Dr. Kefu

"I like things in motion," remarks Dr. Kefu Liu.

The mechanical engineer and Lakehead professor is particularly interested in vibration, which can pose multiple benefits -- and many severe hazards. From the beautiful music we find pleasing to our ears to the massive earthquakes which rip through the planet, vibration is common to everyday life and produces highly varied effects.

As such, methods of vibration control are pivotal to the success of engineering endeavours in addition to human safety and comfort overall. To provide his students with an opportunity to acquaint themselves with this powerful phenomenon, Dr. Liu has established a lab equipped with a series of devices for vibration testing and experiments.

As well as a professor, Dr. Liu is the coordinator for the control engineering program - an interdisciplinary graduate option which combines knowledge from environmental, electrical, chemical and mechanical engineering disciplines to study the industrial applications of control theory and principles. Consequently, students in the program benefit from a well-rounded education and highly marketable knowledge and skills.

Many of Dr. Liu's students have launched into lucrative and exciting careers, from senior engineer at Ontario Power Generation to assistant professor at Carleton University. Other students continued on to further their studies and one is currently a Ph.D candidate at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.

There are many factors Dr. Liu pinpoints as central to the program's success, including the competitive financial support. He explains that students are typically provided with at least $6,000 per annum for two years.

In addition, the faculty are highly dedicated. Dr. Liu, who prizes the value of education, comments on his experience as a graduate supervisor:

"I have found supervising to be extremely rewarding and fulfilling...A number of my students were new immigrants who struggled to find a job after they came to Canada. However, their studies opened them to new opportunities and they have been quite successful. I am proud of my former students, all of whom I now regard as friends. We keep in close contact."


Interviews and content kindly conducted and provided by Erin Collins


Robert Scott is basically a highly skilled treasure hunter.

Through the detection of patterns on the ground, he can identify potential gold-rich areas. His developed techniques can be used to track down gold in Ontario and other regions throughout the world.

Completing a geology master's degree in Northern Ontario - a mineral rich, geological hotspot - Scott can't say he's ever been unemployed. He's already worked for several engineering and geological consulting companies and TA's regularly for undergraduate classes and field schools. Scott also remains active in the Canadian Forces, through which he has developed extensive bush and navigation skills, important assets for any geologist.

Scott attributes a lot of his success to the Lakehead geology department; the faculty adamantly encourages students to take advantage of national and international professional development conferences along with any other opportunities to broaden their horizons. Toronto, Pittsburg and Minneapolis have been just a few of Scott's destinations and he has also frequented several mines throughout Canada via his involvement with the Geology Club.

He can't recall half of the travelling he's done in the field.

As well as the abundant travel opportunities and getting to spend a lot of time outdoors, Scott says the job security for any geology student is a real draw. The Lakehead department takes full advantage of the hot market, filtering jobs to students as they arise: Scott says several postings are circulated on a weekly basis.

Scott already has a job lined up which he will seamlessly transition into after his last semester.

"I really have the best of both worlds," he remarks. "Doing what I love and being in demand."

Interviews and content kindly conducted and provided by Erin Collins


As an award-winning radio producer and writer, teacher, public relations specialist and consultant for his own communications company, Toby Goodfellow has certainly made his mark in the world of media -- and is continuing to experience success at Lakehead University. Now completing his education studies with a focus on social media and education policy, he's enjoying the opportunity to merge his passions for research, media and teaching into one, limitless master's degree.

He explains, "My journey is fueled by, among many things, the wonderful teachers I've had the pleasure of working with -- professionally and academically -- who see the potential of social media as a teaching and learning tool."

What does he like about his graduate program? "I'm a kid in a candy shop!" Goodfellow declares. He wholeheartedly commends the support and guidance he's received from his faculty, because of which he's now "smiling his way through" a thesis proposal. "I'm backed by educators who are genuinely interested in my success as they play important roles in shaping me and my goals. Like sharpening stones and cheerleaders, they purposefully keep me focused while picking me up during personal and academic bumps in the road."

