Look what
we can do

Dalhousie University Community Report 2016–17

About Dalhousie

About Dalhousie

Dalhousie University is Atlantic Canada’s leading research-intensive university, driving the region’s intellectual, social and economic development.

Located in the heart of Halifax, Nova Scotia, with an Agricultural Campus in Truro/Bible Hill, Dalhousie is a truly national and international university, with more than half of our nearly 19,000 students coming from outside of the province. Our 6,000 faculty and staff foster a diverse, purpose-driven community, one that spans 13 faculties and conducts nearly $137 million in research each year.

Public engagement and service is rooted deep in our history, from our professional and medical programs through to the civic-mindedness of our university community. With 80 per cent of Nova Scotia’s publicly funded research, and as one of Canada’s leading universities for industry collaboration, we’re helping generate the talent, discoveries and innovations that will shape Atlantic Canada’s future.

We are a force of positive impact — locally, nationally, and globally — and at the dawn of our third century we are more relevant, more connected and more vibrant than ever. The time to shine is now and we are rising to the occasion.


President’s Message

As we approach our third century, Dalhousie continues to bring together the brightest minds from diverse backgrounds and perspectives to push the boundaries of knowledge. The opportunities and challenges our world faces are too large for any one university, one sector or even one country to tackle alone.

Dalhousie’s Strategic Direction outlines five key areas that guide us: Teaching and Learning, Research, Service, Partnerships and Reputation, and Infrastructure and Support. It’s through partnerships that we succeed — discovering common interests, securing support and increasing our shared connections. Read More 

Richard Florizone
Richard Florizone
President & Vice-Chancellor

President’s Message

President’s Message

As we approach our third century, Dalhousie continues to bring together the brightest minds from diverse backgrounds and perspectives to push the boundaries of knowledge. The opportunities and challenges our world faces are too large for any one university, one sector or even one country to tackle alone.

Dalhousie’s Strategic Direction outlines five key areas that guide everything we do: Teaching and Learning, Research, Service, Partnerships and Reputation, and Infrastructure and Support. It’s through partnerships that we succeed — discovering common interests, securing support and increasing our shared connections.

Working together, we harness the transformative power of education, supporting and inspiring students like Rhodes Scholar Maike van Niekerk and Junior University mentor Brianna Noseworthy. We bring our learning to the world, as with our esteemed Professor Wanda Thomas Bernard’s appointment to the Canadian Senate. We advance internationally renowned research like that of professor and lithium-ion battery expert Jeff Dahn. We find new ways to celebrate diversity in our community, supporting new academic programs, ceremonies and recognitions. And we form cross-sector collaborations that leverage local strength with global reach, bringing donors like John Risley (with our Ocean Frontier Institute) and companies like Emera (with the revitalization of our downtown Engineering and Architecture campus) to the table to drive our shared efforts to the next level.

Looking back at some highlights from the past year, I hope you see examples of what we can do together: when we link the best in our region with the best in the world, when we find ways to be more inclusive, and when we take our place on the global stage and make a lasting impact.

Richard Florizone
Richard Florizone
President & Vice-Chancellor

Spotlight on

Student Achievement

Maike van Niekerk is Dalhousie’s 90th Rhodes Scholar – and a shining example of how students have achieved success in the classroom while demonstrating leadership in the community.

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Student success

Student success

A Rhodes Scholarship is one of the most prestigious honours in international academia. Worldwide, only 95 students are chosen each year, and only 11 Canadians annually earn the $100,000 award to study at Oxford University in England. To become a Rhodes Scholar, a student must demonstrate elite academic performance, character and leadership in their community.

In other words, they must be a lot like Maike van Niekerk.

Maike’s success as a Nursing student, including her research into the physiological and psychological repercussions of residential schools on Indigenous peoples, was a key factor in her selection as the 90th Rhodes Scholar in the university’s history and fourth in the past five years. But her road to the Rhodes took her far beyond the world of academics.

As a teenager, Maike lost her mother to breast cancer. Yet, even as she grieved, she planted a seed of inspiration that has grown into a charitable program that helps cancer patients access the treatment they need. On behalf of Katrin’s Karepackage, the charity she established in her mother’s name, Maike has raised funds by running and cycling across her home province of Newfoundland.

Maike’s achievements exemplify a student body whose success is matched by its selflessness. From Yaser Alkayale and Zaher Abd Ulmoula’s coding camp for Canadian newcomers to the dentistry research and advocacy of Celeste Williams, tomorrow’s leaders are defining themselves by their commitment to others.

We celebrate the determination, compassion and talent that made Maike a Rhodes Scholar – as we celebrate all of the students who make a difference in the world every day.

Explore Year in Review for more student success stories.

Shaped by Strategy

Core principles in action:

  • Teaching and Learning
  • Service

Explore Dalhousie University’s Strategic Direction – our blueprint for creating a lasting impact.

Spotlight on

World-Leading Research

Herzberg Canada Gold Medal winner Jeff Dahn represents a thriving research culture where faculty, students and partners work together to make a positive impact in the world.

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World-changing impact

World-changing impact

Unlocking the potential of renewable energy is essential to a sustainable, prosperous future for our planet. And Jeff Dahn has discovered a set of keys.

Jeff is the most recent winner of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s (NSERC) Herzberg Canada Gold Medal, a prestigious award honouring his innovations in the area of batteries and energy storage. His global leadership in lithium-ion battery research also earned him the inaugural Governor-General’s Innovation Award and resulted in an exclusive partnership with Tesla to advance a worldwide transition to sustainable energy.

Jeff’s legacy also lives through his collaboration with students. He is teaching and training future generations of scientists – some of whom, like former student and Novonix founder Chris Burns, have already begun to help map out the path to a more sustainable future.

Jeff is just one success story from a research community on a roll. His is the third Herzberg Medal won by Dalhousie scientists in the past four years, and the 2015 Herzberg winner, theoretical chemist Axel Becke, added the Killam Prize in Natural Sciences to his list of honours in 2016.

Awards are a source of pride. But it’s working collectively to shape a better world that drives researchers, students and partners to make an impact – now, more than ever. 

Explore Year in Review for more stories about people making a lasting impact.

Shaped by Strategy

Core principles in action:

  • Teaching and Learning
  • Research
  • Partnerships and Reputation

Explore Dalhousie University’s Strategic Direction – our blueprint for creating a lasting impact.

Spotlight on


John Risley was one of several key contributors to an historic $220-million investment in Atlantic Canadian ocean research. The result: the Ocean Frontier Institute, a global hub that unites the world’s top ocean researchers in pursuit of solutions to global challenges.

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A catalyst for collaboration

A catalyst for collaboration

John Risley knows what it takes to build something big. He started his company, Clearwater Seafoods, as a small operation and grew it into one of the world’s most successful seafood companies.

But he didn’t do it alone.

Partners in academia, business and the community helped make John’s vision a reality. Now, he’s helping to power the partnerships that will meet the challenges and opportunities of the future.

John’s donation of $25 million was a catalyst in the creation of the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI), a partnership that unites top ocean researchers from Atlantic Canada and all over the world in a collaborative effort to explore and understand our oceans. His gift is part of the largest investment in ocean science in Canadian history, a $220-million commitment that includes an historic $94-million contribution from the Government of Canada.

The promise of OFI lies in the collaboration it enables. From regional partners Memorial University of Newfoundland and the University of Prince Edward Island to government and industry organizations to the eight major international research institutes bringing global scale to the project, OFI represents a commitment to the idea that knowledge grows best when it’s grown together.

It’s a fresh way of looking at research. But it takes a team of experts to tackle challenges like climate change and to harness the power of the ocean for the environmental and economic benefit of humanity.

As John Risley would tell you, no one who does anything big and bold does it alone. 

Explore Year in Review for more collaborative success stories.

Shaped by Strategy

Core principles in action:

  • Research
  • Partnerships and Reputation
  • Infrastructure and Support

Explore Dalhousie University’s Strategic Direction – our blueprint for creating a lasting impact.

Spotlight on

Diversity & Inclusiveness

Brianna Noseworthy is a Nursing student and a member of the Métis and African Nova Scotian communities. Her journey illustrates how everyone benefits when everyone belongs.

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A more inclusive culture

A more inclusive culture

Brianna Noseworthy emerged from the traditions of her Métis and African Nova Scotian ancestors and was nurtured by the wisdom of her elders. With the support of her communities – both inherited and chosen – she is charting her own path to success.

Brianna’s journey began to come into focus when, as a high school student, she attended the Aboriginal Health Sciences Initiative’s (AHSI) Junior University program. The camp opened her eyes to the possibility of a career in the health professions and, with its exploration of traditional Indigenous medicine, inspired both a vision of her future and a connection to her past. And as a counsellor in the program last year, Brianna shared her own wisdom with younger students. 

When she graduates, Brianna will have the opportunity to receive more than a diploma. All Indigenous students now have the option to receive a traditional medicine pouch from an Elder-in-Residence on the Convocation stage. For graduating students of African descent, a traditional kente sash can be borrowed and worn for Convocation ceremonies.

Together, we have raised flags, named roads and explored cultural histories, but our commitment to our traditional communities is best reflected in the programs, support services and open discussions that make the university experience more inclusive for all.

We stand on traditional Mi’kmaq territory. We grow from roots the African Nova Scotian community helped to plant hundreds of years ago. Like Brianna, we rise higher when we rise in unison.

Explore Year in Review for more inclusive community stories.

Shaped by Strategy

Core principles in action:

  • Teaching & Learning
  • Infrastructure and Support

Explore Dalhousie University’s Strategic Direction – our blueprint for creating a lasting impact.


Self-starter: Management student Kalab Workye's entrepreneurial spirit

Matt Semansky - April 14, 2016

Management student Kalab Workye. (Nick Pearce photo)
Management student Kalab Workye. (Nick Pearce photo)

Most students come to school to acquire skills and knowledge they can apply in the real world. Kalab Workye, on the other hand, came to Dal’s Bachelor of Management program as a veteran of the business world.

The first-year student was the recipient of this year’s Entrepreneur of the Year Impact Award. The honour is no surprise, considering that Kalab has been in business for himself since he was 17.

“I was delivering pizzas and I took my earnings and started a rickshaw business,” he explains. “I had four of them built and I wanted to sell advertising on them. I did a bunch of cold calls and met with a bunch of people and sold a couple of advertising spots.”

To secure these advertising deals, which included a $4,000 agreement with a local car dealership, Kalab had to present a level of professionalism well beyond his teenage years.

“I set up a meeting with a branding agency and I knew I couldn’t let them know I was 17. I had flyers and a package made up, I put on a suit and met with them and I was able to sell them on (doing rickshaw advertising).”

Seizing opportunity

Kalab has since let go of his rickshaw business to focus on Project Painters, a seasonal interior and exterior painting company that uses environmentally friendly supplies and materials.

“I looked for a business I could get into with minimal investment and make a buck in. I saw that this industry was highly fragmented and disorganized,” says Kalab. “I thought I could take advantage of that by presenting a more professional image.”

Kalab adds that offering ecologically conscious painting services helps him stand out in the marketplace.

“If you’re bringing a product to market that’s environmentally friendly, the most environmentally friendly product on the market, then as long as your pricing is right and you’re seen as competent, you’ll do better than the competition.”

Kalab’s keen business sense and hustle was forged in part by his upbringing. Born in a refugee camp in Kenya, he came to Canada at the age of eight and grew up in what he describes as a “tough neighbourhood.”

Starting multiple companies, he says, has helped him develop some of the social skills required for business success.

“I’ve learned to deal with people through my businesses,” says Kalab. “You have to work with people and be personable and professional.”

Building a skill set

Kalab says he’s added some new skills as a student in the Faculty of Management. He cites Microeconomics as his favourite course and points to learning Microsoft Excel as a critical skill he’s developed.

“It’s very basic but I’d never done it. It’s an amazing tool to keep track of everything.”

With the academic year ending and the painting season ramping up, Kalab will have lots to keep track of over the next few months. For now, he’s honoured by his Entrepreneur of the Year award and continues to hone his business savvy.

“I think I have that mindset of having a goal and figuring out how to go after it, whether it’s a sale or whatever it may be. That’s what it’s about for me.”


From concept to cancer treatment: Dal Medical Physics researchers license new technology with Brainlab

- April 14, 2016

PhD student Lee MacDonald (left) with Dr. James Robar, director of Dal’s Medical Physics programs. (File photo: Danny Abriel)
PhD student Lee MacDonald (left) with Dr. James Robar, director of Dal’s Medical Physics programs. (File photo: Danny Abriel)

It’s the dream of any young medical technology researcher: the chance to shepherd their work through the entire development process, starting in the research lab and ending with a product that makes a difference in the lives of patients around the world.

You might expect that for a student like Lee MacDonald, PhD candidate in Dal’s Medical Physics program, such a dream would be years off — at the very least sometime after completing his dissertation. In this case, though, you’d be wrong: MacDonald’s research is poised to be implemented in cancer treatment across the globe within the next year.

On Wednesday, Dalhousie announced the licensing of intellectual property developed by MacDonald, his supervisor Dr. Christopher Thomas and Dr. James Robar, director of Dal’s Medical Physics programs, to Brainlab AG. The company, headquartered in Germany, is an international leader in software-driven medical technology, particularly in radiation oncology. Its advanced systems, which aim to offer less-invasive treatments, can be found more than 100 countries and in 75 per cent of the top 1,000 cancer treatment centres globally.

L-to-R: Sean Clark (president, Brainlab), Dr. Cristopher Thomas (assistant professor, Medical Physics), Lee MacDonald (PhD student, Medical Physics), Martha Crago (vice-president research), Dr. James Robar (director, Medical Physics programs).

Now, an algorithm developed by MacDonald and his collaborators will enable Brainlab’s systems to deliver more precisely targeted radiation treatments to cancer patients, resulting in less damage to surrounding healthy organs and tissue.

“It’s so exciting just to see the application of all this work gather into something that can see real potential for patient benefit,” says MacDonald. “That’s the goal of this work for us: seeing it implemented.”

Improved patient treatment

Dal’s Medical Physics offerings — accredited last year by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Educational Programs (CAMPEP) — include a master’s, a PhD and a certificate program. MacDonald is a graduate of the master’s program and is now in the second year of his PhD. He’s studying in a field that combines physics and medical research with a focus on patient care and treatment.

Read more: Improving the state of the art: Inside Dal’s Medical Physics programs

“We feel very privileged, because we get to observe treatment delivery every day and identify shortcomings and opportunities, then feed those opportunities right back into our research,” says Dr. Robar, director of Dal’s Medical Physics programs and chief of the Department of Medical Physics with the Nova Scotia Health Authority. “This technology was really born out of that kind of experience.”

Approximately 53 per cent of cancer patients receive radiation treatment during the treatment and management of their disease. At facilities like the Nova Scotia Cancer Centre in Halifax, large linear accelerators, guided by state-of-the-art software, deliver advanced treatment to patients. The challenge for these systems is in focusing the ideal dosage and intensity of radiation on the tumour itself while minimizing radiation exposure to surrounding tissues and organs.

MacDonald, with one of the existing Brainlab accelerators in Halifax. (File photo)

What MacDonald has been researching, together with Drs. Thomas and Robar, is an algorithm that condenses the wealth of information about the patient and their disease and formats it in such a way that Brainlab’s software is able to move the patient’s bed dynamically during radiation treatment. These software plans, customized for each patient, amount to what’s known as a “Four-Pi” approach to trajectory-based treatment planning. The result: the radiation is focused, to the greatest degree possible, on the tumour itself.

“By moving healthy structures away from the path of incident radiation, we are further reducing the probability of healthy tissue damage as part of treatment,” explains MacDonald. “It represents a step forward in patient-specific treatments and patient safety.”

The power of partnership

At Wednesday morning’s announcement event in the Life Sciences Research Institute, the various partners involved in the project gathered to celebrate the licensing agreement and the commercializing of the research.

“We’re excited to incorporate Dalhousie’s Four-Pi approach, and its unique trajectory-based planning program for delivery, as part of our next generation of Brainlab cranial radiosurgery software that’s scheduled for release within the year,” said Brainlab President Sean Clark.

“The world of cancer care is really changing under our feet,” said Dr. Drew Bethune, medical lead for the Provincial Program of Care for Cancer for the Nova Scotia Health Authority. “Some equate these machines to ‘smart bombs’ or laser-guided missiles, and that’s really understating it: these are much more precise than that… I can’t wait for this technology to be available. This will affect every patient in the world.”

Marta Crago, vice-president research at Dalhousie, celebrated the technology as a great example of how local innovation, through partnership, can lead to a commercial product that makes a difference in people’s lives.

“Research partnerships like this are important,” she said. “They’re important for translating basic science into medical science into patient care —into something that offers outcomes for graduate students, outcomes for people around the world facing health issues, and economic outcomes as well.”

Commercialization success

Singled out for particular thanks during remarks was the team at Dalhousie’s Industry Liaison and Innovation (ILI) office, who worked with the inventor team to file intellectual property protection and with Brainlab to finalize the license agreement. “It’s really an incredible resource to have here,” said Dr. Robar of the office and its staff.

For MacDonald, the experience of working with his faculty collaborators, the ILI office and Brainlab to commercialize this research has made for an experience he’ll carry with him through his entire career.

“As a gradate student, I certainly recognize how fortunate I am to be part of this [research] group, and the experience of building this work and engaging industry partners has introduced me incredible opportunities I could have never hoped to be a part of.”

All images: Danny Abriel


President Florizone shares NS success stories in Halifax Chamber speech; announces ideaHUB partnership

Ryan McNutt - November 3, 2016

Dal President Richard Florizone speaks at the Halifax Chamber of Commerce's annual fall dinner. (Nick Pearce photos)
Dal President Richard Florizone speaks at the Halifax Chamber of Commerce's annual fall dinner. (Nick Pearce photos)

Dal President Richard Florizone used his keynote speech at the Halifax Chamber of Commerce’s fall dinner Wednesday night to share stories of Nova Scotian accomplishment, all of which emphasized what’s possible when people, communities and organizations come together in new ways.

So it only made sense, then, for Dr. Florizone to close his address by announcing a brand new partnership — one that will help kickstart Nova Scotian entrepreneurship.

It’s called ideaHUB: an engineering incubator/accelerator space designed to equip students with creative and entrepreneurial skills while also providing support to local start-up companies and small businesses. Part of the larger IDEA project — a $64-million revitalization of Dal’s downtown Sexton Campus announced in late September — ideaHUB is a partnership linking universities (including Dal, Acadia and NSCAD) with the corporate sector, entrepreneurs, venture capital and government.

