New CRC Chair Enhances Lakehead's Reputation for Sustainable Energy Innovation

(May 11 " Thunder Bay, ON)

Lakehead University is proud to announce its newest Tier 1 Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Bioenergy and Biorefining " Dr. Sudip Rakshit.

This research scientist excels at transforming both commonplace and unusual materials into potential sources of bioenergy.

Dr. Rui Wang presents Dr. Sudip Rakshit with a letter from the Prime Minister of Canada welcoming him to Lakehead University

Dr. Rakshit will join the Chemical Engineering Department as the CRC in Bioenergy and Biorefining. He is one of only 12 new CRCs appointed in Ontario.

He is developing innovative methods to convert renewable biomass such as wood and agriculture products into biofuels and renewable chemicals. This makes Dr. Rakshit a perfect fit, as Lakehead continues to harness forest biomass through the Biorefining Research Institute (BRI).

Dr. Rakshit receives a special Canada Research Chair pin

"As traditional fuels become depleted, the search is on for accessible and affordable alternatives," Dr. Rakshit says. "Fuels and chemicals produced using biological resources could substantially reduce dependence on petroleum-based non-renewable resources and at the same time make a positive contribution to climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

President Brian Stevenson is very pleased to welcome a research scientist of Dr. Rakshit's calibre to Lakehead's world class team. "His biofuel research will advance the growth of the international bioenergy sector and will help strengthen Northwestern Ontario's emerging bioeconomy," Dr. Stevenson says.

Dr. Rakshit comes to Lakehead from the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) in Bangkok, Thailand where he was the Vice-President of Research. After seven years in administration, he wanted to re-immerse himself in sustainable energy and biofuel research.

His prior work focused on agricultural residue like rice straw, wheat straw, and sugar cane bagasse " the leftovers of the harvesting process. He also specializes in converting cellulose, the most prevalent organic chemical on earth, to alcohol. Cellulose is found in materials like wood and doesn't displace food crops, making it a target of bioenergy research around the world.

Being unafraid to take fresh approaches to developing bioenergy is one of Dr. Rakshit's strengths as a researcher " even cows and their meditative ruminations (think cud) inspire new ideas.

His method for breaking down cellulose by extracting genetic material from the rumen (the first division of the stomach) of herbivores like cows is a case in point.

Dr. Rakshit is excited about the prospect of working with his University colleagues and regional industry partners to put Northwestern Ontario at the forefront of bioenergy research and the emerging bioeconomy.

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For more information, please contact Tracey Skehan, Communications Officer, at (807) 343-8372 or

About Lakehead
Lakehead is a comprehensive university with a reputation for a multidisciplinary teaching approach that emphasizes collaborative learning and independent critical thinking. More than 8,700 students and 2,000 faculty and staff learn and work at campuses located in Orillia, and Thunder Bay, Ontario, which is home to the west campus of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. Lakehead University promotes innovative research that supports local and regional socio-economic needs. In Orillia, development continues on building a campus that meets Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) standards.

Lakehead University launches summer speaker series

Summer of Sustainability

One of Lakehead's professors is putting out an SOS call this summer - in hopes of raising awareness about environmental issues. The SOS call will take the form of a "Summer of Sustainability" public lecture series.

Dr. Thamara Laredo, professor of chemistry with the department of interdisciplinary studies at the Orillia campus, is determined to help people make more informed choices, especially pertaining to decisions that ultimately affect the health and sustainability of our environment.

Beginning on May 8, and continuing every other week throughout the summer, the SOS series will feature a documentary film or speaker on a variety of topics - from species at risk, to economic globalization and social change. Each session will include a discussion led by an expert in the field.

The impetus behind Laredo's ambitious summer program was her experience this year teaching an Inquiry into Environmental Choices course at Lakehead.

"I found that my students had little awareness about the problems that exist related to our environment. I think this lack of awareness is prevalent beyond the University among people of all ages and backgrounds," Laredo says. She adds: "The whole idea of the SOS series is to educate people; we are a university and we should be educating members of our communities, as well as our enrolled students."

Laredo realizes that it may be difficult to change behaviour right away, but hopes the SOS series will provide awareness as well as practical suggestions that will help people make better choices, as consumers, and related to their lifestyles.

