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Fighting An Invasion

In the early 1990s the mountain pine beetle outbreak began in British Columbia, wiping out more than half of the province’s commercial pine trees. The insect has continued its destructive advance eastward, breaching the Rocky Mountains into Alberta and now threatening the boreal forest in Saskatchewan and beyond.Sustained by a string of winters that weren’t cold enough to effectively reduce its numbers, the small, wood-boring insect — about the size of a grain of rice — has laid waste to approximately 20 million hectares of mainly lodgepole pines in B.C. and Alberta.

To counter the challenges faced by forest ecosystems and industries amid this climate change-fuelled infestation, a group of Carleton University researchers are playing leading roles in a $6.4 million project with a pair of intertwined goals.

Carleton biologist Catherine Cullingham and her scientific collaborators — including Janice Cooke at the University of Alberta — are doing field and lab work to learn why some lodgepole pine populations have genetic resilience to the beetle and how forest managers and policy makers in government and industry can mitigate the risks faced by jack pine and other species.

A large group of trees damanged by fire and mountain pine beetles
Burnt pine forest in the Chilcotin, British Columbia, previously afflicted with pine beetle (redfishweb/iStock)

At the same time, Stephan Schott from Carleton’s School of Public Policy and Administration, alongside Vivian Nguyen from the university’s Institute of Environmental and Interdisciplinary Science, is engaging with communities from Canada’s three westernmost provinces. They’re helping municipal officials, Indigenous groups, the forestry sector, conservation associations, hunters, fishers, hikers and others learn about what responses worked (or did not work) in B.C. and how people can reduce the impacts of the outbreak in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Regardless of their particular perspectives, the researchers are concerned not only about timber value, but also tourism and the ecological and cultural importance of Canada’s forests.

“You can’t just focus on resilient trees,” says Schott, one of more than a dozen Carleton faculty members and graduate students contributing to the project. “Human beings are part of the ecosystem, and we need resilient communities too.”

Understanding Mountain Pine Beetle Genetics

A tremendous leap forward in genome sequencing underpins Cullingham’s part of this project, allowing her to develop a deeper understanding of both mountain pine beetle and tree genetics.

She’s hoping to discover why one tree can withstand the pest while another does not, looking both within one species and by comparing different species, and to learn about how the beetles are adapting to a changing climate.

A woman with brown wearing glasses in a coral coloured sweater looks away from the camera.
Carleton University biologist Catherine Cullingham (Chris Roussakis)

“We’re trying to find the genetic variants that living trees have and dead trees don’t,” Cullingham explains.

“We’re also generating genomic data for beetles that died during an early cold snap in Alberta last fall to try to figure out what genes might be associated with whether or not a beetle is able to deal with cold temperatures.”

Last December, Cullingham participated in a national forest pest management forum in Ottawa, continuing her efforts to ensure that decision makers are equipped with the latest research.

“The more info they have, the better choices they can make,” she says. “We’re at a critical point and we don’t know what will happen next.”

Learning from the Mountain Pine Beetle Outbreak

Schott and his team, meanwhile, have been holding workshops in Quesnel and Prince George, B.C., and are preparing for similar sessions in Slave Lake, Alta., and Meadow Lake, Sask.

These locations were chosen because there is significant Indigenous involvement in forestry along this northern corridor — and because, from west to east, the communities are at different stages of the outbreak.

A man in a sweater smiles while posing for a professional photo
Carleton University researcher Stephan Schott

“In B.C., we want to see how forestry practices and management changed after the beetle came through,” says Schott, citing Quesnel’s innovative Forestry Initiatives Program as an example of how the city and its partners are working to prevent wildfires, restore landscapes and diversify the local forest products manufacturing sector.

“B.C. had fairly reactive policies and may have gone too far in terms of salvage logging. They basically cleared large tracts of forest, trying to cash in and sell wood. There could be better risk assessment frameworks. In Saskatchewan, they’re trying to be anticipatory, to learn from B.C. and Alberta.”

Better planning and policy coordination could encourage more value-added forestry manufacturing and other uses and benefits of forests — a diverse approach that would also inform pre- and post-beetle cutting and replanting practices.

“This is about the sustainability of forests and the livelihoods of people and communities,” says Schott. “We need a participatory decision-making model that prioritizes multiple objectives, not just timber value. We can use scientific information to control the spread or at least adapt appropriately to it. This is how communities can better plan for the future.”

Immigration, Communities and the Economy

Last year, Canada announced plans to increase the number of immigrants to 500,000 per year by 2025.Beyond welcoming people coming for better opportunities or to get away from hazards at home, immigration can help address a significant labour shortage.

Roughly one million jobs are currently vacant — and, considering Canada’s aging population, this shortfall is destined to get worse.

But no matter how well-educated, highly skilled and motivated an economic migrant or refugee might be, the transition from arriving in a new country to securing meaningful employment is rarely smooth.