“ideaHUB will be the most advanced engineering incubator and accelerator space in Canada,” said Dr. Florizone. “It will add important capacity to our entrepreneurial ecosystem, adding further momentum to what is rapidly becoming one of Canada’s most dynamic startup scenes.”

Joining Dr. Florizone for the ideaHUB announcement was Bob Hanf, executive vice-president of stakeholder relations with Emera. The local energy company is a founding partner in ideaHUB, alongside organizations like Volta Labs, Innovacorp, Clearwater, Micco Companies and Build Ventures. In Emera’s case, they’re not only stepping up as a partner — they’re investing $10 million to support the ideaHUB space and its programming.

President Florizone and Emera's Bob Hanf.

“We are so thrilled to be partnering with Dal on ideaHUB,” said Hanf, highlighting the importance of innovation for not only the energy industry, but Nova Scotia more broadly.

“It’s not every day a project comes along that will make such an incredible difference in the way new ideas are fostered and developed in this province. We’re very proud to be part of this collaborative effort… it’s one I know will make an important difference for Nova Scotia students.”

A unique, collaborative space

ideaHUB has been designed, in many respects, as a direct response to the recommendations of the oneNS Commission. Among the commission’s calls to action: increasing the number of new start-ups in Nova Scotia; improving youth unemployment; doubling business enterprise and university R&D partnerships; and improving venture capital investment.

In his speech, Dr. Florizone noted significant momentum on several of these fronts. Halifax quickly becoming a national hotbed for startup development, for example, recognized last year for having more promising IT startup companies than any other city in Canada. And there has been more than $1.5 billion in “exits” (company purchases) of Atlantic Canadian startup companies in the past five years.

What ideaHUB does is build on this momentum, as well as on the success to-date of the IDEA Sandbox (an existing space that’s a partnership between Dal, NSCAD and the Nova Scotia government). ideaHUB will be a unique, collaborative environment combining mentorship and support with world-class engineering research infrastructure. Inside the 10,000 sq. ft. space will be testing and fabrication facilities, early stage funding supports and links with venture capital and accelerators. ideaHUB will allow participants to create physical prototypes while also developing business strategies.

The ideaHUB vision has already attracted significant support from Nova Scotia’s business community. Alongside Emera’s $10 million donation, a trio of Nova Scotian entrepreneurs — John Risley, Colin MacDonald and Mickey MacDonald — were among the very first to respond to the call for further private sector support, committing a combined $2.5 million in additional funds. Dalhousie is leading an ongoing fundraising campaign to attract further support for ideaHUB from alumni, donors and industry partners.

“This is not just a Dalhousie story, or an Emera story,” said Dr. Florizone, citing the wide variety of partners and supporters involved in ideaHUB. “This is a story of what Nova Scotians can do when we come together and work differently.”

ideaHUB will be located in one of two new buildings on Dal’s Sexton Campus (currently referred to as the “Innovation Building”) announced in September. The building and the ideaHUB space are both set to open in 2018.

“Look what we can do”

Dr. Florizone’s keynote address touched on several initiatives with Dal connections — including ideaHUB and the new Ocean Frontier Institute — but it wasn’t really a speech about the university. Instead, Dr. Florizone wished to speak more as a member of the Halifax community — one who’s inspired by the power of what people can do when they come together.

“I don’t think [Nova Scotia’s] momentum should surprise us, even given some of the challenges we face,” he said. “And the reason I say that is because I believe — and I have seen — that the people in this province are capable of truly incredible things.”

To help illuminate his point, Dr. Florizone frequently shared the stage with other guest speakers throughout the evening. In addition to Emera’s Bob Hanf, Dr. Florizone invited Dalhousie Professor Sara Iverson and Memorial Professor Paul Snelgrove to share insights about the Ocean Frontier Institute — a $220-million research collaboration, based in Atlantic Canada, poised to propel the region to global ocean leadership.

“A lot of outstanding research at Dalhousie and Memorial and UPEI over many years has helped us to understand ocean ecosystems and human interaction with them,” said Dr. Snelgrove. “But here we have a unique opportunity to build major bridges so that instead of working piecemeal we can link those efforts across disciplines and universities and leap forward our understanding of ocean change.”

Dr. Iverson showcased some of the technology involved in OFI: wave gliders that help track fish and other sea vertebrates as they make their way through the ocean.

“Fish recognize no boundaries,” she said. “Sharing data across OFI enables us to manage sustainable fisheries at a global scale. We work with fishermen and councils to understand exactly what we need to do to sustain fisheries around the globe.”

Coming together in new ways

Dr. Florizone also invited Mary Beth Doucette to the Chamber dinner to speak about Membertou. The Cape Breton Mi’kmaq community — with a diversified portfolio that ranges from commercial fishing and convention hosting to data services and tourism — has earned national attention in Indigenous business development. It’s become third largest employer in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (employing more than 650 people) and has donated more than $1.8 million to local charities.

“Membertou’s strategy is essentially a model of transparent governance, a commitment to education, a commitment to health and wellness in the community and a vision for growth through partnership,” said Doucette, who is the Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies at Cape Breton University’s Unama’ki College.

Dr. Florizone said it’s that idea of success through partnership that makes Membertou such an exciting Nova Scotian success story — just as is the case with the Ocean Frontier Institute and ideaHUB.

“It is too trite simply to say the secret to success is for us all to work together, to collaborate,” said Dr. Florizone. “We must find new ways of coming together.

“Look what we can do when we work together — when we bring the best of our region together with the best of the world, when we find ways to be more inclusive, when we challenge ourselves to think bigger. Look what we can do.”


A new era of innovation — built on an “IDEA”

$64-million project will reinvent Dal's downtown campus

Matt Reeder - September 30, 2016

The Honourable Scott Brison, donor Marjorie Lindsay, President Richard Florizone and MP Andy Fillmore celebrate the launch of the IDEA project. (Danny Abriel photos)
The Honourable Scott Brison, donor Marjorie Lindsay, President Richard Florizone and MP Andy Fillmore celebrate the launch of the IDEA project. (Danny Abriel photos)

A major reinvention of Dalhousie’s downtown Halifax engineering and architecture campus was set in motion Friday afternoon with the public launch of the IDEA project, a $64-million investment built on the support of multiple partners.

The project is set to transform Dal’s Sexton Campus and help kick-start Halifax’s emerging innovation district. Two new buildings will be added to campus and existing ones revitalized over the next two years, adding advanced technology and design labs; state-of-the-art engineering facilities; modern teaching and learning spaces; technology diversity programs; and incubation space linking students and faculty to industry and entrepreneurs.

Learn more: The IDEA project: How it will transform Sexton Campus

Friday’s celebration event, hosted on the future site of the new buildings, both launched the public phase of the $64-million IDEA Project Campaign and announced a $32-million contribution from the federal government.

The Honourable Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board, was on-hand to unveil the federal government’s investment through its Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund.

"This will dramatically enhance Nova Scotia's R&D capacity, providing greater opportunities for students, researchers and industry to collaborate, innovate and commercialize technologies,” said Brison, who was introduced by Halifax Member of Parliament Andy Fillmore.

Brison said the IDEA project and other initiatives like it will play an important role in Nova Scotia of supporting current and future students as they train for and create the “high-value” jobs of the future.

Supporting key programs and research sectors

Dal’s downtown campus hosts Atlantic Canada’s only school of Architecture and its largest and fastest-growing Engineering program. In the works for several years now, the IDEA Project — which stands for "Innovation and Design in Engineering and Architecture" — will support rising enrolments, new design-centric curricula and enhanced opportunities for teamwork.

It will also support education and R&D in economic sectors critical to Nova Scotia and the Atlantic region by building on Dal’s strengths in clean technology, ocean tech, and advanced manufacturing.

Dal President Richard Florizone, who served as MC for Friday’s event, called the federal government’s investment in the IDEA project “transformative” for the university and for the emerging innovation district in downtown Halifax.

“It's my belief that we are building a district in this city that will be a hub and a centre where people will want to live, work, play and create and innovate," said Dr. Florizone, after gesturing to the much-celebrated Halifax Central Library located nearby on Spring Garden Road.

The power of partnership

Ottawa’s investment will be matched by donations through the IDEA Project Campaign, which is raising an additional $32-million through the generous support of donors, industry partners and Dalhousie students.

Dr. Florizone emphasized the importance of these partnerships in turning the IDEA project into a reality, noting further gifts and donations will be announced in the weeks and months to come. “My thanks as well to deans Josh Leon (Engineering) and Christine Macy (Architecture and Planning) for their leadership in making this IDEA a reality,” he later added.

Local philanthropist Marjorie Lindsay helped get the IDEA project campaign started years ago with a $1-million gift in honour of her late husband John Lindsay Sr., a Dal Engineering grad.

"When I made a gift to the IDEA project to honour my late husband . . . I knew something big was going to happen, but I never dreamed it would be this big," said Lindsay in remarks at the event. "I only wish that John could be here to witness the joy and share in this dream come true.”

Lindsay, who serves as honorary chair of the IDEA Project Campaign cabinet, said the IDEA project signals the start of a new era on Sexton Campus that will help support a “brighter future” for engineers and architects.

That support extends beyond the campus as well to students in other universities around the region who transfer to Dal in their third and fourth years to complete their Engineering degrees, something pointed out in remarks by the Honourable Kelly Regan, Nova Scotia’s minister of labour and advanced education.

"While it may be a Dalhousie project, it has a province-wide reach," said Regan, noting this is just the latest example of Dal taking charge and creating an environment where Nova Scotians can thrive.

New buildings and more

The IDEA project’s two new academic buildings — the “Innovation Building” and the “Design Building” — will stretch from Morris Street towards Spring Garden Road.

The Innovation Building will feature five student-centred workshops, including machine, working and prototyping shops as well as dedicated space to support student entrepreneurships and external startups and industry. The Design Building will include a 450-seat auditorium and four new design studios for students, important new spaces that will address existing gaps on the campus.

Learn more: The IDEA project: How it will transform Sexton Campus

"Being able to work effectively as a team is critical to our success not only as students but as future engineers,” said Krista Prosser, one three students who spoke at the launch event.

Prosser, who is in her final-year of Mechanical Engineering at Dal, said new open-concept spaces will provide students with the informal atmosphere needed to better collaborate and encourage the flow of new ideas.

For Mark White, a master’s student in the School of Architecture, the IDEA project is as much an investment in people as it is in infrastructure.

"It's an investment in the innovators, the designers, the engineers, the architects and the planners who are all emerging from Dalhousie's downtown campus," he said.

Several of those talented students and researchers were on-hand Friday afternoon to demonstrate some of their current projects, which included a wireless power-charging system and eco-friendly building panels made of cardboard and flax fibres.

The IDEA project will enable even more of this type of innovation in the years ahead, something Dr. Florizone says he’s heartened to see being so widely supported by partners.

"There is a real sense of momentum building in this city, this province and this region,” he said.

More coverage


A mealworm meal?: Dal students' food startup goes international

Katherine Doyle - May 2, 2016

Dal student Holly Fisher. (Provided photos)
Dal student Holly Fisher. (Provided photos)

If you’re looking to get more protein in your diet, third-year Agriculture students Holly Fisher and Hartley Prosser have the solution for you — although it may not be one you’ve considered before.

It’s bugs — mealworms, to be more specific.

Utilizing insects as a source of protein has been gaining a lot of popularity in recent years. “People are starting to see the possibilities of it, rather than get grossed out by it,” says Hartley.

Holly and Hartley have worked hard over the course of the past year to develop their own mealworm flour under the name 3MEALS. At the moment, their manufacturing process involves freeze drying.

“We freeze dry the mealworms, and then take out the fat, which gives us a high protein product with a long shelf life,” Holly explains. “Afterwards it’s ground up into a fine flour.”

However, they are currently working on a new processing method with Perennia, an agri-food and bio-resource company based in Truro, in an effort to further refine their technique.

An efficient source of protein

According to Holly, mealworm production is fairly efficient.

“Generally, it takes 20,000 mealworms to make 1 kg of our flour,” she says. “The mealworms are very easy to grow. They really don’t need much space, and only need a minimal amount of inputs, which we are trying to source from otherwise unusable material.”

A third of the global population is already consuming insects, so introducing a product such as 3MEALS flour would not be difficult in other places around the world.

“What we have been suggested to do is speak with disaster relief programs that need a high quality, low weight protein source to send to places in need. Since shipping actual meat is not an option, it may be of value for these programs to send insect protein powders.”

The duo are hopeful other markets will open up in the future. Although some may shy away from including insects in baking or supplements, those brave enough to try the mealworm flour will find that it has a smooth, nutty flavour to it — similar to walnuts.

Sparking an interest

Holly first became interested in entomophagy (that is, the consuming of insects as a food source) after giving a two-hour presentation on the subject in her Agriculture and Contemporary Issues class.

“This allowed me to explore a current agriculture topic and discuss it with the class,” she explains. “Since I was planning on studying entomology, I decided to pick the topic of consuming insects, and was absolutely blown away by the possibilities of using insects as a food source.

“After giving that discussion, Prof. Tennessen decided to start the IFF group (Insects for Feed and Food), and we have been working on entomophagy related projects since then. Speaking for Hartley, he was in the Starting Lean class with me, and enjoyed the idea, so decided to join the 3MEALS team. He also has a keen mind to sustainability, and controlled environments, which worked well with business concept and research.”

Hartley and Holly after winning the Cultiv8 pitch competition.

The duo have competed in various business model competitions. The two claimed first place at the pitch competition hosted by Cultiv8, the Dal-hosted agricultural sandbox. They then competed in the Canada’s Business Model Competition hosted by Dal’s Normal Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship and the Rowe School of Business. There, they were nominated to compete at the International Business Model Competition in Seattle, Washington this past weekend. While the team had an amazing experience, they came up just short of making the semi finals.

Looking ahead

As for next steps, the pair is working with a business accountant to help walk them through the business process.

“He is taking on doing the paper work for us, [which] will help us focus on the production side of the business, as we mitigate these other details,” Holly says. “We will be using the funds from the Norman Newman Center for Entrepreneurship, which is available to the students who take part in the Starting Lean class, to pay for the process.” All of this wouldn’t have been possible without Cultiv8.

“It has been such an amazing experience for both of us, and has helped us take ideas forward that we would never have been able to without their assistance,” says Hartley. “As a science student, I never really thought about entrepreneurship, but Cultiv8 made me realize just how much I enjoy business. Plus it opened my eyes to the business potentials that can be found throughout our campus, such as insects as a food product.”


Watching flowers bloom: Marking 20 years of the North Preston Dental Clinic

Cheryl Bell - June 30, 2016

Event attendees and faces of the Noth Preston Dental Clinic, past and present. (Monique Thomas photos)
Event attendees and faces of the Noth Preston Dental Clinic, past and present. (Monique Thomas photos)

The North Preston community and the Dalhousie Faculty of Dentistry came together on June 16 to celebrate 20 years of a partnership that has enabled local children to receive dental care in a community that was previously underserved.

The North Preston Dental Clinic is located in Nelson Whynder Elementary School. It is a joint effort by the North Preston community, the Dalhousie Faculty of Dentistry, and the Halifax Regional School Board (formerly the Halifax County-Bedford School Board).

“The clinic was a wonderful coming together of need and opportunity,” says Tony Atuanya, chair of the North Preston Community Education Council and emcee for the evening. “Our community recognized there was a need for dental care for our children. The Faculty of Dentistry was looking for an opportunity to work with communities that needed access to dental care and the school board was willing to use Nelson Whynder Elementary School as the location for the clinic. It has been a vital part of the community for the past 20 years.”

Rosella Fraser, the facilities manager of the North Preston Community Centre, is delighted that her daughter, Adina Marsman, was able to receive dental care at the clinic when she was a student at Nelson Whynder.

“Speaking as a parent, we were blessed to have this service,” she says. “We didn’t have a dentist and I really appreciated not only the treatment and oral education Adina received, but also the attention paid to building relationships and rapport through having the dental office in the school.”

Marking a milestone

The anniversary was celebrated with a dinner, speeches, music by local performer Keonte Beals, and many messages of congratulation and thanks to everyone who played a part in making the clinic happen. Preston MLA David Hendsbee presented a framed certificate congratulating the community on its achievement (right, with Dean Boran and coordinator Juliette Thomas).

Dr. Amid Ismail, dean of dentistry at Temple University in Philadelphia, was one of the original team to make the North Preston Dental Clinic a reality. Now a recognised expert on dental health disparities and a passionate advocate for the underserved, he spoke briefly about the history of the clinic, thanking everyone for the experience they gave him. For him, it was the “University of North Preston”, where “I discovered myself and it was the foundation for my engagement with the community”.

He recalled some initial suspicion when he first went to the community to talk about the clinic.

“I was a university professor in a suit," said Dr. Ismail (left). It was expected that I would do a study and disappear. But trust cannot be achieved in one day or one month. We planted seeds and waited for them to bloom.” Persistence paid off, he said. Relationships were built and “we now have a community clinic that is a model for all of us. Thank you for the experience you gave me.”

In his remarks, Dalhousie President Richard Florizone discussed Dal’s three-fold mission of teaching and learning, research, and service. “That third pillar — service — is our connection to the community, and it informs teaching and research. This clinic is an excellent example of an idea that has grown and developed into an enduring partnership and friendship between North Preston and Dalhousie.”

Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry, Dr. Tom Boran, praised the hard work of dental assistant and clinic co-ordinator Juliette Thomas, who has been with the clinic since 1996 and a steady presence for both fourth-year dentistry students and faculty.

“As Ismail said, seeds were planted here and flowers bloomed,” Dr. Boran said. “When our students graduate, I’m not interested in just hearing where they are going to practise, but what population they are going to serve. And I am hearing that — it’s part of the legacy of North Preston.”

Making history

Another part of the legacy is the young people from the community who have gone on to become dentists. Jean Provo graduated from Dalhousie as a dentist in 2001, becoming the first from the community to do so. Celeste Williams (right), who is from East Preston, is now going into her third year of Dentistry studies, and a young man from the community is doing his undergraduate degree with the objective of studying dentistry at Dal.

“We made history 20 years ago,” said Tony Atuanya. “A lot of things happened in the community as the result of our partnership with Dalhousie and our exploration of what you can do with a publicly-funded building.”

