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Concordia's 10 new public scholars

From Industry 4.0 to exergaming, these PhD researchers are aiming to be 'leaders for change'
January 30, 2017
By Tatiana St-Louis


Innovative research is conducted in universities every day. From green buildings to smart-grid technology and alternative market models, the work done at Concordia will have a direct impact on how people live their lives, understand the world and interact with each other.

The Public Scholars Program is an initiative introduced by the university in spring of 2015 as a means to bridge the gap between academic research and the community. In collaboration with the Montreal Gazette, the School of Graduate Studies has recently launched a new component of the program which expands its reach to doctoral students.

Selected PhD candidates began receiving professional training earlier this month in topics such as op-ed writing, public speaking, government relations and media relations. They will hold the Public Scholar title for one year, beginning in May.

Meet the new cohort of students who will become the public faces of Concordia for 2017-18:



Gonzalo Quintana Zunino


Can you describe your research?
My research project aims to explore the behavioural and neurochemical mechanisms by which animals establish sexual partner preferences, with emphasis on first sexual experiences, fetishes and female orgasm.

How will this program be of benefit?
I have worked throughout my entire university education to stay connected with society through science outreach. Thus, the program was of particular interest to me as an opportunity to train myself further and improve my skills in media communication and scientific writing.

Also, I firmly believe the program will not only provide the necessary training, but also the networking opportunities to take the next step into a possible career after graduation.

Making good science is as important as how it is communicated. We owe our endeavours to the discovery of new knowledge, and what’s more exciting than sharing one’s findings?


Nadia Naffi

Educational Technology

Can you describe your research?
I study how the youth of a host society construe their role as agents of change in a context where the integration and inclusion of refugees are deeply influenced by social media.

How will this program be of benefit?
I invested every piece of research I conducted during my eight years at Concordia into advocating for a cause I hold close to my heart: helping newcomers feel at home. This is why I am thrilled to join the Public Scholars Program.

The research I conduct on the role played by social media in the integration of Syrian refugees is urgent and timely. I am prepared to play an influential role in our society to raise awareness about the necessity for the host society to actively help newcomers become productive, full-fledged, empowered Canadian citizens.


William Robinson


Can you describe your research?
I explore the possibilities of peer-reviewed game design, producing research–creation in the form of rules and goals to transmit academic findings.

How will this program be of benefit?
Throughout my short career, I have persistently questioned the stakes of my humanities research. Ultimately, my model has been to work through ideology, to reveal its dangerous assumptions and to pass critical analyses to undergraduates, hoping that they will go out and improve the world.

I think this works to a degree with everything from feminist scholarship to critical race theory. That said, the promise of public scholarship is a wider ambit for our work. Instead of inculcating current ideas in some one per cent of the population, we can dream of a continual and democratic dissemination.


Leanne Keddie

Business Administration

Can you describe your research?
I am investigating why companies use sustainability goals in executive compensation packages, what kinds of firms use these and what impact these incentives have on a firm’s sustainability performance.

How will this program be of benefit?
I was really interested in the opportunity to connect what I do with the general public. I think there are amazing things happening at Concordia but we sometimes don’t communicate this well to the rest of society. I was also intrigued by the opportunity to liaise with governments to use our research to help improve policy.

I think one of the main benefits will be to build bridges between the university research community and society around us. This has enormous potential to improve the usefulness of our research while demonstrating the value we add to society every day.


Lucas A. Hof

Mechanical Engineering

Can you describe your research?
My research’s main objective is to develop a model-size “Industry 4.0 smart factory” using electrochemical manufacturing processes.

How will this program be of benefit?
It has the unique aim to create a hub of students from all disciplines who will engage and share the significance of emerging research to broader society. This is highly important as most of our future job positions, in whichever field of work, will require strong collaboration and communication skills.

Moreover, it properly reflects the reality of research, where each one of us is an integral part of a larger project. Along with the training curriculum, I believe this program will definitely help with research outreach in the context of my work at the Centre for Advanced Manufacturing.


Erin O’Loughlin

Individualized Program

Can you describe your research?
My research project seeks to answer the question of whether exergaming (active video games) is a viable way to help youth increase physical activity and decrease sedentary behaviour. My specific interest is the motivation underpinning exergaming behaviour and how this motivation can be sustained.

How will this program be of benefit?
I hope to increase my effectiveness as an influential person in our society who speaks accurately and helpfully about physical activity. I hope to learn how to influence different sub-groups in the population in business, the community and even the government, by raising awareness about the importance of the research we are conducting at Concordia.

I am very proud to be a Concordia student from such an interesting interdisciplinary PhD program. I feel that this type of additional training will complete my learning, enrich my future postdoctoral research and strengthen my career pursuits. 


Alexander McClelland


Can you describe your research?
I am examining the lived experience of people with HIV in Canada who have been labelled as criminal for allegedly not telling their sex partners their HIV-positive status.

How will this program be of benefit?
Garnering public awareness can help us be leaders for change and encourage others about the benefits of academic research. For emerging scholars, engaging with the public through initiatives such as this one is imperative to ensure our work gets a wide reach and can have a social impact.

My research is focused on a complex social problem with multiple human rights implications that are currently facing Canadian society. Through publicly sharing my work I can help shed a light on injustice and influence progressive social change. 


Desirée de Jesus

Film and Moving Images

Can you describe your research?
My research examines how the treatment of narrative spaces in contemporary films about precarious girlhood provides new and more inclusive ways of understanding how girls develop and experience their identities.

How will this program be of benefit?
The Public Scholars Program offers emerging scholars like myself a very unique opportunity to share what they’re most passionate about with wider communities. As a film lover and researcher, I think it is incredibly important to emphasize film scholarship’s public value and make visible the links between this kind of intellectual work and the public good.

I love how cinema invites viewers into conversations about issues that may extend beyond their personal experiences, particularly through works by and about people from historically marginalized groups.


Rocco Portaro

Mechanical Engineering

Can you describe your research?
My research uses modern-day power electronics to improve a technology known as needle-free liquid jet injection. It provides an alternative means to deliver medication that is traditionally administered via hypodermic needles.

How will this program be of benefit?
The most enticing aspect of the Public Scholars Program is the networking — exposure to professionals from different fields and backgrounds. This is invaluable for learning how to communicate and form relationships with "non-engineering" professionals. 

The second aspect, which is also of great interest, is the use of social media. This can greatly aid academics with limited exposure to these platforms become proficient at them in order to disseminate new scientific information and generate interest in upcoming projects.


Lisa Ndejuru

Individualized Program

Can you describe your research?
I work with survivors of organized violence to develop accessible, non-medicalized, scalable strategies for healing and change after trauma and dislocation.

How will this program be of benefit?
Social injustice, political upheaval and environmental degradation take a heavy toll on the well-being of families and communities everywhere. As a bilingual Rwandan-Canadian psychotherapist living in Montreal, I understand the limits of individualized, professionalized remedies, even in our privileged nation. While acknowledging that conventional therapeutic approaches are necessary in certain cases, I create practical, affordable, complementary alternatives.

Through the program, I seek to broaden my engagements with Canadians living on the front lines and doing their best to respond effectively in the aftermath of violence: policy makers, teachers, clinical professionals, settlement workers and concerned citizens and neighbours.

Learn more about Concordia’s Public Scholars Program.


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