In fact, immigrant work integration is so complex a challenge that that there is no easy or single solution, say Carleton University researchers Luciara Nardon and Amrita Hari.

Yet Nardon and Hari, who co-authored a recent book on this subject, see the potential for a future in which new Canadians navigate pathways toward careers that are right for them and contribute to the country’s economic stability. But getting there will entail much more collaboration between government, employers, immigrant settlement agencies and professional associations, and a focus on longer-term transformation instead of short-range goals.

Two women pose for a photo.
Carleton University researchers Luciara Nardon and Amrita Hari

“This problem has so many different facets,” says Nardon, the co-director of Carleton’s Centre for Research on Inclusion at Work and a professor at the university’s Sprott School of Business.

“We have to make changes at many different levels at the same time.”

“Newcomer service organizations try to pair people up with jobs, but often they’re looking for immediate results,” explains Hari, the director of Carleton’s Feminist Institute of Social Transformation, by way of example. “They’re not thinking as much about the career trajectory of the newcomer. Similarly, somebody who needs to pay their bills right away is not going to wait for the perfect job.

“We need to shift the conversation away from quick fixes and concentrate on incremental change over time.”

Shift Focus from Outcomes to Process

The government’s 500,000-immigrant figure is itself problematic, argue Nardon and Hari, because it prioritizes an “outcome” over “process.”

“Half a million is just a number,” says Hari.

“We need to talk about integration and who’s going to help people support their families and become part of our economy and society.”

A person holds a book titled Making Sense of Immigrant Work Integration
Making Sense of Immigrant Work Integration by Luciara Nardon and Amrita Hari

Moreover, systemic barriers still exist. Discrimination, misinformation and a lack of intercultural competency, among other factors, are bumps on the road to rewarding work.

Neither Nardon nor Hari blame employers or government or any one type of organization for these problems. There’s been too much finger pointing, they say, and not enough cooperation.

Writing Making Sense of Immigrant Work Integration is their attempt to share research that informs individual, organizational and policy change. The open-access book can help government agencies better understand the perspectives of immigrant service organizations, for instance, and vice versa.

Addressing Labour Shortage: A New Way of Thinking

Canada has changed immigration policies in the past after immense research and advocacy, such as removing the live-in requirement for caregivers, reducing the risk of exploitation. This gives Nardon and Hari hope that similar adjustments can be made.

They foresee, for example, the emergence of occupational/sectoral work permits to replace problematic employer-specific work permits.

Overall, however, improving the employment situation for newcomers and addressing Canada’s urgent labour shortage demands a new way of thinking. In addition to funding for support programs, policies need to shift their focus from jobs to employment trajectories based on economic needs and the professional identities and goals of newcomers.

Two women have a conversation while sitting on opposite ends of a couch.

“It seems reasonable that if you’re a doctor and are moving to a completely different context, you may have to step back a little,” says Nardon, “as long as you are still moving in the right direction — like doing another residency, not working at a café.”

Nardon considers mentorship a critical piece of the puzzle because mentors can serve as the “bridge” between newcomers and employers.

“You have to find the right match, which can be difficult, but these types of relationships can be incentivized,” she says.

“They have to be more than transactional, more than resume preparation. We’d like to see mentorship that really advocates for and champions immigrants and helps them develop careers.”

Universities and colleges, which host thousands of international students, could provide more employment coaching and immigration counselling for foreign students who often want to stay and build their lives in Canada.

“This may not get somebody a job in the next quarter but could yield something in five years,” says Hari. “It would be an investment for the future.”

And it would be emblematic of the shift to a holistic, humanistic perspective that’s required to address the challenge that Canada faces.

A large sign with the Canadian flag which reads: Welcome to Canada
kellyvandellen/iStock

Helping Children Learn Math

Math is incredibly useful in everyday life. It’s critical for managing money (understanding interest rates and mortgages), getting the best price in shopping, and assessing risks and making informed decisions (for instance, the odds of being exposed to COVID-19 in a certain situation). And it’s essential for a wide range of careers, from banking, construction and nursing to using statistics as a social scientist in government or industry. And yet, as important as it is, some people struggle with math from a very early age — and don’t catch up to their peers.

Which is why Carleton University cognitive science researchers Jo-Anne LeFevre and Heather Douglas have developed a screening tool to help teachers and school boards quickly see which kids are having a hard time with math, so the appropriate supports can be deployed to help them succeed.

A woman with long gray hair and glasses smiles while posing for a photo in a classroom.
Carleton University cognitive science researcher Jo-Anne LeFevre (Brenna Mackay)

“There’s a perception that some people just can’t do math,” says LeFevre, the director of Carleton’s Math Lab, who has been doing research on cognitive development and numeracy for more than 40 years. “Some people get anxious about math, which is unfortunate, because we use it all the time.