At the end of the evening, Juliette Thomas made an announcement that Tony was too shy to make: his daughter Rosine, who is currently a student at York University, has been accepted into the Dentistry program at Dal and will take up her place in September.


From world-class to world leading: Federal gov't announces $94-million investment in Dal-led Ocean Frontier Institute

Matt Reeder - September 6, 2016

The Honourable Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board, announces OFI's funding through the Canada First Research Excellence Fund. (Nick Pearce photos)
The Honourable Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board, announces OFI's funding through the Canada First Research Excellence Fund. (Nick Pearce photos)

The Government of Canada has announced a massive new investment in a Dalhousie-led international ocean-science collaboration — one that positions Canada to become a global leader in the search for safe and sustainable solutions for harnessing the world’s ocean resources.

The Honourable Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board, was on campus Tuesday to share the news that the federal government would be committing $93.7 million through its Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) to support the Ocean Frontier Institute.

The Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) is a powerful new partnership linking ocean experts from Dal, Memorial University and the University of Prince Edward Island with world-leading national and international collaborators in research, government and industry.

The government’s investment represents the largest research grant in the history of Dal and its two partner universities. OFI has also attracted $125 million in additional support from provincial governments and partners — including a $25 million gift from business leader and philanthropist John Risley — for a total of $220 million in funding, an unprecedented investment in Canada’s ocean-science sector.

Read also: A game-changer for ocean research: Inside the new Dal?led Ocean Frontier Institute"

"This investment will truly help transform Atlantic Canadian ocean research from world-class to world-leading," said Minister Brison, announcing the funding on behalf of the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, minister of science, who was in Waterloo, Ont. for a national announcement of CFREF-funded initiatives.

Minister Brison also thanked Risley for his generous support, calling his commitment “essential” and “catalytic” to the success of the OFI proposal.

A “vote of confidence” in Atlantic Canada

As Minister Brison noted in his remarks, OFI will focus its efforts specifically on the Northwest Atlantic and the Canadian Artic gateway — a region of the global ocean where changes happen first and fastest.

Treasury Board President Scott Brison speaks at the OFI announcement event.

"The Ocean Frontier Institute's research will help us better understand these changes and help us develop solutions that will help us contribute to the safer and more sustainable use of the ocean off Canada's coast and throughout the world," said Minister Brison, who was introduced at the event by Halifax Member of Parliament Andy Fillmore.

More than 200 people gathered into the unfinished fourth floor of Dal’s Steele Ocean Sciences Building for Tuesday’s announcement, which featured various speakers from across Dal and other OFI partners. (The location will eventually house staff, researchers and grad students with OFI.)

Dal President Richard Florizone thanked Minister Brison and his government for what he called a “visionary investment.”

"Canada has just placed a huge vote of confidence in this region," said Dr. Florizone. "What better place for this visionary investment than right here in Atlantic Canada? We are entirely up to this challenge."

Dr. Florizone said the ocean represents one of Canada’s greatest opportunities for sustainable economic growth and plays a key role in other issues related to food supply, security and the regulation of the Earth’s climate. All of these, he explained, are reasons why we need to understand and manage it better.

"It is a problem that is too big and too complex for any one nation, one company or one university to advance and work on alone,” he said. “That is why ... we have worked over the past 18 months to build the Ocean Frontier Institute.”

Four of the top five ocean institutes in the world— as well as three federal departments, the Royal Canadian Navy, 19 industry partners, the Nova Scotia Community College and the National Film Board — will work together with OFI’s partner universities to uncover these new frontiers in ocean science, management and innovation.

Read also: A game-changer for ocean research: Inside the new Dal?led Ocean Frontier Institute"

An ambitious partnership

Dr. Florizone also thanked Risley for his investment and for his patronage of research in Atlantic Canada over the decades. While Risley was unable to attend the event in person, Dr. Florizone delivered remarks from the Clearwater Seafoods founder, in which he praised Dal and the federal government for contributing to the partnership.

“I have confidence the OFI can become an engine for regional economic growth and firmly establish us as global leaders in ocean science,” he said.

Dal President Richard Florizone (left) with the vice-presidents of research for Memorial (Richard Marceau) and UPEI (Robert Gilmour).

Dr. Florizone was joined at the podium by Richard Marceau, vice-president of research at Memorial, and Robert Gilmour, vice-president of research at UPEI, who both praised the parties involved for making OFI a reality.

"Our partnership is ambitious," said Dr. Marceau, noting OFI will lead the way to achieving breakthroughs in areas such as sustainable fisheries, sustainable aquaculture, marine safety, and ocean data and technology. "Through these breakthroughs we will enhance the safety of fishing, shipping and the oil and gas industry.”

Dr. Gilmour highlighted his institution's strength in aquatic epidemiology, anchored by the research of Canada Excellence Research Chair Ian Gardner. Dr. Gardner's research focuses on developing cost-effective testing strategies and surveillance programs for the prevention and control of diseases in aquatic food animals.

"As we all recognize, the health of the ocean and the creatures that reside in and around them is crucial for our survival and also for the survival of future generations," said Dr. Gilmour.

Dal's award was the largest of 13 awards worth $900 million that were announced Tuesday across the country under the CFREF funding program, which is administered by the federal government’s tri-party funding bodies.

Alfred Leblanc, vice-president of communications, corporate and international affairs the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (one of those federal bodies), said the award for OFI was well deserved.

"I'm delighted at the outcome," said Leblanc, noting the awards are made after a rigorous, competitive and merit-review process with leading experts and senior officials. "We are very excited about the work that will be done under this program."

Connections across sectors

Martha Crago, Dal’s vice-president of research and master of ceremonies for Tuesday’s event, thanked colleagues across Dal, Memorial and UPEI and other scientists in federal laboratories and in international partner labs for helping create the vision for OFI and helping her shepherd the proposal along the way.

"What is now this empty shell in which you stand will be transformed into a vibrant workplace filled with scientists, graduate students, post-docs," said Dr. Crago, in reference to the unfinished space.

Dr. Crago also introduced the two individuals who will help lead OFI. Wendy Watson-Wright, who has worked with Fisheries and Oceans Canada as well as the United Nations, will serve as OFI's CEO, while Marlon Lewis, former chair of Dal’s Department of Oceanography, will serve as launch scientific director until a permanent director can be recruited.

Read also: A game-changer for ocean research: Inside the new Dal?led Ocean Frontier Institute"

Also speaking at the event was the Honourable Kelly Regan, Nova Scotia’s minister for advanced labour and education. Minister Regan heralded Ottawa's investment as a "game-changer" for Nova Scotia.

"Thank you for your support of our university sector and sharing the vision of our premier that our universities help drive the provincial economy," she said. "It's nice to have a federal government that is a partner in our plans to move Nova Scotia forward."

She gave special thanks to Dal for helping pursue the economic development goals laid out in the One Nova Scotia report and action plan. "This, folks, is how we foster change right here in our own backyard, on our own shoreline."

Representing one of OFI’s industry partners, Jean-Paul Deveau, president of N.S.-based marine biotech company Acadian Seaplants, told a story about the disappearance of a particular type of seaweed off the coast of PEI to illustrate why OFI is so important.

"We don't know if it's climate change or some other factor that wiped out the seaweed in Prince Edward Island,” he said. “This announcement today and the research that's going to result will help to answer questions like this. This research will create knowledge so that ocean industries in Atlantic Canada will be able to provide good, sustainable jobs and economic prosperity far into the future."

Following the formal portion of Tuesday’s event, Minister Brison and others had a chance to hear first-hand from Julie LaRoche, a Dal marine biologist, and graduate students about some of the ocean data-capture technologies being spearheaded in Dal labs. OFI will enable Dal and its partners to create more of these kinds of groundbreaking technologies, with the aim of changing the nature of ocean science going forward.

As Dr. Florizone said earlier in the day: “Together we really will chart the ocean’s future.”

The Honourable Scott Brison and Halifax MP Andy Fillmore chat with Dal Biology Professor Julie Laroche (left) and her research team.

More on OFI


2016-17 Women's Volleyball Recap

Mike Still - April 3, 2017

The women’s volleyball team kept their AUS dominance going in 2016-17, capturing their fifth-straight conference banner. Dal’s championship win this season marked the most in a row since UNB rattled off 10 in a row from 1960-70.

The Tigers finished 19-1 in the regular season, moving on to the AUS playoffs as the top seed. It was also their best record in the nine-year tenure of head coach Rick Scott and the best overall record since the team went 16-0 in 1995-96.

Dalhousie swept No. 4 Moncton and No. 2 Memorial in the playoffs en route to the conference banner. Outside hitter Anna Dunn-Suen was named AUS championship tournament MVP for the second-straight year, while Marisa Mota and Courtney Baker were named to the all-star team.

Dal headed to Toronto for nationals, winning the consolation final to finish in fifth-place. It was an improvement from last year, where the Tigers lost in the same match.

Dalhousie fell 3-0 in the quarter-finals to the RSEQ champions and No. 4 seed Montreal, but bounced back with a 3-1 victory over host Ryerson in the consolation semifinal, followed by a 3-0 win over No. 6 Western to finish things off.

Dunn-Suen was the top point-getter in their opening match with Mota receiving player of the game honours. Baker was tremendous against Ryerson, with a 19-point performance that included 16 kills and 15 digs. Lauren Koskowich received player of the game honours in the win. Abby Czenze led a very balanced attack for the Tigers in their final match of the tournament, and was rewarded with a player of the game nod.

Individually speaking, fifth-year libero Mota was named a U SPORTS second team all-Canadian, along with an AUS first team all-star nod. Baker, along with fifth-year setter Czenze were also named AUS first team all-stars, while outside hitter Mieke DuMont was named to the second team. Hannah Aldcorn was named to the AUS all-rookie team.

Perhaps the biggest honour of the season was given to coach Scott. He was named the U SPORTS coach of the year, becoming just the second AUS representative to ever claim the award and the first since the 2007-08 season.

Dalhousie’s .187 hitting percentage was the best in the conference. They also led the AUS in digs, averaging 18.87 per set. Their 11.35 kills per set, 11.20 assists per set, 2.03 blocks per set and 15.3 points per set were all the second highest in the league.

Looking ahead to next season, the team has a strong blend of veterans and rookies to continue their conference momentum. Baker, who will be entering her third year of eligibility, is a multi-purpose threat who can be effective as either an outside hitter or setter. She, DuMont, and Emma Ciprick will step up to lead the team next season with Czenze, Mota and Amy Appleby all finishing their fifth years of eligibility.

Perhaps the team’s best strength will be at the middle blocker position, where Koskowich, Victoria Haworth, Cassandra Bagnell and Aldcorn all have at least three more years of eligibility.


Wanda Thomas Bernard appointed to the Senate of Canada

Matt Semansky - October 27, 2016

Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard. (Provided photo)
Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard. (Provided photo)

Wanda Thomas Bernard, a professor at Dalhousie’s School of Social Work, has been named to the Senate of Canada.

Dr. Bernard, who also serves as the university’s special advisor, diversity and inclusiveness, becomes the first African Nova Scotian woman to serve in the Senate Chamber.

Following changes made to the Senate selection process by the federal government in 2015, Dr. Bernard applied to represent Nova Scotia in the Chamber this past summer. On Wednesday evening, she received a phone call from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau informing her that she had been chosen.

“It’s very exciting, but it’s also very humbling, because I take this responsibility very seriously,” she says.

Pushing for "equity for all"

Dr. Bernard has taught and conducted research in the area of anti-oppression and diversity at Dalhousie since 1990, served as director of the School of Social Work from 2001-2011 and took on the role of special advisor, diversity and inclusiveness earlier this year. She says her academic work will inform her approach as a Senator.

“My interest in being part of the Senate is to continue to do the work I’ve been doing around equity and diversity and inclusiveness.

“Equity for all is my primary goal in life. To be able to enter the Senate with that perspective and contribute to the country is an incredible privilege, one that I know I will be accountable for.”

Dr. Bernard also cites her achievement as a historic moment for her home community of East Preston, the second-largest of the indigenous Black communities to settle in the province in the 18th century.

“The East Preston community will be celebrating with me and I know that when I go forward into the Senate, I go with the blessing of my community,” says Dr. Bernard, who is an elder in the East Preston United Baptist church.

“One of the things I take a lot of pride in is that I have a really solid integration of my academic work and my spiritual walk. And I carry that with me into the Senate as well. “

An "inspired appointment"

Dalhousie president Richard Florizone says he was “delighted” to learn of Dr. Bernard’s appointment.

“This is an inspired appointment that’s wonderful for Dal, for Nova Scotia and for the entire country,” says Dr. Florizone.

Dr. Bernard credits the support of her family, her community and the people who encouraged her to apply.

“As an African Nova Scotian woman, I know that I’m standing on the shoulders of others who’ve gone before me. I’m standing on the shoulders of people from my community that never dreamt of these kinds of opportunities.”

Also appointed to the Senate from Nova Scotia is Dan Christmas, who received an honorary degree from Dalhousie in 2005. Dr. Christmas is senior adviser for the Mi'kmaw First Nation of Membertou.


Supercharged success: Battery researcher Jeff Dahn wins Herzberg Gold Medal

Dr. Dahn receives Canada's top science prize — the third Dal winner in four years

Ryan McNutt - February 7, 2017

Herzberg Gold Medal winner Jeff Dahn. (Danny Abriel photos)
Herzberg Gold Medal winner Jeff Dahn. (Danny Abriel photos)

On the third floor of Dalhousie’s Dunn Building, you’ll find the labs of the Jeff Dahn Research Group, spanning several rooms of blinking lights and buzzing machines. There, you’ll also find Dr. Dahn’s office: a tiny space mostly used to hold boxes upon boxes of batteries for testing. (It’s fair to assume Dr. Dahn spends most of his time in the labs.)

On the office’s wall hang two Calvin and Hobbes cartoons — a personal favourite of the world-renowned Dal battery researcher. One in particular stands out: originally published in July 1987, the comic strip finds Calvin outraged over garbage and litter, and how humans treat the planet more generally.

“That’s what it’s all about, right here,” says Dr. Dahn, who says his continuing quest to build better, longer-lasting batteries has always been informed by an environmental consciousness.

“We can’t just keep burning fossil fuels; we’re going to heat the planet into death. And if you like the sea shore, and you want to continue to have land that you currently see not be submerged, you have to do something about it.”

For more than 35 years, Dr. Dahn has been at the forefront of research and innovation in battery technology. Through a mixture of fundamental and applied research, the work of his team can be found in some lithium-ion rechargeable batteries used in power tools, electric vehicles and other devices around the world today. Now, collaborating with Tesla as an industrial research chair, his lab is helping improve lithium-ion cells for electric vehicles and energy storage.

And on Tuesday (February 7), that body of work was recognized with the highest scientific honour in Canada.

Celebrating a research career

Dr. Dahn is the 2017 recipient of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s (NSERC) Herzberg Canada Gold Medal. The esteemed prize is akin to a lifetime achievement award, celebrating sustained excellence and overall influence of research work conducted in Canada. It’s an incredible honour for Dr. Dahn, a researcher who’s made Dalhousie his home base for more than two decades.

It’s also a milestone award for the university itself. With Dr. Dahn’s win, three of the past four Herzberg recipients have been Dalhousie faculty — a very rare feat in the 20-plus year history of the award. Dal microbiologist Ford Doolittle received the award in 2014, while theoretical chemist Axel Becke was awarded the 2015 medal.

“Dal’s Herzberg Canada Gold Medal recipients exemplify research excellence in Canada,” says Martha Crago, Dalhousie’s vice-president research. “In Dr. Dahn’s case, his leading work in materials science and lithium-ion batteries has attracted the attention of many all over the world and launched him into a class of his own.”

Dr. Dahn says he was “stunned” when he heard he would be receiving the Herzberg, which comes with a $1-million research prize.

“It was pretty flattering, and the award will support our research going forward,” he says. “We’ll use it wisely.”

He adds the Herzberg Gold Medal award to an impressive set of awards and honours throughout his career. They include the inaugural Governor General’s Innovation Award (2016), the Yeager award from the International Battery Materials Association (2016), induction into Nova Scotia's Science Hall of Fame (2016), fellowship in the Royal Society of Canada (2001). He even has a second Herzberg award — a different medal, also named after Nobel-winning German-Canadian physicist Gerhard Herzberg, from the Canadian Association of Physicists.

“Writing the book” on Li-ion batteries

Dr. Dahn first came to Nova Scotia at age 13, emigrating with his family from Connecticut. He studied Physics at Dalhousie as an undergrad before completing his PhD at the University of British Columbia. He worked at the National Research Council of Canada, Moli Energy Limited and Simon Fraser University before returning to Dalhousie in 1996 as the NSERC/3M Canada Industrial Research Chair in Materials for Advanced Batteries. (Since 2003, he’s also been the Canada Research Chair in Battery and Fuel Cell Materials.)

From the beginning, his research focused on the science of batteries and energy storage. In the 1980s, researchers were beginning to explore using lithium compounds as the core electrode materials in lithium batteries. Today, lithium-ion batteries — which don’t actually contain lithium metal at all — power rechargeable devices of all sorts, from cell phones and laptops to tools and electric vehicles.

“We wrote some of the very important papers on lithium-ion batteries in the very beginning,” says Dr. Dahn of his early career, highlighting his work at Simon Fraser characterizing which carbon compounds could effectively serve as the negative electrode. “We sort of wrote the book on what type of carbon you should use in a lithium-ion battery to make the best one.”

It was at Dalhousie, though, where Dr. Dahn and his team would make perhaps their most significant contribution to lithium-ion batteries. Post-doc Zhonghua Lu, graduate student Dean MacNeil and Dr. Dahn developed certain grades of lithium nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) oxide compounds, ones that when used as the positive electrode, increase the safety and stability of the batteries at larger sizes.

Seventeen years later, these grades of NMCs are widely used in power tool and electric car batteries around the world — and represent several of the 65 or so inventions that his team has patented. And 3M (Dahn's industrial partner at the time) has licensed the use of these NMC grades for commercial use to many companies around the world.

Empowering students

Dr. Dahn’s team has also made significant contributions to research on lithium-ion battery lifetimes: understanding what causes lithium-ion cells to die, and how to get them to last even longer.

“A cell phone battery only needs to last three or four years and then the phone is changed for a new model,” says Dr. Dahn. “Power tools are the same thing; you can just get a replacement pack. But once the batteries start to get big — like in electric vehicles — they cost a lot, so they have to last a long time.”

