2018 Areas of Research

For the 2018 Program the following faculty members, their department and a brief description of the research project that they have developed for students follows. Once the students have been matched with faculty they will receive a detailed description of the research project.

First Nations University of Canada | University of British Columbia | University of Calgary | University of Manitoba |University of Ottawa |University of Saskatchewan


First Nations University of Canada

Dr. Ed Doolittle, Associate Professor
Mathematics, Department of Indigenous Science, the Environment and Economic Development (DISEED)

Building and programing a robot using LEGO robotics to play hand games.

Dr. Vincent Ziffle, Assistant Professor
Department of Indigenous Science, the Environment and Economic Development (DISEED)

Research on the makeup of Western and Indigenous foods. to determine their caloric and carbohydrate content. Locally sourced ingredients will be tied back to the environment through an ecological approach to food science, ending in a better understanding of food chemistry through several delicious experiments.

Leanne Stricker, Lecturer
Environmental Health and Science, Department of Indigenous Science, The Environment and Economic Development

Are you interested in the environment and how it affects human health? Consider a week of activities exploring diseases that are transmitted from insects, the chemical properties of food, food safety, and the characteristics of safe drinking water and recreational water.

Dr. Arzu Sardarli, Professor
Physics and Mathematics, Department of Indigenous Science, the Environment, and Economic Development

Mathematical modeling of environmental processes using Indigenous Knowledge

Dr. Amr Henni, Professor
Faculty of Engineering, University of Regina

About Dr. Amr Henni

Dr. Liming Dai, Professor
Faculty of Engineering, University of Regina

About Dr. Liming Dai

Dr. Fanhua [Bill] Zeng, Associate Professor
Faculty of Engineering, University of Regina

About Dr. Fanhua [Bill] Zeng


University of British Columbia

Dr. Joerg Bohlmann, Professor
Departments of Forest Science and Botany, University of British Columbia

About Dr. Bohlmann
Research in Forest Health and Medicinal Plants. The Bohlmann laboratory studies the ability of plants, including forest trees, to survive under changing environmental conditions over lifespans of several weeks to hundreds of years. To cope with biotic (e.g. insects, pathogens) stress, plants have evolved specialized metabolism that contains hundreds of thousands of unique small molecules. Many of these bioactive molecules also have beneficial applications for humans. Our laboratory is exploring two aspects of plant specialized metabolism: First, the role it plays in plant defense against insects, and second how plant genes can be used to produce medicinal compounds. The students of the Kirkness Science & Engineering Program will be involved with an active research project led by one of our graduate students or postdoctoral fellows dealing with either (1) research on a medicinal plant that produces anti-diabetic or other interesting compounds; (2) research on defenses of spruce trees against insects; or (3) research on mountain pine beetle.

Dr. Harry Brumer, Professor
Michael Smith Laboratories, Department of Chemistry, and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of British Columbia

Project title: Understanding enzymes in biology and biotechnology
Students participating in this project will perform the recombinant production and biochemical analysis of a newly discovered enzyme from nature, and use this enzyme in a biocatalytic reaction to make an aromatic flavor molecule. The project will demonstrate how we can learn from nature’s diversity to develop new, environmentally considerate biotechnology to make materials that improve our lives.

Dr. Erik Eberhardt, Professor and Director
Geological Engineering and Faculty of Sciences, University of British Columbia

About Dr. Eberhardt

Dr. Jennifer Love, Associate Professor
Department of Chemistry, University of British Columbia

About Dr. Love

John Bass, Associate Professor and Chair
Architecture Program, Faculty of Applied Science, University of British Columbia

This is an opportunity for students interested in architecture and design. Working with First Nations community members, students will assist in the development of culturally specific designs for an elders’ house.

Dr. Madjid Mohseni, Professor
Chemical and Biological Engineering Laboratories, University of British Columbia

Project title: Understanding conventional and leading edge drinking water treatment technologies for Small Rural Communities and First Nations
The student will be learning various treatment methods such as:

  •  Coagulation / flocculation
  • UV disinfection
  • UV based oxidation (general components which may include both UV/H2O2 and VUV)
  • Electro-coagulation
  • Ion exchange

Dr. Pierre Bérubé, Professor
Department of Civil Engineering, University of British Columbia

The Filtration Technologies Laboratory at UBC (membrane.civil.ubc.ca) develops and optimizes approaches to treat water for domestic (e.g. potable water) or industrial (e.g. oil extraction) applications. Current activities focusing on potable water treatment are aimed at developing simple and low-cost technologies for use in rural and remote communities in Canada and abroad. Students in the Kirkness Science and Engineering Program will work as part of a research team to build and test prototypes of novel water treatment technologies prior to field deployment.