A highlight of the series will be a special appearance by Dr. Jeffrey Hutchings, a professor of biology at Dalhousie University in Halifax. "Dr. Hutchings is a world renowned researcher in marine diversity and the depletion of fish," Laredo explains.

In addition to his teaching and research activities, Hutchings is Chair of the Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on Sustaining Canada's Marine Biodiversity: Responding to the Challenges Posed by Climate Change, Fisheries, and Aquaculture and president of the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution. His presentation takes place on Monday, June 4. (All other events take place on Tuesday evenings.)

The series will kick off on Tuesday, May 8 with the film, The 11th Hour, produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, which looks at the state of the global environment, including visionary and practical solutions for restoring the planet's ecosystems. The discussion will be led by Laredo.

Originally from Caracas, Venezuela, Laredo studied at Simon Bolivar University and then completed her PhD in chemistry at the University of Guelph. Her current research is focused on remediation of the environment. "I look at water, soil, and other aspects of our ecosystem; the idea is try to fix what others have done."

Laredo's dedication to her research and improving the environment goes beyond her work as a researcher and teacher at Lakehead. She is actively involved in the community - as a member of the Kids for Turtles Board of Directors, and supporter of numerous local environmental issues. She also represents Lakehead at many public events throughout the year.

All SOS series events take place at the University Avenue campus, starting at 7 pm.Admission and parking are free. For more information and a schedule of dates and topics, visit or contact Dr. Laredo at

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Kathy Hunt is the Communications Officer at Lakehead's Orillia Campus and can be reached at

Convocation 2012 Brings Together Men and Women of Action and Integrity

(May 2 " Thunder Bay, ON)

A lawyer. A doctor. A professor. A teacher.

Lakehead University is pleased to announce its four honorary degree recipients for the 2012 Convocation ceremonies in June " visionaries in their respective fields of law, medicine, education, and rehabilitation counselling.

The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin " more than a lawyer

Consensus, transparency, and accessibility are not just abstract concepts but calls to action that The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin lives by in her role as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

"Access to justice is an issue dear to my heart," Chief Justice McLachlin says. "It is a fundamental right, not an accessory." She frequently speaks at public forums to make Canadians aware of their rights and legal resources and has introduced innovations "such as webcasting appeals " to promote greater transparency in the Canadian legal system. Chief Justice McLachlin had already established herself as an important legal thinker during her time as a judge with the British Columbia Court of Appeal and as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia before becoming a Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1989. She made history in January 2000 when she became the first woman to be appointed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Dr. James Orbinski " more than a doctor

Dr. James Orbinski is a frontline crusader in global health issues. "We have a duty and responsibility as human beings to try and make our world more tolerable and to relieve the suffering of others," he says. He has served with Médecins sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Rwanda, Somalia, Zaire, Afghanistan, and Peru and was the MSF International President between 1998 and 2001. For his leadership in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, Dr. Orbinski was awarded the Meritorious Service Cross, Canada's highest civilian award.

He is adept at using multiple platforms to advocate for humanitarian causes, including his film Triage, which won the 2008 Amnesty International Gold Medal Award, and his best-selling book An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarianism in the 21st Century. He is a co-founder of Dignitas International, an organization focused on HIV research, prevention and treatment in developing countries. Currently, Dr. Orbinski is the Chair of Global Health at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and professor of Family and Community Medicine and of political science at the University of Toronto. He is also a Senior Fellow at the University of Toronto's Massey College and at the Munk School of Global Affairs.

Dr. Irmo Marini " more than a professor

Dr. Irmo Marini, is a Lakehead grad whose drive has made him a leader in rehabilitation counselling - a field that enables people with disabilities to reach their personal and career goals. Dr. Marini is a professor and Ph.D coordinator with the University of Texas Pan-American's doctoral program in Rehabilitation Counselling. His practice, teaching, and many publications focus on the interplay between poverty, oppression, and disability and he is a champion of a holistic model of rehabilitation.

