CNA-Q: STEM Skills competitions
Dr. Gurinder K. Ahulwalia
As Physics Instructor at the college’s Labrador West Campus, Dr. Gurinder K. Ahluwalia oversees all aspects of student supervision and research for projects on Materials and Nanotechnology.
Dr. Ahluwalia has made outstanding contribution to the science of nanotechnology, particularly in the area of nano-structuring of new materials, and is experienced in the use of high tech instrumentation including: synchrotron beam line, thin film technologies, differential scanning calorimetry, UV-VIS-NIR spectroscopy, atomic force spectroscopy, dielectric measurements, dark and photoconductivity measurements, and cell designing for conductivity and dielectric measurements.
An experienced professional with a research background in international and intercultural environments, Dr. Ahluwalia has contributed to several international conferences and has served on the organizing committees of world-class events across Asia, Europe and North America. The winner of several international awards, she is a recipient of the prestigious visiting JSPS fellowship from Japan. A major emphasis of Dr. Ahluwalia’s research work has been the synthesis and optimization of novel materials for electronic and optoelectronic devices. Her work has been highlighted in over 45 research papers and several peer-reviewed journals, earning her a reputation as a leading scientist in the area of material sciences.
Dr. Aaruun Arunachalam
As instructor mathematics and physics at the college’s Burin Campus, Dr. Aaruun Arunachalam is researching computational models to better predict the effects of forces on engineered structures, particularly as it relates to ice and its effects on structures located at sea. The research will enable offshore operators to build structures better designed to withstand ice-induced forces, making offshore activities safer and more predictable. Understanding the limits of an engineering design in withstanding the forces of sheet ice and other ice-induced forces is the first step in the design of any engineering process. Depending on the intensity, type, and distribution of forces, and the characteristics of the engineered structures, the behavior of the structures will be different. The ability to estimate the intensity, type, nature and distribution of these forces on structures like ships and offshore oil platforms will greatly improve safety and predictive risk management. Available experimental data is being used to apply the concept of dimensional analysis and similarity theory to developing the most realistic computational models for ice-induced forces on structures interacting with sheet ice. Dr. Arunachalam’s research on computational models and designs for ice-induced forces on offshore structures will pave the way for further improvements in understanding the physics of the ice-structure interaction problem.
A biophysicist, agricultural meteorologist, and Certified Engineering Technologist, Dr. Graham brings this team approach to his research interests and his additional role as a researcher and educator in biology and engineering technology. Dr. Graham is the key driver behind a project to investigate wave powered pumping of seawater: the Wave-Powered Pumping of Seawater for On-Shore Use and Electrical Generation Project in Lord’s Cove, near the campus on the Burin Peninsula. The interdisciplinary research project is prototype development and testing of a wave-powered pump that will use water flow to supply a flushing stream for shore-based operations. Many onshore or platform-based activities, such as aquaculture and fish processing, use high flows of seawater driven by electrical pumps at considerable cost. Dr. Graham is researching how best to harness the power of wave action to bring seawater to shore for these operations. Set up of an onshore aquaculture farm optimizing feed and waste in the water flow for a number of species is another key aspect of the project. Minor modifications to this design can allow the pump to generate electricity from wave action. Power can also be made from the flow of returning water to the ocean. The collaborative approach of this project has allowed the incorporation of skills and contributions from various stakeholders, both from within the college and externally, and continues to form the basis of Dr. Graham’s continued research into the possibilities of wave-powered energy.
Office of Applied Research - Wave Energy Research Centre, Lord's Cove, NL (YouTube)
Dr. Barry Hicks
As a biology instructor, Dr. Barry Hicks is always seeking ways to bring science to life for his students. There is no better way to learn than by doing and with this in mind, Dr. Hicks set out to establish a facility where his students could do just that. Founded by Dr. Hicks at the college’s Carbonear Campus, the Applied Entomology Laboratory is a hive of activity. It’s here where he and his team investigate applied approaches to the impacts of insect activity on humans. In the shadow of ever-increasing global concerns regarding pesticide use, Dr. Hicks is also researching production of an insect pathogenic fungus. It might sound like weird science, but the results will mean less chemical dependence for agricultural production, and reducing chemicals in the food chain is good news for the planet – and everyone on it! Dr. Hicks studied Forest Entomology at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, where he received his Ph.D. in 2001. His forestry research includes developing fungal biological control agents to combat forest defoliators, and examining the characteristics of potential disease carrying mosquitoes in Newfoundland and Labrador. When not immersed in the laboratory or inspiring students in the classroom, Dr. Hicks can be found partnering with government agencies to educate the public on the importance of healthy pollination, biological control and environmental studies. What inspires him about his research and the field of Entomology? “I’m inspired mainly by the pursuit of knowledge. I really enjoy discovering things that no one else has done.”