“How you’re doing in math in kindergarten will predict how you’ll do in grade six, and students who struggle may drop it once they get to high school. Math may not come easily to everybody, but neither does reading. We send children to school to learn things they won’t pick up naturally through normal everyday experiences. So schools have a responsibility to help children succeed at both reading and math.”

User Friendly and Rapid Results

A couple of years ago, LeFevre and Douglas were contacted by Alberta’s Ministry of Education. The province was looking for somebody to develop a numeracy screener — one that teachers could use with children and receive quick feedback — and had heard about their expertise in this area.

User friendliness and rapid results are important in a tool like this, explains LeFevre, because teachers are busy and often have crowded classrooms but need timely information about whether their students are prepared for learning.

The screening tool they created, which gauges the foundational numeracy skills of children, can be administered in about 20 to 25 minutes. There are different levels, from kindergarten through grade four, and it’s typically done individually for the youngest students and in small groups for older kids.

Students gathered around a laptop with a teacher.
LeFevre and Carleton colleagues Rebecca Merkley (left) and Heather Douglas (right) with several of their students (Brenna Mackay)

For kindergarten, it features the basics, like counting the number of circles on a page, with higher grades assigned increasingly complex tasks, such as number relations (comparing and ordering number symbols) and number operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication).

“A teacher can see right away how a student is responding,” says LeFevre.

“It’s clear which concepts the student doesn’t understand.”

Alberta Education provides the screener to Alberta school authorities to use, free of charge and at their discretion, to help identify students who could benefit from targetted, short-term support.

Levelling the Playing Field for All Students to Learn Math

On the heels of this work, LeFevre, Douglas and their Carleton colleague Rebecca Merkley, along with researchers from several other Canadian universities, received a grant to further develop partnerships around early numeracy screening.

The project’s goal is to engage with school districts across Canada to develop, test and disseminate tools to support mathematical learning in kindergarten through grade three. AIM (Assessment in Mathematics) Partnership researchers are now collaborating with educators in 13 school districts in Ontario, Alberta, Quebec and Manitoba.

Three adults sitting at a desk in an elementary school classroom.
LeFevre with fellow cognitive science researcher Heather Douglas and Carleton University colleague Rebecca Merkley (Brenna Mackay)

Beyond individual students, schools and school districts, these types of tools can help parse broader trends, including the impact of the pandemic on math abilities.

Informal education at home, such as playing numerical board games and other activities involving quantities and spatial skills, may help children as they learn math. But not every family has the same capacity for these activities, says LeFevre, and parents shouldn’t be expected to take on this role. That’s why screening tools, which can be used with all students, are important for ensuring equity in access to educational resources.

One of the purposes of public education is to the “level the playing field,” to give every student the same opportunity.

“We want to use evidence-based tools to make sure that every child has the appropriate supports,” says LeFevre.

“It’s really striking to me from this research how much everyone cares. Whether it’s a teacher, a math consultant, a superintendent, a researcher or someone in an education ministry, everybody I work with really wants kids to be able to learn math, enjoy math, make progress and be prepared to use math throughout their lives.”

Detecting Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Early

Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are devastating neurodegenerative diseases, primarily seen in those over the age of 65 and collectively affecting nearly one million Canadians. Where Parkinson’s affects the part of the brain that controls movement, Alzheimer’s targets memory and cognition. Both result in progressive cognitive and physical decline and eventually lead to the inability to function independently. The personal and financial costs of these diseases are severe and are set to worsen with the country’s aging population. By 2030, the number of Canadians with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s is estimated to double and the total annual health care costs are expected to reach up to $16.6 billion.

Tackling this combined health and economic challenge is difficult, but researchers in Carleton University’s Faculty of Engineering & Design believe that early detection of the diseases could be the solution.

“Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s can be managed much more effectively at their onset but there currently aren’t any clinical tests that can provide an early diagnosis,” says Ravi Prakash, a Electrical and Biomedical Engineer and lead researcher in Carleton’s Organic Sensors and Devices Lab.

“Individuals must have significant cognitive and physical deterioration before they can receive a definitive diagnosis.”

A man with a dress shirt under a sweater leans against a railing with his arms crossed, while looking towards the camera.
Organic Sensors and Devices Lab lead researcher Ravi Prakash

Addressing the Need for Non-Invasive Detection

The current testing for these diseases is also extremely onerous and requires invasive measures, with spinal taps being the most common method. This both delays diagnosis and can prevent individuals from going for testing in the first place.

Addressing this issue, Prakash’s team has created a non-invasive detection tool that indicates whether somebody is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. The tool only requires a saliva sample.

“With early intervention, the symptoms of these diseases can be reversed and medications and therapies can be put into place to prevent or slow further deterioration,” Prakash says.

“This could drastically decrease the strain on the health care system and loved ones and improve the quality of life for those diagnosed.”

Created using a 3D printer, the groundbreaking device is about the size of the palm of a hand — making it both portable and cost-effective. It is made up of a circuit board loaded with disposable, single-use sensors that analyze saliva.

