The Board of Governors Research Chair positions aim to build MacEwan's culture of research and scholarly activity, contributing to the advancement of the Research Strategic Plan, within the university and in the larger community — and timing has been everything for the two outgoing chairs.
The news of being named Board of Governors Research Chair came at a critical time for Dr. Boulianne, who was ready to begin the knowledge dissemination stage for a three-country study of digital media use (completed with a colleague in France). And in March 2019, the associate professor in the Department of Sociology had learned that her Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Grant application had been successful.
During her two-year term, she published 19 peer-reviewed articles and two book chapters; presented her research 11 times at conferences; completed 11 public knowledge dissemination activities that have included reports, blog submissions and podcasts; and applied for and received four additional research grants.
Meanwhile, Dr. Erin Walton, associate professor of earth and planetary sciences in the Department of Physical Sciences, spent time growing her research program and expanded her expertise to look at new meteorite types, including samples from the Moon and the asteroid 4-Vesta. She was also able to give back to the scientific community by organizing a four-session workshop providing an overview of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery Grant program.
"For me, the two years was a period in which my excitement for research discoveries was rekindled," says Dr. Walton. "I would liken my Board of Governors Research Chair position to my experience as a postdoctoral student, where I had the time to really explore my research and to pursue new avenues of study."
Both Dr. Boulianne and Dr. Walton say their work with students has been the highlight of their experience. Thanks to the grants she received, Dr. Boulianne was able to support a team of research assistants.
"The research funding allowed me to provide 16 MacEwan students with paid, hands-on experience conducting research that included coding social media posts; learning advanced literature review skills; creating infographics, videos, reports and websites to distribute findings to the public; and in some cases, co-publishing peer-reviewed articles with me," she says. She also worked with computer science students who created data visualizations as part of a class project.
Sociology prof and student researchers dig into climate change, politics and social media
Dr. Shelley Boulianne works with students to study the international youth climate strike and how climate change factored into the last federal election.
Dr. Walton began work on her Moon research that involved undergraduate student Tatiana Mijajlovic. Mijajlovic's research resulted in a student-led, peer-reviewed journal article that was published in 2020, and she is now pursuing a master's of science degree, with Dr. Walton co-supervising her thesis.
Bachelor of Science student Jannah Aizon worked with Dr. Walton on a study of meteorites from asteroid 4-Vesta. Aizon presented her project results at this year's Undergraduate Research in Science Conference of Alberta (URSCA), where she received an award for her presentation.
And Haley Jurak, a MacEwan Bachelor of Science alum and one of Dr. Walton's former students, has been working on her master's of science at the University of New Brunswick. The experiments on nanominerals that Jurak is performing to study the Steen River impact structure in northwestern Alberta are the first of their kind within the earth science community, says Dr. Walton.
Board of Governors Research Chair collaborates with peers and students
One year into her two-year appointment, Dr. Erin Walton shares an update about her meteorite research and mentorship work.
As she exits the role, Dr. Boulianne has begun to integrate her latest research into her teaching — and the information couldn't be any more timely.
"In Winter 2020 and 2021, students in my social statistics course used the survey data that I have gathered about social media use, misinformation, political consumerism and environmental attitudes in Canada," she says. "This is a unique opportunity for them to have access to timely survey data and to produce their own statistical reports about some hotly debated topics in society, including social media addiction, fake news, online privacy and climate change."
After also spending her term fostering new collaborations that will continue over the coming years, Dr. Walton has applied for two grants, one submitted to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the other to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), to continue research on lunar materials and terrestrial impact structures. She is also the co-applicant on a grant proposal submitted to the CSA's Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program, which could provide $900,000 in funding over the next five years with a focus on creating an expertise in lunar geology in Canada.
As for the incoming Board of Governors Research Chairs, Dr. Walton urges them to enjoy the opportunity. "Two years goes by fast."
Announcing the 2021 Board of Governors Research Chairs
Associate Professor Jacqueline Baker and Dr. Christopher Striemer will advance the profile of the university's research, scholarly and creative activities.
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