Dr. S. Karunanithy
For Dr. Karunanithy, the secrets to good human health might be found in the smallest food forms nature has to offer. A chemistry instructor at the college’s Carbonear Campus, Dr. Karunanithy’s work focuses on the extraction and analysis of antioxidants and other compounds from natural products. The human benefit derived from these compounds is a major area of research and interest. A graduate of the University of British Columbia’s Ph.D. program in chemistry, Dr. Karunanithy’s latest project is to extract antioxidants and other phytochemicals from berries and fruits, and to develop natural products using the compounds in these extracts. In this on-going project, phytochemicals, which are naturally occurring chemical compounds derived from plants, are extracted from blueberries, cranberries, pomegranates and sea buckthorn. The ingredients in these extracts are then analyzed for nutritional values and human health applications, for future incorporation into nutraceutical health products. Dr. Karunanithy’s future work will focus on the value addition of Agrifoods using these research results.
Dr. Sanat Mandal
Dr. Sanat Mandal’s goal is to find smarter weapons for the battle against life-threatening cancers and other diseases and he’s found one in bioinformatics, the application of statistics and computer science to the field of molecular biology. A Ph.D. graduate of the University of Calcutta in Chemistry, Dr. Mandal is a chemistry instructor at the college’s Clarenville Campus. His main research interests are in developing potent tumor-selective drugs for breast, lung, and blood cancers. Drugs that are developed applying this approach are expected to be less toxic and be able to overcome drug resistance. Applying this approach, Dr. Mandal has been able to develop several target-specific molecules, resulting in treatments that are more effective and less harmful for the patient. Dr. Mandal uses state-of-the-art techniques in his drug design and development research activities. He combines his multi-disciplinary skills in his approach to drug development, targeting drug docking profiles and interaction evaluations, identifying the marker (target) genes using bioinformatics tools, and molecular biological validation techniques. The success of targeted drug therapies for human pharmacology is an exciting prospect for those at the frontlines of medical research, and these concepts are brought to life for Dr. Mandal’s students, linking the study of bioinformatics to progress in the real-world battle against cancer.
Dr. Ranjan Patro
At CNA’s Happy Valley-Goose Bay Campus, Dr. Ranjan Patro divides his time between researching the impacts of bubble properties across a broad range of industries, and mentoring students. Through his own efforts, Dr. Patro is furthering the college’s research portfolio, enhancing the CAS Transfer Program curriculum, and ensuring students are supported and mentored while undertaking their course of study and research. Dr. Patro completed his Masters of Science in Physics and Oceanography at Berhampur University in India. He went on to study the hydrodynamics of large bubbles at the National University of Ireland, Galway, where he received his Ph.D. Before joining CNA, Dr. Patro also conducted research work at Memorial University and the University of California. Bubbles are found wherever gas and liquids interact, and are critical to many processes of interest to engineers and scientists. Several inherent properties of the bubble are fundamental in understanding processes for industries as diverse as mining, aquaculture, beverage production, chemical manufacturing and even naval warfare. Dr. Patro’s research on bubble properties has far-reaching benefits for applications in chemical engineering, biology and medicine, automotive engineering, biotechnology and food processing, and wastewater technologies
Having mentored students at the campus from as far away as Qatar, Dr. Patro is enthusiastic about his research and his students. An engaged mentor, researcher and educator, Dr. Patro is constantly seeking ways to further the college experience for his students.
What drives him?
As lead of the Innovative Product Development Centre for the Office of Applied Research at the college’s Prince Philip Drive Campus in St. John’s, Randal Power is facilitating the unit’s acquisition and implementation of new pieces of engineering and manufacturing equipment focusing on the area of applied research.