Newly created tech that helps with detecting Alzheimer's and Parkinson's

Currently, people have to go to a doctor with their symptoms, where they are put on a waiting list to see specialists and sent for a variety of tests that may not yield any results due to the stage of the disease. Prakash’s test will be able to indicate with high certainty if they have an early onset of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s in that first visit to the doctor.

Health care providers will simply collect a saliva sample through a cheek swab or drool sampling, drop the sample into the sensing area of the tool, plug it into the USB port of a computer and get real-time results.

“The device detects biomarkers specific to these diseases directly through saliva,” Prakash explains.

“It only takes a few seconds to determine whether or not you have it.”

Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Biomarkers Found in Saliva

Biomarkers are biological molecules – such as proteins, antigens, and peptides – that are found in blood, tissue, or other bodily fluids. They provide signs of a normal or abnormal process, or of a condition or disease. Up until recently, it was believed that biomarkers for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s could only be found in blood or tissue. Recent work has indicated their presence, albeit on a smaller scale, in saliva.

“Saliva is the mirror of the body’s health,” says Prakash.

“The ability to non-invasively collect and screen saliva for target biomarkers has the potential to completely change the landscape for diagnostics.”

A woman with a floral patterned shirt and red sweater smiles while looking away from the camera
Researcher and Faculty of Science Dean Maria DeRosa

Prakash’s team was provided with the Parkinson’s biomarkers from Carleton researchers Maria DeRosa and Matthew Holahan from the university’s Faculty of Science, who are using the biomarkers to come up with treatments.

“Matt and I have been working for several years on a way to block the progression of Parkinson’s disease using a synthetic DNA molecule called an aptamer,” says DeRosa.

“It’s been so exciting to see how this same chemistry, applied to Ravi’s sensor platform, might also allow for early detection of the disease.”

Prakash says the early detection tool could also be utilized alongside treatment to monitor disease progression.

The device is currently in the process of commercial evaluation and advanced laboratory testing and is expected to begin clinical testing within the year. Prakash anticipates that the tool will eventually be used in doctor’s offices, hospitals and long-term care homes, and hopes that one day it will be available for people to use from the comfort of their own homes.

“It’s important to not only drive down costs, but also to create accessible testing right here in Canada,” says the Carleton researcher.

“People are suffering and our health care system is burdened. We need home-grown solutions. Canadians helping Canadians — that’s always been my motivation.”

Net-Zero Now

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To ward off the worst impacts of climate change, Canada has committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. That means in less than three decades the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) being released into the atmosphere from all sources of emissions — buildings, industry, transportation and so forth — must be no greater than the GHGs being removed.The challenge is that almost everything we do to heat, cool and power our society and feed people emits greenhouse gasses. What we need is a fundamental transformation of how we live in this world.

According to Carleton University researcher James Meadowcroft, this is not an unrealistic goal — as long as government, business and civil society organizations work together, across sectors and regions.

The former is crucial because cutting emissions must happen differently in every sector; reforming transportation, for example, isn’t the same as changing agriculture. Regionality matters because Canada is so vast and geographically diverse.

A professional headshot of an older man wearing a sweater over a dress shirt.
Carleton University researcher James Meadowcroft (Photo: Bryan Gagnon)

Hastening the Move to Net-Zero

To help hasten this transformation, Meadowcroft, who focuses on energy and climate policy, has become one of the research directors of The Transition Accelerator, a charity whose mission is to convene “innovators, progressive industry, researchers and other key groups into collaborative teams that advance Canada down … pathways to a stronger, net-zero future.”

The Accelerator, established in 2019, is concentrating on several areas that it deems ripe for change: electrification and grid integration, building decarbonization, electric vehicle market penetration and hydrogen.

The group believes that by meshing climate mitigation more closely with other national goals, including improved health and the creation of new economic opportunities, it’s possible to move toward net-zero while building a better Canada.

Zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) are a good example of how The Accelerator operates.

The organization sought to develop a deep understanding of how the ZEV industry works, what its future could be and what steps must be taken to get there. Then it brought together a collection of willing partners to develop practical on-the-ground projects that will realize these changes.

This led to the launch of a national ZEV supply chain alliance, which aims to help transform the Canadian automotive industry — and its more than 500,000 direct and indirect jobs — into one that’s poised to succeed in the global ZEV marketplace.

Close-up hand grip plug of industrial electric charging machine connected with socket charge
An industrial electric charging machine (Chiradech/iStock)

“This is a sector in which people realize they need to start adapting so they’re better situated for the future,” says Meadowcroft.

“There are innovators everywhere who want to bring about new ways of doing things, but they’re often isolated, so we’re kind of like a matchmaker.”

ZEVs are far from the only transportation solution; public transit, cycling and “15-minute cities” in which one’s daily destinations are within walking distance are also essential.

