10 big questions we were asking in 2019

January 3, 2020 | Science, Society, Health
Our students and faculty members have questions. A lot of them. Here are 10 they were asking – and answering – in 2019.

1. How safe is Edmonton’s drinking water?


Not as safe as we might think. As part of an unprecedented national journalistic collaboration, Dr. Steve Lillebuen (left) and 15 of his MacEwan University journalism students, including Cheyenne Juknies, Dylanna Fisher and Kiefer Sutherland, pictured here, examined lead levels in drinking water in Alberta. The result was “Tainted Water,” a major investigative project. Read the full story.

2. Can a single facial feature help you spot a narcissist?


After discovering that people could make accurate judgements of narcissism just by looking at another person’s face, Dr. Miranda Giacomin wanted to find out exactly what part of the face led to that correct conclusion. So the assistant professor of psychology, alongside a research collaborator, cropped photos of the faces of people who had taken narcissism tests, and asked a new group of perceivers to detect narcissism. All cues pointed to the brows as the indicator for egoism. Read the full story.

3. Can you fly a drone with your mind?


You sure can! Computer science students John Simmonds, Alex Crowder, Mark Reid and Stephen Doyle teamed up for an all-hands-on-deck capstone project that incorporated knowledge from computer science, engineering and design — with a sprinkle of neuroscience. The ambitious project garnered an unexpected amount of attention. Read the full story.   


Share your work

There are many ways for students to share – and celebrate – work they’re proud of, including MacEwan’s Student Research Day and a range of on-campus student conferences and forums.

4. What will the European Union look like post-Brexit?


Dr. Andrea Wagner, assistant professor of political science, will explore the future of the European Union with help from a grant from the European Union’s Erasmus+ program. Andrea was named the program’s Jean Monnet Chair, which includes a grant of up to €50,000 over the next three years to advance her research and teaching. Read the full story.

5. Are the food truths that shape what we eat actually true?


The biggest truth, it turns out, is that there isn’t just one. Dr. Alissa Overend, associate professor of sociology, looks at the cultural influences around food in her book Shifting food facts: Dietary discourse in a post-truth culture, which will be released in 2020. Using case studies on controversial foods like meat, wheat, soy and dairy, and a chapter on the history of Canada’s Food Guide, she challenges the way we’ve been taught to think about what we eat. Read the full story.

6. Do cannabinoids really reduce anxiety?


Even before its legalization in Canada, cannabis was seen as a therapeutic cure-all. But when Lyndsay Pinder, now a psychology honours grad, looked into its potential as a therapy for anxiety, she discovered that the evidence was more anecdotal than scientific. Working with her faculty supervisor, Dr. Melike Schalomon, she set out to research the effects of cannabidiol exposure using zebrafish. Read the full story.

7. How much plastic is in Edmonton’s water and where is it coming from?


Ten student research assistants have been working with Dr. Matthew Ross, assistant professor of chemistry, and Dr. David Locky, associate professor of biological sciences, over the past three summers on a project that centres on microscopic fragments of plastic (the size of a sesame seed and smaller) in Edmonton’s waterways. Read the full story.

8. Is there a way to measure fatigue in the classroom?


Building on her research into how students who are deaf are included in classrooms, Dr. Natalia Rohatyn-Martin is now using a student-focused approach to develop a tool that measures levels of fatigue. Students who have disabilities often need to work much harder and the fatigue that results can compromise their social and emotional health, she explains. Having a scale to indicate when students might be struggling could help educators identify other solutions – like taking breaks at specific times – to help address fatigue before behaviours start to occur. Read the full story.

9. Is it time to take a new approach to increase financial literacy among undergrads?


Most students, it seems, turn to the internet for information about how to handle their finances, but setting aside some time to sit down in a seminar and actually talk about financial facts can have a major impact. Dr. Dorothee Feils, Michelle Malin and Dr. Eloisa Perez found that students who attended financial seminars seemed to perform better when answering general financial literacy questions. Read the full story.

10. How do day programs for people with dementia impact quality of life?


We know hospitals aren’t good places for people with dementia, says Holly Symonds-Brown, assistant professor, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, but helping people stay at home for as long as possible has its own set of challenges. This year, Holly began a study that has her working directly with families, exploring the back-and-forth connections between experiences at home and in day programs (which provide opportunities for older adults with dementia to stay active and socialize – and offer respite for family caregivers). Read the full story

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