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From cultural safety to quantum nanoelectronics

Two Concordia PhD candidates win awards for their standout research
December 4, 2017
By Daniel Bartlett

Emanuelle Dufour: “Cultural safety contributes to Aboriginal student success.” Emanuelle Dufour: “Cultural safety contributes to Aboriginal student success.”

Emanuelle Dufour
and Andrew McRae are always keen to share their research findings with family, friends and other non-experts. It’s no surprise, then, that both PhD candidates were chosen to receive the Concordia Stand-Out Graduate Research Award.

The $1,000 prize is given biannually to two students who demonstrate exemplary research skills and the ability to explain their subject matter in plain language.

To be eligible, graduate students must have previously applied to the Étudiants-chercheurs étoiles competition run by the Fonds de Recherche du Québec and published their research findings within eight months of the application deadline.

“Preparing my application for this award helped me learn how to better explain my research to people outside of my field, which is great preparation for my scientific career,” says McRae, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Physics.

Dufour and McRae won the “Person and Society” and “Technology, Industry and the Environment” categories, respectively.

Revisiting Manitou College

Currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Art Education, Dufour won the Étudiants-chercheurs étoiles competition earlier this year. Successful Concordia applicants receive an additional $500 top-up from the School of Graduate Studies, independent of the Stand-Out Award.

Her research examines historical and ethnographic reconstructions of Manitou Community College, Quebec’s first Indigenous post-secondary institution. The college was open from 1973 to 1976 on a military base in La Macaza, a village in the Laurentian region.

“Despite its abrupt closure, the legacy of this often-overlooked institution is very important, particularly in the areas of Indigenous education and self-determination in Quebec and Canada,” says Dufour, who published her paper in Revue d'histoire de l'Amérique française.

“Manitou College contributed to the development of a new Indigenous leadership and led to the creation of KIUNA College more than 35 years later.”

Dufour argues that it is necessary for all Canadians to recognize the historical and contemporary realities associated with Indigenous education in order to begin a process of reconciliation.

“Very little research has been published on these two institutions, yet they clearly demonstrate how cultural safety contributes to Indigenous student success.”

Andrew McRae: “A great opportunity for me to probe the quantum world” Andrew McRae: “A great opportunity for me to probe the quantum world.”

The quantum nature of electrons

While completing his undergraduate studies at Dalhousie University, McRae became interested in quantum physics and “trying to understand how the rules of the universe seem so different when things are small.”

He chose to pursue his doctoral research at Concordia after meeting Alexandre Champagne, associate professor of physics in the Faculty of Arts and Science.

“He proposed that we explore quantum electronics inside of extremely clean materials, such as carbon nanotubes and graphene,” McRae recalls.

“This was a great opportunity for me to probe the quantum world and really motivated my interest in quantum nanoelectronics.”

McRae’s latest research findings suggest that one powerful way to make smarter electronic devices is to harness the quantum nature of electrons to store information in their phase, rather than using their charge — electricity — to pass information.

His paper, co-authored with Champagne and two Concordia alumni, was recently published in Nature Communications.

“Our research could be one of many ingredients to make powerful quantum computers. Or it could lead to small quantum electronics that combine multiple functionalities,” McRae explains.

“This would help us understand more about our quantum universe.”

Find out more about
awards available for graduate students at Concordia.


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