But when Meadowcroft thinks about how quickly the automobile changed the world after Ford began rolling cars off the assembly line, he sees a valuable history lesson.

“Typically, with these types of major changes, small ideas are bubbling up but it doesn’t look like much is happening,” he says.

“Then you reach an inflection point and in a relatively rapid period of time the new technology stabilizes and takes off. That’s what we’re on the cusp of now.”

Overhauling Multiple Systems

Although individual initiatives such as creating the ZEV supply chain alliance do have an impact, rapid decarbonization will require the overhaul of many systems at the same time.

“We need to develop new business models, change regulatory structures and encourage different consumer attitudes,” says Meadowcroft, who is also on the governing council of Carleton-based Efficiency Canada, the national voice for an energy efficient economy.

“We need to use research in a very applied way to understand how a particular system works and what levers or instruments could be used to make changes.”

A stock image of an ecological home with wind turbines, solar panels on the roof, and an electric car being charged in front of the house at a charging station.
Ecological home concept featuring solar panels, wind turbines and an electric car charging station. (sl-f/iStock)

Efforts to counter climate change in recent years have been too incremental, says Meadowcroft. Science shows us that this transformation isn’t about cutting emissions by a certain percentage. It’s about changing how our society functions.

“Our society is based on technologies and processes that release a lot of GHGs,” says Meadowcroft. “Roughly 80 per cent of our total emissions come from burning fossil fuels. But manufacturing cement and steel for construction also releases emissions. And in Canadian agriculture, about 80 per cent of emissions are related to practices like raising livestock and the use of nitrogen fertilizers.

“I have no doubt that we can and will decarbonize the Canadian economy,” Meadowcroft continues.

“In many cases, the technology exists or is on the horizon. The main obstacles are political, social and economic. Change is going to come. It’s a question of how quickly.”

Tackling Global Warming

Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and replacing them with renewable sources of clean energy is the most important front in the fight against climate change. This crucial transition will reduce the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that drives global warming.At the same time, we need to develop ways to sequester some of the CO2 that has been accumulating for decades — and a Halifax-based company launched by a pair of Carleton University engineering graduates is developing an innovative solution rooted in the ocean’s capacity to serve as a carbon sink.

“To reach our climate goals, we need to remove huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the air,” says Brock Battochio, who co-founded Planetary Technologies with fellow Carleton alumnus Mike Kelland and California marine science researcher Greg Rau.

“Fortunately, the ocean is really good at doing this, so we’re working on a way to enhance the ocean’s ability to capture and store CO2. We’re accelerating a natural process.”

The ocean covers 71 per cent of the planet’s surface and is one of the main mechanisms for regulating carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. This complex geochemical cycle is also one of the building blocks of the marine ecosystem.

Even if all of the excess CO2 in the air today were to be stored in the ocean, the total carbon content would increase by less than one per cent. But because humankind has been emitting so much CO2 — at a rate that outpaces the ability of natural systems process it — seawater has become 30 per cent more acidic. This has a devastating impact on marine life and hinders the ability of the ocean to store carbon dioxide.

In simple terms, Planetary’s solution involves giving the ocean “a giant antacid,” explains Kelland, the company’s CEO. This will supplement the alkalinity that accumulates in the ocean via rain, rivers and rock erosion, helping to neutralize the CO2 that it’s absorbing and making room for more.

Two men dressed in suits sit for an on camera interview. The words 'New Help on the High Seas' appears on a banner towards the bottom of the screen.
Planetary Technologies co-founders and Carleton graduates Mike Kelland (left) and Brock Battochio during their appearance on NBC’s Today Show

CO2 Removal & Recycling Mine Tailings

The beauty of the company’s plan, which has already raised more than $10 million in investments and grants, plus approximately double that in research funding for its partners, is that producing the volume of alkaline material required has prompted Planetary to develop a method to convert billions of tonnes of historic mine tailings into a safe, pure form of alkalinity.

Acquired for now from a shuttered mine in Quebec, these tailings not only provide a catalyst for this experimental but promising method, they also yield the clean fuel hydrogen and in-demand metals such as cobalt and nickel that can be used in batteries as well as solar and wind farms.

In other words, Planetary is essentially recycling mine waste rock into a tool that’s valuable in several different ways. It is planning to build and demonstrate its technology in Quebec next year and eventually expand to mine sites around the world, with the goal of reaching a million tonnes of annual CO2 removal capacity in the next five to ten years.

“Manufacturing this ‘antacid’ is probably the hardest part of what we do,” says Kelland.

“We have to be able to scale up and produce massive quantities of it cheaply, and we have to do it in a way that doesn’t cause additional carbon emissions.

“One of the challenges of this type of early-stage research is that you can’t just jump in,” he adds. “We’re not going to dump a billion tons of antacid into the ocean. We can only operate at the scale that’s safe at the moment, based on the research that’s been done so far.”

