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    All your Science News in one place

Professor Co-authors Review of Stable Isotopes

Sang-Tae Kim is among nine international experts who have prepared an authoritative guide for scientific communities who use stable isotopes as a research tool.

Kim, an associate professor with McMaster’s School of Earth, Environment & Society, is the co-lead author of a technical review published this month in the journal Nature Reviews Earth and Environment.

The review provides researchers with a stable isotope toolbox for water and inorganic carbon cycle studies. The review provides the best available parameters and equations for stable isotope geochemistry, as well as essentials of stable isotope analysis.

Stable isotopes of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen are used to investigate physical and chemical processes in water and inorganic carbon cycles on Earth. Measuring and comparing natural isotopic variations requires reliable reference materials and consistent data treatment.

The International Atomic Energy Agency directed the committee in 2017 to review decades of reference materials and recommend guidelines for using isotopic scales and reporting stable isotope compositions.

“Stable isotopes are among the most popular research themes and most widely used tools for many Earth and environmental scientists,” says Kim.  “Our committee’s recommendations on parameters and protocols are timely and important especially for the Earth and environmental science researchers who are conducting climate reconstruction studies and model ling future changes to the Earth’s climate systems.”

Congratulate Sang-Tae by sending an email to sangtae@mcmaster.ca.

National Honours for Canada Research Chair

An image of Paul McNicholas outside.
Paul McNicholas is the tenth recipient of the John. L. Synge Award from the Royal Society of Canada. 

The John L. Synge Award was established in 1986 by the RSC to honour John Lighton Synge (1897-1995), FRS, FRSC, one of the first mathematicians working in Canada to obtain international recognition through research in mathematics. The award, endowed by friends of J.L. Synge, RSC Fellows, the McLean Foundation and his daughter, Cathleen Synge Morawetz, FRSC, recognizes outstanding research in the mathematical sciences. 
“I am most grateful to the Royal Society of Canada for this honour and to my friends and colleagues for nominating me,” says Paul. “It is especially humbling to receive the Synge Award having sat, as an undergraduate student, in the Synge lecture theatre in Dublin. I would like to dedicate this award to my dear friend Petros Florides who himself worked with Synge and often speaks fondly of him.”

Paul, whose research is focused on the development, implementation and application of statistical methods, is a Professor in McMaster’s Department of Mathematics & Statistics. Paul is also the Canada Research Chair in Computational Statistics, Director of the MacDATA Institute and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Classification

“Paul’s career here at McMaster has been nothing less than stellar,” said Karen Mossman, Vice President, Research. “Much like the award's namesake, J.L. Synge, Paul has established himself as an influential researcher and mentor, leading the largest statistics research group in Canada and ensuring that, in this data science era, our country remains at the forefront of research in statistics.”
Paul made history when he was awarded the Steacie Prize for the Natural Sciences in 2020. It was the first time one of Canada’s most prestigious awards for early-career scientists and engineers was awarded for research in statistics. Paul was also awarded a E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship in 2019 and was inducted into the College of the Royal Society of Canada in 2017. 
“Paul has had a tremendous impact in our Department and the University as whole”, says Matheus Grasselli, Chair of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. “The numerous prizes and distinctions he has received over the years, now crowned by the Synge award, have increased the profile and importance of research in statistics done at McMaster nationally and internationally. And by the looks of it, he is just getting started.”

Congratulate Paul by sending an email to paulmc@mcmaster.ca.

Royal Society of Canada Award for Postdoc

An image of Leanne Grieves looking into a cage, writing notes on a piece of paper and smiling.
Behavioral ecologist Leanne Grieves has received the Alice Wilson Award from the Royal Society of Canada.

Leanne is an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow in McMaster University’s Department of Biology and the School of Earth, Environment and Society, supervised by Jim Quinn and Greg Slater. Leanne combines field and laboratory methods to study the behavior, chemical and microbial ecology of birds.

The Alice Wilson Award is presented annually to three women of exceptional academic accomplishments in the Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences or Sciences who are entering a career in scholarship or research at the postdoctoral level. Recipients are chosen from women who have received postdoctoral fellowships from Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

The award was established by the Royal Society of Canada in 1991 at the behest of the Committee for Advancement of Women in Scholarship, to honour the memory of Alice Evelyn Wilson, the first woman elected to the RSC in 1938. Dr. Wilson was a world-renowned paleontologist and one of Canada’s foremost geologists. 

“The Royal Society of Canada Alice Wilson Award provides important recognition for women in academia, who still face barriers to equity,” says Leanne. “I am grateful to be a 2021 award recipient and I intend to honour Alice Evelyn Wilson's legacy by continuing to make my research accessible to the public. I am privileged to have many wonderful academic mentors, but I would particularly like to acknowledge my undergraduate and graduate mentors: Scott Forbes, Susan Lingle, Jim Quinn, David Logue, Beth MacDougall-Shackleton, Mark Bernards, and Greg Gloor.”
Leanne was a Vanier Scholar and recipient of the NSERC Gilles Brassard Doctoral Prize for Interdisciplinary Research while completing her PhD at Western University. Leanne was also a McCall McBain Postdoctoral Fellow at McMaster in 2020-2021.
“McMaster University is incredibly proud of Leanne - she's an exceptional researcher and a rising star,” says Maureen MacDonald, Dean of the Faculty of Science. “We are also grateful to the Royal Society of Canada for recognizing outstanding women in academia with this prestigious national honour.”

Congratulate Leanne by sending an email to grievel@mcmaster.ca.