Dr. Marini was a competitive varsity athlete at Lakehead University until an injury during a hockey game left him paralyzed from the chest down. Nevertheless, he persevered and continued on to complete his MA in Clinical Psychology and became Lakehead's first student counselor and ultimately Director of Counselling. Dr. Marini continued on to attain a Ph.D. Rehabilitation Counselling from Auburn University in Alabama. He is co-author and co-editor of three counselling textbooks and over 70 journal publications, has received the J.F. Garrett Distinguished Career Award in research from the American Rehabilitation Counseling Association, and the Distinguished Career Award in Education from the National Council on Rehabilitation Education. "Once you go through something this profound, you appreciate the little things in life more, and you realize to really not sweat the small stuff. When you apply yourself, miracles can happen."

Dr. Lloyd Dennis " more than a teacher

The Senate of Lakehead University is bestowing on Dr. Lloyd Dennis the rare honour of a posthumous honorary degree.

Lloyd Dennis transformed education in Ontario with the reforms that he and his fellow members of the Committee on Aims and Objectives of Education in Ontario proposed in the famousLiving and Learning report.

When the Hall-Dennis Report was released in 1968, Dr. Dennis crisscrossed the province to explain its recommendations. He passionately argued that the education system needed to change from one in which rote learning and corporal punishment were the norm to one which emphasized student-centred and inquiry-based learning. He was recognized with an Order of Canada and an Order of Ontario for his outstanding contributions to Canadian education.

Lloyd Dennis grew up in the Muskokas during the Depression and he and his family struggled to make ends meet. He left school at 16 to join the military but his love of knowledge prompted him to later complete his high school diploma and multiple university degrees before embarking on a career as an educator. Prior to his death this past March, Lloyd Dennis was an enthusiastic proponent for the establishment and growth of Lakehead University's Orillia campus. When he was recognized with Lakehead's Civitas Award in 2009 for his contributions he accepted this honour with his characteristic modesty and good humour, saying: "I had a great deal of hope for this University when it first began. Now I see it coming to fruition and I happen to be a bud on it, a tiny bud. I'm especially pleased."

Convocation 2012

Community Auditorium, Thunder Bay

Friday, June 1 at 2 pm
Dr. James Orbinski will receive aDoctor of Science

Saturday, June 2 at 9:30 am
The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin will receive aDoctor of Laws

Saturday, June 2 at 2 pm
Dr. Irmo Marini will receive a Doctor of Science

Rotary Place, Orillia

Saturday, June 9 at 10 am
Dr. Lloyd Dennis will receive a Doctor of Laws (posthumously)

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For more information, please contact Tracey Skehan, Communications Officer, at (807) 343-8372 or

About Lakehead
Lakehead is a comprehensive university with a reputation for a multidisciplinary teaching approach that emphasizes collaborative learning and independent critical thinking. More than 8,700 students and 2,000 faculty and staff learn and work at campuses located in Orillia, and Thunder Bay, Ontario, which is home to the west campus of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. Lakehead University promotes innovative research that supports local and regional socio-economic needs. In Orillia, development continues on building a campus that meets Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) standards.

Students allowed to vote on tuition increase

(April 27 " Thunder Bay, ON)

The Lakehead University Board of Governors today unanimously passed a motion to allow students to remain at the table for a discussion and vote on tuition fees.

The motion stated that pending a review of the institution's Conflict of Interest Bylaw with respect to students speaking and voting on tuition fees, the Board will suspend that Bylaw so that student governors could both debate and vote on the issue at this afternoon's meeting.

A motion to increase tuition fees by an average of 4.5 percent was passed by the Board. The tuition increase is in line with other Ontario universities, said Board Chair Colin Bruce.

"Lakehead University is committed to balancing its budget and protecting programs and services for students," he said.

About Lakehead
Lakehead is a comprehensive university with a reputation for a multidisciplinary teaching approach that emphasizes collaborative learning and independent critical thinking. More than 8,700 students and 2,000 faculty and staff learn and work at campuses located in Orillia, and Thunder Bay, Ontario, which is home to the west campus of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. Lakehead University promotes innovative research that supports local and regional socio-economic needs. In Orillia, development continues on building a campus that meets Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) standards.

Provincial Funds of $1M Support R+D Platform to Revolutionize Non-Invasive Imaging - Xenon polarizer will help move HP gas MRI from bench to market

(April 20 " Thunder Bay, ON)

Today, the Province of Ontario announced $1M in funding to support and advance the work of Dr. Mitchell Albert, recently recruited scientist at the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute (TBRRI) and Research Chair and Professor of Chemistry at Lakehead University.

