Students creating knowledge

A spark of excitement and an enthusiasm for learning were in the air of the Michel Pujol Room in the Student Union Building on Mar. 6 as this year’s Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Award recipients presented their findings as part of UVic’s Ideafest.

The JCURA program, which began in 2009, offers undergraduate students from across the university a unique opportunity to conduct research on a topic they are interested in while working collaboratively with faculty members.

At the opening ceremonies Dr. Michael Miller, associate vice-president research, praised the JCURA program, saying, “I’ve been at the University of Victoria for 25 years, and I think one of the most important developments has been the integration of teaching and research, and particularly the creation of this festival.”

This year 115 students presented their findings through posters or multimedia presentations, while a collection of faculty members, students and community members wandered through the room taking in the variety of topics.

For political science student Adrienne Sanders, the JCURA program was a means to investigate an issue that she is deeply passionate about. Her research politically examined food waste in Victoria, and aimed to answer the question, “Why does food waste occur and what are the implications?”

Sanders says she chose her topic after a customer ahead of her in a grocery store could not pay for their bulk food and was told that per store policy, it would be thrown out. “The more I looked into it, the more shocked I was. Currently around the world we waste about 40 per cent of our food,” said Sanders.

With her political science background supporting her, Sanders surmised that food waste in Victoria, and nationwide, is not a problem that lies within supermarkets or the agricultural system. Instead, her research suggests that food waste is related to a larger sociological issue—the modern human being. She suggests that the solution to food waste is to question our wasteful practices..

Sanders also emphasized the professor and student relationship that JCURA encourages, saying in regards to her sponsor, Dr. James Tully, “He has been absolutely supportive; he’s a wonderful professor.”

Indigenous Studies student Ryan Nicolson used the JCURA program to research historical narrative of the socio-political framework of the Kwakwa_ka_’wakw nation. He worked with Dr. Christine O’Bonsawin, director of the Indigenous Studies Minor Program.

Nicolson’s research investigated how, despite federal anti-potlatch laws, his ancestors preserved traditional governance and potlatch practices by incorporating literacy into cultural knowledge systems. By doing this, his ancestors were able to provide tools and information necessary to revitalize their traditional governance system.

Nicholson’s research focused on this because his belief is that, “unless we reinstate our traditional governance system, the Kwakwa_ka_’wakw people will not move forward and progress as a nation.”

Nicolson says, “This is an ongoing project. I’ll be working on this in my graduate program since I’ve just been accepted into the Indigenous Governance Program here. It will continue to be the focus of my research.”

Electrical and computer engineering student Elaine Yan used the JCURA program to research the feasibility of using a Wii Remote Controller for telerehabilition patients to perform repetitive motions in physical therapy sessions.

By using the Wii Controller and an e-learning program, patients could potentially reduce visits to a medical office and lower cost, effort and time of recovery.

Yan worked with Dr. Kin Fun Li (electrical and computer engineering), whom she had previously worked for as a research assistant.
Yan explains the value of her research and the existence of this program by saying, “This project has increased my interest in technology and health care.”

The fourth annual JCURA research fair brought forward a rich and varied collection of undergrad research, but more importantly this program continues to inspire UVic students to consider careers in research.

And this year, about half of the 2012/13 JCURA students—those with projects in the social sciences and humanities—will have a further opportunity to present their research during Congress 2013, Canada’s largest multidisciplinary academic conference, being hosted by UVic June 1–8.

The JCURA program is administered by UVic’s Learning and Teaching Centre for the Office of the Vice-President Academic and Provost.

More information on award winners and abstracts for their projects:


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Keywords: IdeaFest, campus, award, research

People: Jamie Cassels, Adrienne Sanders, Ryan Nicolson, Elaine Yan

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