Shine a light
Report highlights research ‘stars’
Lights! Camera! Action! might well be the words one could use to announce the new 2010 research report released by the vice-president (research) at Memorial University.
The 50-page report, titled The Shining: Research Stars 2010, describes some of the major university research projects of 2009-2010 and uses movie titles as an entrée to the specialized worlds of Memorial’s research “stars.”
The report is a highly imaginative and innovative “take” on an institutional report, a strategy that the university has been employing over the last several years. Designed to appeal to a wide range of audiences, the report offers iconic photography and engaging text, aiming to intrigue people into perusing it. Memorial has won many awards, including several international ones, for other reports created in a similar style.
Dr. Ray Gosine, Memorial’s vice-president (research) pro tempore, said the idea for The Shining is inventive and engaging, paying homage to both the movies and the researchers, who are first-rate and internationally-recognized.
“The stars of this report are an A-list cast – world-renowned experts and respected authorities – who proudly call Memorial home as they pursue major opportunities and challenges in and across their disciplines,” Dr. Gosine said.
“Here they advance knowledge, inspire new generations and shed light on the unknown. They come from far and wide but share a vision of making Memorial’s research among the best in the world. They do this in the context of thoroughly enjoying what they do.
“In keeping with the innovative and risk-taking nature of research, we provided a generous dash of creativity in our approach to our research report,” Dr. Gosine said. “Our research efforts are stories, very good stories, and it made sense to reach to movies – the major story-telling vehicles of our time – to capture people’s attention. Our goal is to engage and inform the reader by producing a readable report, not a ‘run of the mill’ document that might get ignored. We believe Memorial’s research stories are too important not to tell with fanfare.”
Memorial University's research income totaled more than $90 million in 2009-10.
The researchers involved said that, in addition to being pleased they are being profiled, they had fun participating in such a novel approach to communicating the university’s research efforts.
Dr. Dale Corbett, Canada Research Chair in Stroke and Neuroplasticity, Faculty of Medicine, has been studying stroke for years. A leader in his field, Dr. Corbett says that in Canada a stroke occurs every 10 minutes, leaving 90 per cent of survivors disabled.
"It is important that the general public gains awareness about the value and impact of the highly innovative research being conducted at Memorial," Dr. Corbett said. "In the past, researchers have been 'highlighted' in a very stereotypical, rather boring fashion - a photograph of a scientist peering down a microscope, for example. The current approach of the research report, to illustrate select university researchers in the context of movie themes, is very creative and unique and will most certainly catch the attention of the public and hopefully encourage them to learn more about this aspect of the university enterprise. Participating in the process was a fun and valuable experience."
Dr. Carrie Dyck said she loved the enthusiasm that attended the creation of the report. "I learned a lot about how to promote a complex idea to the general public," she said.
"My archaeological excavations uncover layers of Newfoundland and Labrador's complex and fascinating past," Dr. Renouf said. "This means we spend our summers in the great outdoors - something we tried to capture in the research report photo shoot."
The pages of the report also tear out, making it easy to share the movie posters or post them on a bulletin board.
A pdf of the The Shining: Research Stars 2010 is available at http://www.mun.ca/research/2010report/.
Research Report 2010 was produced by Memorial's Division of Marketing and Communications for the Office of the Vice-President (Research).
Some of the projects/highlights included in The Shining:THE SOUND OF MUSIC
Dr. Bev Diamond, Canada Research Chair in Traditional Music/Ethnomusicology, and professor of music and folklore, is researching the social history of recorded music in the province and beyond. This opportunity resulted from being named a Trudeau Fellow, one of the most prestigious humanities awards in the country. With $225,000 of support from the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, Dr. Diamond will write two books – the culmination of years of research in ethnomusicology.
Dr. Matthew Kerby, an assistant professor in Memorial's Department of Political Science, has developed a computer model that predicts when cabinet ministers
are going to be sacked. He has studied the experience of every cabinet minister in Canadian history, back to 1867, extracting relevant data and adding it to his model. He has found that there are specific and quantifiable factors that can extend – or sharply reduce – the careers of cabinet ministers.
WHAT LIES BENEATH
Memorial's Department of Archaeology has relied on research, a bit of luck and a lot of digging to discover world-class archaeological sites in Port au Choix, on the northwest coast of Newfoundland. Now, thanks to almost $1 million in federal and provincial funding, it is relying less on luck and more on groundbreaking technology. In choosing where to dig, archaeologists identify likely locations for settlement – often beach terraces near the ocean. The Great Northern Peninsula is rising due to plate tectonics, so former beaches are now vegetated. Dr. Priscilla Renouf, Department of Archaeology, works with geographer Dr. Trevor Bell to reconstruct the ancient coastal landscape, deducing the best places to send archaeological teams. Aided by precise real-time satellite technology, crews locate the exact elevation. A sophisticated, ground-penetrating radar is then used to search for anomalies before even breaking soil.
Canada Research Chair in Ocean Technology and associate professor in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, Dr. Ralf Bachmayer is spearheading research on what he calls the autonomous underwater glider, a much smaller and lighter device that “glides” through the water column, using ballast to ascend and descend and wings to propel it forward. Because it is largely self-propelled, the glider is capable of research runs lasting up to six months. Ralf won the 2009 Petro-Canada Young Innovator Award to develop a propeller glide that will enable greater thrust when needed and can be retrofitted to existing gliders. Ron Lewis, an engineering PhD candidate and member of the CREAIT MERLIN laboratory, is custodian of the MUN Explorer, one of Memorial's unique pieces of research equipment. The AUV can be preprogrammed to perform deepwater research autonomously, on runs of up to 150 kilometres or 24 hours. The AUV can travel under ice packs – areas that are otherwise inaccessible. It has a payload bay, like an undersea space shuttle, that can carry testing, sampling and measuring equipment and has already been utilized for research in the Canadian Arctic and harsh North Atlantic.
LOST IN TRANSLATION
Dr. Carrie Dyck, associate professor in Memorial's Department of Linguistics, was recently awarded nearly $1 million to preserve and maintain the Cayuga language, the language of the Iroquoian First Nations. She has written a dictionary of the language, documented the grammar and transcribed many important recordings. With fewer than 100 fluent speakers of Cayuga left, mostly elders, the language is in danger of disappearing. The funding will be used to keep the language vibrant and alive through immersion courses for adults and language daycare for children.
The Ocean Sciences Centre (OSC) of Memorial University was awarded more than $16 million in federal-provincial funding to expand and enhance its facility, located on the ocean's edge at spectacular Logy Bay. A new research facility will be constructed, complete with the latest equipment, laboratories and coldwater holding tanks, for the specialized study of invasive species, deepwater organisms and marine diseases.