with a Bachelor of Arts honours degree in economics. The proud Lane Hall Pitbull was actively involved at StFX. The current captain of the StFX Men’s Rowing team, he spent four years with the program and competed twice at Canadian nationals. On campus, he’s been a teaching assistant, a mentor to the Entrepreneurship Club, and head coach of the Eastern Highlands Special Olympics soccer and hockey teams. He was a Rhodes Scholar finalist, a 2017 recipient of the StFX MacBain/Riley Global Engagement Award, and a 2016 Cansbridge Fellow. After graduation, he will be returning to India as an OceanPath Fellow to work on Symbi Medical, a health education and patient monitoring platform that he started in 2017 to improve global healthcare access. 

Alex Corrigan

Alex Corrigan of Calgary, AB, is a Dean’s List student who graduates from StFX with a Bachelor of Science degree with an advanced major in chemistry. He has been highly involved in extracurricular activities, most notably Best Buddies, a student representative on the StFX Board of Governors, spending three years on O-Crew, coaching the Lane Hall hockey team, and sharing the role of 2018 Senior Class co-president. Additionally, through an internship this past summer, he helped the University of Calgary conduct research on finding alternative ways to diagnose concussion symptoms without using a CT scan. This research was published and he presented at a medical conference in Edmonton. A proud Xaverian, he has spoken on several occasions throughout the year, including at the X-Ring ceremony and at numerous fundraisers for the Class of 2018 Student Refugee Bursary, a bursary he helped establish. Alex hopes to study medicine after StFX and pursue his dream of becoming a pediatrician. 


Another record year for StFX Student Research Day

Thu, 2018-03-29 10:25
StFX student Jennifer Aftanas presented her research on live tweeting in the courtroom during this year's Student Research Day, a record event with over 100 student presentations

It was another record year for StFX’s annual Student Research Day—now in its 16th year—with over 100 student research posters and presentations showcased March 28 in the Oland Centre Auxiliary Gym.

“I am delighted,” organizer and human kinetics professor Dr. Angie Kolen said on the all-time high participation, which included a phenomenal 92 poster presentations and nine oral presentations, from 17 different departments in the Faculties of Arts, Science and Business.

“It was impressive,” Dr. Kolen said on the event, which has continued to grow from its introduction to campus in March 2003.

Again this year, the student research presented was broad, varied and impressive, running the gamut from learning if music helps with dental anxiety to Twitter on trial and social media in the courtroom, from seals and sealing policy in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to sources of groundwater methane in proximity to legacy coal mines in Nova Scotia.

“StFX Student Research Day is always a special day on the annual university calendar,” says Dr. Richard Isnor, StFX Associate Vice President, Research and Graduate Studies.

“The excitement and enthusiasm that comes from our students who are talking about their research helps to forge a passion that frequently influences their post-graduate careers. The high quality and diversity of these student research presentations is always impressive,” he says.

Student Research Day gives students the opportunity to showcase their research or advanced studies, and other students, faculty, staff and community members a chance to learn about and discuss the work.

Several format changes took place this year, including moving the event from a Thursday afternoon event to a Wednesday evening.

Remaining constant, and always growing, is the enthusiasm for student research.

Dr. Kolen thanked the over 30 StFX faculty and staff who assisted with the adjudicating process and everyone who helped with the event.


Awards presented at the event included:

The Community Engaged Research Award, sponsored by Service Learning:

Denise Webb, Human Nutrition

Corrina Degan, Development Studies

The Angus L. Macdonald Bibliography Award, sponsored by the Angus L. Macdonald Library:

Sebastian Jurga, Psychology.

Gold Awards, sponsored in part by the StFX Bookstore:

Matthew Martell, Physics

Laura de la Roche, Psychology

Cameron Sehl, Business-Economics

Silver Awards, sponsored in part by the StFX Bookstore:

Chloe Allen, Psychology

Craig Duininck, Business-Economics

Nolan O’Reilly, Business-Economics

Emily Rosta, Human Nutrition

Molly Rutherford, Human Kinetics

Laura Sevigny, Psychology

Oral Presentation prize winners:

Gold – Carmen Landry, Biology

Silver – Sebastian Jurga, Psychology

This research is, in part, made possible by the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

New Research Funding Will Create Unique Opportunities for StFX Researchers And Students

Tue, 2017-08-15 16:59
StFX Dean of Science Dr. Petra Hauf (left) poses with Sean Fraser, MP for Central Nova, Dr. Geniece Hallett-Tapley and Dr. Shah Razul at a federal funding announcement in support of new research at StFX.

Funding from the federal government announced today, August 15, is helping open the doors to new, innovative research at St. Francis Xavier University.

Over $200,000 will be invested in two research projects led by faculty in StFX’s Department of Chemistry. Dr. Shah Razul, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, is receiving $67,544 for research equipment to help study the development and structure-functions of cryoprotectants in seafood. Dr. Geniece Hallett-Tapley, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, is receiving $89,186 for her research project, which studies the applications of modified perovskite photocatalysts in fundamental organic transformations.

The funding is provided through the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF), which invests in universities and researchers across Canada to help them carry out ground-breaking research.  

In addition to the JELF funding, StFX will receive $47,019 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s Infrastructure Operating Fund. This fund assists universities with incremental operating costs related to projects that receive JELF funding.


In her welcome to attendees, Dr. Petra Hauf, Dean of Science at StFX, underscored how the new funding boosts StFX’s commitment to create exceptional student research opportunities.

“We have a major goal to become Canada’s leader of innovative, interdisciplinary research for undergraduate students,” she said.

“Our faculty are always involving students in their research, working one-on-one both in the lab and in the field.”

Sean Fraser, MP for Central Nova, made the funding announcement on behalf of the federal government. In his remarks, he spoke about the importance of ensuring smaller universities like StFX have access to funding for research and innovation.

“To know that our government is investing in small towns and small universities is important,” he said. “We’re proud to support research led by StFX’s exceptional faculty.”


Dr. Razul, who became an assistant professor at StFX in 2016, is investigating compounds called cryoprotectants, which protect biological structures from molecular changes caused by freezing. He is specifically interested in researching lobster, and how cryoprotectants can be used to preserve both the structure and taste of frozen lobster meat.

He also highlighted the opportunities his research – and the new funding – will create for StFX students.

“This funding allows me to operate with state-of-the-art instrumentation not found anywhere else in this region,” he said. “Our students will now be able to use this sophisticated equipment, too.”

Dr. Hallet-Tapley, a previous recipient of an award from the prestigious Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), explained that new equipment from the funding will allow her to perform a more rapid analysis of her research.

She also underscored the importance of undergraduate student research at StFX, specifically thanking the students who have assisted with her research work so far.

“At StFX we pride ourselves on creating a unique learning environment for undergraduate students,” she said.  “This funding will help StFX continue this work as we introduce our students to state-of-the-art techniques and new interdisciplinary opportunities.”