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Welcome from the Chair, September 2014

A new school year, another set of eager faces in the university classrooms … another pile of labs and assignments to be marked. September always brings its highs and lows! I hope you have enjoyed a summer with many opportunities for discovery, production, and maybe even a bit of relaxation.

Science Atlantic has experienced its busiest summer in recent memory, with five students working out of a space in the Department of Psychology at Dalhousie (thanks, Dal!). Having such a keen group (three students were back for a second year, which surely speaks of job satisfaction!) has resulted in major steps forward in several areas.

Science Atlantic student employees (L-R): Jasmine Golf, Robyn Craig, James Curtis, Emily Cross, Prasad Rajandran

Projects included several for conferences: Upgrading Open Conference Systems (OCS) including improving the abstract submission process (now including Greek letters and special symbols), redesigning and updating the Conference-in-a-Box planning guide for event organizers, and setting up and testing PayPal for online conference payments. As well, we continued to move forward with AFRED, the Atlantic Facilities and Research Equipment Database, which is garnering significant attention from interested parties, and hopefully funders, outside Science Atlantic. Finally, a redesign of the Science Atlantic website is in the works and should be finished in the Fall with help from our incoming co-op students. Lois Whitehead, Executive Director, has been really been stretched this summer in a directing mode, and deserves full credit for pulling this team together.

For more details of what we’ve been up to over the last year, please take a look at our Annual Report [PDF], also designed by one of our summer students.

A note in Academica Top Ten caught my eye last spring: It was recorded that one of the large western universities had instituted a new “undergraduate research certificate.” The certificate is composed of introducing undergraduate students to research experiences, having them acquire technical research skills, giving them the opportunity to work with graduate students, post-docs, and professors, and presenting their findings at a conference. It’s a great opportunity for a student–but it is remarkably similar to what Science Atlantic has been doing for over 50 years, where we provide a medium for students to display their discoveries resulting from research work in collaboration with grad students and professors in our universities. Maybe our practice in this region was ahead of its time and is only now being recognized elsewhere!

As you launch your activities for the new school year, keep in mind the opportunities your students have at the Science Atlantic conferences–consider how many scientists across Canada and around the world have had their careers launched as a result of that first research task assigned in an Atlantic Canadian laboratory or classroom, and presented at one of the discipline conferences. We have a gem here–let’s not hide it!

Rob Raeside
Chair, Science Atlantic