Views needed to win national video competition

Brock graduate students have earned four spots in the Top 40 of a national video competition.

Michelle Przedborski (Physics), Angel Phanthanourak (Applied Health Sciences), Dan Hughes (Earth Sciences) and Larissa Barelli (Biotechnology) are now asking for the public’s help to place in the next round of the Science, Action! Competition, sponsored by one of Brock’s major funders, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

Each student submitted a one-minute video and a 100-word summary of their research to NSERC.

The 25 videos within the Top 40 that receive the most views on YouTube between Feb. 1 and Feb. 28 will advance to the final round, where a panel of judges will select the winners.

“I am absolutely thrilled that four of our extremely talented graduate students have been selected as part of the Top 40,” said Dr. Jens Coorssen, Dean of Graduate Studies.

“This is important recognition of some of Brock’s strong and rapidly evolving research areas and also highlights our recognition of the critical importance of public outreach in knowledge translation,” he said.

“These students are making great strides in their fields of study and we are honoured to have them representing research at Brock. I would encourage everyone in our campus, local communities and beyond to support these student researchers by watching their videos and sharing them with others.”

Larissa Barelli, a doctoral student in Brock’s Biotechnology program, has been working with supervisor Dr. Michael Bidochka to study how a certain type of fungus that kills insects transfers nutrients from the bugs to plants and how plants transfer nutrients back to the fungus. This could lead to the development of a natural fertilizer that would replace the chemical-laden options that are typically used.

“To be able to promote plant health, increase stress tolerance in crop species and integrate a form of pest control all through one association would redefine food production and the agricultural industry,” Barelli said.

Her video, “Insects, a Dinner for Two,” explains how this research will ultimately benefit the agricultural industry.

Angel Phanthanourak, Department of Kinesiology, has been researching how anxiety and a fear of falling influences the way people move their bodies. If they stiffen up or have poor postural strategies, it might increase the likelihood of falling during voluntary movements.

“By demonstrating the role psychological factors play in reducing the efficiency of postural control, I hope to aid in the development of interventions meant to reduce feelings of anxiety and encourage older adults to engage in activities,” said Phanthanourak, who has been working with supervisor Dr. Craig Tokuno.

Her video, “Fear of Falls,” can be found here:

The video by Dan Hughes, a Master of Science in Earth Sciences student, focuses on the impacts of climate change on lakes, rivers and their interconnections within an Arctic permafrost landscape across Old Crow Flats in the northern Yukon Territory.

“This research is working to understand the adverse effects landscape changes have on local communities, the ecosystem and help to predict future implications of a changing arctic climate,” he said.

Hughes said he’s honoured to have been chosen to represent both the Water and Environment Lab (WEL) and Brock University in the national competition.

“It not only publicizes these projects to the academic community across the nation but also helps to inform the public on topics at the forefront of scientific research,” he said.

His video, “A Changing Arctic,” can be found here:

PhD student Michelle Przedborski studies with Dr. Thad Harroun (Physics department, Brock University), Dr. Surajit Sen (Physics department, SUNY Buffalo) and Dr. Stephen Anco (Mathematics department, Brock University).

Her video discusses stable disturbances that travel with a fixed shape and constant speed — in granular chains.

The concept can be easily seen in an ornament that sits on many desks: a row of metal balls suspended in a metal frame so that they are just touching each other; when you lift and swing the ball on the far right, the ball on the far left rises, while the balls in the middle stay put.

The research could be used to create new or improved shock absorbers and energy harvesters.

“Being able to predict and control the energy transport properties of these systems could lead to new or improved shock absorbers and energy harvesters,” she said.

Her video, “Grains, chains, and solitary waves,” can be found here:

“I was completely surprised and ecstatic to learn that my video was one of the 40 that will proceed to public voting, allowing my research to reach a broad audience,” Przedborski said.

“By creating a light-hearted animated video, my goal was to show people from other scientific backgrounds and from non-science backgrounds that physics is fun, and to perhaps stimulate interest in a research area that is not currently receiving a tremendous amount of attention in Canada.”

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada is a Canadian government agency that supports faculty and student research in post-secondary institutions across the country. The agency also encourages Canadian companies to participate and invest in post-secondary research projects.

To support these outstanding students please view and share their videos.

The finalists will be announced by April 5.

All videos are posted on the Science, Action! website.

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