Power, a graduate of Memorial’s School of Engineering, leads the centre team on innovative manufacturing projects, working closely with clients to understand their requirements and challenges for the required finished products. To date, over 300 products have been produced for private clients using the centre’s 3D printing technology, and internally the unit has worked on numerous projects for college researchers and students. Major projects undertaken by Power include: the reproduction of the emblems and trim work of the Beaumont Hamel plaques in Bowring Park, the production of tooling and parts for Demand Innovations’ coffee makers, a technology to improve the Nomex clothes dryer, UV-based sterilizing technologies, a new type of underwater thruster technology, and a new type of solar air heating technology for industrial and home use. Under Power’s supervision, the Innovative Product Development Centre’s mandate of applying engineering technologies to applied research is providing companies with an innovative and cost-effective path to commercialization, while supplying the research community with the equipment needed to develop new prototypes for industry.
Dr. Gary Thompson
A registered professional geoscientist, Dr. Thompson’s research activities are of particular interest for mining and natural resources exploration, shaping discovery and extraction strategies for operators. Dr. Thompson is the NSERC Industrial Research Chair for Colleges in Applied Mineralogy. His research activities focus on new process development and technology innovations in applied mineralogy, specifically dealing with the issues and challenges encountered by Vale NL in its current mining endeavors. The innovative approach in the Chair's research is to link the geology and characterization of the deposits directly with ore recovery processes. Dr. Thompson’s research focuses on geochemical techniques used in research for mineral exploration.
In 2009, Dr. Thompson was awarded an Industrial Research and Innovation Fund grant to explore methods for the discovery and extraction of ore below bedrock. Most, if not all, exposed ore has already been discovered in Newfoundland and Labrador. Any remaining economic deposits are hidden below the surface of exposed bedrock, making geophysical and geochemical methods for mineral exploration increasingly important. Dr. Thompson’s more recent research has focused on trace element mineral chemistry and application methods for finding buried uranium deposits and orthomagmatic nickel sulfide deposits. Over the summer of 2009, with support of Aurora Energy Inc. and Memorial University, a study was initiated to examine biogeochemical exploration techniques in the Central Mineral Belt, Labrador.
In 14 years of designing and administering GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and the ESRI Platforms, Rick Wheeler has witnessed the evolution of geospatial research methods. As GPS (Global Positioning System) navigation and GIS data models have evolved, so too have the information systems which manage and analyze the resulting data. As a Data and Systems Specialist at the college’s Geospatial Research Facility (GRF), located at its Corner Brook Campus, Wheeler is trained in a wide variety of server-based technologies for geospatial applications. He is responsible for geo-database design implementation and management, and works with industry and government partners on the design, configuration, training and testing of field-based data collectors, GPS systems and GIS server management. A frequent collaborator with public and private forestry stakeholders, Wheeler is often involved in the design and implementation of information systems for various projects. Recent projects include the Forestry Data Model Project, in conjunction with the Department of Natural Resources, to develop a data model for storing and managing forestry data. The resulting data model will be implemented as a new customized forestry geo-database for the province. GPS-based systems are also changing the practices of forest harvesters. Wheeler recently collaborated with Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Limited (CBPPL) on a research project to investigate the use of GPS-based navigation systems for forest harvesting operations. Using GIS and GPS information to monitor and plan field operations using near real-time data, Wheeler and CBPPL team members deployed a customized ArcPad application to provide a real-time virtual view of a harvester’s GPS location, and the area to be harvested, allowing for better planning for harvesting operations.
Leon Fiander is the lead researcher in Polyculture at Burin Campus of College of the North Atlantic. Leon completed a Masters in Environmental Science from Memorial University in 2005. His research interests include polyculture, aquaculture, wave energy, and waste management. He has been active in polyculture research since 2004.
Ken Wheeler, P.Eng.
When raw materials are extracted from the earth, processes are employed to extract the valuable components and convert them into products that can be sold to a market. Inevitably, various forms of 'waste' are produced during this process - high variability, lost time, excess material usage, high energy consumption, low recoveries, etc. These wastes may have significant impacts on an organization’s bottom line as well as on the environment.
As a practicing professional engineer and instructor in the Process Operations Engineering Technology (POET) program, Ken emphasizes the need to be persistent in the search for opportunities to eliminate process wastes wherever they occur and to continuously improve the process. The end result will be a more stable and efficient process, with lower environmental impacts and liabilities.
Ken’s current research interests include:
- Identification of process control problems using a combination of historical data and process knowledge, and recommending opportunities for process improvement.
- Investigation of opportunities to reprocess mine tailings with a view to reducing acid mine drainage issues and generating revenue from the sale of valuable minerals or new products.