Dr. Sheryl Staub-French, Professor
Department of Civil Engineering, University of British Columbia

Virtual Design and Construction (VDC), Building Information Modeling (BIM), collaboration and integrated project delivery, design and construction coordination, 4D (3D + time) visualization, interactive workspaces.

Dr. Lori Daniels, Associate Professor
Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia

Study cultural use and ecology of western red cedar
The tree-rings of old-growth western red cedar trees store a wealth of information. Students will visit the coastal forests to collect samples then learn to “read between the lines” to interpret history over decades to centuries and answer questions about the ecology and cultural use of this amazing tree.

Dr. Sue Grayston, Professor
Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia

Biodiversity in soils
Soils contain most of this planets undiscovered biodiversity, there are more organisms in one tablespoon of soil than there are people on earth and without them life on earth would cease, yet we know little about them. Students will perform enzyme analyses on forest soils as a measure of functional diversity and learn about a range of other techniques used to assess soil biodiversity.

Dr. Julie Cool, Assistant Professor
Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia

Design a wood product
Wood machining processes are essential to turn trees into everyday products. Students will use different type of equipment to make decorative products while learning about wood characteristics and properties that influence cutting and product quality.


University of Calgary

Dr. Eduardo Cobo, Professor
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

The main focus of our lab is to discover the underlying mechanisms of cathelicidins and defensins, peptides secreted by white blood cells and the epithelia cells in mammals which can have an important beneficial role in harmful inflammation and control of microbial pathogens. This innovation will benefit the community by reducing economic losses in animal production, improving animal welfare and promoting an environmentally friendly public image for the industry.

Dr. Susan Kutz, Professor
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

Main area of research: We are an interdisciplinary group with the underlying goal of understanding the health of free-living wildlife and applying that knowledge for the purposes of sustainable subsistence use and conservation of healthy ecosystems. The main body of our work focuses on understanding the impacts of environmental perturbations (e.g., climate change and habitat disturbance) on animal health. We engage directly with subsistence hunters and northern communities to identify emerging concerns and to develop and implement practical and effective disease surveillance methodologies.

Dr. Nathan Peters, Professor
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

The Peters lab is focused on the immuno-biology of chronic infectious diseases, with a special emphasis on vector transmitted and neglected tropical diseases. We aim to better understand how inflammation alters the regulation and expression of immunity, including vaccine-mediated immunity. The goal of the lab is to develop new therapies and vaccines to combat those infectious diseases that impact the world’s most neglected populations.

Dr. Hermann Schaetzl, Professor
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

Our work focuses on the cellular and molecular biology of prion diseases. Prion diseases are fatal infectious neurodegenerative disorders of man and animals, and their manifestation can be sporadic, genetic, or acquired by infection. Examples are BSE (mad cow disease) in cattle, scrapie in sheep and goat, chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer and elk, and CJD in humans. The long-term research goal is to develop therapeutic and prophylactic anti-prion strategies. One example is active vaccination gainst CWD infections, thereby reducing spread of CWD and reduce the risk for a zoonotic transmission in the future.

Dr. Mark Ungrin, Professor
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

The central theme of Dr. Ungrin’s research program is the assembly of cells into tissues and organs – how it occurs in nature, and how it may be induced for the purposes of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. The underlying philosophy is to identify areas where research is limited by available technology, develop the necessary tools and techniques, and then apply them to pursue important research questions that would not otherwise be accessible.


University of Manitoba

Dr. Rotimi Aluko, Professor
Department Human Nutritional Sciences, University of Manitoba

Students will learn how to extract bioactive peptides that have the potential to be new medicines from plant proteins such peas, flax seed and hemp seed.

Dr. Nancy Ames, Adjunct Professor
Department of Human Nutritional Sciences, University of Manitoba

For students interested in how research is developing more nutritional foods that taste good.  Students will have the opportunity to develop new recipes for traditional foods using more nutritious ingredients.  For more information you can see Dr. Ames and Georgina Balfour (2012 Kirkness Program participant) on our website. It’s the first video in Program Description.

