The research work led by Dr. Jacob Levman, Canada Research Chair in Bioinformatics in StFX's Computer Science Department, is focused on developing tools that will address a key medical challenge—namely the early diagnosis of neurological disorders in children—using advanced computing techniques.
Dr. Levman and members of his lab are focused on the development of computational techniques and software tools that can be used in a variety of health applications. His work, “Novel pattern recognition technologies in medical imaging applications,” received funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust to help purchase a series of high-end secure computer workstations and advanced software to help with machine learning analysis of MRI data for the lab, located in newly-renovated research space with the Physical Sciences Building.
L-r, Lab members Derek Berger, Shekhar Dewan, Acting Senior Director Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education Greg Ells, Dr. Jacob Levman, Deputy Minister of the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education Duff Montgomery, Duncan Osmond, Marissa Campbell and Joshua Henderson
On June 25, 2019, the Levman lab welcomed Duff Montgomery, Deputy Minister of the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education, and Greg Ells, Acting Senior Director. The two were on campus for a morning session and lunch meeting with the StFX President’s Council, and to learn more about Dr. Levman’s project, which involves computational research to support a wide variety of medical imaging applications such as neurodevelopmental imaging.
Dr. Levman maintains an affiliation with Harvard Medical School to provide ongoing access to high-quality clinical imaging data and to facilitate collaborations with physicians and neuroscientists.
The goals of this research, he says, include the development of new detection and diagnostic technologies, which can improve the standard of patient care for Nova Scotians and Canadians. This research is also intended to help the scientific community better understand the underlying physiological conditions associated with the development of a variety of medical disorders. It is hoped that, by providing a better understanding of medical conditions, this research can contribute to educating physicians and inspiring clinician researchers to develop novel therapeutic interventions for a variety of disorders.
Dr. Levman currently has a number of StFX students involved in his research.
StFX has received some very good news. The university, through its Physics Department, has been voted as a new institutional member of the Belle II collaboration, a major particle physics experiment that includes over 100 institutions and close to 1,000 members worldwide.
The collaboration is based at the KEK (High Energy Accelerator Research Organization) in Japan. It carries out and continues research work that has previously resulted in a Nobel Prize.
StFX physics professor Dr. Hossain Ahmed was in Japan in late June to present StFX’s presentation to join Belle II. He says it is rare that a primarily undergraduate university is part of this type of collaboration. StFX is also now part of the Belle II Canada Project Grant, which receives funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI).
Dr. Ahmed, who was instrumental in StFX’s participation in the BABAR collaboration, a large, international particle physics experiment at Stanford University in California, says he is thrilled with the news.
He says this collaboration will bring opportunities for StFX students, researchers, and colleagues in the experimental particle physics area.
“To put this in perspective of what it means, it’s a brand new collaboration. It will collect data for five to 10 years and conduct data analysis for another five to 10 years. This means StFX will be able to work with other well-regarded universities, and to work on potentially Nobel Prize winning experiments,” says department chair Dr. Peter Marzlin.
StFX students can certainly benefit from being involved in this research, and StFX, he says, is fortunate to have the only elementary particle physicist in Atlantic Canada involved in such a collaboration in Dr. Ahmed.
Dr. Marzlin says as part of the presentation, Dr. Ahmed discussed what StFX can bring to the group. “We can prepare our undergraduate students in a fantastic way in our research, providing them with future graduate students who know exactly what they are doing.”
Dr. Ahmed says the Belle II collaboration continues the work of the BABAR collaboration and Belle project, which recorded data and studied matter and anti-matter symmetry in the universe.
BABAR produced more than 500 journal papers, including the precise measurements of differences between matter and antimatter, which have proved the theory of Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa, resulting in the awarding of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics.
More research though is needed as there is not currently enough evidence to explain symmetry in the Big Bang. Dr. Ahmed says the Belle II collaboration will have about 40 times more data than its predecessors and researchers are expecting to uncover more evidence and a deeper understanding. This next generation B-factory experiment will also be important for New Physics beyond the Standard Model scenario, he says, such as flavour violation, dark matter particles search etc.
Patrick O’Brien, a 2019 StFX physics graduate who will start his fully-funded master’s studies at the University of Alberta in the fall, says his work with the BABAR project as a StFX student has been beneficial.
“It’s certainly helped me already,” he says. “I’ve found a good supervisor, it’s sparked my interest even more, gave him a set of skills that will help me in my master’s and PhD, and maybe even opportunity for future work and collaboration.”
Likewise, current StFX physics student Noah Tessema of Ottawa, ON is looking forward to becoming involved in this research and the opportunities it may bring. “I’m very excited,” he says.
Dr. Ahmed says he is very grateful for the support and collaboration inherent in the StFX physics department. “It’s just like a family,” he says noting how Dr. Marzlin and faculty colleagues helped in any way they could to prepare for this collaboration.
Welcome changes are coming to the StFX Department of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science. In the 2018-19 academic year, the Computer Science group, and the Mathematics and Statistics group requested that two new departments be created from the existing Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science Department
As of July 1, 2019, the current department will reform into two separate departments—the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, and the Department of Computer Science, offering students two distinct educational pathways.
The new, separate departments will also provide students with a distinct academic home, fostering academic engagement and pride.
The Department of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science was unique in StFX’s Faculty of Science in that it housed two related, but different fields of study. The two fields co-existed within a single department, but offered separate honours, advanced majors, majors and minors, along with a research-based MSc program in computer science.
It’s expected that the two programs will benefit from enhanced visibility both within and outside the university as separate departments.