A massive pile of mine tailings
A mine tailings pile in Quebec that’s a source of alkalinity for Planetary Technologies

A Constellation of Climate Change Solutions

Battochio, who has a Bachelor of Engineering in Sustainable and Renewable Energy Engineering, and Kelland, whose degree is in Electrical Engineering, started Planetary Technologies in 2019 after they graduated from Carleton.

The pair of entrepreneurs are working and collaborating with dozens of mining and marine ecosystem experts. In Halifax, the main hub for their ocean experiments, they’re testing the addition of alkalinity in a controlled way, to make sure there are no impurities released and no unintended consequences for micro-organisms and other sea life.

Ultimately, Planetary’s method could remove billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and play a key role within a constellation of climate change solutions.

“There’s no silver bullet when it comes to global warming, so we need to try a wide variety of things,” says Kelland.

“We need to actively reduce our emissions — if we don’t do that, nothing else matters. We need to adapt to a changing climate. And true carbon removal has to happen as well.”

Targeting Chronic Pain

One in four people around the world experience chronic pain, outnumbering everybody who suffers from diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. The overall economic impact of this condition — defined as pain that lasts for longer than three months, sometimes for no obvious reason — is estimated at more than $1 trillion USD every year.Yet chronic pain is often considered a quality-of-life concern, not a medical issue, and the majority of patients are not satisfied with the care or therapies they receive.

Carleton University neuroscience researcher Michael Hildebrand has been exploring the causes of chronic pain for more than 15 years. A new project he’s helming — in collaboration with Eli Lilly and Company and The Ottawa Hospital, among others — could lead to a better understanding of what’s happening in the spinal cord to perpetuate this pain and how to develop drugs to treat it.

A man wearing business attire stands in front of an arched doorway.
Neuroscience researcher Michael Hildebrand (Justin Tang)

“This is a huge crisis because we’re dealing with debilitating pain as well as high health care costs and lost productivity,” says Hildebrand. “People may seem fine because they don’t always have outward signs, but it really impacts their ability to function.

“We really need to move the needle on pain research, and it’s an exciting time because we’re mobilizing to address this challenge.”

Although the brain processes pain signals and helps keep you alive by telling you something’s wrong, these sensory impulses are first organized in and travel through the spinal cord. For some people, pain ramps up when it shouldn’t — after an injury has healed, for instance.

Hildebrand believes we can treat pain more effectively by studying the spinal cord and chemically targeting areas where signals are relayed and amplified needlessly.

A medial professional poses for a photo in an operating room.
Neurosurgeon Dr. Eve Tsai (Justin Tang)

He and his students conduct experiments using spinal cord tissue from rats and human organ donors, the latter acquired through their unique partnership with neurosurgeon Dr. Eve Tsai at The Ottawa Hospital. They record electrical signals travelling between neurons and study the molecules that control the delivery of pain signals to the brain.

In a paper published earlier this year, their research showed, for the first time, that neurons in the spinal cords of men and women process pain signals differently — a discovery that could have implications for future drug development.

The Root Causes of Chronic Pain

Hildebrand and Annemarie Dedek, a Mitacs Industrial Postdoctoral Fellow at Carleton, are now working with scientists at Eli Lilly to further this research. They’re using cutting-edge high-definition multi-electrode arrays to enhance their understanding of the mechanisms of pain with the goal of developing new human tissue preclinical screening tests for pain therapies.

“Our focus is investigating the underlying physiology of the human spinal cord,” says Hildebrand.

“A key piece of that puzzle that’s missing is figuring out what’s happening to spinal cord circuitry when you activate these pain pathways or when you block them with treatments. This project will help us identify specific molecules and receptors that are potential drug targets.”

A young woman looks through a high-powered microscrope conducting research on alleviating chronic pain.
Mitacs Industrial Postdoctoral Fellow Annemarie Dedek conducting research (Justin Tang)

Using traditional electrical recording technology, researchers could only study what’s happening inside tissue samples one cell at a time. The multi-electrode arrays in Hildebrand’s lab at The Ottawa Hospital — tiny chips, about six millimetres by six millimetres, containing around 4,000 electrodes — can record the activity of hundreds of neurons at the same time.

“The cells in the spinal cord slices that we use are still communicating and firing,” explains Dedek, who handles the bulk of the hands-on work and relies on computer science specialists at Carleton to figure out how to store and manage the incredibly high volume of data.

“I can put a slice on a multi-electrode array and record activity from the entire circuit. That’s really powerful, because it lets us look at how cells are working in tandem and see circuit-level processes that could be involved in chronic pain.

“Once we understand this circuitry better,” she adds, “this technique could potentially be used to target some of the pathways that we’re studying to disrupt pain signals.”

The Chronic Pain Connection

Eli Lilly approached Hildebrand after seeing Dedek give a talk at a conference.

“Although the pharmaceutical industry has a greater number of resources than our academic colleagues, we don’t always have the ability to perform the exact experiments needed to test a hypothesis,” says Jeff Krajewski, an executive director of pain biology with the company.