Goodfellow cites additional perks of the program, including regular faculty events, seminars and workshops, and the inclusion of grad students on emails announcing national job opportunities. As well, in addition to hosting seminars to guide students through grant application processes, Goodfellow's professors were willing to proofread his applications. Crediting their invaluable help, he awaits word on applications that have reached the final stage of several national-level award competitions.

To everyone playing with the idea of pursuing a master's in education, Goodfellow is highly encouraging, emphasizing that it's an unparalleled schooling experience. "At this level, and particularly at Lakehead, graduate work is tailored to meet your needs. Lakehead's grad studies department is a facilitator of possibilities. Envision your possibilities and Lakehead makes them happen. It's your master's degree!"

Interviews and content kindly conducted and provided by Erin Collins


John Wigg is on the brink of a medical breakthrough.

Working for the Thunder Bay Research Institute, the chemistry graduate is currently researching the plausibility of a non-invasive, diagnostic imaging test for cancer-causing protein, HPV-16 E6. As a specific test for high-risk HPV is lacking at present, Wigg's research has great potential to enhance current detection methods.

"I recall reading that 70% of the cases that led to cervical cancer are HPV-16 or HPV-18 positive-yet there's no fast, specific way to test for that particular HPV infection."

Wigg adds that certain mutations of protein E6 increase its likelihood of causing cancer. He envisions a fast, efficient screening method, which will notify patients if they express the mutated form of HPV-16 E6. Those patients positive for both, explains Wigg, could be prioritized for further diagnosis and treatment.

Why did he choose Lakehead for graduate studies? Besides wanting to work towards advancing healthcare, Wigg desired to gain experience in multiple areas of research. Throughout his degree, he's also worked in many different settings from the university labs and the local research institute to the hospital's cancer clinic.

He hopes the well-rounded skillset he's acquired will help him to land his dream job in pharmaceuticals - an industry in great demand for talent and expertise. "It's why I went into science in the first place," says Wigg. "Pharmaceuticals is a field that's ever-changing, a blend of science and business."

And while his many years of lab experience have well-prepared him for the former, Wigg is also quite passionate about the business end of biotechnology. To further his knowledge in this area, he recently completed a business development course in Toronto through the Ontario's Centres of Excellence.

"I'd like to know both sides of pharmaceuticals; while I'd like to contribute to the science, I also want to work more closely with the people. I think this would allow me to play a larger role in the company and keep things very interesting and fresh."

Interviews and content kindly conducted and provided by Erin Collins

Dr. Craig

A synthetic inorganic chemist, Dr. Mackinnon is fascinated by plastic electronics.

"Silicon screens are very brittle technologies," explains Dr. Mackinnon. "Once you crack the screen on your laptop or on your calculator, it's gone, it's done."

Non-silicon electronics are not only more impact resistant, less expensive, and more energy efficient, they can be employed in a higher variety of applications. The material is ideal for the new chip cards and is currently used to make LED television screens as well as more unique technologies like white lights that can be wrapped around telephone poles like paper and used to display messages. In addition, through changing around a mere functional group, the color of the material can easily be altered.

Dr. Mackinnon encourages all of his students to learn by doing and to continuously play around with different possibilities. Several have gone on to work with local laboratories, to attend professional schools, or to further their academic pursuits. One student landed a technician position at Acadia University after which she was scooped up by a pharmaceutical company to design drug precursor materials.

Dr. Mackinnon emphasizes that a major advantage of completing a master's in chemistry at Lakehead is the fact that graduate students are paid quite handsomely as researchers - a minimum of $20,000 per annum. In addition, Lakehead boasts a close-knit science community; the labs are intermixed and students from a variety of disciplines will frequently get together for a coffee or beer, start conversations, and tackle problems using an interdisciplinary approach.

He adds that chemistry in general is a very employable skill set, commonly referred to as the "central science". "Petrochemical industry, geology, pulp and paper, bio refining - all of these revolve around chemistry. Especially in resource-based places like Northwestern Ontario and British Columbia, there will always be a need for chemists."

Interviews and content kindly conducted and provided by Erin Collins

Dr. Bryan

Dr. Bryan Poulin believes steadfast ethics to be at the core of good business.

"Ultimately, I'm interested in why people do what they do in business... when it comes down to the crunch, how are you going to make decisions?"