Dr. Albert is an experienced innovator who has co-invented a powerful new diagnostic technology " hyperpolarized (HP) gas MRI. Dr. Albert and his team are taking this breakthrough method to the next level by developing new technology that will improve imaging for asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary embolism, lung and breast cancer, stroke, atherosclerosis, and diseases of the brain.

The $1M in funding assistance will offset the cost of establishing a platform to conduct R+D in HP gas MRI, specifically the purchase of a state-of-the-art xenon polarizer to advance research and commercialize products such as smaller scale HP gas MRI products for broad distribution world-wide. A xenon polarizer uses the process of hyperpolarization to manipulate xenon gas atoms to enhance the MRI signal by 100,000 times to produce images that delineate, in great detail and clarity, physiological changes occurring in body tissue, including the lungs and brain, which have traditionally resisted conventional MRI. HP gas MRI is non-invasive, avoids the use of ionizing radiation, and is tremendously valuable to medical science.

HP gas MRI technology is currently used in research labs, but existing MRI scanners can easily be adjusted to image xenon and helium, making this technology readily and widely available. The potential medical and economic impacts of HP gas MRI are immense.

"Ontario stands behind its researchers," says Thunder Bay-Superior North MPP Michael Gravelle. "The government of Ontario has contributed $1M to help build an R+D platform for Dr. Albert and his team to develop his new technology, translate his ideas to clinical trials, and ultimately, commercialize the technology for use in Canada and world-wide."

Thunder Bay-Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro agrees. "Dr. Mitch Albert and his team are the top scientists in the world in their field. And where better to develop and market this technology than NWO where we have an exceptionally high burden of lung disease. It's good for the people of our region, it's good for the economy, and it's good for Ontario."

"The success of Dr. Mitch Albert and his research team is testimony to the value of the Collaborative Health Research Partnership (CHRP) between TBRRI and Lakehead University," says Dr. Rui Wang, Lakehead University's Vice President of Research, Economic Development, and Innovation. "We need more Mitch Alberts to strengthen the CHRP and to advance health research at TBRRI and Lakehead."

Attracting a world-class scientist like Dr. Mitch Albert to Ontario will further advance knowledge and treatment of lung diseases including asthma, COPD, and cystic fibrosis. Local respirologist Dr. Birubi Biman is enthusiastic about the future prospects this research offers for her patients, "HP gas MRI can produce high-quality images that reveal physiological processes that we couldn't see before. This will be a great help in testing and evaluating new treatments."

The team led by Dr. Mitchell Albert collaborates with three of the top 10 scientists in the world in HP gas MRI. While several locations are performing excellent research " Universities of Virginia and Wisconsin (US), University of Sheffield (UK), University of Mainz (Germany), and others " no region in the world is as fortunate as Ontario to host such a concentration of scientific excellence.

"TBRRI, together with partners like Lakehead University, is growing the capability to conduct leading-edge medical imaging research," says TBRRI CEO Michael Power. "The province's continued support allows us to move closer to commercializing technologies like HP gas MRI, that will benefit patients and fuel our growing bio-medical economy."


Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute is an independent, not-for-profit research corporation partnered closely with Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. Scientists and clinicians work together with academic and industry partners to bring advanced diagnostic technology to our patients. TBRRI strives to improve the quality of patient-centred healthcare by advancing new standards of excellence in the clinical investigation of novel molecular imaging-based diagnostic technologies.

Lakehead University is a comprehensive university with a reputation for a multidisciplinary teaching approach that emphasizes collaborative learning and independent critical thinking. More than 8,700 students and 1,850 faculty and staff learn and work at campuses located in Orillia, and Thunder Bay, Ontario, which is home to the west campus of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. Lakehead University promotes innovative research that supports local and regional socio-economic needs. In Orillia, development continues on building a campus that meets Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) standards. For more information about Lakehead University, visit

For further information, please contact:

Janine Chiasson Communications
Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute
t: 807-684-7239

Industry partnership a first

Reprinted with permission from Lake Simcoe Living, Spring 2012 (p.14 - Lake Simcoe Community Forum

Innovative research at the Orillia campus of Lakehead University is aimed at reducing the amount of phosphorus that gets into lakes - including Lake Simcoe - through stormwater systems.