Graduate student Chris Burns and research associate David Stevens, who were involved in this research, created the Dartmouth-based spin-out Novonix. The company produces ultra high-precision charger devices — the sort that allow their customers to predict lifespans of Li-ion cells on the scale of not just years, but decades.

“It’s amazing to have such a world-renowned researcher within the field of batteries here at Dalhousie,” says Chris Burns, Novonix co-founder, who completed both his master’s and doctoral degrees with Dr. Dahn’s group. “He provides a foundation for students to learn and work at the cutting edge of an exciting field with access to top tier industrial collaboration around the world, which is an amazing opportunity within an academic group.”

Indeed, Dr. Dahn — who, even with his two research chairs, has taught first-year Physics classes at Dal for more than 20 years — says his proudest achievements are in the careers of the graduates who’ve come out of his lab.

“I’ve trained a lot of graduate students — probably over 50 PhDs, 20 to 25 postdocs. And virtually all of them have gone on to careers in the battery materials or lithium-ion battery space… Some are millionaires because they’ve formed their own companies and done really well. A lot of them are vice-presidents research or chief technical officers and so on.

“It makes me really proud, what these folks have accomplished after they’ve left the group.”

A new era with Tesla

After helping lay the basic scientific foundation for lithium-ion batteries in the 1980s, the bulk of Dr. Dahn’s career has been in close collaboration with dedicated industry partners. It’s a path that’s allowed him to focus his research on applied solutions to the problems faced by battery manufacturers.

“Working together with industry ensures that, if you want to have a long-term relationship [with them], that we’re doing something useful,” he explains. “And why not do something useful, when you have a chance to do anything you want?”

His latest collaboration, launched in 2016, is with Tesla as the NSERC/Tesla Canada Industrial Research Chair. The company is one of the largest manufacturers of the electric vehicles in the world and its new Gigafactory, based in Nevada, is bringing roughly one-third of global lithium-ion battery production to North America. But when it came time for the company to sign its first ever university research partnership, it went north — and east — to Jeff Dahn’s door.

Tesla — which aims to not only improve electric vehicles, but “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy” more broadly — signed-off on a five-year exclusive collaboration with Dr. Dahn’s lab, focused on increasing the lifetime, decreasing the cost and improving the energy density of lithium-ion batteries.

“The goals are really simple, but the problems are hard,” explains Dr. Dahn. “The area is of such importance, and the problems are so interesting and challenging that it’s fun.”

Some of the lab’s work could be incorporated into the company’s products shortly — perhaps within a year, Dr. Dahn speculates. As he talks about the future of renewable energy, and the vision of mass-scale energy storage, there’s an incredible enthusiasm in his voice. He sees a better future for how we power our planet — and it’s a future he and his students are helping build.

It’s really cool,” says Dr. Dahn. “My students, I hope, are getting a sense of just how cool it is.”

Additional file photos from Nick Pearce and Danny Abriel


An investment in ocean education and literacy

Matt Reeder - July 21, 2016

Dal prof Boris Worm (right) leads the Honourable Dominic Leblanc and local school kids in a learning activity about the ocean. (Danny Abriel photos)
Dal prof Boris Worm (right) leads the Honourable Dominic Leblanc and local school kids in a learning activity about the ocean. (Danny Abriel photos)

“Who feeds on octopus?” asked Dal Biology professor Boris Worm, as someone grabbed the roll of bright pink tape being passed around a circle of kids and others huddled together in the atrium of the Steele Ocean Sciences Building Thursday afternoon.

“Okay, the shark feeds on the octopus,” he said, as the tape is then passed to a child wearing a ‘Shark’ nametag. “Anything else a shark feeds on?” he continued. As the questions continued, an intertangled web of tape began to emerge until Dr. Worm yanked it away, some of it falling to the ground.

“If we start changing the web, things change,” he said.

Dr. Worm was using this exercise to show how climate change and other issues are creating new challenges for the ocean, one of the world’s most important natural resources.

It was also a simple example of the sorts of hands-on activities that will be featured in a groundbreaking new educational initiative from Dalhousie University and the National Film Board — one aimed at increasing ocean literacy among Canadian youth.

A school unlike any other

The Honourable Dominic Leblanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, visited Dalhousie Thursday to announce $250,000 for Ocean School, an immersive educational project designed to inspire youth ages 11 to 15 to learn more about how the ocean works.

Dal scientists are working with NFB filmmakers to bring the ocean education to life through engaging learning experiences using cutting-edge technologies, powerful storytelling techniques and audiovisual teaching platforms.

Minister Leblanc at the announcement event.

“Essentially, you’ve pioneered the classroom of the future,” said Leblanc, in remarks during the announcement event Thursday. “You’ve taken groundbreaking storytelling and filmmaking and combined it with world-class, cutting-edge science, technology and research.”

Leblanc called the partnership between Dal, the NFB, Nova Scotia and the federal government “remarkable,” noting that the project will help teach the next generation of oceanographers and scientists to meet the many challenges currently facing the ocean and the Earth’s ecosystems.

The funds will be used for an Ocean School pilot project that will launch early next year in some grade seven classrooms in Nova Scotia. In addition to supporting the roll out of the pilot in schools early next year, the province has also committed $120,000 for the initiative.

“This program is going to reach so many more students and people outside of the scientifically inclined groups of kids, which is such an amazing accomplishment,” said MLA Patricia Arab, who spoke at the event on behalf of the Honourable Karen Casey, Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development for Nova Scotia.

Dal and NFB will use the experience to refine the materials as needed, with the aim of expanding the program across the country over the next three years, before eventually offering it in other countries.

Films, learning resources and virtual reality

The project will be built around a few central elements: a program of short films and teacher resources, immersive virtual-reality learning experiences, and a physical headquarters at Dal where students can engage directly with marine experts and take part in hands-on projects.

The minister highlighted the cost accessibility of some of the different technology that will be used as part of the Ocean School curriculum, including a 360-degree virtual reality platform that operates using a simple smartphone attached to a pair of goggles.

Minister Leblanc tests out the Ocean School virtual reality platform.

Martha Crago, Dal's vice president of research and master of ceremonies for Thursday's event, thanked Leblanc for his government's generous investment and called his government’s commitment a “dream come true.”

“Thank you for your commitment to the ocean, your commitment to young people, and your commitment to science,” she said. “This is truly remarkable.”

She noted that Dal has more than 100 researchers whose work touches on the ocean, mentioning an underwater holographic microscope from Halifax-based imaging company 4Deep that was initially designed in a Dal physics lab. Now it’s being used by Dal ocean scientists to capture information useful for managing fisheries.

The power of partnership

André Picard, executive director of institutional programming and production at NFB, said the organization is thrilled to be working with Dal on creating original, immersive and bilingual audiovisual and infographic content for the project.

“This is the most ambitious, promising, and innovative partnership the NFB has ever undertaken,” said Picard. “Together, we are doing groundbreaking work in redefining the learning experience for young Canadians.” He also thanked the Province of Nova Scotia for its willingness to participate in the pilot project.

NFB's André Picard (left) and Nova Scotia MLA Patricia Arab.

Patricia Arab, MLA for Fairview-Clayton Park, spoke about some recent and exciting changes within the provincial education system that have enabled the innovative new teacher-led approaches to curriculum that bring in more technology and hands-on learning.

To end, she pointed to the big picture.

“Our shared goals are to increase the ocean literacy of Canadians of all ages, contribute to a more engaged citizenry, motivate young people to pursue further study and eventually work in this field and foster a better stewardship of our oceans.”


New home, new hope

Matt Reeder - June 27, 2016

Canada has taken in more than 27,000 refugees from Syria since November 2015. (United Nations photo)
Canada has taken in more than 27,000 refugees from Syria since November 2015. (United Nations photo)

Of the 4.8 million people who have fled the fear and uncertainty of the Syrian war, only a tiny fraction (about 3.6 per cent) have officially found new homes elsewhere.

Canada has been among the countries most open to accepting these displaced individuals. Since early November of 2015, the country has taken in 27,580 refugees from the war-torn country — a majority of them children and youth.

Torn away from school and other daily routines by the civil war in their homeland, these young individuals have made the long and arduous trek with their families in search of a better life.

But as many have come to realize, starting over in a new country brings its own challenges. Language and cultural barriers, a lack of resources and problems accessing community services are just a few of the problems faced by the young refugees and their families.

An international collaboration

Dalhousie professors set up a cross-Canada research coalition late last year to study the integration of these young Syrian refugees in the country, and are now teaming up with counterparts in Germany — another major resettlement country — to share knowledge and best practices.

The burgeoning partnership offers a unique chance for researchers in the two countries to develop collaborative projects and initiatives as their countries struggle to meet the needs of the thousands of newly arrived young people.

Michael Ungar, Canada Research Chair in Child, Family and Community Resilience at Dal is the lead researcher on the Canadian Refugee Child, Youth and Family Research coalition. He’s in Berlin this week to kick off the first meeting with colleagues from the Leibniz Education Research Network (LERN).

Dr. Ungar is accompanied by eight other Canadian researchers and officials from two federal government departments on the trip, which is being funded by the Canadian government and hosted by the Canadian Embassy in Berlin. A follow-up meeting will be held in Ottawa in September.

While Syrian refugees have entered into Canada and Germany in different ways, challenges related to language acquisition, trauma, and family issues such as unemployment raise the risk of social marginalization in both countries.

By working together, representatives from the Canadian coalition and LERN are hoping to better understand some of those challenges and share evidence of effective resettlement programs.

A coalition of support

The Canadian coalition was first formed late last year after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to rapidly bring 25,000 Syrian refugees into the country.

“With the incoming large cohort of refugees from Syria, there all of the sudden was this opportunity to think ‘Well, if Canada wants to continue to do this more often, wouldn’t it be nice to see what’s working so that we can do this successfully in the future?’” explains Dr. Ungar, who is also a professor of social work at Dal and the director of the Children and Youth in Challenging Contexts (CYCC) Network of which this new coalition is an offshoot.

Dr. Ungar worked closely with Martha Crago, vice-president of research at Dal, over the past several months to build momentum and support for the coalition, which includes dozens of top researchers, community resettlement partners and government agencies from across Canada.

They have found a willing and supportive partner in the federal government, which says it plans to bring thousands more refugees into the country this year on top of the 25,000 that arrived between early November and late February. Coalition reps have held one-on-one meetings in recent months with policy makers in Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), Statistics Canada, and with senior officials from various government departments, including the Treasury Board of Canada.

"This coalition of researchers, service providers and educators from across Canada working with a network of researchers from across Germany and ministries from our governments is a wonderful example of partnered research with the goal of improving the lives of people in one of the world's largest mass migrations, “says Dr. Crago.

“It shows what universities can do in the interest of our global society. The governments and funding agencies have recognized the importance of it and stepped forward to partner with their funds and personnel."

Sharing and implementing best practices

In addition to securing federal funding for its Germany engagements, the coalition has also had some early success in motivating national funding agencies such as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) to provide rapid response and other funding to help with the group’s research.

That research centers on understanding the factors that facilitate young refugees’ success in four key areas: language acquisition, literacy and engagement in learning; social integration and countering violent extremism; mental and physical wellbeing; and economic success.

The coalition’s ultimate goal is to help communities, service providers, educators and others to research, share and use best practices on interventions in these areas so that children, youth and families can better navigate the often-rocky process of resettlement.

Several research projects are already underway. Howard Ramos, professor in Dal’s Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, is currently leading a research contract from the Treasury Board examining data and measures of social and cultural wellbeing among young refugees.

“Canada has a choice: demographically, this cohort presents tremendous opportunities for us,” says Dr. Ramos. “Young people are an investment and the research can ensure that investment is a good one.”

Global reach, local impact

Here in Nova Scotia, Dr. Ramos is also involved in another project with a more local focus. Along with fellow Dal researchers Yoko Yoshida (Sociology) and Patrick McGrath (IWK) and sociologist Madine VanderPlatt of Saint Mary’s University, he is carrying out an independent evaluation of the “Welcome Ambassadors” program from Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), the largest refugee settlement organization in Atlantic Canada.

ISANS helps government-assisted refugees with everything from finding a place to live and getting a health check to language assessments, schooling and the hunt for employment.

Gerry Mills, director of operations with ISANS, says her organization received up to 150 new refugees on certain days during the rush in the early parts of this year — just 50 shy of the 200 they take in during an average year.

“It was controlled chaos,” she says of the experience of resettling close to 700 government-assisted refugees over the span of a few months. “It was an incredible, extraordinary initiative and achievement, I think.”

Mills says her organization will be sharing data with the Dal-based coalition and working to assess the success of some of its resettlement efforts in the months ahead, including retaining the newcomers in the province.

“We provide services to them [refugees] until they don’t need service,” she says.

It’s the unique data and information gleaned from that sort of on-the-ground experience that Dr. Ungar and his coalition hope to mobilize and share to ensure better outcomes for the thousands of vulnerable children and youth both at home and abroad.


Pride and purpose

Dal hosts Pride Week events July 15-23

Ryan McNutt - July 14, 2016

Members of the Dal Pride Week planning committee. (Danny Abriel photo)
Members of the Dal Pride Week planning committee. (Danny Abriel photo)

What does Pride mean to you?

It’s a question that doesn’t necessarily have a simple answer. After all, over the decades, Pride rallies and celebrations have evolved as the society and structures they responded to have shifted. And the experience of an LGBTQ+ individual in Canada today has changed in many respects from what it was in 1987 when Halifax hosted its very first Pride March.

Today, Pride events have become large celebrations that attract allies, community leaders and thousands of onlookers. But there are continued reminders that Pride is about more than just a big party, be they reminders built on action (such as recent concerns raised by #BlackLivesMatter Toronto) or weighted with agony (the Orlando nightclub shootings).

Dalhousie is a familiar participant in the Halifax Pride Parade — last year even winning best non-profit float — and this July the university will take part in Truro’s first ever Pride Parade. For 2016 the Dal community has also come together to organize the first Dalhousie Pride Week: a series of events and community activities designed to spark discussion and reinforce the importance of building welcoming, safe and inclusive communities.

Parades, panel discussions and more

Events scheduled for Dalhousie Pride Week (July 15-23) include Pride flag raisings in both Halifax and Truro, a panel discussion on LGBTQ+ perspectives in post-secondary education, a community art project hosted by Get REAL! and a Bechdel Test Film Festival hosted by South House. In addition to Pride parades in Halifax and Truro, there are also affiliated events put on by local organization Our Resilient Bodies.

Full schedule: Dalhousie Pride Week

“The more people we talked to in the Dal community, the more different ideas there were about how people wanted to celebrate Pride, about the dialogues they wanted to have around LGBTQ+ topics and issues,” says Nicole McKeever, advisor with Dal’s Office of Human Rights, Equity and Harassment Prevention (HREHP) and chair of the Dalhousie Pride Week committee. “So the idea was to try and support as many of those initiatives as possible.”

Groups involved in planning Dalhousie Pride Week include HREHP, the Dal Student Union (DSU), student societies, Student Affairs, Dalhousie Athletics, Facilities Management, Dal Security, the President’s Office and others.

“Pride is an opportunity to come together in celebration of our diversity, and a meaningful reminder of the ongoing movement to make our communities more welcoming, safe and inclusive,” says Dal President Richard Florizone. “It’s great to see such enthusiasm for Pride on our campuses, and we hope to see as many people as possible out at the various events.”

Pride in all forms

Norma Williams, Dal’s executive director of diversity and inclusiveness, says Pride reinforces the importance of the freedom to be one’s self, and the need to not just express but actively demonstrate support and solidarity with LBGTQ+ persons within and outside of the Dal community.

“The theme of Halifax Pride is This Is Why, and part of that ‘why’ is that LGBTIQ+ communities are not faceless and nameless,” she says. “LGBTIQ+ communities include people of colour, persons with disabilities and transgender individuals, amongst others, and it is the responsibility of everyone to support not only the triumph of LGBTIQ+ rights but also to join the journey so that together we jointly address things that matter.”

Rhiannon Makohoniuk, the DSU’s vice-president internal, echoes that sentiment. Rhiannon says Pride is inherently political, and notes the need to ensure that issues like anti-blackness, racism, islamophobia and other oppressive structures are considered under the Pride banner, especially given that Pride has always been informed and led by queer and trans people of colour.

“Dalhousie is hosting its own set of Pride events because queer issues and trans issues are inherently student issues,” says Rhiannon. “We have a diverse campus, and programming during Pride is a great way to showcase this. Students, staff, faculty and community members should come out to Dal Pride events to view what is happening on their campus, learn about the LGBTQ2S+ movement and celebrate LGBTQ2S+ members of our campus community together.”

In addition to the Dal Allies program — which works with students, staff, and faculty to provide programs, services, training, support, referral and resources on “Rainbow” issues — there are many different organizations and offices on campus that play a supportive role for LGBTQ+ individuals. Among them are the South House Sexual and Gender Resource Centre, Get REAL Dal, the Dal OUT society, OUTLaw and others.

Pride in Halifax and Truro

Pride has a particular significance for Dal’s Agricultural Campus this year, as the Town of Truro is hosting its first ever Pride Parade on Saturday, July 16.

“It’s wonderful to see the energy and enthusiasm behind it,” says Keltie Jones, assistant dean, students & academic administration in the Faculty of Agriculture. “This formal celebration of Pride reflects the quiet support that has existed in our community for many years and affirms that the Truro area is welcoming and inclusive. As an important part of the community, our campus is very proud to be celebrating the LGBTQ+ community with local businesses, organizations and community members.”

All in the Dal community are invited to attend or take part in the parade, which starts at 2 p.m. Those interested in joining the Dal contingent can meet at Victoria Square (at the corner of Prince and Willow Street) at 1:30 p.m. T-shirts will be provided (limited number available).

Other Pride Week events on the Ag Campus include the flag raising ceremony (Friday July 15, 12 p.m., outdoor amphitheatre) and a panel discussion on the importance of campus allies (Tuesday, July 19, 12 p.m., Haley 116). A light lunch will be provided at the panel, and there will be ceramic tiles available to be painted with images reflecting individuals’ experience of being out, being an ally and/or supporting equality.