“Advances in identifying novel biological mechanisms are typically developed by academic labs. Michael has been a major contributor to chronic pain research throughout his career. His interests aligned perfectly with ours: understanding the spinal mechanisms that underly chronic pain to aid the development of better therapies.”

Three medical professionals posing for a photo in an operating room.

“We want to move toward treatments, but I can’t do all of that in my lab,” says Hildebrand.

“That’s why this is such a natural partnership — Eli Lilly can use the same approaches we’re using to test how specific drugs affect spinal cord circuitry.”

“What keeps me going,” adds Dedek, “is the hope that we’ll have a future where chronic pain is better managed through safe, effective treatments.”

High-Tech Food Security

Two of the biggest worries on the minds of Canadians are climate change and the rising cost of groceries.A brand-new, high-tech indoor gardening pod aims to address both of these food security challenges at the same time — and the first 200 units are scheduled to be delivered to customers before the winter holidays.

Rejuvenate is made by Gatineau, Que., start-up Plantaform, whose founder and CEO is former Carleton University international business student Alberto Aguilar.

Manufactured in Montreal, the product allows people to grow vegetables, herbs and edible flowers at home, in all seasons, using minimal water and energy, no pesticides and very little fertilizer. This will help reduce the fuel required to transport fresh produce from far-flung farms to market and provide access to healthy, chemical-free food regardless of the price increases stemming from inflation and supply-chain bottlenecks.

A man with a black jacket and white shirt smiles for the camera.
Plantaform CEO Alberto Aguilar

The pods — which take up about four square feet of space — use “fogponics” to deliver nutrient-rich vapour to plants. The technology, with ultrasonic vibration transforming water into a fog-like vapour, was developed by NASA for potential use in space, but Aguilar and his team have found a much more earthly application.

“We wanted to focus on solving a problem that really matters,” says Aguilar, a serial entrepreneur who previously launched a company called YourDorm, which helped international and domestic students find homes, and co-founded Relomigo, which makes corporate relocation software. “We’re a green company that’s trying to help promote food security and sustainability.

“In the next 20 years, we’re going to have to double our food supplies to meet global demand. Supply chains are another huge issue. The average meal travels about 2,400 kilometres before it reaches your plate. Why can’t people grow fresh vegetables and herbs where they live?”

The former Carleton student was introduced to the fogponics concept by Kiwa Lang — who he attended high school with in Dubai — while the latter was studying industrial design at university in Australia. Now Plantaform’s chief product officer, Lang was doing research on the subject, liked Aguilar’s business acumen and, in 2019, showed his friend a homemade prototype.

Aguilar, who learned a lot at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business and the Hatch incubation program, was all in.

A living room with a food security-focused gardening pod visible in the corner next to a couch.

Pandemic Raises Awareness About Food Security

In February 2020, Aguilar went to Indonesia for a month to learn about the manufacturing process and mass production. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which made it more difficult to start a new company, but also convinced many people to become more self-reliant and begin growing vegetables at home.

Aguilar sold his remaining interest in Relomigo and bought a 3D printer, so he and Lang could iterate and optimize prototypes, sometimes spending long days bootstrapping it in their own apartments. They brought in more collaborators, including a former director at the National Research Council Canada, people with biology and electrical engineering backgrounds and hired head of marketing Brendan McGann, a recent Carleton economics graduate.

Media coverage in CTV, Radio Canada and other outlets caught the eye of Olivier Benloulou, a successful Gatineau entrepreneur who became an advisor and invested $250,000, helping the company raise more than $1 million and move toward production. Benloulou recently invested another $500,000 in Plantaform’s second seed round, allowing the company to finalize its commercialization plan.

“We spent about three years doing research and development,” says Aguilar, noting that while fogponics is in the public domain, Plantaform has a patent for integrating the technology into a vertical structure.

“Now we’re in the pre-commercialization stage. It’s taken a little longer than we expected, but that’s because we wanted to keep the product made in Canada for sustainability and supply chain reasons.”

With hundreds of units already pre-ordered, the company will start making Rejuvenate in late fall. They are available online and will be carried by select retailers in early 2023.

A gardening pod sits on a living room table.

The pods can grow up to 15 different plants at the same time, from bok choy, kale and lettuce to basil and oregano, among other greens and herbs, with some maturing in as little as four weeks. Fogponics has been shown to produce higher yields than hydroponics, using 40 to 60 per cent less water, and more nutritious produce because of how the vapour delivers nutrients.

There’s another selling point beyond food security, says Aguilar: available in black or white, the egg-shaped “living pieces of furniture” will look good in a kitchen or living room and serve as conversation starters, getting more people curious about indoor growing.

“We want to make an impact,” says Aguilar, explaining that while most of the company’s resources are dedicated to Rejuvenate, he’s already talking to potential partners about testing the technology at a much larger scale.