Think about how much runoff from rain and melting snow goes into the stormwater drains located along our streets and in parking lots, carrying with it a large number of pollutants. The chief pollutant in runoff is phosphorus, a major cause of algae blooms, fish kills and even public health hazards. In most cases, that water takes phosphorus straight into our water systems, streams, rivers and lake.

The research at Lakehead Orillia is being carried out in partnership with Monteco, a family-run, Toronto-based company involved in several clean-technology industries.

One of Monteco's companies is Imbrium Systems, which sells a stormwater filtration system that captures more than 70% of total phosphorus from stormwater runoff. The company says its stormwater filtration system is the only one that can effectively capture dissolved phosphorus before it enters bodies of water, such as a lake. The system also captures more than 80% of sediment, which carries additional pollutants.

When stormwater is channelled through Imbrium's filtration system, it passes through large mesh baskets that store a gravel-like product that the company calls SorbtiveMEDIA. Most of the phosphorus and pollution-laden sediment in the water become attached to this product; the filtered water then continues to the lake.

While other researchers at Lakehead Orillia are tracking down the sources of the phosphorus getting into Lake Simcoe (See the Winter 2010/2011 issue of Lake Simcoe Living Magazine, page 16), the research project in conjunction with Monteco is looking at how to improve the effectiveness of the product used in these filtration systems, in order to help keep phosphorus out. One of the goals of the research is to make the product even more environmentally friendly.

In 2011, Monteco provided the funding for an arts and science student to spend six months looking at ways to improve the product used by Imbrium. Kayla Snyder, from Everett, just west of Innisfil, is studying to become a high-school science teacher, and the project at Lakehead Orillia gave her a unique opportunity as an undergraduate student to work with a professor on a research project. Hands-on laboratory work should set her apart when she finishes her studies and starts looking for a job.

The professor who is working in this project, and who supervised Snyder's work, is Dr. Christopher Murray, an assistant professor in the department of interdisciplinary studies at Lakehead and a former Monteco employee.

Lakehead University student Kayla Snyder (left) and Dr. Chris Murray examine a location where stromwater flows into Lake Simcoe.

This is the first time Lakehead University Orillia has partnered with industry to conduct research. Murray says the collaboration was arranged through an Ontario Centres of Excellence program that links companies with universities.

Murray says the challenge in creating any stormwater filtration process is that it must be able to handle huge quantities of water without human intervention and without any power. The Imbrium system traps phosphorus and sediment in a storage chamber that can then be cleaned out every one or two years.

He continues to explore the next steps in the process, focusing on water quality and biodegradable materials. Another consideration is finding alternative uses for the spent nutrient-absorbing media.

Murray says Monteco has also been involved with very small-scale research projects with one of his undergraduate classes. About 20 students studied topics such as removing oil from wastewater, salt contamination of surface water and limiting greenhouse gas emissions from petrochemical plants. All the projects were short-term and there were no commercial objectives.

"It was a great experience for my students to be able to talk to people actually working on solutions to problems like these and learn more about real-life scientific issues in the community."

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Postsecondary Education: Dream it! Believe it! Achieve it!

(April 11, 2012 " Thunder Bay, ON)

It wasn't a typical lunch hour at Sherbrooke Public School today.

Instead of munching on apples and sandwiches, students had a front row seat for the signing of an historic agreement that could put them on the path to becoming Lakehead University graduates.

The Little Bear Singers perform at the opening of the Achievement Program event at Sherbrooke Public School

These future doctors, lawyers, geologists, biologists, teachers " and maybe even an astronaut or two " were part of an enthusiastic audience that gathered for the signing of the Achievement Program Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Lakehead University and the Lakehead District School Board (LDSB).

Sherbrooke student Orion Kejick visits Lakehead's biology lab as part of the Achievement Program's pilot project this past summer

Along with the students and their parents, Mayor Keith Hobbs, city councillors, Aboriginal community members, and University and School Board representatives were on hand to witness and support this exciting new initiative.

The Achievement Program will open doors for students throughout Northwestern Ontario who face major barriers to a university education. The goal is to raise $10 million in 10 years.

