News at the University of New Brunswick

UNB grad students making a difference on land in water and in outer space

Author: Communications

Posted on Mar 24, 2010


Three University of New Brunswick graduate students are working on solutions to some important economic, health and safety issues here on Earth and in outer space.

Their research has earned them 2009 Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplements, which are awarded under the federal government’s Canada Graduate Scholarships Program. Valued at $6,000 each, they are designed to help offset the costs of undertaking research studies outside Canada.

The recipients are:

James Hogan, master of science in mechanical engineering at UNB Fredericton, is looking at ways to protect infrastructure and astronauts in space. He is researching the effects of high-speed impact of space materials to help test and conceive new shielding technologies.

“High-speed projectiles whizzing around above the Earth can collide with space infrastructure at speeds of up to 72 kilometres per second,” said Mr. Hogan. “Potentially, these projectiles could cause catastrophic damage, even though some are as small as one millimetre in diameter or less.”

Mr. Hogan is using accelerator technologies located at the UNB Planetary and Space Science Centre’s new High-speed Impact Research and Technology facility. He is currently in France collaborating with colleagues at the Institut Franco-Allemand de Recherches de Saint-Louis deploying electromagnetic launch systems to simulate space collisions. The goal of this research is to achieve impact velocities in the lab beyond eight kilometres per second to more realistically copy impact conditions in space.

He is jointly supervised by John Spray of the Planetary and Space Science Centre and Robert Rogers of the department of mechanical engineering.

Aaron Frenette, master of science in biology at UNB Fredericton, is trying to increase cod farming in Atlantic Canada. He was in Iceland in December collecting parasites (Loma morhua) from Atlantic cod to compare them with parasites from cod here in Atlantic Canada.

“Loma morhua is limiting the production potential of Atlantic cod across the North Atlantic Ocean and it is essential that differences in these parasites be identified to ensure efficient and accurate diagnosis of infection,” said Mr. Frenette.

Mr. Frenette’s supervisors are Michael Duffy and Michael Burt in UNB Fredericton’s department of biology. The team has adopted a multifaceted approach for limiting Loma morhua transmission to cod by identifying genetically resistant families, identifying drugs that can block or eliminate parasite infections, and testing methods to vaccinate cod and prevent parasite infections. The project will enhance productivity of cod aquaculture operations for additional economic diversity and economic gain in Canada.

Jonathan Keow, master of science in biology at UNB Fredericton, is working on a novel approach to tag specific proteins in live embryos.

As a single-celled embryo develops into a complex organism, many processes must occur to change the shape, develop structures and regulate the function of the developing embryo.

“The matrix metalloproteinases are a family of proteins responsible for many of these processes during animal development, and also in adult systems,” explained Mr. Keow. “The regulation of this family of proteins is not well understood, and their misregulation leads to a variety of pathologies, ranging from lethal birth defects to common ailments such as osteoarthritis, heart disease and cancer metastasis.”

Next month, Mr. Keow will be travelling to The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., to conduct his research. His project aims to use current molecular biology and biochemical methods to analyze the regulatory mechanisms that control the activity of matrix metalloproteinases and develop a reliable method to tag these proteins in living organisms.

His supervisor is Bryan Crawford in the department of biology at UNB Fredericton.

The Canada Graduate Scholarships – Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplements Program supports high-calibre Canadian graduate students as they pursue research experiences at institutions outside of Canada. The program is open to students who hold active Canada Graduate Scholarships and are pursuing master’s or doctoral degrees. The supplements are awarded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

About UNB

Established in 1785, UNB is one of the oldest public universities in North America. With more than 12,500 students from more than 100 countries, UNB has the best student-to-faculty ratio of Canada’s comprehensive universities, according to Maclean’s magazine. As the largest research institution in New Brunswick, UNB conducts over 75 per cent of the province’s university research. The university has more than 3,500 faculty and staff, and an annual operating budget of more than $160 million. UNB’s two main campuses are located in Fredericton and Saint John, New Brunswick.


Natalie Montgomery, Communication Officer (506) 453-4990