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Postdoctoral prowess on display at Concordia

A second-annual research day unites Montreal fellows
February 25, 2015
By Christian Durand

Around 60 postdocs from Concordia and four other Montreal universities showed off their work at the second-annual Postdoctoral Research Day. Around 60 postdocs from Concordia and four other Montreal universities showed off their work at the second-annual Postdoctoral Research Day. | Photo by Chuma Paemka

Postdoctoral fellows play a crucial role in expanding the research mandates of universities, and an estimated 2,000 of them are currently addressing important societal issues through their work at post-secondary institutions in Montreal.

Many postdocs are involved in multidisciplinary research activities that are breaking barriers and forging new and exciting academic disciplines. They are also teachers and mentors who enrich the university experience for students and faculty.

On Friday, February 20, around 60 postdocs from Concordia and four other Montreal universities showed off their work at the second-annual Postdoctoral Research Day.

According to Paula Wood-Adams, dean of Graduate Studies at Concordia, the idea behind the event was to celebrate the great work being done at the postdoc level, as well as create a sense of community and potential academic collaboration.

“Though only in its second year, this initiative is already bearing fruit. We have opened workshops being held at Concordia to postdoctoral fellows from other institutions, and along with other universities, we are trying to work on other synergies that will support this community.”

Concordia is the only Montreal university with a permanent postdoctoral officer who supports this population through a centralized registration process and various financial commitments.

Here are three Concordia-based postdoctoral projects that were showcased at the event. 

Mariella-research-day-310 Photos by Concordia University

The problem with presenteeism

Mariella Miraglia

Research funded by the Concordia University Research Chair in Management, Gary Johns and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. 

Department of Management
Supervisor: Gary Johns  

Presenteeism — going to work while ill — may demonstrate commitment on the part of an employee, but it also poses real consequences for individual well being and organizational output. In the United States, it is estimated that this phenomenon costs the economy $150 billion annually in lost productivity.

To understand the causes and consequences of presenteeism, Mariella Miraglia conducted an extensive meta-analysis of 60 studies on the subject.

“There are several reasons why people go to work ill,” she says. “Larger demands on employees requiring longer hours coupled with increased workload mean that workers don’t feel like they can afford to stay home and get better for risk of being swamped when they return. For other workers, there is the fear of financial loss or of breaking the strict organizational policies used to monitor and reduce absenteeism.”

Attitudes toward the job also play a role. Liking one's job, being affectively committed to the organization, being highly engaged in one's activities motivate the individual to "go the extra mile", trigging pressure to work even in the face of some medical discomfort.

For Miraglia, the ultimate goal of her research is help companies implement human-resource policies and practices — such as health and nutrition programs — that focus on well being and can reduce illness. She also hopes her findings will lead to firms working to better balance workflow and time pressures on employees.


Saving money and the environment through cloud computing

Mama Nsangou Mouchili

Research funded by Mitacs Accelerate program and Ericsson Canada.

Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering
Supervisor: John William Atwood

With the emergence of ubiquitous broadband connectivity, cloud computing offers an alternative platform from which information and communications technology (ICT) providers can offer powerful and innovative new services to businesses.

Mama Nsangou Mouchili’s research is looking at how to use virtual servers with hosted telecom applications, rather than physical servers, as an efficient alternative for companies. “On average servers only use 30 per cent of their capacity,” he explains. “Through virtualization, we can increase this capacity to nearly 100 per cent, thus reducing costs and benefiting the environment with less physical waste.”

Moreover, he developed a prototype that allows people to access telecommunication platforms, like virtual server resources, from remote locations around the world. “The benefit is that companies can extend their infrastructure without relying on physical hardware or changing their infrastructure.”

Nsangou Mouchili is currently modeling the system in conjunction with telecommunication giant Ericsson to compare his technology's performance measurements with a traditional server environment.


A mall as a living laboratory for helping the visually impaired

Florian Grond

Research funded through an external grant from the Centre de recherche interdisciplinaire en réadaptation du Montréal métropolitain.

Department of Psychology
Supervisor: Aaron Johnson

When blind people navigate a public space, they listen for sonic reflections in the environment. But hearing such reflections is challenging in bustling environments like shopping malls.

To ease the travels of the blind while shopping, Florian Grond is designing a web application in collaboration with the Centre de recherche interdisciplinaire en réadaptation du Montréal métropolitain and its Rehabilitation Living Lab within the Place Alexis Nihon, in collaboration with the MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre and professor Walter Wittich from Université de Montréal.

The application uses a text-to-speech voice that provides information about the environment and triggers audio beacons — think the beeps you hear at traffic lights — to help orient users. In order to make this technology as accessible as possible, the software and hardware will be open source.

For Grond, who will be testing how well the prototype is accepted by users, mall shoppers and mall staff, the central idea behind his research is control. “This system is about giving the blind continuous interaction with the environment they are in and the ability to be as autonomous as possible.”

Find out more about postdoctoral studies at Concordia.

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