Photo: Student Data Challengers Juan Ramirez-Orta, Muthukumar Rajendran, Mozhgan Saeidi, and Bhuvaneshwari Basquaranen along with their faculty advisor Dr. Evangelos Milios.

Research Nova Scotia student challenges are designed to inspire student researchers with exceptional potential who are engaged in various research disciplines at post-secondary institutions across Nova Scotia. By starting with what we want to accomplish, and convening a coalition of collaborators, we strive to demonstrate what we mean by “doing research differently” while helping address provincial challenges.

In the Fall, Research Nova Scotia launched two student research challenges that asked the following questions:

  1. How can we economically re-use glass?
  2. How can we better connect researchers to community?

The first challenge, in partnership with Divert NS and Scotia Recycling, sought innovative ideas for glass reuse and recycling in Nova Scotia. Challenge participants were encouraged to engage with potential end users or industry partners to identify realistic, feasible, and beneficial uses for recycled glass.

Dalhousie University students Cameron Howie, Ashley Fulmer, and Keiran Jack, with oversight from their faculty advisor, Dr. Claver Diallo, identified mechanisms that would see an increase in the use of waste glass in the production of construction materials, reducing the amount of used glass in our recycling stream. The idea would also reduce the environmental impact of concrete production in Nova Scotia by reducing elements within concrete composition that significantly contribute to the CO2 output of the process. Their final proposal earned them a cash prize and the idea continues to be explored by researchers and partners.

The second challenge, in partnership with Volta, sought to connect talented, Nova Scotia based researchers whose expertise spans various fields and disciplines to community, industry, and beyond. Currently, there is no simple method to search for researchers specializing in any given subject in the province and we want to change that.

Dalhousie University students Juan Ramirez-Orta, Muthukumar Rajendran, Mozhgan Saeidi, and Bhuvaneshwari Basquaranen proposed an Information Retrieval engine that takes a short description of a company’s business problem in natural language as query and outputs a list of researchers from Nova Scotia ranked according to the relevance of their research. The idea is to understand the need based on that query, using Natural Language Processing and Unsupervised Machine Learning, and matching them to researchers based on their publications, biographies, social media activity, and other public information.

Their final proposal, and virtual presentation to representatives of Research Nova Scotia, Volta, and NSBI, earned them a cash prize and the students are currently exploring the possibility of developing a prototype.

Research Nova Scotia would like to congratulate all student participants, faculty advisors, judges, and challenge partners. Our students continue to demonstrate the up-and-coming research talent our province has to offer! Stay tuned for new student funding opportunities coming Fall 2022.