For those in Halifax, the Pride flag raising ceremony will take place on Monday, July 18 at 3 p.m. in the Carleton Campus Quad. As for the Halifax Pride Parade (Saturday, July 23), those interested in being part of the Dal contingent can meet at 12 pm in the parking lot at 2240 Valour Way (just past the Casino) or you can join the Dal Cheering Section in front of the Architecture Building (5410 Spring Garden Road, next to the Halifax Central Library). T-shirts will be provided (limited numbers available) and there will be free freezies and button making at the Dal Cheering Section. (The Pride Week committee is also looking for assistance the day of the parade; those interested please email Nicole McKeever at nicole.mckeever@dal.ca.)

Can’t make the Halifax parade but still want to contribute? You can contribute a message of support on the large “DAL” letters that will be part of Dal’s float from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, July 19 on the Studley Quad.) The letters will also be at Community Day on the Ag Campus for individuals to sign on Thursday, July 21.

For more on Dalhousie Pride Week, dal.ca/showyourpride


Going solar

Law student launches Carbon Consultancy

Jane Doucet - July 8, 2016

Recent Law grad Peter L’Esperance. (Danny Abriel photos)
Recent Law grad Peter L’Esperance. (Danny Abriel photos)

Throughout his life, nature has been the setting for most of Peter L’Esperance’s leisure activities.

“I feel more balanced when I’m outdoors,” says the recent Schulich School of Law graduate, who grew up in rural Prospect Bay, N.S. It’s no surprise, then, that during his first year Peter joined the Environmental Law Students’ Society (ELSS).

It was with the society that Peter conceived of a community-based Carbon Consultancy renewable-energy pilot project to encourage people, businesses and organizations to measure, reduce, offset or mitigate their carbon emissions. The collective initiative is proposing that a five-kilowatt solar panel be installed on the Dalhousie Legal Aid Service (DLAS) office in Halifax’s north end.

The total cost of the panel and installation is $32,500. By the end of June 2016, L’Esperance, along with the Environmental Law Students’ Society, had raised more than $18,500 through successful pitches to interested sponsors ranging from McInnes Cooper ($10,000) to Saint Lou’s Gentlemen’s Barbershop at Historic Properties. (Patrons have the option to pay a 10-cent carbon-offset fee as part of the haircut price). Dalhousie University — through its Office of Sustainability and Facilities Management departments — will contribute a further $9,800 to the project bringing the total fundraising to $28,300.

McInnes Cooper’s involvement is unique. The firm calculated how much it would cost to offset annual work-related employee air travel through contributing to standard carbon-offset projects, such as those provided by airlines when you buy a flight ticket. It has decided to direct those funds — two annual $5,000 payments — to the DLAS solar-panel installation.

“The goal is to open up channels for individuals, businesses, and organizations to bring more renewable-energy installations into the community,” says L’Esperance, who is the project’s lead. The panels will produce net emission reductions of roughly 71,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide during its 30-year lifecycle and will lower the DLAS’s energy costs by more than $24,000 over that time period.

Other Dalhousie partners include the Marine Environmental Law Program, the Advancement Office, Facilities Management, and Financial Services.

“This project is giving faculty and staff, students and community members an opportunity to shape the place where they work, study and live,” says L’Esperance.

For more about the Carbon Consultancy, visit its Facebook page.


A mother's memory, a daughter's dedication: Maike van Niekerk becomes Dal's 90th Rhodes Scholar

Ryan McNutt - November 21, 2016

Dal's new Rhodes Scholar, Maike van Niekerk. (Danny Abriel photos)
Dal's new Rhodes Scholar, Maike van Niekerk. (Danny Abriel photos)

Real heroes don’t wear capes, they say. But just like their comic book and big screen counterparts, they do have origin stories.

That’s the part of the hero’s journey when you learn their motivation, when you witness the defining moment that sets them on their path towards making a difference in the world. They’re not always happy moments; in fact, many classic origin stories are stories of loss. Bruce Wayne (Batman) lost his parents. Peter Parker (Spider-Man) lost his uncle.

Maike Van Niekerk lost her mom.

She was nine when her mother, Katrin, was first diagnosed with breast cancer. Katrin survived that bout, but the cancer returned six years later, when Maike was 15. She died suddenly, only four months after her second diagnosis.

“I told her ‘I will never stop fighting in your memory,’” recalls Maike. “And I haven’t.”

Today Maike is the founder of a charity dedicated to her mother that has raised more than $110,000 to help cover travel costs for cancer patients. She’s nearing the end of Nursing degree at Dal during which she’s studied cancer rates and psychological distress among Canada's Indigenous peoples. She’s won numerous major university and community awards, including being named one of Canada’s Top 20 Under 20.

And now she’s Oxford bound, set to become Dalhousie’s 90th Rhodes Scholar.

Headed to Oxford

Maike, originally from Corner Brook, Nfld., got the exciting news Saturday night in Moncton, where she was staying at her sister’s house along with her father after completing the intense two-day interview process.

“When I got the call I just burst into tears because I was so happy,” she says. “I was expecting to be told that I didn’t win. I told my dad and my sister and we were all just jumping up and down.”

The Rhodes is one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world. Eleven students from Canada each year are chosen to join a global cohort of 95 students to study at Oxford University in England. Worth in excess of $100,000, the scholarship provides funding to cover travel and study at Oxford for two years, with an option for a third. Recipients must demonstrate character, commitment to others and potential to become a world leader.

Dalhousie has now had 90 Rhodes Scholars over its history. Maike becomes the university’s fourth Rhodes Scholar in the past five years.

“Maike’s accomplishments are a source of pride for the entire Dalhousie community,” says Dal President Richard Florizone. “Her academic record is outstanding, but what truly sets Maike apart is her commitment to helping others.”

"We are tremendously proud of Maike’s achievement in being named a Rhodes Scholar," says Kathleen MacMillan, director of the School of Nursing. "Maike was supported in her undergraduate studies by a Shulich Leaders scholarship and this enabled her to focus on her studies in a very demanding undergraduate, professional program. This should be a message to all Canadians that nursing education is about more than producing professionals for the health care workforce. It is also about producing the leaders and scientists who will contribute to transforming Canada’s health-care system.”

“Maike exemplifies what can be achieved with focus, dedication and lots of hard work,” says Kevin Duffy, Dal Psychology & Neuroscience professor, who’s worked closely with Maike over the past four years. “She is the type of student who thrives in challenging environments, and I think this has enabled her an uncommon opportunity to effect change on a grand scale. I expect we will all be beneficiaries of the kind of person Maike will become.”

Taking “Kare” of others

Of course, there are hundreds of people who’ve already benefitted from Maike’s passion and commitment: cancer patients supported by her charity, Katrin’s Karepackage.

It was an idea she developed when she began volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society after her mother’s death. (She’s since received the organization’s national award for outstanding youth leadership.) Through that work, she learned more about the struggle many cancer patients face paying for transportation to receive treatment. In Newfoundland, patients have to travel to St. John’s—a distance, for some, of hundreds of kilometers—and the province only reimburses a fraction of the travel costs. Maike’s mom had gone all the way to Halifax for her treatment.

So in 2014, Maike launched Katrin’s Karepackage to help cancer patients cover those travel costs. She launched its fundraising effort by biking more than 1,000 km across Newfoundland. Then, last December, she continued her campaign by running seven consecutive marathons, all the way from St. John’s to Corner Brook.

“I chose those as symbolic representations of the struggle cancer patients face in having to drive or get transportation across the province for treatment,” says Maike. “Although the struggle of having to bike or run across Newfoundland doesn’t remotely compare to that of a cancer diagnosis, it was something that people understood…it clicked in that people were like, ‘wow, patients do have to travel such a long distance in order to receive treatment.’”

To date, Maike has raised more than $110,000 for Katrin’s Karepackage and, through the Canadian Cancer Society, provided funding to hundreds of patients. Last year the charity expanded from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia and is now helping cover costs for patients travelling to Halifax. (Maike hopes to add service to Cape Breton in the next year.)

“I think it’s been so successful so quickly because it’s something everyone can relate to. Cancer touches almost everyone, but also feeling the financial burden and stress — which is often something people talk about — was something people could relate with as well.”

A research journey

In addition to inspiring Maike’s charity work, her mother’s cancer experience — in particular, the care and support she received from oncology nurses — also shaped Maike’s career path.

“They provided her with a sense of hope and optimism and just general happiness that I thought was really unique, and something not many people could provide her with at that time,” she says. “So I was really appreciative of what they did for her and I wanted to be able to provide that to other people.”

She applied to Dal for her Bachelor of Science in Nursing because of the school’s oncology expertise, and received a prestigious Schulich Leader scholarship to help fund her studies. Over the course of her four years on campus, her interests have gravitated towards research, inspired by mentors like Amy Bombay. An assistant professor in the School of Nursing and the Department of Psychiatry, Dr. Bombay is studying the legacy of Canada’s Indian Residential School system. After Maike expressed an interest in helping with Dr. Bombay’s research, the two organized a quantitative project on the impact of Residential Schools on cancer rates and psychological distress among Indigenous peoples.

“Having that opportunity to work with a faculty member who was willing to integrate an entirely new aspect into her research because she thought I would be a valuable member of the team, and that we could learn from one another, was an incredible experience,” says Maike.

She also had the chance to work on independent research projects with Dr. Duffy — despite not being a Neuroscience student. That experience further fostered her passion for research, and she also credits Dr. Duffy with being the first to suggest that she apply for the Rhodes.

“I’ve won this big award, but it’s really as a result of the mentoring — first Dr. Duffy seeing potential in me and cultivating that research interest, and then Dr. Bombay coming alongside and helping me to understand the area of research I’m interested in,” says Maike. “That’s why I’m in the position that I am today.”

An accomplished student

Maike’s awards are almost too many to mention: alongside her Schulich Leader scholarship, she’s also received Dal’s Board of Governors award, the Governor General's Meritorious Service Decoration and the Newfoundland and Labrador Red Cross Young Humanitarian of the Year award. She plays oboe with the Halifax Music Co-Op, volunteers with Ronald MacDonald House and the Out of the Cold shelter, and last year was named one of Canada’s Top 20 under 20 by Plan International Canada.

Now, she adds a Rhodes scholarship to that impressive list of honours and activities. At Oxford, she has her sights set on continuing her cancer research by working with leading psychiatry researhers at the university's esteemed Psychological Medicine Research team.

“To have the opportunity to potentially join that team, gain knowledge in that field and then bring it back to Canada — hopefully to develop novel and culturally appropriate psychological treatment tools for Indigenous Canadians diagnosed with cancer — it will be incredible,” says Maike, who hopes to work in academic research as a career. “It’s something I really want to dedicate the rest of my career and life to.”

And what would her mother think about the Rhodes, and everything else she’s accomplished?

“She always told me when I was growing up that I was going to go into academia and research. At the time, I didn’t believe her; I thought that was the last thing I was going to do. And look at me now. She’d be so proud of me — and probably having an ‘I told you so’ moment, too.”


Dal students give back for ninth-annual Community Day

Molly Marcott - September 15, 2016

Helping out with Habitat for Humanity on Community Day. (Nick Pearce photos)
Helping out with Habitat for Humanity on Community Day. (Nick Pearce photos)

On the first Saturday of the school year, after a hectic week of classes, many students would be looking forward to a weekend of relaxation. But that didn’t stop nearly 200 Dal students from gathering in the Studley quad bright and early for Dalhousie’s ninth annual Community Day.

Participants had the opportunity to spend their afternoon volunteering with one of 14 community organizations. Activities ranged from a food drive with Feed Nova Scotia all the way to building houses with Habitat for Humanity. The event offers a unique opportunity for new students to become familiar with Halifax, and for returning students to see the community from a new perspective.

“Community Day is one of many opportunities for Dalhousie students to give back,” said Arig al Shaibah, vice-provost Student Affairs. “You will get the most of your time at Dalhousie by taking a broad view of the community.”

Halifax’s Poet Laureate Rebecca Thomas, herself a Dal alum, spoke at the event, and stressed the importance of helping those in need.

“The impacts of your presence are truly felt,” she said, performing a poem dedicated to student volunteers.

Exploring Halifax

First-year students Sandra Sunil and Ilne Barnard saw the event as an opportunity to get to know their new home. Hailing from PEI and Alberta, the pair wanted to get involved and familiar with Halifax and the Dalhousie community. The pair spent the afternoon collecting non-perishable food donations for Feed Nova Scotia.

“Volunteering offers a sense of purpose,” said Sandra, who volunteered with her hometown food bank before coming to Dal. “Volunteers sustain communities. They help those in need to flourish”.

Across the city, a group of students gathered at Hand in Hand to fill serenity bags for women in need. Hand in Hand is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping those who are struggling get back on their feet.

“Our organization is almost entirely run by volunteers,” said Kathy Broussard, who has been working with Helping Hands for three years. “We have a few staff members, but we rely on help from the community to run efficiently,”

The support Dalhousie students provide to community organizations — not just on Community Day, but through the year — is invaluable.

Dylan and Max, fifth-year Dalhousie students dressed head to toe in safety gear, echoed Broussard’s thoughts.

“It’s an important opportunity for Dalhousie students to appreciate their role in Halifax at large,” said Dylan Ryan, who along with eight other students spent the day building a home with Habitat for Humanity. Like most of the organizations taking part in Community Day, Habitat for Humanity is 100 per cent volunteer driven.

Finding new passions

Gisele and Alejandro, both in their first year at Dalhousie, partnered with the Halifax Cycling Coalition for the afternoon. The group promoted bicycle safety while lobbying for the installation of designated cycling lanes throughout the city.

“When you volunteer you get to find things you are passionate about. Things that you wouldn’t necessarily find otherwise,” said Giselle.

Just up the road, a group of Dalhousie students had the opportunity to literally make history — in a manner of speaking. Parks Canada, a first time participant in Community Day, recruited volunteers to help build a WWI Trench Exhibition atop Citadel Hill.

Holly Johnson was one of the student leaders who rolled up her sleeves to fill large bags of sand to keep the monument stable. Despite the hard work, she remained enthusiastic.

“I love to help others find ways to get involved,” said Holly, who returned to the event for the third year in a row. “I will definitely keep volunteering throughout the school year.”

Even Dal Tiger joined in on the fun, promoting local produce by gardening with Common Roots Urban Garden.

Community Day ended with a debriefing session where students had the opportunity to reflect on how their contributions impacted the community, followed by a celebratory BBQ and a “dive-in movie” hosted by Dal After Dark — both well-earned opportunities to wind down after a hard (and good) day’s work.


Dal prof receives prestigious McNeil Medal from Royal Society of Canada

Michele Charlton - September 29, 2016

Françoise Baylis, this year's recipient of the Royal Society of Canada's McNeil Medal. (Provided photos)
Françoise Baylis, this year's recipient of the Royal Society of Canada's McNeil Medal. (Provided photos)

One of Dalhousie’s outstanding researchers has been honoured for her ongoing commitment to increasing the public awareness of science.

Françoise Baylis has been awarded the prestigious McNeil Medal from the Royal Society of Canada. Established in 1991, the McNeil Medal recognizes individuals who have demonstrated an outstanding ability to promote and communicate science to students and the public within Canada.

The award is part of an incredible series of honours for Dr. Baylis: this year alone, she's received the Order of Canada, the Order of Nova Scotia and the Distinguished Academic Award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT).

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Making complex issues more accessible

Dr. Baylis, a professor in the Faculty of Medicine and the Canada Research Chair in Bioethics and Philosophy, is the second Dalhousie faculty member to receive the McNeil Medal. She has served as an expert voice in the public policy making process, and is an outspoken advocate for women’s health issues, particularly those pertaining to assisted human reproduction.

“It is truly an honour to be receiving this important national award,” says Dr. Baylis. “Making science inviting and engaging to all Canadians is critically important and something I am deeply committed to.”

As a regular guest on CBC and Radio Canada, Dr. Baylis encourages global discussion on important scientific developments. She frequently uses film and other media in her work to simplify complex issues, such as stem cell research and new reproductive technologies, and make them more understandable and accessible to the public.

“We are extremely proud of Dr. Baylis,” says Martha Crago, vice-president research at Dalhousie. “This award recognizes her significant contribution as a champion of science in Canada, and we thank her for all of her work.”

A champion of science in Canada

As noted, Dr. Baylis has been the recipient of several other major accolades this year, including the Order of Nova Scotia, the Order of Canada and the Distinguished Academic Award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

“As you can imagine, I was both surprised and greatly honoured to receive all of these awards in one year,” says Dr. Baylis. “It is very gratifying to be recognized for my contributions to public discussion and debate on ethics, medicine and science and especially heart-warming to know that so many different people took the time to nominate me for these awards.”

The McNeil Medal is one of 15 medals bestowed by the Royal Society of Canada for making an outstanding contribution to a particular field of study. They are awarded annually, biennially or at irregular intervals, depending on the nature of the award. Previous winners of the McNeil Medal have included David Suzuki, Jay Ingram, and Bob McDonald.


Dal to lead Nova Scotia team in MIT entrepreneurship accelerator program

Matt Reeder - August 10, 2016

The logo for the MIT REAP program.
The logo for the MIT REAP program.

Update, August 31: We've published an additional Q&A article with more information on the REAP program, answering some common questions.

A unique global program run by the world's top-ranked university* is set to help Nova Scotia develop new strategies to address one of the province’s most pressing issues: building a stronger economy.

Dalhousie President Richard Florizone will lead Nova Scotia’s team in a two-year, entrepreneurship-focused program designed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to help regions achieve economic growth and social progress.

The Nova Scotia team, which consists of nine individuals from various sectors in the province, is one of eight chosen this year from around the world to participate in the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (REAP). In the program, teams of key stakeholders from participating regions work with MIT experts and others in their region to develop custom strategies to address economic challenges.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship are crucial to helping Nova Scotia build a brighter economic future,” says Dr. Florizone. “This is an incredible opportunity for Dalhousie to help catalyze that growth by working collaboratively with our regional partners and MIT, a global leader in the field.”

Forging connections in Nova Scotia and beyond

Administered by MIT Sloan Executive Education, the program consists of four four-to-seven-month action-learning cycles. Each cycle begins with a two-to-three day learning session with MIT experts and other participating regions before the team moves on to broader consultations with entrepreneurs, post-secondary institutions, industry, risk capital and governments across the province.

The team will spend the first cycle gathering data about the region and the second creating a detailed action plan, while the third and fourth phases will be devoted to implementing the strategy and creating ongoing initiatives.

The overall goal: to identify Nova Scotia’s comparative advantages and the mechanisms that might help amplify and advance those to create new value and more export-driven ventures in the province.