Dr. Subramaniam Balakrishnan, Professor
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Manitoba

For students interested in how robotics can be applied in mechanical engineering.

Dr. Nazim Cicek, Professor
Department of Engineering, University of Manitoba

Students will learn about biological waste water treatment and the recovery of nutrients like phosphorus from waste streams.

Dr. Annemieke Farenhorst, Professor
Department of Soil Science, University of Manitoba

For students who are interested in spending time both in a laboratory and traveling off campus to learn about soil, water and air quality.  Students will do experiments that will give them an idea of what it would be like to study environmental science, agricultural science or soil science.

Dr. Kevin Fraser, Assistant Professor
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Manitoba

For students interested in conservation biology, bird tracking and how birds migrate.

Dr. James Friel, Professor
Department of Human Nutritional Sciences, University of Manitoba

For students interested in learning about the importance of infant nutrition they will learn about the importance of a class of compounds called antioxidants that play a special role in human health. Our particular focus is in feeding and biology of mother’s milk. Students will participate in ongoing research with mothers and infants either in the laboratory or in the field.

Dr. Joannie Halas, Professor
Department of Kinesiology, University of Manitoba

For students who are interested in understanding how physical activity relates to health. You will participate in several activities in clinical and on-campus settings, with opportunities to visit up to three labs, including one that measures human movement. As a main focus, students will have opportunities to learn more about the role that physical activity can play in helping to prevent and manage diabetes in First Nation populations.

Dr. Norman Halden, Dean
Department of Geological Sciences, University of Manitoba

For students interested in conservation and management of fish stocks you will have a chance to test fish from your own community and learn about environmental factors that affect behavior and growth. At the end of the week you will have a report that you can take back and share with your fellow students and members of your community.

Dr. Witold Kinsner, Professor
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Manitoba

For students interested in robotics, part of the project introduces the concept of a robot, and particularly the BEAM robot. It discusses the various components of a robot, as well as their interactions and constraints. It then attempts to design a small robot and implement it using inexpensive components. The objective of this part is to show that mathematics, physics, electronics, circuits, and design principles are all needed to accomplish such a task.

Dr. Ayush Kumar, Associate Professor
Departments of Microbiology and Medical Microbiology, University of Manitoba

Students will have an opportunity to learn about antibiotic resistance in bacteria (superbugs) and why this is one of the biggest challenges to the human health today. They will also learn basic molecular biology techniques like extracting a plasmid from bacteria and then analyzing it by gel electrophoresis.

Dr. Juliette Mammei, Assistant Professor
Department of Physics, University of Manitoba

For the students who have always wondered about Geiger counters, radioactive material and how to see cosmic rays, this is your opportunity. Students will do a variety of experiments and build a cloud chamber.

Dr. Kateryn Rochon, Assistant Professor
Department of Entomology, University of Manitoba

For students who are interested in insects in livestock pest management and tick-borne diseases. Students will collect specimens in the field for identification in the laboratory. Students will prepare a final presentation which will include photographs and images of the collected specimens.

Dr. Miyoung Suh, Associate Professor
Department of Human Nutritional Sciences, University of Manitoba

Dr. Suh’s research program aims to provide the basic knowledge of the fundamental roles of nutrition in specialized tissues such as the retina; find mechanisms to explain how essential components of biomembrane work in consert; identify the role of nutrition intervention on pathogenesis of diseases.


University of Ottawa

Dr. Melike Erol-Kantarci, Professor
Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Ottawa

About Dr. Erol-Kantarci
More About Dr. Erol-Kantarci
Learn how the communications systems we use in our everyday lives work. You will use a network simulator to see how packets of information travel in a network. Then you will get to set up a communication network of your own and run tests like researchers do to develop better systems.

Dr. Clémence Fauteux-Lefebvre, Professor
Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Ottawa

About Dr. Fauteux-Lefebvre
Work in a chemical engineering lab and learn about catalyst reactions involved in foods, dyes and even cars. Students will get to prepare a catalyst, test it for reaction, and characterize it using optical and electronic microscopy. You will then learn to evaluate the catalyst for its efficiency and purity of the resulting product.

