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Meet Concordia’s 2018 public scholars

From edible insects to the gig economy, these 10 PhD students are ready to share their groundbreaking research
February 27, 2018
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By Tatiana St-Louis

Meet Concordia's 10 newest public scholars


After a successful inaugural year, Concordia’s Public Scholars program is back with a brand-new cohort of 10 PhD researchers.

The program was designed with the Montreal Gazette to bridge the gap between academic research and the community. It is now part of Concordia’s key initiatives to support its strategic directions for a next-generation university.

The new team of graduate students will be representatives of the university’s exciting new research. They will receive extensive training in social media, government relations, op-ed writing and public speaking.

On March 20, you will have the opportunity to exchange with the new public scholars at a special event. As well, the 10 members of the first cohort, who are wrapping up their tenure, will each present a short synopsis of their groundbreaking research.
 

Laura Shine

Laura Shine

Humanities

Can you describe your research?
I study emerging food practices and how ideas about edibility evolve and adapt, with a specific focus on entomophagy – the consumption of insects – in non-traditional cultural contexts.

How will this program be of benefit?
Over the last few years, there has been a growing interest in edible insects. It’s a timely topic in its preoccupation with sustainability and food security issues. As environmental degradation and public-health concerns press us to transform our lifestyle habits, it becomes crucial to understand how tastes and food preferences can evolve to accommodate novel foods.

Through the Public Scholars program, I want to translate these research insights into operative takeaways that can influence policy work and take part in the public discussion of crucial contemporary food issues. 


Michelle Savard

Michelle Savard

Education Studies

Can you describe your research?
My research examines three approaches to the reintegration of war-affected and formerly abducted young mothers in Northern Uganda. It also looks at the differences and outcomes between these approaches, such as social inclusion, livelihood and competent functioning.

How will this program be of benefit?
The program aims to dispel myths about the purpose of knowledge produced in the “ivory tower” by facilitating exchanges between scholars and the community. This is very much aligned with my personal goal to become a bridge between academe and practitioners.

I believe the program will help me expand the reach of my research and cultivate the speaking and writing skills necessary to talk to non-specialist audiences. I also expect the program to expand my network and enhance my career possibilities.


Amir Hooshiar

Amir Hooshiar

Mechanical Engineering

Can you describe your research?
I focus on re-creating tactile sensing for surgeons during robot-assisted cardiovascular interventional surgery. This technology will help improve a surgeon’s dexterity, precision and accuracy, while reducing the length of the surgery and the post-operative rehabilitation time.

How will this program be of benefit?
As a Vanier Scholar, I have a great responsibility to promote my field to the public. I am expected to engage in cutting-edge research and make a real contribution to the Canadian and global community. I will only succeed on these planes if I get to talk directly with people.

Moreover, since my research field is very niche, raising its awareness through public media such as newspapers, radio and television networks, and social media, is necessary for acquiring support and investment. This program provides a platform for learning and practicing this academia-public dialog. 


Nura Jabagi

Nura Jabagi

Business Technology Management

Can you describe your research?
I explore the gig economy and the shifting employment landscape from job-for-life to job-for-a-day. I aim to help organizations leverage new technologies to connect with independent gig-workers in order to achieve organizational goals.

How will this program be of benefit?
As a practitioner-turned-academic, my interest in the program stems from an appreciation for engaged scholarship. Too often, the intended beneficiaries of research (practitioners) are forgotten. This is unfortunate since the popularity of authors like Malcolm Gladwell, who has made a living translating academic research for the lay-person, affirms public interest in the work we do.

In addition to improving my communication skills and benefiting from a platform to share my research with a broader audience, I hope to leverage this program to build connections with the business community, since doing so will enable me to craft more relevant and impactful research.


Nikola Stepić

Nikola Stepić

Humanities

Can you describe your research?
My research looks at visual representations of cities as interfaces of sexuality and desire, with a specific interest in the relationship between the tradition of city film and queer cinema.

How will this program be of benefit?
The Public Scholars program is not only a unique opportunity to share my research with a wider audience, it’s also a chance to measure how accountable, rigorous and relevant my research questions and methods are.

As a student pursuing a PhD in Humanities, it is important for me to remain conscious of the immediate, palpable societal circumstances while still aiming to produce knowledge that is transhistorical and transnational in its scope.

The greatest benefit of this program is that in opening up academia and making its processes more visible, it simultaneously demands more awareness of its contexts and conditions. 


Bakhtiar Ali Khan

Bakhtiar Ali Khan

Electrical Engineering

Can you describe your research?
In the most fundamental terms, my research is focused on the study of electromagnetics. The applications of this well-established field are ubiquitous. My work is mainly focused on antenna design for satellite and space applications.

How will this program be of benefit?
In order to be a well-rounded engineer, it is of paramount importance to have impeccable communication skills. It is not only helpful in one’s own field, but it is somewhat pivotal to be able to communicate with the people that are not necessarily from an engineering background.

The Public Scholar Program intrigued me for this particular reason. The program provides a platform that allows one to acquire good communication skills and, at the same time, contribute to bringing attention to my research.


Eric Fillion

Eric Fillion

History

Can you describe your research?
My project traces the origins of Canada’s cultural diplomacy, by looking at how race and empire informed the making of a musically imagined Canadian-Brazilian community between 1938 and 1968.

How will this program be of benefit?
My interest in the program derives from my interest in public diplomacy. There are, after all, parallels between the latter and public scholarship since they both mobilize knowledge, performance and technologies to engage broader publics.

My training in education, journalism and history taught me the importance of consistently looking for better strategies to communicate ideas, tell compelling stories and help foster conversations.

With its training and knowledge-mobilization activities, the program will provide me with an essential toolset to share my research findings — in a variety of forms, forums and languages — both within and beyond the Concordia community.


Maya Hey

Maya Hey

Communications Studies

Can you describe your research?

Fermentation is a transformational process, changing food materials and their meanings. How could fermentation mediate (and remediate) relationships between humans and microbes to change the way we think about living collectively?

How will this program be of benefit?

We all need to eat. Yet, the politics of food knowledge are such that those with privileged access to information can wield their expertise as being truer than others. I see myself as a mediator who facilitates discussions across different sectors and audiences. As a Public Scholar, my hope is to inspire the everyday eater to lead their own food endeavors and seek their own food truths in order to change the way we think about food.


Younes Medkour

Younes Medkour

Biology

Can you describe your research?

My project aims to understand the biological mechanisms through which the natural extract from the bark of the white willow tree extends longevity and delays the onset of age-related diseases.

How will this program be of benefit?
Since my research has implications for every human, I believe that it is my moral responsibility to engage with the community at large about the opportunities and challenges, and the philosophical, societal and economic impacts, of extending healthy human life. Through its training and activities, the Public Scholars program would allow me to attain this objective. It will allow me to transfer my knowledge to the community so that we can address one of the world’s biggest mysteries: aging.


Milan Valyear

Milan Valyear

Psychology

Can you describe your research?
I study brain mechanisms and the cues that make us want to drink alcohol. Using an animal model, I can manipulate defined neural circuits that underlie this effect.

How will this program be of benefit?
It can be difficult to explain complicated analyses simply and clearly while maintaining a necessary degree of nuance. Some science journalists seem to do this effortlessly. This program will allow me to develop the skills that I admire in my favourite journalists. I intend to use this opportunity to make my own research, and the work of my peers, accessible and available to a wider audience.



Attend a special Concordia Public Scholars Program event on March 20
. The inaugural cohort will share, in five minutes or less, why their research matters to society.
 

 



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