A first for Canada

Nova Scotia is the first region in Canada to be selected for MIT REAP. The program’s latest cohort includes eight countries and regions, including Iceland, Lima, and Lagos City. Past REAP cohort teams have included Beijing, Southwest Norway, Tokyo, Qatar, Auckland, New Zealand, Moscow and Singapore.

It’s no coincidence that it’s an MIT program attracting such interest. Considered the world’s leading university when it comes to entrepreneurship, MIT has produced more than 26,000 active startup and spinout companies that, combined, generate $2 trillion in annual sales and employ 3.3 million people.

“By participating in MIT REAP with a full team of stakeholders, Nova Scotia will have the chance to improve their local support structures for innovation and entrepreneurship using best practices developed in the MIT ecosystem” says Sarah Jane Maxted, executive director of MIT REAP.

Making an impact

Dalhousie has been striving to enhance its substantial contributions to the province in many respects, including economic development. As Nova Scotia’s leading research-intensive university, Dalhousie accounts for more than 80 per cent of publicly funded R&D in the province and 98 per cent of all industry-sponsored university research.

The initiative is also very closely aligned with the OneNS playbook, which called for universities and the NSCC to act as greater innovation hubs for the province, as they represent one of the province’s greatest competitive advantages.

"I want to congratulate Dalhousie on being chosen to participate in this prestigious program," says Kelly Regan, Minister of Labour and Advanced Education for the province. "Dalhousie's economic leadership on this and so many other files is most appreciated."

Dal’s effort in recent years have included new supports for student and faculty led entrepreneurship, working more closely with the broader startup and business community, and, now, leading the province’s MIT REAP contingent.

“Dalhousie is working hard to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in the province," says Dr. Florizone. "The MIT REAP program will help us continue to explore ways we can support the economic growth of our region."

Other members of the Nova Scotia REAP team include:

  • Bernie Miller, former N.S. deputy minister of planning, currently partner at McInnes Cooper
  • Chris Huskilson, CEO of Emera
  • Jevon MacDonald, former general manager at Salesforce.com and co-founder and CEO of GoInstant
  • John Knubley, federal deputy minister of innovation, science and economic development
  • John Risley, co-founder of Clearwater Fine Foods
  • Murray Coolican, N.S. deputy minister of business
  • Patrick Keefe, general partner with startup fund Build Ventures
  • Tracy Kitch, president and CEO of the IWK Health Centre

*QS World University Rankings 2015-16

See also:


From Starting Lean to a bankable exit

Mimi Breslow - December 7, 2016

The Analyze Re logo.
The Analyze Re logo.

Mary Kilfoil can tell you a thing or two about entrepreneurship.

The Rowe School of Business professor teaches experiential courses on how to launch successful businesses. And together with her colleagues in the Faculty of Management’s Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship (NNCE), she leads Launch Dal, Dalhousie’s flagship entrepreneurship program, which hosts accelerators, business model competitions and a suite of other entrepreneurial activities.

Starting Lean, a Launch Dal–supported entrepreneurship course, is open to students from across Dalhousie and from all levels of university study.

“Student teams work on a business idea using a business model canvas and an experiential approach to learn entrepreneurship skills,” explains Dr. Kilfoil. Each student group is matched with a mentor from the local business community to learn the concepts related to starting a venture, such as customer segments, channels, partners, revenue and costs.

A grand "exit"

The Starting Lean course and Launch Dal have hatched successful local businesses, including Spring Loaded Technology, Iconic Brewing and Site 2020. Now, Dr. Kilfoil and the Launch Dal team are watching another business that got its start in the Starting Lean class pass a major milestone.

Analyze Re, cofounded by Oliver Baltzer, Adrian Bentley and Shivam Rajdev, has just been sold to Verisk Analytics Inc. for approximately $15 million.

“Analyze Re is the first exit — the first buyout — from the Starting Lean class,” says Dr. Kilfoil.

Baltzer, Bentley and Rajdev brought an idea to the class, where they learned how to make their business a reality. All three had deep experience in the reinsurance industry, which “re”-insures insurance companies to protect them from possible financial insolvency, such as might occur after a natural disaster. The three students saw a need in the reinsurance industry for a big data tool to assess risk, and they sought to provide it.

As they expected, the industry was eager to adopt their product. Since its founding, Analyze Re has had success after success: the business went through the Volta Startup House in Halifax and the Launch36 accelerator in Moncton; received $1.4 million in the first round of investment funding; opened an office in Halifax and one in London, England; and received a payroll rebate from Nova Scotia Business Inc.

That last success points to the intention of the founders to grow the business in Halifax and provide jobs for local employees. Dr. Kilfoil notes that the new parent company, Verisk, doesn’t plan to do any differently.

Supporting growth in Halifax

That Analyze Re continues to provide employment and growth in Halifax fits right in with the philosophy of Starting Lean and Launch Dal.

“Our programs pay it forward,” says Dr. Kilfoil, describing the participation of the NNCE in business model competitions and accelerators. And they’re not the only ones to give to the business community, she adds. The companies sparked by Starting Lean encourage students to consider an entrepreneurial path.

“We have fireside chats with entrepreneurial leaders,” explains Dr. Kilfoil, “and every one of those chats has been from a Starting Lean graduate.” Rajdev of Analyze Re has already offered to do a chat and to be a mentor in the class.

Dr. Kilfoil is obviously passionate about the success of Starting Lean graduates and about supporting the growth of business in Halifax and Nova Scotia. She speaks proudly of the choice of the Analyze Re team and the terms of the buyout.

“What’s really interesting about the founders of Analyze Re is that they could’ve started the business anywhere,” she points out. “But they chose to start it in Halifax.”


Professor Naiomi Metallic welcomed as Dal's first Chancellor’s Chair in Aboriginal Law and Policy

Jane Doucet - October 7, 2016

From left to right: Dal President Richard Florizone, Dal Chancellor Anne McLellan, law professor Naiomi Metallic, and Schulich School of Law Dean Camille Cameron at a welcome reception for Metallic last Monday. (Nick Pearce photo)
From left to right: Dal President Richard Florizone, Dal Chancellor Anne McLellan, law professor Naiomi Metallic, and Schulich School of Law Dean Camille Cameron at a welcome reception for Metallic last Monday. (Nick Pearce photo)

Dalhousie has made important strides in embracing a broader group of students, faculty and staff in recent years, including launching a strategic initiative on diversity and inclusiveness in 2015.

A new position that aims to further that goal was announced earlier this week during a reception welcoming Schulich School of Law Professor Naiomi Metallic as Dal’s first Chancellor’s Chair in Aboriginal Law and Policy. The Chair was made possible thanks to a generous donation by the Honourable Anne McLellan, Dal’s chancellor.

On Monday, a group of Schulich School of Law faculty, students, alumni and staff, along with former colleagues of Metallic’s, gathered in the Weldon Law Building’s second-floor atrium to learn about her plans for the five-year renewable Chair term.

After Mi’kmaq educator and human rights activist Sister Dorothy Moore gave the opening prayer and blessed Metallic for making a better world for First Nations peoples, Sipekne’katik (Indian Brook) First Nation drummer Keagan Sack sang the Mi’kmaq Honour Song.

“It’s a great day to be here,” said Dal President Richard Florizone. “Saturday was Treaty Day, and events are still taking place on campus and around the city.” He made everyone laugh when, after stating that he was excited for Metallic to begin putting her strategic plan into action as the first Chancellor’s Chair in Aboriginal Law and Policy, he added: “No pressure!”

Florizone said that Dal takes the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action seriously — in particular Action 28, which calls upon law schools in Canada to require all law students to take a course in Aboriginal peoples and the law. “We’re proud of what we’ve done to foster diversity and inclusiveness at Dalhousie,” he said, “but we know there’s more we need to do.”

Building on strong foundations

Schulich School of Law Dean Camille Cameron opened her remarks by recognizing that the reception was being held on traditional Mi’kmaq territory.

“I’m very proud of our Indigenous Blacks & Mi’kmaq Initiative, which was an inspired idea when it was established in 1989,” said Cameron. “It has become a model for access to the legal profession across Canada and the U.S., and it continues to make a vital contribution to that goal. But we have to do more. I’m happy to say that we now have a dedicated group within the faculty taking us forward to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action, especially Call to Action 28.”

McLellan, a former Canadian deputy prime minister who did her undergrad at Dal, then earned a law degree here in 1974, has been Chancellor since 2015. She pointed to the positive changes that have been made in diversity and inclusiveness generally compared to when she was a student.

“When I was in law school, there was no Treaty Day,” said McLellan. “I’m delighted to see Naiomi as this Chair’s first scholar. She has an amazing personality, she exudes charisma and energy, and she will directly guide the creation of new initiatives to make both the law school and Dal more inclusive.”

Chair to foster greater teaching, research

Metallic hails from the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation, which is located on the Gaspé Coast of Quebec. She was a member of the IB&M Initiative while studying law at Dalhousie, earning her degree in 2005.

Metallic is starting her first year of full-time teaching at the Schulich School of Law after several years of guest lecturing while practicing law at Burchells LLP in Halifax. Students taking Constitutional Law, Indigenous Governance, Aboriginal Peoples and the Kawaskimhon Aboriginal Law Moot will benefit from her experience working as a lawyer for Indigenous communities in the Maritimes and beyond.

At the reception, Metallic praised both the IB&M Initiative and its director, Professor Michelle Williams. “I feel very fortunate to build on the great work of the IB&M Initiative and to push for positive change for Mi’kmaq and other Aboriginal peoples,” she said. “The Chair gives me a wonderful opportunity to move this work along with more authority and legitimacy. Thank you, Anne, for your generosity and leadership in funding this Chair.”


Full house for bold ideas at MacEachen Institute launch

Lindsay Loomer and Jane Doucet - May 10, 2016

Jean Chrétien (left) and Bob Rae discuss the legacy of Allan J. MacEachen at the launch of the Dal-hosted institute in his name. (Bruce Bottomley photos)
Jean Chrétien (left) and Bob Rae discuss the legacy of Allan J. MacEachen at the launch of the Dal-hosted institute in his name. (Bruce Bottomley photos)

Be brave. Engage broadly. Work boldly.

These were some of the big themes that flowed through the remarks at the official launch of Dalhousie’s MacEachen Institute for Public Policy and Governance, which attracted nearly 500 guests — many of them prominent political and policy leaders — to the Marion McCain Arts and Social Sciences Building Monday morning.

The event, which was free and open to the public, celebrated the legacy of the institute’s namesake, the Honourable Allan J. MacEachen, and featured a panel discussion on the future of public policy. It concluded with a talk featuring the Honourable Jean Chrétien, former prime minister of Canada, and the Honourable Bob Rae, former Ontario premier and prominent member of parliament.

The nationally focused, non-partisan, interdisciplinary MacEachen Institute supports progressive public policy development and citizen engagement. Formed through a grant of funds from the For the Public Good Trust 2011 to honour the legacy of Mr. MacEachen and advance his interest in progressive public policy, the Institute will harness the strengths of experts in Dalhousie’s Faculties of Arts and Social Sciences and Management and the Schulich School of Law, as well as the Office of the Vice-President, Research and broader communities beyond Dalhousie and across Canada.

Learn more: MacEachen Instutite for Public Policy and Governance

Celebration and consideration

Attending the landmark event were community members, Dalhousie alumni, and invited guests and media. Well-known faces in the audience included former Halifax NDP MP Megan Leslie (who will chair the institute’s External Advisory Council), current President of the Treasury Board Scott Brison, former Liberal MP and Halifax Mayor Mike Savage, the Honourable Lena Diab (MLA Halifax Armdale), former Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter, and Acadia University President and Vice-Chancellor Ray Ivany.

After opening remarks from Dal’s Vice-President Research Martha Crago, the institute’s scholarly director, Kevin Quigley, moderated a panel on the future of public policy featuring Kim Brooks (Schulich School of Law Associate Professor and former dean), Andy Fillmore (Liberal MP for Halifax), Pamela Palmater (Mi’kmaq lawyer and associate professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University) and David Morgan (Trudeau and Vanier Scholar and PhD candidate with Dalhousie’s Department of Political Science).

The panelists discussed four pressing topics: the challenges that political parties face today; what the Syrian refugee experience adds to Atlantic Canada; how to balance short- and long-term infrastructure needs; and how a policy institute based at Dalhousie can best have regional, national and international impact.

Following the panel was an engaging discussion between Chrétien and Rae, who spoke about Allan MacEachen’s contributions to Canadian public policy. (MacEachen, who is 94, was unable to travel to Halifax for the event.) Chrétien first met MacEachen in 1963 and spoke about his long-time colleague during the early days of their political careers.

“He was an extremely nice but demanding guy—he would tell you if you weren’t doing a job well," said Chrétien. "He was a good example to me because of the public policies he developed. He was ‘Mr. Cape Breton’ and always preoccupied by the needs of the people, both in his riding and in the rest of Canada.”

A bold beginning

MacEachen Institute will look at progressive ways to tackle public policy and governance issues through research and open discussion with a variety of informed players. It hopes to serve as the “go-to” destination for rich and robust public-policy debate, discussion and research — whether it be provincially, regionally or nationally, or whether by scholars, students and/or community members.

When Dr. Quigley asked what the institute should aim to accomplish in its first few years, Palmater (who also sits on its External Advisory Council) replied: “We have a real and historic opportunity to do things differently—to be like Star Trek and go boldly where other institutes aren’t willing to go. Let’s be brave and engage people on the ground, like the Inuit in the North who can tell you firsthand what’s happening with climate change. Let’s think about policy ideas and innovations that will impact everyone’s well-being. If we do that, we can take policy-making to a new level.”

Left to right: Kevin Quigley, David Morgan, Martha Crago, Pamela Palmater, Jean Chrétien, Kim Brooks, Bob Rae, Richard Florizone.

Learn more: MacEachen Instutite for Public Policy and Governance


Higher food prices expected in 2017: Canada's Food Price Report

Seventh-annual report is the first based at Dal

Ryan McNutt - December 6, 2016

Dean of Management Sylvain Charlebois (left) and Master's of Electronic Commerce student Jay Harris — two of the nine authors and advisors of Canada's Food Price Report. (Ryan McNutt photos)
Dean of Management Sylvain Charlebois (left) and Master's of Electronic Commerce student Jay Harris — two of the nine authors and advisors of Canada's Food Price Report. (Ryan McNutt photos)

Canadians can expect to pay 3-5 per cent more for food in 2017, an increase of as much as $420 for an average family.

That’s the conclusion of the seventh edition of Canada’s Food Price Report, published for the first time this year at Dalhousie.

Built on the expertise of authors and advisors from four different Dal faculties — Management, Computer Science, Science and Agriculture — the Food Price Report is led by Sylvain Charlebois, dean of the Faculty of Management. The popular annual report forecasts food prices for the upcoming year across different sectors and analyzes trends in Canada’s food industries.

“Food pricing affects all Canadians,” says Dr. Charlebois, who previously led the project out of the University of Guelph. “It affects our quality of life. It’s top of mind for everyone every single day when we go out to buy food, whether at a restaurant or at a grocery store. And many Canadians struggle to cope with fluctuating food prices.”

Read the full report: Canada's Food Price Report 2017

Higher increases for 2017

So what does 2017 hold for food prices?

“Unfortunately, it’s not great news for families with less means,” says Dr. Charlebois.

An increase of 3-5 per cent in food prices would be considerably higher than the rate of inflation (typically 1-2 per cent), and larger than 2016 (about 2.5 per cent). While dairy/eggs and bakery/cereal are expected to remain stable and within acceptable inflation rates, other foods could see much higher increases: fruits and nuts by 3-5 per cent; vegetables, meats and other food items by upwards of 4-6 per cent.

“The biggest factor will be the falling Canadian dollar,” explains Dr. Charlebois. “Given how many food products we import from abroad, our food economy is vulnerable to currency fluctuations.”

Other drivers that inform the report’s projections include La Nina weather patterns and the incoming Trump administration in the U.S. — which, while rife with uncertainty, suggests a forthcoming period of American protectionism that could initiate a “commodity super-cycle,” raising food prices for Canadians.

Previous editions of the report have generated significant national media attention, and this year’s is expected to be no different.

“We are dealing with a more engaged marketplace than ever before,” says Dr. Charlebois. “People want to engage with the food supply chain, and examining price is one to do it.

“And it’s also that the report is not just about price: it’s about the future of food. It’s about the quality of the food we eat, it’s about food cultures; it’s a multidimensional report around food.”

The report also considers possible trends in food and food policy for the year ahead. For 2017, its authors discuss celebration of Canadian food (in honour of Canada’s 150th), food science fears and food fraud awareness.

Read the full report: Canada's Food Price Report 2017

Built on Dal data science

One reason Dr. Charlebois was keen to bring the report with him to Dalhousie when he arrived as dean earlier this year was the opportunity to work with the university’s data scientists.

“I knew we’d have access to different kinds of expertise, and Dalhousie is one of the stronger schools in the country around data analytics and predictive analytics, if not the strongest,” he says.

This year’s report is the first to use a machine learning model to shape its forecast — a combination of algorithms built on more than 20 independent statistical variables like household income, fuel prices, global agricultural production and more. The model was built by researchers in Dal’s Faculty of Computer Science, led by Master’s of Electronic Commerce student Jabez (Jay) Harris together with Professor Vlado Keselj and PhD student Colin Conrad.

Master's student Jay Harris (left) with lead author Sylvain Charlebois.

Harris, an international student from the Caribbean, has spent about 20 hours a week on the project over the past couple of months, building and running the “black box” that crunches the report’s numbers.

“Part of data science is finding the anomalies, and so part of my role was to poke into the data, find and filter out the variables that just don’t make sense with the rest of the model,” explains Harris.

Leveraging cross-university expertise

But the process doesn’t start and end with a computer model.

“We allow the model to be the conversation starter amongst ourselves as advisors,” explains Dr. Charlebois. “We run it, then assess whether that makes sense for what could happen over the next 12 months with food prices. That’s how we come up with our forecasts.”

The advisors on this year’s report included:

  • Peter Tyedmers, director of Dal’s School for Research and Environmental Studies, who studies the sustainability of food systems (and later this week is taking part in the Nobel Week Dialogue in Sweden);
  • Megan Bailey of Dal’s Marine Affairs Program, Canada Research Chair in Integrated Ocean and Coastal Governance, who researches fisheries management;
  • Two researchers from Dal’s Faculty of Agriculture: Gary Grant and Simon Somogyi, both experts in agricultural economics from Department of Business & Social Sciences.