Dr. Poulin believes that decision-making needs to be based on three criteria: is it equitable, is it the right thing to do, is it practical?

"When businessmen and women make the right decisions, they will see positive long-term consequences," he explains. He attributes the current financial crisis to greed, unethical choices, and a lack of foresight. "This is why a solid foundation of ethics, especially at the graduate level, is so important."

Dr. Poulin teaches students using a case study approach while juggling several cases of his own. One such project is his business plan for "Friends of Big Thunder" an organization which was responsible for Thunder Bay's hosting of the 1995 Nordic World Games and consequently bringing lots of business to the city. Having since been closed by the provincial government, Dr. Poulin hopes to regain its funding.

With his background in engineering, Dr. Poulin is also collaborating on a recently patented building design which allows air to trickle through the walls and recover heat that's normally lost. He adds that graduates who help with the project are rewarded with 1% of the intellectual property.

In addition, Dr. Poulin was recently recruited to help out with a project for the World Bank which aims to strengthen health sciences in Africa, and is currently working alongside a research advocate at the University of Manitoba Faculty of Medicine to revamp how funding is allocated.

Dr. Poulin admits that while several projects capture his interest, he seldom takes them on with the goal of making money. However, he frequently uses his experiences to supplement his teaching and tries to involve promising students whenever possible.

Interviews and content kindly conducted and provided by Erin Collins

Dr. Adam
Van Tuyl

Dr. Adam Van Tuyl loves the challenge of an unsolved problem.

Inspired by a university calculus instructor, he became hooked on math and its never-ending puzzles. "I actually started in physics, but I didn't like the labs," he admits.

Now overseeing students who match his passion for the subject, Dr. Tuyl emphasizes that the department allows graduates to explore a diverse range of math-related topics. Past projects have studied tree properties, membrane attached biofilms, statistics on sexual health, and strategies for traffic infrastructure.

Students can also choose to supplement their learning with conferences and competitions all over the globe. As the "international language", mathematics at the higher levels allows for the collaboration of peers from all corners of the world. As a graduate student himself, Dr. Tuyl had the opportunity to spend a year in Italy at the University of Genova.

In terms of future prospects, the applications of mathematical knowledge are limitless. While some students continue up the academia ladder to solve problems at the PhD level, others can easily find opportunities in the world of finance, government, or even law studies.

"Reasoning skills provide students with the means to make a logical, solid argument and problem solving can be applied to resolve multiple issues step-by-step," explains Dr. Tuyl. "These skills can be used in pretty much any capacity but law students would find them particularly beneficial."

A master's in math is also a powerful compliment to a degree in education that will increase the marketability of aspiring math teachers.

However, Dr. Tuyl advises that students should foremost pursue math at the graduate level because of a love for the area. "There are many opportunities that can be sought after, but I don't think it's so much about what students can get at the end; it's more that they're so passionate about the field, they want to keep learning more and more."

Interviews and content kindly conducted and provided by Erin Collins

Dr. Michel

Dr. Michel Beaulieu is able to offer a unique perspective on Lakehead graduate programs. In addition to being a supervisor, he himself was a master's student at the university.

Dr. Beaulieu has long been acknowledged as the history department's "Northernist", as an active advocate for this often underestimated and understudied realm of Canada.

"It's about pushing the boundaries," he explains. "The North tends to get shortchanged in almost everything we do." He adds that many fail to recognize the history of Northern Ontario as a bonified field, yet the area has a fascinating past. "Because of its geographic location, every major event in Canadian history has a tie to Northern Ontario."

Keenly interested in how issues of labour relate to resource development, his current research involves comparing Canadian, Uruguayan, and Finnish workers in singe-industry towns.

"Helsinki's like a second home," says the well-travelled professor.

Under his supervision, students have been able to pursue some pretty unique research opportunities. One student visited six different towns to ask Northern Ontario residents about how their communities were adapting to a loss of industry. Another student travelled to Uruguay to learn about its forestry sector with local labourers. And Dr. Beaulieu's taken several graduates throughout the years to experience Ottawa's Library and Archives Canada.

