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Horizon postdoctoral researchers explore topics ranging from energy use in buildings to immigrant participation in Quebec society

The Concordia program funds up to 30 two-year projects annually, which support the university's strategic directions
November 26, 2018
Fatima Amara (left) and Jean-Philippe Gauvin are two newly appointed Horizon postdoctoral fellows.

Each year, hundreds of postdoctoral fellows join Concordia’s ranks to tackle some of society’s most pressing issues. Among them are the Horizon postdoctoral fellows, a cohort of young researchers who challenge their peers, mentor the next generation and boost the university’s research and creative productivity.

From the study of bilingual brain processes through brain imaging to finding innovative ways to confront ableism and approach antiviral drug delivery, these postdocs bring in an array of expertise from universities across the country and the world.

The Horizon Postdoctoral Fellowship Program funds 24 to 30 two-year fellowships per year in a range of disciplines. The initiative is a key component of Concordia’s Double Our Research strategic direction.

Jean-Philippe Gauvin and Fatima Amara are two newly appointed Horizon postdoctoral fellows.

Immigrant participation in Quebec: a quantitative portrait

Does the local context influence how immigrants participate in civic life in Quebec? This is the question that Jean-Philippe Gauvin will help answer with a team of researchers in the Department of Political Science.

Under the supervision of Antoine Bilodeau and Mireille Paquet, the team is currently working on designing and administering a province-wide survey to study and compare behavioural patterns between those born in Quebec and first-generation immigrants.

“There is a lot of theory about immigration, but not enough of it resides in empirical facts,” says Gauvin. “With this project, we’re trying to reconnect theory with qualitative and quantitative data.”

Gauvin is an ideal candidate for this postdoctoral position due to his expertise in studying attitudes and behaviours through quantitative models.

Prior to his appointment at Concordia, the young researcher held a postdoctoral position at Queen’s University, and before that he completed his doctoral studies at Université de Montréal.

Gauvin’s interests reside in Canadian politics, political values and attitudes, and federalism. His PhD dissertation focused on Canadian intergovernmental relations and their structure. He also investigated how ideologies shape political choices.

The survey project, which is co-funded by the Fonds Société et Culture and the Quebec Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion, will be conducted in more than 30 localities in the province, including 18 neighbourhoods of Montreal. It will map how immigrants  participate in the host community and their ethnic communities, depending on their neighbourhood of residence.

“This has never been done before anywhere in the world,” says Gauvin. “How does an immigrant’s social bubble develop? What makes them active citizens?”

The conclusions will help researchers understand the structuring effect of societal factors on immigrants’ participation in Quebec, most specifically with regards to six dimensions of participation: economic, cultural, community, linguistic, identity and civic participation.

The set of data collected will also be useful in identifying core values among Quebecers and will feed the body of research around national identity.

Data mining for more efficient and sustainable buildings

Fatima Amara works on another highly impactful project: the study of novel solar energy applications to buildings and infrastructure.

The research is piloted by Andreas Athienitis, professor in the Department of Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering and NSERC/Hydro-Québec Industrial Research Chair in Optimized Operation and Energy Efficiency toward High Performance Buildings.

It aims to understand how to integrate solar panels into buildings in order to make them more resilient and zero energy. The project operates under the Centre for Zero Energy Building Studies.

Amara was trained as a telecommunications engineer in her home country of Algeria. While completing a master’s-level stage at Université de Moncton, working on the topic of residential energy consumption, she found a new interest for building engineering.

She then decided to move to Trois-Rivières to pursue her doctorate. There, she worked on a hands-on problem that affects us all: energy management in Quebec homes. The project was undertaken in close partnership with industry stakeholders (in this case Hydro-Quebec), which was a big draw for Amara.

“I’ve always been connected to nature. I know now that I want to work in a field that is related to environmental questions. Having an impact is very important for me as a researcher,” she says.

Why is data important for building and environmental engineering?

“Civil and mechanical engineering don’t necessarily deal with what happens inside buildings, with how their occupants interact with them,” Amara explains. This is where her specialty in signal processing comes in.

“A building is like a patient. The data I gather helps me diagnose the problems. I then hand my knowledge to building and mechanical engineers, who act more like the surgeons.”

Using machine learning and artificial intelligence, she is able to add a statistical data-analytical dimension to a building, from which she pulls important clues regarding the behaviours of both occupants and buildings.

“Is it a problem of overheating, of isolation? We’re trying to find out the causes,” adds Amara.

In terms of energy consumption, the data gathered will help on two planes: the dweller, who will end up paying and consuming less, and Hydro-Québec, who often experiences peaks in consumption and needs to outsource electricity during periods of high demand.

The end goal is to complement the current hydroelectrical offer with a sustainable — in this case, solar — energy source. The result will make dwellers more independent with their energy consumption and remove some of the pressure from governmental providers.

Learn more about Concordia’s Horizon Postdoctoral Fellowship Program.


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