“Everyone had a really open mind about the report,” says Dr. Charlebois. “It’s a very populist report — not your ordinary scientific paper. But everyone got what we were trying to achieve. It was a really great team.”

Dr. Charlebois says now that the report is established at Dalhousie, he may look to expand its authorship even further next year, possibly to experts at other universities. As for grad student Harris, he says it’s been an incredible experience working on his first Food Price Report — so much so that he’s considering shifting his thesis project to focus on it.

“What I got out of it is that data science is really about communication,” says Harris. “It’s about storytelling, finding the data and the new way to relate it to people.”

Read the full report: Canada's Food Price Report 2017


Signed, sealed, delivered: Dal's Ocean Tracking Network receives $11.4M in funding from the Government of Canada

Signed, sealed, delivered: Dal's Ocean Tracking Network receives $11.4M in funding from the Government of Canada

Matt Reeder - January 9, 2017

Glider Technician Sue L'Orsa (right) shows Halifax MP Andy Fillmore the inner workings of one of OTN's Wave Gliders, made by Liquid Robotics. (Nick Pearce photos)
Glider Technician Sue L'Orsa (right) shows Halifax MP Andy Fillmore the inner workings of one of OTN's Wave Gliders, made by Liquid Robotics. (Nick Pearce photos)

Each January, grey seals gather in the frigid waters along the shores of Sable Island off the southwest coast of Nova Scotia to mate. And each year, marine researchers bundle up and head to the remote island to visit them.

The scientists are there on a mission: to retrieve tracking devices some of the seals have been toting around with them since the previous summer.

Thanks to the seals, these units — usually a GPS device and a mobile transceiver glued to the seals' fur, which molts naturally in the spring — are packed with oodles of oceanographic information that provides researchers with a glimpse into otherwise hard-to-study parts of the ocean.

“They [the seals] can act as a pseudo-oceanographer,” said Dal master’s student Benia Nowak, who recently visited Sable Island to work with the seals. “They are collecting data that would otherwise be logistically and financially difficult to obtain.”

The unwitting data hunters can collect information as often as every 10 seconds, every day over several months at a time and beam it back wirelessly to satellites when they surface. The data gives researchers, policy makers and marine managers a much deeper understanding of the seals’ behaviour, the species they interact with and the ocean environment in which they live.

New funding for OTN

It’s one of the many projects the Dal-headquartered Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) will be able to continue in the years ahead thanks to $11.4 million in new funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s Major Science Initiatives Fund.

Andy Fillmore announces OTN funding.

OTN was one of 17 research centres across 12 different Canadian universities to receive funding as part of Monday’s national announcement, a total pot of $328.5 million.

"OTN research generates incredibly valuable knowledge,” said Halifax Member of Parliament Andy Fillmore, who was on campus Monday to announce the funding on behalf of the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, federal minister of science.

“This knowledge is used by the federal government, provincial governments and internationally to guide development and management of responsible fisheries policy and to help us understand the overall sustainability of the world's oceans," said Fillmore.

OTN has been tracking aquatic animals since 2008, building an international infrastructure and research platform that fosters sustainable management of aquatic species. OTN provides and shares global knowledge on animals’ movements, migrations, interactions, habitat use and survival.

The network now supports the work of more than 400 researchers in 20 countries around the globe, and boasts a database of 150 million animal detection records from more than 100 commercially important and endangered marine species.

Sara Iverson speaks at the OTN funding event.

"We are focused on aquatic animals because they provide global food security, they contribute billions of dollars in socio-economic benefits," said Sara Iverson, OTN’s scientific director, in remarks at the event in the Steele Ocean Science Building. She said these animals — many of them threatened across the globe — also structure healthy ecosystems and are often culturally significant.

Dal ocean leadership

The new funding will enable OTN to better meet the growing demands of its Canadian and international users; maintain its headquarters, infrastructure and operations; and better communicate its findings to help Canada manage its oceans and connected inland waters.

Ian Hill, associate vice-president of research at Dal and MC of Monday’s event, said Dal has worked hard to become one of the world’s leading ocean research universities, and that having OTN based on campus has played an important part in that.

“We have built a critical mass of some of the world’s most accomplished researchers in ocean science, while cultivating the next generation of scientists,” said Dr. Hill.

He said there’s no way universities could do the type of critical research they do without innovative forms of government investments such as the Major Science Initiatives Fund.

"Great things are happening here in our cluster of ocean innovation and research. This is in no small part supported by federal investments, investments like the one Mr. Fillmore is here today to announce,” he said. “The Ocean Tracking Network is a brilliant example of science bringing Halifax to the world and the world to Halifax."

*Seal photo via OTN/Damian Lidgard


New convocation traditions honour history and heritage

Medicine pouches and kente sashes now part of ceremonies

Matt Reeder - June 1, 2016

Graduate Jacqueline Smith receives her medicine pouch from Elder-in-Residence Geri Musqua-LeBlanc. (Danny Abriel photo)
Graduate Jacqueline Smith receives her medicine pouch from Elder-in-Residence Geri Musqua-LeBlanc. (Danny Abriel photo)

Convocation ceremonies are built on age-old rituals, from formal academic processions to the wearing of gowns and hoods.

This spring, Dalhousie has added two new traditions to the mix that offer special recognition for graduates of Indigenous and African descent, helping create a more meaningful, inclusive ceremony.

Linking past and present

For the first time, an Elder will join Indigenous graduates on stage during their ceremonies and, by request, present a gift of a traditional medicine pouch after they receive their degrees.

“It’s a very proud moment for us,” says Geri Musqua-Leblanc, head of Dal’s recently launched Elders-in-Residence program.

Each pouch was hand made out of deer hide by Dal’s Elders and contains a mix of traditional medicines such as sweet grass, buffalo sage, tobacco and cedar leaf, which can be used for everything from offerings to smudging ceremonies.

Musqua-Leblanc says it’s a small gesture with big significance. "Anything that is given to you by an Elder is of great importance and significance," she says. "They will keep these."

Jacqueline Smith, a French and History graduate originally from Opaskwayak Cree Nation in central Manitoba, says taking part in a ceremony of this sort means a lot to her.

“Growing up my family wasn’t really involved in ceremonies. I didn’t really grow up with a lot of traditions,” says Smith, who received her degree and medicine pouch Tuesday. “It was only in recent years that I learned that about myself, that there is this whole part of me that I don’t know.”

Smith says she first became interested in learning more about her background after spending second year studying abroad in Dijon, France, where she often found herself unable to answer people’s questions about her history.

She later added a Canadian Studies minor to her degree and spent last year as co-president of the Dalhousie Native Students Association, a role that she says has put her more in touch with her heritage. She says receiving the medicine pouch at convocation will be a way of helping others learn more, too.

“It helps make us more visible and hopefully those Indigenous students who maybe don’t know about it on campus will learn about it,” she says, adding that it will also ensure non-Indigenous people know that “we do go to post-secondary’”

Patterns of recognition

Also new this spring, graduates of African descent are being offered the chance to borrow a traditional kente sash to add to their academic dress for convocation.

Kente cloth originated among the Ashanti people in Ghana and was traditionally worn by royalty in the West African country. Over the years, though, kente cloths came to be used much more widely and the sash variation is now a common sight at graduations and other ceremonies in Canada and elsewhere.

“It is now known that this represents something to identify that they are from the black continent,” says Oluronke Taiwo, Dal’s Black student advisor, on the wearing of the sash by students.

Taiwo wears one herself during convocation ceremonies each year when she is on stage to cheer graduates, and says the Registrar’s Office suggested this year that the university offer students the opportunity to wear it as well.

Dominique Oliver-Dares crosses the Rebecca Cohn stage with her kento sash. (Nick Pearce photo)

Student Dominique Oliver-Dares was one of those who decided to do so when she received her degree during an afternoon ceremony Tuesday. She says it’s actually the second time she has worn a kente sash to a graduation ceremony, having done so years ago when she graduated from Auburn Drive High School in Cole Harbour, N.S.

“There are plenty of obstacles within the Black community that create barriers to getting through high school and university,” the International Development Studies grad says. “So I think it’s really good for us to kind of celebrate ourselves and recognize that we are here.

“We’re a marginalized population and very small, but we historically have made a lot of contributions to Nova Scotia. I think that this is a representation of pride, resilience and presence.”

Oliver-Dares, who will attend the Schulich School of Law at Dal in the fall, says wearing the sash is also a way for African Nova Scotians and other Black individuals to link back to their history.

“Systematically, we’ve been removed from our history, our languages and traditional religions stripped. That kind of forced us to make our own culture of being a Black Canadian or a Black American that is different from being a native African,” she says.

“We still recognize those roots and we’re still very proud of those roots.”


2016-17 Men's Basketball Season Recap

Mike Still - April 3, 2017

The 2016-17 edition of the men’s basketball made history this season, becoming the first to capture a medal at nationals, after a third-place finish on home court. In the process, they also defended their conference title for a third consecutive year – a feat accomplished just three times previously in the history of AUS men’s basketball.

Guided by fourth-year head coach Rick Plato, the Tigers enjoyed tremendous success, going 16-4 in the regular season, which included winning their last eight-straight conference games.

Fifth-year co-captains Kashrell Lawrence and Ritchie Kanza Mata led the way on both ends of the court and were acknowledged for their efforts with AUS first team all-star selections. Kanza Mata was also named the AUS defensive player of the year, while Lawrence was selected as both the AUS and U SPORTS community service award winner.

Already guaranteed a birth at nationals as host, the No. 1 seeded Tigers held nothing back in the AUS playoffs, defeating Acadia and Saint Mary’s en route to the conference banner. The squad showed their resolve in both contests, coming back from four points down in the final 30 seconds against the Axemen, as well as a 10-point half time deficit against the Huskies. 

Dal was seeded fifth at nationals, and faced off against the fourth-seeded Alberta Golden Bears in the quarter-final round. The Tigers would come out on top 67-65 in a back and forth battle, thanks to a game-winning layup from tournament all-star Lawrence with 1.4 seconds to play.

Next up for the Tigers was the top-seeded Ryerson Rams. In yet another instant classic, Dalhousie would fall 59-58, after a last-second three-pointer fell just short. 

The hosts would finish the tournament off in style, capturing the bronze medal 69-63 over the No. 3 seeded McGill Redmen. Dalhousie was led by fourth-year sharpshooter Sven Stammberger, who had 20 points.

“To say that I was very proud does not do justice to the way I feel about our players, especially our seniors,” says head coach Rick Plato.  “For them to go out as bronze medallists at the national tournament, in their very last career game was special.”

For Lawrence, and fellow impact fifth-years Kanza Mata and Jarred Reid, the bronze medal win marked the culmination of their tremendous U SPORTS careers. Kanza Mata also broke the all-time AUS regular season career assists record in the process, with 605.

“Kash, Ritchie and Jarred have been the backbone of the team since I arrived here four years ago.  It certainly will be different without them, but they have set the standard,” says Plato. 

“All three are humble, thoughtful, caring, polite, positive and great teammates. They are responsible for the tremendous team chemistry on this team and the success that we have enjoyed the past three years. Each is unique in their own way, but never, have they ever put selfish concerns before the interests of the team.”


New technology keeps parents connected with their newborn's neonatal care

Ryan McNutt - March 2, 2017

The Honourable Scott Brison (left) and Dr. Marsha Campbell-Yeo at Wednesday's announcement event. (Photo via Twitter @scottbrison)
The Honourable Scott Brison (left) and Dr. Marsha Campbell-Yeo at Wednesday's announcement event. (Photo via Twitter @scottbrison)

Over the past 30 years, Dr. Marsha Campbell-Yeo has seen incredible advancements in neonatal care — developments in technology and practice that have improved outcomes for vulnerable newborns across North America and around the world.

“However, the focus of these innovations and transformations in care has been almost exclusively directed toward health care providers and technological advancements,” said Dr. Campbell Yeo, associate professor in the School of Nursing at Dal and a clinician scientist at the IWK Health Centre. “Until recently, parents have not only been underutilized in the setting of neonatal intensive care, but often excluded all together.”

Getting parents involved

Dr. Campbell-Yeo and her colleagues are looking to change that. She’s the academic lead of the ChezNICU Home project — an interactive virtual platform in development that lets parents and their family become more active participants in the care of their baby within the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit).

On Wednesday, the Government of Canada announced a $3 million investment in the ChezNICU technology through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s (ACOA) Atlantic Innovation Fund. The support will help the IWK/Dal team further develop and commercialize the system.

The announcement was made at an event at the IWK Health Centre, hosted by the Honourable Scott Brison (President of the Treasury Board), on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains (Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for ACOA).

“Imagine how reassuring it will be for family members to maintain virtual contact with their children when they are unable to be with them in the hospital,” said Brison. “This project will result in a universally valuable product that the IWK Health Centre can license and a key opportunity to foster new national and international collaborations.”

Putting info at parents’ fingertips

Nearly one in eight babies in Canada are born preterm. And researchers like Dr. Campbell-Yeo are contributing to a large and growing body of evidence showing how increased parental involvement in neonatal care improves both short- and long-term outcomes for infants and their families.

“ChezNICU Home will not replace face-to-face interaction with the health-care team, but instead strengthen relationships and augment the care provide by enhancing communication and providing accessible, standardized, up-to-date education materials,” she said.

Partnering with Cisco Solutions, the IWK Health Centre’s ChezNICU product will offer parents 24/7 access to information to help them navigate the complex (sometimes overwhelming) NICU environment at their own pace. They can connect and learn about their baby’s care on-site, from their smartphone or tablet, or even from their home computer. The system will help parents learn at their own pace, developing confidence in being part of their baby’s daily care.

“ChezNICU is a sophisticated system of digital health information, communication, teaching and support to improve the well-being and cognitive development of our most vulnerable patients while supporting their families,” said Tracy Kitch, president and CEO of the IWK Health Centre. “The collective impact of this work will be realized as a result of the strong partnerships and collaborative efforts of the IWK NICU team, parents, scientists and our partners; ACOA, Dalhousie, Cisco and the IWK Foundation."

The power of partnerships

The project will also result in several research positions, including support for summer, masters and doctoral students at Dalhousie throughout the duration of the project.

“By working together, we can ensure that the research evidence generated by leading Dalhousie scientists is brought directly to the patients who need it most — and, in turn, clinicians can identify health care gaps and provide reproachers with timely and relevant research questions,” added Dr. Campbell-Yeo. “The IWK and Dalhousie School of Nursing have built strong connections and are clearly making a difference in the care babies and families in Nova Scotians will receive.”

Dr. Campbell-Yeo says she’s grateful for the support of the partners involved, and is eager to bring the ChezNICU product to life to support parents and their families.

“ChezNICU Home is going to transform neonatal care and change the lives of infants and families at the IWK,” she said. “We look forward to sharing this solution with health centres around the world and helping NICUs everywhere truly take advantage of the power of parents.”


Simulation success: Dal IDS prof wins national teaching award

Matthew Schnurr receives innovation award from Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

Ryan McNutt - May 18, 2016

Matthew Schnurr, pictured in the Mona Campbell Building. (Danny Abriel photo)
Matthew Schnurr, pictured in the Mona Campbell Building. (Danny Abriel photo)

Considering that Matthew Schnurr just won a national award for his classroom simulations, you might be surprised how often they fail.

Not “fail” in any catastrophic sense, mind you. It’s just that his students often don’t successfully complete the task they’re trying to achieve — for example, completing the mock negotiation of an international environmental agreement.

“What our research has shown is that the learning is actually in the failure,” explains Dr. Schnurr, an associate professor in the Department of International Development Studies (IDS). “Sometimes, confronting our preconceived notions about how easy this stuff is to do, or really understanding how entrenched the different positions are, is an important part of the learning process.”

National recognition

Last year, Dr. Schnurr’s creative approaches to in-course simulation learning earned him Dal’s Academic Innovation Award, as well as the university’s Early Career Faculty Award of Excellence for Teaching.

Now, he’s one of five individuals across Canada to receive the 2016 Brightspace Innovation Award for Teaching and Learning. The national award, established in 2012, is presented by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) and recognizes innovative approaches that promote student-centered teaching and learning. Recipients receive funding support to attend two conferences: Brightspace’s own FUSION conference in Washington, D.C. and the annual STLHE conference.

“It’s very humbling, although I do think it’s a bit unfair that it’s an individual award, because so many people contribute to teaching success,” says Dr. Schnurr, citing his former colleague Elizabeth De Santo with whom he first developed classroom simulations in the College of Sustainability, as well as staff in the Centre for Learning and Teaching and other colleagues and TAs in both IDS and Sustainability who’ve played a part in the development of these innovations.

“I’ve had incredible levels of support, and it’s really a collective effort.”

Engagement in and out of the classroom

Simulation learning means different things in different academic programs; in the medical fields, for example, students regularly perform simulated procedures as a training tool. Dr. Schnurr’s simulations aren’t so much about training, although that’s not to say that his students won’t necessarily go on to become the sort of government leaders or NGO representatives they perform as in his classes. The simulations’ value is largely in how they prompt students to confront some of their own understandings about how complicated global environmental issues are to resolve.

“When you’re talking about climate change in the abstract, you’re like, ‘yeah, everyone should be able to get together and just come up with a solution,’” explains Dr. Schnurr. “But when you’re representing the government of Turkey and you have your own domestic issues to balance alongside trade commitments and economic priorities, suddenly it becomes far more difficult to imagine ways in which these totally different stakeholders with distinct priorities could come to a meaningful consensus.”

Dr. Schnurr began using simulations together with Dr. De Santo in an upper-level Sustainability course; subsequently he’s adapted the model to his introductory IDS course. Students not only take on roles in the classroom but online, using learning management software as well as social media to help advance their arguments.

“I’d never done anything quite like it in an academic setting,” says student Meredith Nelson, who is going into her third year of a double major in IDS and Political Science and took part in the IDS simulation this past year. “It helped me to grasp the complexity of international negotiations and to understand the use of social media as a method of public engagement in the development and non-profit sectors… I really enjoyed gaining tangible experience in web design and public engagement.”

“It’s much easier to learn in an engaging setting, where we are encouraged to take on alternative roles to the classic lecture style,” says Rebecca Kingdon, who was also in Dr. Schnurr’s class last year and is now entering the fourth year of her studies in IDS and Sustainability. “Dr. Schnurr truly takes the time to ensure that students have the opportunity to learn and challenge themselves through real-world simulations.”