In addition, his teaching style itself is quite distinct. Dr. Beaulieu encourages students to exchange information through what he refers to as a "kitchen table discussion". He strongly believes that academics need to "step down from their tower" and actually talk to people, which is occurring less and less what with the growing number of electronic documents.

"My family always migrated to the kitchen table to learn about past events and experiences and build relationships with friends and relatives...this is my underlying ethos of how I look at history and how relationships with the past are built - it's essentially a big kitchen table discussion."

Interviews and content kindly conducted and provided by Erin Collins


Does your place of study impact how you learn?

Education student Natalie Gerum would answer with an enthusiastic yes.

Her thesis is examining the philosophy of place-conscious pedagogy, which asserts that creating 'a sense of place' by utilizing familiar ideas and concepts will allow students not only to absorb material easier but also to carve out a role for themselves in their place of education.

"It uses place as a starting point of all learning and builds relevance between a student's academic and lived experience... it's a way to really allow students to become active and effective citizens and enables whatever is put on the chalkboard to translate into change."

Gerum is also an environmental activist and particularly interested in the 'beautiful tension' between the local and global in her realm of study. She affirms that place-conscious pedagogy is not exclusive to global issues and phenomenons; rather, being able to relate a global event like global warming to our own experiences can help us to understand it.

Why did she come to Lakehead? For the most part, Gerum was attracted by her current supervisor, a Canada Research Chair in Environmental Education with a keen interest in place-based education - and a perfect match for Gerum's study interests. Through this partnership, Gerum is exploring a myriad of questions, most of which revolve around one central inquiry:

"If a university was taking its responsibilities to heart in everything it did, what would it look like, what would it feel like to be there?" Gerum is searching for answers through the lens of 'appreciative critique' through which she's concentrating on the strengths that are already present and how to enhance them.

Gerum hopes to eventually become 'an educator for activism' and has been vigorously inspired by her highly community-minded professors. "They move well beyond the scope of what is traditionally expected, finding creative ways for students to take what they learn into the public sphere and make change."

She also commends her peers, whom like Gerum, are all excited and engaged in their research, actively seeking tomorrow's solutions to today's problems.

"Learning that you're not alone in wanting change is the most incredible gift."

Interviews and content kindly conducted and provided by Erin Collins


Shining knights in armour, damsels in distress; paging through modern-day recollections of Robin Hood and the Arthurian legends, one can't help but note the extent to which medieval life's been romanticized.

While more fictional than fact-based, medieval literature offers a much more accurate scope into the period, as works created by the persons of the time. English student Alanna Gasser is currently studying the poetry of the age... and loving it.

Interestingly, upon taking her first course related to the field, Gasser thought she would hate it. After studying Chaucer, author of the Canterbury Tales, she came to thoroughly enjoy the subject and is now embarking on a research project which will compare two medieval poems written within the same decade: one is Stephen Hawes' Example of Vertu, written in England while the other is Gavin Douglas' Palis of Honoure, written in Scotland. Contrary to the widely acknowledged trend that Scottish poetry is predominantly inclined to follow English leads, Gasser believes that Hawe's work was considerably influenced by Douglas' and is exploring the plausibility.

Gasser has found the literature of these times to be fascinating and vibrant, incorporating a wide range of traditions, events, and emotions through colourful works. She's enjoyed immersing herself in this 'medieval medley' to such an extent that she wishes to go on to pursue a doctorate and perhaps teach on the subject. She also enjoys writing and heavily participated in the SPARKS (Students Promoting Awareness of Research and Knowledge) program, which features articles on campus research in Thunder Bay's newspaper.

One of her most enjoyable experiences at the university was presenting at the 2012 Lakehead Graduate Conference, which she enjoyed competing in while experiencing warm support from her peers. "We are all encouraged to prepare and present a piece of work to our peers and professors, who provide valuable feedback."

Gasser adds that this positive, friendly learning environment is highly conducive to academic productivity and inspiration and found throughout the program. She appreciates the English student community and regularly discusses with peers.

"Everyone is friendly and genuinely interested in helping you to pursue your goals."

Interviews and content kindly conducted and provided by Erin Collins