Dr. Jessica Forrest, Professor
The Department of Biology, University of Ottawa

About Dr. Forrest
About Forrest Lab
Get first-hand experience doing biology fieldwork for one of two projects (weather and timing depending):
1. Collect field data in Gatineau Park towards a long-term study of timing of flowering and bee activity. This will include counting flowers, and pinning, labeling and identifying insect specimens.
2. Work with biologists to study factors limiting bee populations on farms in the Ottawa area. Work will involve visiting farm sites, marking and releasing live bees, observing bees at their nests, on orchard flowers and elsewhere.

Dr. Karin Hinzer, Professor
The Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

About Dr. Hinzer
About Sun Lab
Work with the SUNLAB team at uOttawa to characterize new types of solar panels and learn how to integrate them in smart grids. You will measure solar cells with precision instruments and learn how best to use solar panels for renewable energy production in your community.

Dr. Jeffrey Keillor, Professor
The Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences, University of Ottawa

About Dr. Keillor
About Keillor Research Group
Experience the early stages of drug discovery and validation first hand! Make and evaluate your very own potential anti-cancer drug. Learn how medicinal chemists synthesize and evaluate molecules for their utility in medicine by studying enzyme kinetics and inhibition in a test tube.

Dr. Jeremy Kerr, Professor
The Department of Biology, University of Ottawa

About Dr. Kerr
About the Kerr Lab
Learn field ecological techniques doing field research on butterflies and bees. Learn about aspects of biological diversity and conservation while working with biologists.

Dr. Jeff Lundeen, Professor
Department of Physics, University of Ottawa

About Dr. Lundeen
About the Lundeen Lab
The information on the internet is carried around the world by light pulses travelling through glass fibres. In this project, you will work with lasers and learn hands-on how to get light signals into these hair-thin fibres. You will demonstrate in our research lab how quantum physics can make these signals unreadable to hackers, thereby keeping your personal information secure.

Dr. Paul Mayer, Professor
The Department of Chemistry, University of Ottawa

About Dr. Mayer
More About Dr. Mayer
Gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (GC-MS) is one of the most widely used analytical tools in science, employed to analyze everything from pesticides on apples, fuels, propellants, forensic samples (send it to trace!) and trace contaminants in water, soil and air. It has even been sent to Mars on the Rover, and the Cassini spacecraft that just left Saturn deployed the Huygens probe into Titan’s atmosphere that contained a GC-MS. Students will get hands on experience preparing selected samples for analysis (there will be an emphasis on common household items such as bug spray, citrus fruit and coffee), using the GC-MS and interpreting the data.

Dr. Poupak Mehrani, Professor
The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Ottawa

About Dr. Mehrani
More About Dr. Mehrani
Work at the Gas-Solid Fluidization laboratory at uOttawa Chemical Engineering Department to learn about the production of polyethylene (a common plastic used in our daily lives). Students will gain hands-on experience in operating a reactor as well as a powder flow line. In both cases, they will learn about electrostatic charge generation which results in solids sticking to each other.

Dr. Monica Nevins, Professor
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Ottawa

About Dr. Nevins
More About Dr. Nevins
Learn about the numbers behind modern cryptography. This exciting and dynamic area of research is essential to the protection and functioning of our electronic economy.

Dr. Frances Pick, Professor, PhD in Indigenous Heritage
The Department of Biology, University of Ottawa

About Dr. Pick
More About Dr. Pick
Work with biologists researching urban ecology. For example, you may investigate the capacity of stormwater ponds to protect downstream water quality or to serve as a natural habitat for wildlife in urban environments. Students may do fieldwork across the National Capital Region, lab-based analyses of water chemistry, microscopy, species identifications, and/or data analyses using computers.

Dr. Colin Rennie, Professor
The Department of Civil Engineering, University of Ottawa

About Dr. Rennie
More About Dr. Rennie
Perform research in an environmental hydraulics lab for a week. Learn how engineers study the flow patterns that occur in rivers and waterways using an indoor water channel. The information learned from these studies is important towards understanding riverbed erosion and preservation, patterns of fish migration, and flow conditions that can be dangerous to humans (e.g. kayakers) or other species.