But this innovative program is about more than the money.

"It's about changing attitudes and expectations. It's about giving young people, especially Aboriginal youth, the opportunity to realize their dreams," says Lakehead University President Brian Stevenson, who is spearheading the new program.

Lakehead University President Brian Stevenson and Lakehead District School Board Director of Education Catherine Siemieniuk shake hands after signing the Achievement Program MOU

Many First Nations, Métis, Inuit and children from families of low socioeconomic status miss out on the greater career choices and better quality of life that a university education can bring.

Through the Achievement Program, children from Grades 4-12 will be able to earn money to go towards tuition fees at Lakehead University by participating in yearly activities. These activities will range from academic and athletic camps to arts and science and outdoors programming " all geared to give kids the skills to become community leaders. The Achievement Program will also include financial support for mature students.

"To succeed and achieve one's dreams not only requires financial support," says Beverly Sabourin, Vice-Provost of Lakehead University's Office of Aboriginal Initiatives. "Academic, cultural, and social supports are also an important component and this is what Lakehead University is committed to provide."

Sherbrooke Public School is a natural choice to launch the new partnership. With its bright corridors, supportive staff and extracurricular programs, the Thunder Bay public school has a reputation for giving students opportunities to thrive.

"Lakehead Public Schools is committed to the success of every student," says Director of Education Catherine Siemieniuk. "Our staff and school communities embrace innovative opportunities to help every child realize his or her full potential."

The school's forward-thinking approach to education included hosting last year's inaugural Achievement Program pilot project " a summer literacy camp for Sherbrooke and Agnew H. Johnston Public School students.

Both President Stevenson and Education Director Siemieniuk believe the Achievement Program will send a strong message to all children to believe in themselves, to dream " and to dream big.

Dream it. Believe it. Achieve it.

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For more information, please contact:

Tracey Skehan, Communications Officer Bruce Nugent, Communications Officer
Lakehead University Lakehead Public Schools
(807) 343-8372 (807) 625-5214

Member of charter class becomes one of Lakehead Orillia's first graduate students

by Kathy Hunt, Communications Officer, Lakehead University Orillia

(Mar. 29, 2012 - Orillia) Debbie Balika not only has the distinction of being a member of Lakehead Orillia's charter class, but as a graduate student, she represents the most enduring student at the Orillia campus. Balika, of Barrie, Ont. is enrolled in the Master of Science in Biology program, along with Sheri O'Connor. They represent the first graduate students at the campus.

Like O'Connor, Balika came to Lakehead with the intention of becoming a school teacher, but along the way, both students took advantage of opportunities that led to their current status as grad students. As Balika says, "I just seem to keep walking through open doors; as Lakehead opens them, I walk through them."

Before enrolling at Lakehead when the Orillia campus opened six years ago, Balika worked as a pharmacy technician in a retail environment. "I found myself a single parent and needed to change my career," explained Balika. With two young children, she found that working in retail was a challenge.

Realizing that she needed further education, Balika enrolled at Georgian College with the goal of becoming an educational assistant. It was during her first co-op placement that the first in a series of "open doors" began to emerge.

"My supervisor at Georgian had graduated from Lakehead in Thunder Bay and knew about the opening of the Orillia campus. She encouraged me to pursue my degree and become a teacher - I followed her advice!"

Following her third year at Lakehead, Balika applied for and accepted a summer position as a researcher with the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies/Biology. She worked as part of a team of eight students who worked with Professors Sree Kurissery and Nanda Kanavillil on a number of projects related to water quality.

Kurissery, who is Balika's master's supervisor, could see the potential in Balika as an academic researcher and teacher right away. "Debbie was highly committed and dedicated to her projects and naturally took on a leadership role with the group," Kurissery noted. "In her second summer with us, she was outstanding as a mentor to the junior students - this mentorship ability is important in an academic setting."

Following her research experience, Balika knew she wanted to continue her studies in biology. "Everything made sense that summer," Balika said. "I have always loved the outdoors and now I felt that I could help look after our environment, not only from a recreational point of view, but from a research perspective."

Balika expressed her interest to Kurissery, thinking that it wouldn't be possible to pursue her master's at Lakehead in Orillia. "Too bad I couldn't do a master's degree here," she said, and Kurissery responded with, "Oh, but you can!"

