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e-dition - January 26, 2007

UWinnipeg’s NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award winners. Back row, left to right: Douglas Storey, Aaron Trachtenberg, David Christianson, Jordan Fogel. Front row, left to right: Jon Ziprick, Melissa Hoffer, Claire Damyn, Lara Bates, Kylee Tremblay.

NSERC Funds Undergraduate Research at
The University of Winnipeg

By Vivian Belik

The 5th Annual Undergraduate Student Research Awards celebration brought together the best and brightest students in The University of Winnipeg's faculties of Arts and Science.   Recipients of the 2006 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) scholarships gathered at a noon hour luncheon January 22, 2007 to present findings from their summer research projects.

This year The University of Winnipeg awarded 18 NSERC scholarships to applicants from the departments of Anthropology, Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics & Statistics, Physics and Psychology.  Successful candidates were paired up with a professor whose professional research interested them. Professors then supervised and mentored the students, took them out into the field and guided their research.

Early Primate Brains to Forest Ecosystems
This year's students delved into a range of topics including black holes, early primate brains, Manitoba forest ecosystems and the cognitive spelling behaviours of young children. Acting Vice President of Research, Claudia Wright, who welcomed students and faculty to the event, believes that the NSERC program is an excellent opportunity for students. “The most important thing this initiative does is capture young minds when they are most inquisitive,” said Wright.

Jon Ziprick, a fourth year Physics student who looked at quasinormal modes of black holes under the supervision of  Dean of Science and Physics Professor Gabor Kunstatter, said he learned a great deal from the program and was introduced to a field of physics that he now plans to continue studying. “The work that I have done this summer has resulted in two research papers that now carry my name,” Ziprick modestly pointed out.

Joys and Challenges of Research
For most of the 2006 NSERC recipients, learning about the joys and challenges of the research process was one of the most valuable skills they took from their summer program.

“This program was a really good opportunity for me,” said Melissa Hoffer, who studied the density fluctuation of pine and spruce trees in Nopaming Provincial Park. “I had never done field work research before this summer and it was a very special experience, one that I am grateful to the University and the Research Council of Canada for.”

The NSERC program is not only about testing hypotheses and writing papers, however, stresses Biology & Environmental Studies Professor Richard Westwood.  Westwood spent the summer camped out in the Duck Mountains with two NSERC students studying flora and fauna, riding ATVs, and avoiding poison ivy.

“In addition to providing undergraduate students with valuable research skills and experience, the NSERC program also allows students to learn about teamwork and have fun,” said Westwood.

The NSERC program is highly competitive, and applications are due annually in February. The University of Winnipeg USRA selection committee, comprised of representatives of all departments eligible to provide supervision to USRA  winners, selects the successful candidates. The Research Office processes applications to the NSERC USRA program.

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