Studying pedagogy

But do students actually learn better in these sorts of simulations? That’s a question Dr. Schnurr is keen on helping answer. Together with his colleagues, he has published three peer-reviewed papers assessing his classroom exercises using mixed-methods approaches that combine both qualitative and quantitative assessments.

In addition to the insight that the “failure” to complete the simulations is often a key learning experience, one of the more interesting findings of Dr. Schnurr’s research is that students often rate their skill competencies — understanding public policy, public speaking, negotiation, mediation —lower after the simulations are over.

“Our understanding of that result is not that student proficiencies in things like mediation and negotiation deteriorated due to participation in the simulation, but rather that their initial self-assessment was an overestimate,” explains Dr. Schnurr. “A lot of students think that these things are easier before they get into them. So one of the values of the simulation is that it helps to illustrate how hard it is to operationalize these skills in practice.”

While he continues to assess and refine his current classroom simulations, Dr. Schnurr has also started a group on campus for faculty members to come together and discuss simulation approaches to teaching and learning. The group already has members from seven different faculties, from Computer Science to Health Professions.

“We’re trying to have a more trans-disciplinary conversation on how we use simulations, how we use them in our teaching practice, the value to students, and talk about some of the ways we might learn from each other.”


Leaders in student life: Meet your 2017 Dalhousie Governors’ Award winners

Get to know this year's recipients of Dal's top student life award

Matt Reeder, Graeme Gunn, Ryan McNutt - March 24, 2017

Your 2017 Dalhousie Governors' Award winners. Left to right: Sarah Dobson, Bai Bintou Kaira, Nicole Daria, Salman Sajid, Kym Sweeny. (All photos Nick Pearce except Salman photos by Danny Abriel)
Your 2017 Dalhousie Governors' Award winners. Left to right: Sarah Dobson, Bai Bintou Kaira, Nicole Daria, Salman Sajid, Kym Sweeny. (All photos Nick Pearce except Salman photos by Danny Abriel)

Dalhousie students come from across Canada and around the globe, stories and life experiences in tow — small legacies set to grow.

On campus, they encounter new ways of looking at the world, learning how to link new knowledge and understanding with a drive towards action. They form bonds with their peers, and realize the power that comes from working across boundaries and against barriers. And many finish their degree not just inspired to leave their mark on the world — they’ve already gotten started.

Dalhousie’s Governors’ Awards, the university’s top honour in student life, celebrates students who take this experience to the next level. It recognizes exceptional contributions or leadership in the extracurricular realm — areas like university governance, building community on campus, service in the broader community, internationalizing the campus, the visual or performing arts, minority access, athletics and more.

Nominations for the awards come from across the Dal community, with the recipients chosen by a committee consisting of Dalhousie's president, three Board of Governors members and the vice-provost student affairs. The awards were presented at Thursday night’s student IMPACT awards.

Meet the five exceptional students selected to receive this year’s Governors’ Awards.

Sarah Dobson (Political Science)

Setting a path towards public service

Sarah Dobson says she was always one of those kids in grade school who wanted to be a class rep — that is, until she lost an election in grade eight. Embarrassed, she shunned student politics for a couple of years before eventually getting involved again in high school.

“I’ve outgrown that mindset now,” says the fourth-year honours Political Science student from Halifax. “When I lose things now, it’s not embarrassing anymore. I say, ‘Well, I tried’ and ‘I’m glad that I tried.’”

It was a helpful life lesson for Sarah, who plans to go to law school at Dal this fall and hopes to one day run for elected office — an undertaking where the stakes are considerably higher.

As a student senator on the Dalhousie Senate and as a page in the Nova Scotia legislature for two years, Sarah gained appreciation for some of the day-to-day tasks that go into governance and policy-making. But as many of Sarah’s extracurricular and volunteer commitments show, her desire to get involved in politics stems from a deeper urge to enact change in the world.

“You can’t go through learning about politics and about all these things that are wrong and how we run things and the gaps that certain systems leave and not want to get in there and a least try and help fill those gaps,” says Sarah, whose Political Science studies focused on international relations.

Improving refugee access to education and fostering immigrant success have been at the heart of some of Sarah’s efforts, including a placement with the Halifax Refugee Clinic and as literacy tutor for immigrant children with Frontier College. She has also worked as a student refugee program coordinator for the World University Service Canada (WUSC) at Dal, helping foreign students coming from difficult situations navigate the path to getting a degree. She served on the WUSC committee that helped raise funds to bring two additional students, both from Syria, to campus this year.

During the 2015 Canadian federal election campaign, Sarah turned her education advocacy efforts to another demographic when she started her own grassroots educational workshop called Let’s Talk Politics. She visited about 20 junior high classrooms that fall to teach kids about Canada’s electoral system and how campaigns work — topics she says she wasn’t taught much about during her own schooling.

More recently, she travelled to Ottawa to represent the riding of Halifax West at Daughters of the Vote, a national program that encourages young women across the country to enter politics and government. Participants heard from women currently serving in the House of Commons as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who Sarah got to introduce in the House one day as part of the event. As exciting and nerve-racking as that was, she says the highlight of the conference was leaving with a newfound determination to keep pushing for equality for women in politics.

“Hearing from those women who are actually there, who have done, it was significant,” she says. “If I wasn’t considering ever running for politics in my future, now I am.” (Matt Reeder)

Nicole Doria (Health Promotion, master's)

A passionate advocate for research and community impact

Growing up, Nicole Doria was dedicated to dancing, competing in everything from tap and jazz to lyrical and ballet. While she left the world of competitive dance behind after high school, she found it calling her back a few years later — only, this time, with a notepad in her hand rather than dance shoes on her feet.

Nicole had seen up close just how much pressure dance could put on young women. So as an undergrad in Health Promotion at Dal, she decided to explore an issue far too common in the sport: eating disorders.

“It was a vulnerable environment to grow up in as a young female," says Nicole, who now as a master’s student at Dal has continued her research into the subject. “I feel like if there was some type of education or resources or tools for dancers or parents or coaches, it could make a big difference in young girls being able to advocate and control and improve their health and body image.”

Nicole’s passion for health promotion began when she was volunteering at Sick Kids in Toronto the year after she’d completed her first undergraduate degree (in Political Science) at the University of Guelph. Looking for something to be inspired by, she found it in the connections she made with patients at the hospital.

Nicole, originally from Pickering, Ont., continues to thrive on such connections today in her fifth year as part of the Dal and Halifax communities. She spent two years working at Ronald McDonald House, supporting sick children and their families visiting hospitals in Halifax. She’s also volunteered with many community organizations including the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, Abilities in Motion (a Halifax-based program that assists people with mobility concerns in being active) and Phoenix Youth (at-risk and homeless youth), among others.

It’s challenging work that brings her face-to-face with vulnerable populations on a daily basis.

“People put their trust in you and have a conversation with you,” she says. “I feel like just developing those relationships with people and providing resources that wouldn’t be able to be provided without volunteers is important. It may feel like little small things, but I do feel like it makes a big difference.”

Nicole has been involved in a number of research groups during her time at Dal, including the Healthy Populations Institute and the Indigenous Health Interest Group. She now serves as co-president of the latter, an interdisciplinary collective that aims to reduce Indigenous health inequities and improve Indigenous curriculum development and education, in part through engaging those populations in the research. She’ll be putting that approach to work soon outside of Dal when she starts a new job at the Maritime SPOR (Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research) Support Network.

“What I think is important is involving patients in the research,” she says. “Making sure that the research that’s done has an impact on the patients and the people who the research is intended to impact.” (Matt Reeder)

Bai Bintou Kaira (Engineering)

Switching gears and inspiring others along the way

For her final co-op term this year, Chemical Engineering student Bai Bintou B. Kaira decided to pack up and head to a small mining town in the southeastern part of Saskatchewan to work for a potash company.

It's a long way from Halifax and even farther from her hometown of Fajara in the The Gambia in western Africa.

"I get asked a lot, 'Where are you from?' I say, 'I go to school at Dal, on the east coast, but I'm from Gambia.' They have no idea where that is," says Bintou, now in the third month of the eight-month placement.

While many students navigate new places, experiences and challenges at university, Bintou seems to actively seek them out more than some — a trait she traces back to her mother's influence.

"My mom would always encourage us to be different and say, ‘Don’t be overshadowed by the world of culture, you can do whatever you want,’" explains Bintou, the youngest of four sisters. That advice helped encourage her take the plunge and move to Canada for university, despite the fact that her older sisters had all gone to either the United States or the United Kingdom to study.

That boldness also helped Bintou to find and build community when she first arrived at Dal in 2013. Feeling overwhelmed at times by her new surroundings and the heavy course- and tutorial-load in first-year Engineering, she then had to deal with the sudden death of her mother in her second semester. Rather than retreat from student life, she threw herself into different group and volunteer activities.

In the years since, Bintou’s commitment to helping others and promoting a diverse and powered student community at Dal have inspired many. She has tutored other Engineering students, served on the executive of the African Students’ Society, worked as a mentor (and, for a time, program manager) with Imhotep’s Legacy Academy, and volunteered with the Black Student Advising Centre and as a medical first responder.

“I do enjoy helping people,” she says. “I feel we all want to get somewhere. We may not all have a straight path or it may not be easy, but if you have people to help you stay within what your goal is you’ll be fine.”

She pushes boundaries academically, as well. When she first arrived at Dal in 2013, she started out studying Microbiology and Immunology knowing she might eventually go into Medicine. She quickly switched to Engineering, though, feeling it might challenge her to think in new ways. “In Engineering, the problems force you to think outside the box," she says. "You aren’t given all the information, you make reasonable assumptions."

Evaluating the efficiency of cooling systems at a potash plant may seem far removed from helping people in the medical field, but Bintou — now in her fourth year of a five-year program — sees versatility in the skills she's building and amazing worth in the experiences she’s had.

“I’ve created memories that are going to linger in my mind forever,” she says. “If I had to do it again, I’d choose Dal and I’d do what I’ve done all over again — maybe smile more.” (Matt Reeder)

Salman Sajid (Computer Science)

Bridging cultures and creating community on campus

For Salman Sajid Malik, what Halifax and Dalhousie have in common is how friendly and welcoming the people are.

“Within a few weeks of my first semester, I fell in love with this city,” says the fourth-year Computer Science student. “It didn’t take any time to become part of the community.”

Born in Pakistan and raised in Saudi Arabia after the age of four, Salman did pre-university studies in Malaysia for a year before coming to Dal with a renewable Schulich Scholarship. So he knows a thing or two about finding your feet in a new place, where it may not always be clear where to start making connections.

He met people like Suhaib Qaiser, a Computer Science PhD student and founder of the Pakistani Students Association (PSA), and Hasmeet Singh Chandok, a Computer Science master’s student and founder of the Sikh Students Association (SSA). “They’ve been a constant source of guidance and support for me,” he says, “and have become part of my family — the only family I have here in Halifax.”

Through his work with those groups — plus the Muslim Students Association, Indian Sub-Continent Students Society and Dalhousie International Students Association (DISA), among others — Salman has helped enhance the cultural vibrancy of the university, providing support for other international students transitioning to life at Dalhousie and bringing together different groups to help the community.

“I believe the first step towards making any big change or impact on a community level starts with building relations,” he says. “And to strengthen the international student voice on campus, I believe it is important that the societies work together. Collectively, we can make a difference by simultaneously support a cause or raise funds for it to help those in need.”

Salman helped plan the United for One fundraiser that raised over $160,000 for Syrian refugees, and worked on the Not 15 Million event that attracted over 400 people and raised over $26,000 for famine relief in Ethiopia. This year, his work with DISA resulted in the creation of four $1,000 scholarships and two $500 emergency bursaries for international students — ones that not only support students in need, but recognize academic and extracurricular activities.

“Extracurricular activities are often overlooked, but there is so much you get out of them,” he says. “They help you grow as a person, and for me personally, they have taught me how to improve myself as a leader.”

While he’s now influencing others to volunteer and give their time to help others, who influenced Salman?

“My parents go out of their way to help people,” he says. “My father always says, ‘It won’t cost me anything by dedicating some time to help someone, but it could possibly make the other person’s day, week, or even life easier in some way.’ And the comedian Jim Carrey once said, ‘The effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is.’

“I’ve discovered that our contribution as individuals doesn’t have to be huge to make a difference.” (Graeme Gunn)

Kym Sweeny (Law)

A single mom whose activism sparks change

When third-year Law student Kym Sweeny takes to the stage to accept her Governors’ Award, she won’t be doing so alone. Like at last year’s IMPACT Awards, where she received the Student Activist of the Year Award, she’ll be joined by her son Elliott, age 6, a budding activist in their own right.

“I was determined to not let having a child stop me from doing the work I wanted to do,” says Kym, who is originally from near Yarmouth, N.S. (The two live in Halifax with their dogs, Huxley and Caya.) “Elliott has always been coming to things like rallies or planning meetings for what I’m doing here on campus. They’ve been growing up in and around it.”

Kym says she learns from Elliott every day — and no wonder, given that among her son’s activities is a recently launched series of “pop-up” schools for children and adults on topics like gender, racism and consent, for which they’ve earned significant local media attention. But Elliott clearly takes a lot of inspiration from Kym, who in her three years at Dal has become a prominent actor for change on campus.

After two prior degrees focused on the intersection between environmental and Indigenous issues, and working closely in collaboration with Indigenous groups using decolonial frameworks, Kym saw a Law degree as a key tool to help her enact change on a broader, systemic level. At Dal, she’s conducted research with Dal faculty members like Naomi Metallic (Chancellor’s Chair in Aboriginal Law and Policy) and Fred Wein (School of Social Work), and worked with the Sipekne’katik First Nation on treaty issues.

But it’s her on-campus activism for which Kym has perhaps become best known. She’s been a leading campus voice on issues of sexual violence and consent, speaking regularly at events and playing a key role in developing the Dalhousie Student Union’s (DSU) sexual assault and harassment phone line in 2015.

That same year, she led the formation of the Student Advocacy Society at the Schulich School of Law, an independent group to help students from all programs navigate university complaint procedures for discrimination, harassment and assault. A year later, she wove the society’s work into the DSU’s main advocacy society as its director, working to transform it from a mostly academic advocacy office into one with a broader mandate.

“We’re helping the individual students, but we’re also trying to make Dalhousie a better place for everyone,” she says.

As she looks ahead to articling at Halifax law firm Pink Larkin, where she hopes to continue her work with Indigenous communities, she’s proud of what she’s accomplished — especially as a single mother.

“I find that they help me with my work, and give me that inspiration,” she says of Elliott (who uses they/them pronouns). “Since having them, it’s given me more drive to create better communities for me and my son to grow up in, and show them that change is possible — but that we have to work at it.” (Ryan McNutt)


Finding his place

Student Zac Smith takes advantage of new Dal practicum course

Matt Semansky - Story published April 20, 2017; new practicum courses introduced in 2016/17 academic year

Political Science student Zac Smith. (Danny Abriel photos)
Political Science student Zac Smith. (Danny Abriel photos)

Sometimes love makes you do the unexpected.

Zac Smith, for example, only intended to stay in Halifax for the duration of the Foundation Year program at the University of King’s College. But then the city captured his heart.

“The combination of falling in love with Halifax — and meeting great professors in the Political Science department at Dalhousie — convinced me to stay,” says Zac, who was raised in Toronto.

Zac graduates this spring with an honours degree in Political Science, a certificate in Indigenous Studies and a long list of classroom and experiential learning experiences that he’ll take with him to Harvard Law School next fall.

He credits his professors for providing the guidance and support that have helped him achieve his academic goals.

“I’ve made a connection with a number of profs and gotten to know them well,” says Zac, citing Indigenous Studies professor Diana Lewis as one of his faculty mentors. “That really makes a difference when you’re pushing yourself and finding challenges.”

Real-world experience

Another difference-making experience for Zac came in the form of the new practicum placement course offered to Political Science and Gender and Women’s Studies students. Introduced in the 2016-17 academic year, the POLI 4390 course gives fourth-year undergraduates the chance to obtain real-world experience working for government or non-government organizations in the public policy sphere.

The opportunity to gain exposure to the policy world while earning an academic credit was perfect for Zac, who has been interested in politics and policy for as long as he can remember.

“It might be hereditary. My grandfather is a political scientist,” he says. “I remember being seven years old and doing cut-outs and scrapbooks of elections.”

After taking a master’s-level course in policy at Dalhousie’s School of Public Administration last summer, Zac did his practicum placement at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

“I was working one on one with the head of CCPA for Nova Scotia. It was super cool and I think was an opportunity I wouldn’t have had in Ontario or Quebec, just because Nova Scotia is a smaller community.

The practicum allowed Zac to make a meaningful, tangible contribution to an important policy project.

“I was working on the Halifax Living Wage Report, which needed to be updated. We looked at costs of living and what people actually need to live. When I was done, the CCPA had a report that I was instrumental in writing.”

A dedicated volunteer

The practicum placement was by no means the only experiential learning exercise in Zac’s university career. As a volunteer, he has dedicated himself to literacy programs for new Canadians and inmates at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Burnside.

His commitment to public service also continues this summer, as he’ll intern with a Member of Parliament in Ottawa before heading off to Harvard.

From his interest in policy to his appreciation for his adopted hometown, Zac has found success by following the things he loves.

“I think undergrad is what you make of it,” he says. “And I’ve had a great time.”

By the Numbers


Total Enrolment




Total Research Funding


International Partnerships

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Shaped by strategy

Excellence and innovation in teaching and learning. Global leadership in research. Serving our region, our nation and our world through a collaborative approach to solving the challenges – and embracing the opportunities – of tomorrow. These are the core principles of our Strategic Direction, a blueprint for creating a shared legacy of lasting impact.

The Strategic Direction plan points the way to a more sustainable, inclusive and prosperous shared future. Through leadership and partnership, we bring this strategy to life.

2016–17 Dalhousie By the Numbers

2016–17 Dalhousie By the Numbers





Full Time


Part Time
















999 regular



Total Research























30 Research Centres


Research Chairs


Research Chairs








Toward 200

In 2018, Dalhousie will mark a rare milestone, becoming one of few universities in Canada to celebrate its 200th anniversary. It’s an opportunity to celebrate our past, generate excitement for our future, connect meaningfully with our communities and say “thank you” to all who’ve been a part of the journey.

Learn more at dal200.ca

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