Another door opened and Balika entered. Following her graduation from Lakehead in 2011 with an Honours Bachelor of Arts & Science/Bachelor of Education, Balika embarked on her Master of Science in Biology studies.

Lakehead University graduate student, Debbie Balika, showcases her research on the water quality of Lake Simcoe.

The topic of Balika's master's thesis is related to one of the projects she worked on as a summer researcher, which focused on the ecology of biofilms.

"My study focuses on the monitoring of inland water qualities," Balika explains. To conduct her research, Balika collects attached microalgae by suspending glass slides and small pieces of rocks into the water at three sampling sites along the shores of northern Lake Simcoe. She then examines the organisms under a microscope in order to identify the microalgae. Her findings will lead to further investigation of the changes in water quality.

Balika's research supports what many biologists feel is an important ecological approach to monitoring water quality. "We can't simply depend on chemical analysis of water samples and then design clean-up strategies," says Balika. "By examining a number of indicators (such as attached microalgae), we are able to initiate management strategies before major problems occur."

With her research well underway, Balika is grateful for the opportunities provided to her at Lakehead. "I feel lucky to be here," she says. "I have received so much support here, from day one - from my professors, fellow students and staff."

Balika admits that as a mature student, going back to school can be intimidating. "It was especially encouraging to discover supportive professors who are so good at guiding and pushing me to be better. Most of the professors at Lakehead are like this; they help you to be the best student you can be."

She adds, "They say it takes a village to raise a child; it takes a Lakehead village to raise a graduate student."

While working hard right now as a grad student, Balika's research is likely just the beginning of her contributions to the scientific community, to a more sustainable environment, and to future students. With her success to date, there will certainly be many more doors opening to welcome her enthusiasm, knowledge and expertise.

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Kathy Hunt is the Communications Officer at Lakehead's Orillia Campus and can be reached at

Humanities 101 Update: "amazing experience" for students

Humanities 101

Successful community partnership provides university opportunity for 35 adult learners

(Mar. 15, 2012- Orillia, ON) Thanks to the overwhelming support and enthusiasm from the community, local social service agencies, and Lakehead University's faculty and staff, 35 adults- who otherwise would not have the opportunity to experience a postsecondary education- have become Lakehead University students.

The students are enrolled in the University's fifteen-week Humanities 101 course, a community-based outreach program designed to provide access to a university-level educational experience, despite financial and other barriers.

The new program is directed by Dr. Doug West, associate professor of political science with the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies at Lakehead's Orillia campus. Although new to the Orillia campus, Dr. West is not new to Lakehead University. For the past 20 years, he has been a faculty member at Lakehead's Thunder Bay campus, where he was involved with the Humanities 101 program since its inception six years ago."More than 100 participants have 'graduated' since the program began, some of whom have gone on to complete university degrees or pursue other postsecondary education," reports West.

"Humanities 101 presents an exciting opportunity for adult learners who experience any number of barriers to furthering their education. The program focuses on reducing those barriers," explains West.

Randy LeBlanc, who is enrolled in the program, says that the opportunity is helping him to find a new career path. Trained as a chef, LeBlanc recently found himself out of work when his employer downsized staff.

When LeBlanc began looking for work, he went to Northern Lights Employment Services to upgrade his computer skills and resume. "This is where I found out about the Humanities 101 program," says LeBlanc. "It has been an amazing experience. I have found every single class to be interesting!" One class in particular helped LeBlanc think about his future goals. "The 'Book Club' session made me consider my long-time interest in music and writing as a career. I have already set up some appointments with local musicians to discuss ideas," said LeBlanc.

Randy LeBlanc enjoys dinner- provided by Aladdin Indian Cuisine- before class.

Another student in the program, Alice Murphy, who at the age of 72 believes she is the oldest in the class, says the experience has been wonderful. "My brain is like a sponge; I just can't take in enough!"

Getting a university degree is on Murphy's bucket list and the Humanities 101 course is affirming her interest. Murphy retired just a few years ago, following a career in retail management and feels she needs more of a challenge, even though she is an active community volunteer.

