Rare opportunity for VIU students, alumni and faculty to present research

June 2, 2014 - 2:15am

A team of 15 faculty, alumni and graduate and undergraduate student researchers from Vancouver Island University (VIU) are playing a major role in Canada’s largest chemistry conference at the Vancouver Conference Centre this week.


The group, including chemistry professors Dr. Erik Krogh and Dr. Chris Gill, will deliver 12 presentations at the 97th annual Canadian Society for Chemistry (CSC) conference in Vancouver June 2 to 5.


“It’s a rare opportunity,” says Krogh. “The conference comes to Vancouver once every 10 years. This is such an excellent opportunity for our graduate and undergraduate students, and alumni to meet international scientists and researchers from all over the world, exchange ideas and broaden their knowledge.”


This year’s theme, “Chemistry from Sea to Sky”, will cover all disciplines of chemistry from fundamental research to 'blue sky' applications, highlight global chemical scientific interactions and collaborations, and feature the unique location, culture and geography of BC.


Krogh and Gill, co-directors of VIU’s multi-million dollar Applied Environmental Research Lab (AERL) on the Nanaimo campus, are program chairs for the conference’s Environmental Chemistry scientific technical program.


Conference participants include scientists and researchers from Canada, China, Germany, Japan, Korea, Switzerland, Italy and the United States. VIU Bachelor of Science alumna Megan Willis, now a PhD student at the University of Toronto, will also be speaking at the conference. “Megan is a former student of ours and I get a bit choked up seeing her front and centre at a major conference like this,” adds Krogh.


VIU’s team will present posters and presentations focusing on research conducted in the AERL, primarily the development and application of innovative measurement strategies for chemical contaminants that could affect environmental and human health.


Undergraduate student Greg Vandergrift will present a poster on developing quantitative techniques for rapid measurement of contaminants.


Vandergrift, who starts fourth year in VIU’s Bachelor of Science program in September, received a prestigious Undergraduate Summer Research Award from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to work in the AERL this summer.


“I’m doing what I love,” says Vandergrift, who came to VIU after graduating from Nanaimo Christian School. “The opportunity to work in the AERL chemistry lab with wiser, more experienced faculty, PhD candidates and VIU Bachelor of Science alumni is invaluable.


“It feels great to be working with highly educated people who are always so willing to answer questions, share their knowledge and help out. Presenting at a national chemistry conference just adds to the incredible undergraduate student experience I’ve had so far.”


Dana Short, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from VIU last January, also works in the AERL as a research technician. A two-time NSERC USRA award recipient herself, Short will present a poster at the conference about her work helping to develop an underwater mass spectrometer.


“The instrument came into our lab in rough shape as a donation from industry,” explains Short. “Working with post-doctoral researcher Ryan Bell and PhD candidate and VIU alumnus Nick Davey, we modified it and created custom-built components for our specialized purposes.


“Ultimately, this instrument could be used in the field for real time adaptive sampling. For example, in the event of an oil spill, this device could be put into the ocean and dragged behind a boat to take measurements in real time.”


Working with the AERL team exposed Short to “a whole other world of science” and gave her opportunities to learn skills in welding, machining, and computer programming. It’s definitely made my undergraduate experience more significant,” says Short, who starts a graduate diploma program in computer programming at Concordia University next fall.


Short presented her research at the Western Canadian Undergraduate Chemistry Conference in Victoria in May, where she won Best General Interest Presentation, and last March, she won top prize for her presentation at VIU’s annual celebration of student research.


Other AERL team members presenting at this week’s national conference include VIU alumnus Martin Angelstad, a current Master of Science student at Simon Fraser University, who will present a poster on measuring air pollutants associated with fine aerosol particles. Nick Davey, a VIU alumnus and current PhD student at the University of Victoria, will give a talk on his work developing fast mobile air contaminant measurements.


Both Davey and Angelstad conduct their master’s and PhD research in Nanaimo’s AERL, and help mentor undergraduate students.


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ABOUT VIU: Vancouver Island University is Canada's west coast university. Known as a centre of excellence for teaching, learning and applied research, VIU offers a diverse range of certificate, diploma and undergraduate and master degree programs to more than 18,000 students on campuses in Nanaimo, Powell River and Cowichan, and at the Parksville-Qualicum Centre. For more information visit www.viu.ca
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Tags: Research