Dr. Darrin Richeson, Professor
The Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences, University of Ottawa

About Dr. Richeson
More About Dr. Richeson
Chemistry is part of everything in our lives. Everything that exists is made of matter and chemists study the properties of matter and how it can be changed. In our labs you would learn about molecules that catalyze changes of one chemical into a new species. Our goals are to design new ways to produce clean fuels, like hydrogen, or to transform a byproduct like carbon dioxide into more useful chemicals.

Dr. Mateja Sajna, Professor
The Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Ottawa

About Dr. Sajna
More About Dr. Sajna
Be a statistician for a week. Learn how statisticians and mathematicians collect and organize data using fuzzy cognitive maps. Students will collect data in order to better understand an issue of interest in their chosen community. They will learn how fuzzy cognitive maps can be used to understand the relationships involved in complex issues, and how they can be used to inform decision making.

Dr. Adam J. Shuhendler, Professor
Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences, University of Ottawa

About Dr. Shuhendler
About the Molecular Medicine Lab
In the Molecular Medicine Lab, we design and implement chemical tools that can probe biochemistry either through non-invasive imaging techniques (e.g. MRI and PET), or by way of point-of-care diagnosis of diseases. We accomplish this by designing and synthesizing chemical probes, testing them in “test tube” conditions, and then apply them to animal models of human diseases.
In this lab, you will get to test novel probe molecules that our researchers have created. Using optical or nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, you will learn to evaluate the molecules’ ability to serve as diagnostic agents.
The results of these studies will be used to better diagnose heart disease, cancer therapy response, and the outcomes of concussion injury.Dr. Emily Standen, Professor
The Department of Biology, University of Ottawa

About Dr. Standen
About the Standen Lab
Study how animals move under different environmental conditions. In this lab, you will work with graduate student researchers to film animals swimming and walking, using high-speed video cameras. You may work with amphibious fish or salamanders, or other animals.


University of Saskatchewan

Dr. Andy Allen
Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan

Students will have an opportunity to do what veterinarians do. They will help examine cats, dogs and other pets in our Veterinary Medical Centre; visit horses, cattle and other farm animals with our Field Service veterinarians; and learn about diagnostic testing such as medical imaging, clinical pathology, and autopsy.

Dr. Robert Blyth, Assistant Director of Research
Tracy Walker, Educational Outreach Coordinator
Canadian Light Source (CLS), Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Student participants will work with their mentors and other CLS staff to use the synchrotron, a foot-ball field-sized research facility producing extremely brilliant light, to conduct an experiment that is part of an ongoing research program in an area of the students’ choice.

Dr. Duncan Cree, Department of Engineering
University of Saskatchewan

Students will obtain hands-on experience with a small design project related to engineering. The students will learn how to go from a computer software drawing (Solidworks) to a finished three-dimensional part. The students will get all the training required, no previous experience required, just bring your enthusiasm for learning!

Dr. Axel Diederichsen, Research Scientist, Curator
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Areas of Expertise

  • Conservation, characterization and distribution plant genetic resources for food and agriculture
  • Cooperation with international genebanks
  • Phenotypic and genotypic diversity of crop plants and crop wild relatives

Dr. Jack Gray, Professor of Biology and Vice Dean Research
College of Arts and Science, University of Saskatchewan

Research and development of vaccine and immunity-enhancing technologies for humans and animals.

Dr. Alison Oates, Dr. Marta Erlandson, Dr. Leah Ferguson
College of Kinesiology, University of Saskatchewan

Kinesiology is the study of human movement and how movement impacts how we feel and respond physically, mentally and socially. Students who engage with faculty members from Kinesiology will have the opportunity to learn about physical activity and sedentary behaviour, learn how to use equipment to monitor balance and movement and learn how our body’s mechanics affect that movement. They will also have a chance to examine the effect of physical activity on bone and muscle health using novel imaging machines and have their bones measured, as well as learn about how to interview athletes about the psychological well-being and sport experiences.

Mr. Rick Retzlaff, Department of Mechanical Engineering
College of Engineering, University of Saskatchewan

Students will begin to understand and experience the engineering design process through exercises and hands-on activities. Ultimately, this process will be used to design and fabricate a device to solve a problem identified by the student’s experience.

Dr. Kevin Rozwadowski, Research Scientist
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Areas of Expertise

  • DNA recombination and repair, genome editing, regulation of gene expression, protein biochemistry
  • Plant and microbial genetics, molecular tools, transgenic technologies, plant molecular biology