Spotlight on Student Leaders in Science

Sahil Karnani is the new President of the McMaster Science Society (MSS). The Society works to enhance the undergraduate science student experience through providing resources, services, and events. With the goal to support the diverse needs of the McMaster Science community, the Society is run by students, for students.

Rhea Desai is returning as President of the Science Graduate Students Association (SciGSA). The Association brings scientists from diverse fields together to make a difference in the graduate student experience at McMaster University. 

Sahil Karnani
President, McMaster Science Society (MSS)

"I’m currently in my fourth year of Honours Biochemistry. The academic work I get to do really fascinates me, especially when it pertains to microbiology and immunology. There’s lots of great work going on here at McMaster, which makes my experience even more enjoyable.

"My favourite part of  the MSS and the work I get to do is interacting with, and playing a part in building, the student community. Having a community in the Faculty of Science has always been something I’ve enjoyed and taken pride in being a part of. By working in my role, and completing projects within the MSS, I’ve collaborated with students from a variety of programs to build a better community for the future, which excites me to be part of the MSS every day. Having a sense of community builds our character and identity for the student body in the Faculty of Science, and that’s going to become stronger than it ever has been.

"I’m very excited to implement the MSS Clubs department in the coming months. The MSS is looking to expand and fund student-run and science-based clubs to host events and provide resources for students in the Faculty of Science.

"Outside of the Faculty of Science and student leadership, I really enjoy photography - its been a passion of mine for years. Inside the Faculty of Science, I’ve had my fair share of experience pursuing my photography hobby, as I was the photographer for the McMaster Science Society in the 2019-2020 school year. It was a great experience and I learned how to balance my academic workload. That role really improved my technical skills and fed my creative hunger."

Rhea Desai
President, Science Graduate Students Association (SciGSA)

"I’m in the second year of my PhD in the Department of Biology. My field of research is radiation biology where my project specifically focuses on the low dose effects of ionizing radiation. I gain a greater appreciation for this field the more I dive into my research and learn about the fundamental science behind how ionizing radiation interacts with systems at the cellular level. This is super intriguing to me because of all the ways radiation plays a role in Canada’s economy. From nuclear energy to diagnostic imaging, it’s important to understand how even low doses of radiation may interact with individual systems and overall ecosystems.

"I’m very excited for the SciGSA to host speakers on a diverse range of topics. We found that many students are already attending regular seminars held by their departments and schools but students in the Faculty of Science have a wide variety of interests. To speak to this we hope to invite speakers to talk about art, the community, social change and much more. Coming up on November 4th, Chief Stacey Laforme of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation will be joining us on Zoom to talk about raising consciousness in our own communities, his thoughts on the times we are living in and he will also share some of his poetry. 

"By far, my favourite part of the work I get to do with SciGSA  is the people I get to meet and collaborate with. If it wasn’t for this opportunity with the SciGSA I wouldn’t have met so many other students with unique backgrounds and inspiring personal stories or faculty members who have been great influences as leaders. While this opportunity has been a whole lot of fun so far, I’m grateful I get to learn from my peers and mentors while working on such meaningful programming throughout the year.

"This might sound a bit odd for a student who should be reading every day about their field of research but I really have jumped back into reading as a hobby. Sometimes after a long day of being in the lab I felt like there was no way you could catch me reading for enjoyment but recently I’ve been exploring authors of diverse backgrounds and have found a lot of joy in reading from these perspectives. Anything from poetry to reading about social justice issues or a comedic dialogue, I find the more I read the more open minded I become which ultimately leads to better leadership.

Student Leader Wins National Competition

Julia Azzi talked her way to first place in a national competition this summer.

The Medical and Biological Physics student won the 2021 Canadian Astroparticle Summer Student Talk Competition with her presentation on Radon Measurements and the Lucas Cell System. Forty-four students from 15 postsecondary institutions participated in the competition co-sponsored by the Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute and SNOLAB. 

"Talk competitions are great ways to improve presentation skills and network with other students," says Julia. "I'm fascinated by so many areas of science, so I love learning about all of the cool research that undergraduate students from across Canada and around the world are involved in."

Julia's 10-minute talk summarized data collected during her work term at SNOLAB in Sudbury, Ontario. "As research projects often go, modifications had to be made to the experiment until consistent results were achieved. My reliable data finally came about a week before my talk. I then put slides together and did a couple of practice talks with my supervisor before presenting at the competition."

Julia, the Vice President Academic for the McMaster Science Society, is entering her fourth year and will be completing her senior research project under the supervision of Kari Dalnoki-Veress. "Dr. Dalnoki-Veress' lab studies soft matter systems, which is about as different from astroparticle physics as you can get within the field of physics. As someone who likes all things science, I'm hoping these two different research positions will give me insight into what I should pursue as a graduate student."

Earlier this year, Julia placed first in the SNOLAB Spring Student Talk Competition. She also received a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Undergraduate Student Research Award in 2020.

Alex PleavaJoining Julia in the winner's circle at the Canadian Astroparticle Summer Student Talk Competition was Alex Pleava. Alex, who's entering his fourth year in the Honours Physics program, finished fourth in the competition. Alex delivered a talk based on his research as a SuperCDMS summer student at SNOLAB.

" I entered the competition because I love taking opportunities to further develop my scientific communication skills," says Alex. "On top of that, it's also a fun opportunity for me to look back on what I accomplished over the summer."

Congratulate Julia at azzij@mcmaster.ca and Alex at pleava1@mcmaster.ca.
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