Alice Murphy

"I am now looking into taking some courses at Lakehead following this program." As much as Murphy is benefiting from the Humanities 101 program, she feels it is especially encouraging for young people. "This is a great opportunity for the younger people in the class; there is so much for them to explore."

The program is free to participants and includes subsidized transportation, a child or adult supervision allowance, and a meal. Participants, who have been referred to the program by local social service agencies, attend weekly evening lectures taught by volunteer faculty and staff members on topics in the humanities and social sciences. Students are exposed to a broad spectrum of topics including social work, media studies, Aboriginal studies, business practices, English, and environmental education.

Dr. West acknowledges that the program could not take place without the support and involvement of the community, along with funding from the Aurea Foundation, based in Toronto. "The Humanities 101 program has been fully embraced by social service agencies and individuals in the Orillia area and throughout Simcoe County," says West. A number of local restaurants have contributed by providing meals, including Aladdin Indian Cuisine, Brewery Bay, East Side Mario's, Era 67 and the Grape and Olive. The Good Food Box in conjunction with the Common Roof, along with Madison County Food & Beverage, which provides Lakehead University Orillia's food services, also donated meals.

A number of community representatives were involved in planning the program as members of the Humanities 101 Advisory Committee that Dr. West put together in July. "The work this group has accomplished in a few months has been outstanding," notes West.

The role of the Committee is to oversee the creation and operation of Humanities 101 and to help manage all aspects of the program. Community members of the group include: Don Goard, OPP Detachment Commander; Yuksel Gulmen, local resident; Laurie Herd, Common Roof Project; Amber McGarvey, Georgian College student; Will McGarvey, Shadowbox Learning Services; and Karen O'Coin, BMO Nesbitt-Burns, Orillia. Other members of the group include Lakehead University faculty, staff, and students.

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Research & Innovation at Lakehead Orillia

Research & Innovation Week: an experience of discovery

by Kathy Hunt, Lakehead Orillia Communications Officer

(Mar. 14, 2012) Working at a university means that I am surrounded byenergy, intelligence, expertise, passion, creativity, and, if I pay attention,myriad opportunities for learning on a daily basis.

The wealth of knowledge and inspiration at the campus is quite impressive and was emphasized recently during the University's Research & Innovation Week, which took place last month. I attended some of the events, including a welcome address by Dr. Tim Kaiser, associate professor with the Interdisciplinary Studies program. Dr. Kaiser's remarks were intriguing. I found out how much research activity actually takes place among the faculty at our campus and how this research covers the wide range of possibilities in research and innovation.

Dr. Kaiser explained that research activity can be categorized into four main areas: research that leads to innovation; innovation that leads to research; research that leads to research; and innovation in research. When Dr. Kaiser examined the research by Lakehead Orillia faculty, he found examples for each type and also was able to estimate that the research output by faculty amounted to 2.5 pieces per person per year. This research output (totalling 1,396) includes journal articles, books, chapters in books, conference papers, technical reports, patents, and museum or gallery exhibitions.

It was also pointed out that over one third of all the papers presented during Research & Innovation Week discussed research into freshwater systems, a reflection of the Orillia campus' emphasis on environmental sustainability. The University hopes the Orillia campus will one day become a "Centre for Sustainable Communities." Judging from the presentations at this year's Research & Innovation Week, the University is on the right path to realizing this goal.

When I explored the gallery of poster presentations, I was impressed by the number of projects not only related to sustainable communities, but to our local communities. Students in Dr. Chris Murray's General Science class worked as teams with community partners on a number of local environmental issues.

"Many of the student research projects showcased were based on finding solutions to real-life problems," explained Dr. Murray. "It was all secondary, literature-based research, but it was still legitimate discovery, as opposed to an exercise aimed at finding an expected answer printed at the back of a text book." The research posters presented findings on topics such as municipal brownfields, green parking lots, urban tree planting and green roofs.

Collaboration in research was something that Dr. Kaiser highlighted in his introductory remarks. Research is typically conducted with students, other scholars, professionals and members of the community.

When community partners are involved, research becomes especially relevant, making it very meaningful- and exciting. It is also a way for the community to share in the innovation that is experienced on a daily basis at the campus and for the University to help meet community needs.

Orillia campus library technician, Kim Vallee, arranges a display of faculty-authored publications.