About the Award

The Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA) are meant to stimulate a student’s interest in research in the natural sciences and engineering. Students work closely together with eligible FASS faculty that can supervise their research. The awards are also meant to encourage students to undertake graduate studies and pursue a research career in these fields.

USRAs:
Duration: A full 16-week period, full-time
Value: $4,500 from NSERC, plus a minimum of $1,800 from the supervisor.

Recipients

Foster Elliot

Foster Elliot

I am very interested in geography and understanding the processes that govern our environment, so when an opportunity came up that allowed me to go into the field and conduct research as well as travel the country I could not pass it up!  I am very excited to go up to Daring Lake to assist another undergraduate student this year, and conduct some preliminary research for a honours thesis of my own.  My expectations for this award are to be able to further my understanding that was taught in the classroom and to be able to come out with some great field experience and more understanding on the research process.

Supervisor: Dr. Elyn Humphreys

Climate change in the Arctic may impact the amount of methane Arctic tundra absorbs and releases to the atmosphere.  Foster Elliott will measure the flux of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, at the Daring Lake Tundra Ecosystem Research Station in the Northwest Territories.  His research project will help locate methane emission hotspots, such as sedge wetlands and water tracks, and will help identify the conditions that lead to methane absorption or release in this tundra ecosystem.” – Professor Humphreys

Cameron Fitzpatrick

My name is Cameron Fitzpatrick and I am going into the 3rd year of my undergrad in BSc Geomatics. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning the ropes of remote sensing using SAR imagery over the past year, especially the challenge of combining this new field with my interest in programming. This award, and the project that goes along with it will help to advance my skills and knowledge in both remote sensing and computer programming, and I look forward to the challenge!

Supervisor: Dr. Derek Mueller

This project will examine how the detection of icebergs can be improved by using fully polarimetric synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite imagery. The high resolution and quad-polarisation of these images allows for advanced analysis techniques on how backscattered energy returns from the ice target to the sensor. Cameron will develop and run the Python code to interface SNAP software (European Space Agency) to determine what polarimetric variables work the best to discriminate between icebergs and other ice types on over 150 Fine-Quad Radarsat-2 images containing known iceberg targets.  We hope that this work will help develop new methods to automatically detect icebergs in satellite imagery so that this information can be made available to mariners and offshore operators.  – Professor Mueller

Cameron Fitzpatrick

Erin Guitard

My research interests are towards freshwater ecosystems, ecotoxicology, aquatic pollutants and hydrology. I especially enjoy examining and understanding the overall health or water quality of freshwater ecosystems. My expectations for this award is to learn new research methods and techniques in the work environment that may be useful for my graduate thesis, while applying and improving my current research skills out in the field and in the lab.

Supervisor: Dr. Jesse Vermaire

Vegas Hodgins

Psycholinguistics is a constantly growing, evolving field, brimming with new discoveries that help us better understand human language and social cognition. I am excited to take part in research in this field through the NSERC-USRA award because of the opportunity it grants me to participate in furthering the state of knowledge on human cognition, a nebulous field of study of which we have only scratched the surface. With this award, I hope to provide valuable research support to the Language and Social Cognition Lab and further our study of psycholinguistics.

Supervisor: Dr. Olessia Jouravlev

Project: Does programming experience change how you communicate linguistically?

Nobody would ever confuse a line of code with a line from Hamlet. Although programming and natural languages are very distinct on the surface, there are some similarities between these domains. Both types of languages are used to communicate information. Both are combinatorial systems of symbols in which larger structures are generated from a set of smaller components (words or variables). Further, programming and natural languages share some parallels with respect to grammar (or syntax) and meaning (or semantics). The presence of these similarities between programming and natural languages raises a question of possible links between two domains and their instantiation in the brain. A project that Vegas is working on addresses a hypothesis of reciprocal connections between programming and natural languages. Specifically, Vegas is testing the idea that linguistic abilities will change with intensive programming experience. – Dr. Olessia Jouravlev

Vegas Hodgins
Abineaga Muralitharan

Abineaga Muralitharan

I am looking forward to starting my thesis this summer to study and analyze the atmospheric pollution caused by gold mining in Yellowknife. This exciting opportunity will allow me to gain more experience in lab work and learn more about the impacts of mining pollution. Through my NSERC USRA award, I am able to pursue a thesis in an area that interests me greatly.

Supervisor: Dr. John Chételat

Project: Abineaga Muralitharan will study a peat bog core, which is an environmental archive, to reconstruct the history of atmospheric deposition of metal contamination from gold mining emissions that occurred during the 20thcentury in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. The new information generated from this research on historical atmospheric contamination will support on-going assessment of environmental impacts of gold mining in the Yellowknife area. – Professor Chételat

Sara Nafar

Being able to contribute to science has always been my aspiration, and with the receipt of the USRA, I hope to be able to advance this area of cognitive science. Having the honour of receiving a chance like this will no doubt provide me with invaluable experience for my career to come. I am incredibly grateful to be working on this research in educational technologies, as well as in learning through artificial intelligence, as I feel having the potential to better the lives of all students is an exceptionally rewarding opportunity.

Supervisor: Dr. Kasia Muldner

Sara Nafar
Charlene Song

Charlene Song

I am interested in knowing how kids acquire knowledge and process information at different ages.  I am doing lots of data analyses in the lab over the past few weeks, and I am enjoying the exploration of the data set.  I hope I learn how to become a good researcher and how to conduct good research in the future. 

Supervisor: Dr. Jo-Anne Lefreve

Trevor Andersen

As part of my 2019 NSERC-USRA grant, I will be researching the impacts of climate change (both increased temperatures and altered snow cover distributions) on permafrost conditions in northwest Canada, paying close attention to a field site on Garry Island, NT (in the Mackenzie River delta) and the surrounding western Arctic coastlands. I am passionate to undertake this project, as I have always had an interest in meteorology and climate change, and due to my participation in Professor Burn’s permafrost course, I have gained an appreciation for this subject as well. My expectations for this opportunity would be to have a chance to exercise the practical skills I have learned thus far through my education, as well as gaining valuable experience (including field work) which will open opportunities for me in the future.

Supervisor: Dr. Christopher Burn

Near-surface permafrost conditions are responding throughout the circumpolar world to warming of the climate. These responses are substantially influenced by snow cover and its seasonal duration. The project seeks to evaluate the influence of varying snow cover on the response of permafrost to climate change at a site in the tundra of the western Arctic coast, where topography controls snow distribution. We wish to determine whether deep snowpacks enhance or minimize ground temperature increases with respect to sites with thin snow cover. We are working at a site where ground temperature data are available from 1969-71, before current climate change began in the western Arctic. – Professor Chris Burn

Trevor Andersen