“Creating a smart indoor garden was our first step toward educating the world about how important it is to grow your own food. But we’re scaling up right now into the indoor farming industry. That was the whole point of starting this company: we want to help feed the world of the future.”

Next Gen Net Zero

Almost half of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions come from burning fuel for heat and electricity in homes, offices and industrial buildings. Nearly 30 per cent come from transportation.In response, researchers and developers are building a new kind of net zero residential community, one that will produce at least as much energy as it consumes.

Under construction now in London, Ont., with cutting-edge energy efficiency and electric vehicle features, EVE Park is the first of its kind, designed to meet consumer demand while not contributing to global warming.

Along the way, it’s also tackling a fundamental problem faced by the growing sustainable living movement: most people don’t want to cede comfort or aesthetics when buying a green home.

A man stands next to a yellow ladder
Carleton graduate Seungyeon Hong, now developer s2e’s modelling and data specialist, working on the Northern Nomad tiny house

“Consumers are reluctant to make any compromises, that’s just human nature,” says Ashley Hammerbacher, developer s2e‘s project lead on EVE Park. The community’s genesis can be traced back to a MITACS-funded research partnership involving Carleton University engineering researcher Scott Bucking and it relies on key contributions from Carleton master’s graduate Seungyeon Hong, s2e’s modelling and data specialist.

“We’re focusing on providing a sustainable lifestyle without that sacrifice,” says Hammerbacher. “In fact, a lot of our components offer an improvement to traditional lifestyles.”

Located in the northwest corner of the larger, 70-acre West Five sustainable community that’s under construction near the Thames River west of downtown London, EVE Park will consist of 84 townhouses, ranging from one to four bedrooms and about 1,300 to 2,200 square feet. Phase one — half of the units — should be ready for move-in by next summer.

While on the outside the development looks like many other new residential neighbourhoods, on the inside it is very different. Assisted by a micro-grid that’s linked to both a community-scale battery and the local electricity utility, solar panels will produce as much energy as the development uses. There are no natural gas lines in EVE Park, and navigating through the zoning and regulatory approval process to allow this setup has created a path for future sustainable developments to follow.

Rendering of a green land and buildings in Eve Park
Mechanical parking carousels outfitted with EV chargers will reduce the land needed for parking to create more natural outdoor space

EVE Park will also have mechanical parking carousels outfitted with EV chargers, reducing the land needed for parking to create more communal outdoor space and foot/bike paths, and an EV car share program. Other environmentally friendly features include smart, energy-efficient appliances and fixtures in all units, large energy efficient windows, strategic building orientations to maximize natural light, non-toxic materials throughout, natural landscaping and intentionally designed inner courtyards in each building to foster a sense of community.

“We’re really rethinking what a medium-density neighbourhood can look like,” says Hammerbacher. “We want people to experience, as our tagline says, what it’s like to live in a park, not a parking lot.”

Net Zero Buildings Can Encourage Socializing and Energy Efficiency

“Commonly, well-intentioned net zero buildings don’t look that exciting — they just look like big boxes,” adds Hong.

“At EVE Park, we’re trying to change that with unique architecture. A building that consumes less energy is actually a more comfortable space to live in. And the courtyards each building has will encourage both socializing as well as energy conscious living.”

“None of these technologies are brand new, but it’s the amalgamation into a package that is somewhat unique,” says Hammerbacher. “We’d be really happy if other developers looked at us and the lessons we learned and did something similar, which is part of our broader goal of trying to build sustainable housing at scale.”

A rendering of an aerial view of a curved building
Eve Park’s buildings will feature inner courtyards to help foster a sense of community among residents

Hong, who started working for s2e as an intern in 2019 and joined the company full-time in 2020 after graduating from Carleton University, has been concentrating on sustainability engineering work for EVE Park.

During the planning stage, that consisted largely of cost-benefit analysis using computer models and simulations to determine, for example, how much the energy efficiency and occupant comfort would improve by installing a particular type of window and whether it was worth the cost or if other eco measures would offer better returns. Now he has shifted to reviewing and coordinating drawing packages from engineers to help ensure that the build matches the design.

“Everything I learned in grad school has really come in handy,” says Hong, who was a big part of Carleton’s Northern Nomad project — a net zero tiny house built by students to showcase sustainable building technologies that has now been transformed to serve during the construction of EVE Park as an on-site sales centre powered by the sun.

“EVE Park is just one type of living,” says Hong.

“Northern Nomad shows that there’s a range of different things that you can do to make sustainable living possible.”

A man stands at a podium addressing a small crowd
Carleton engineering research Scott Bucking speaks at the Northern Nomad opening in September 2018

“Whenever you try to surmount a big challenge, which the tiny house project did, you bond with the people around you,” says Bucking, Hong’s master’s supervisor. “Seungyeon was pivotal. No matter was the problem is, he’s capable of solving it.

“Our tiny house touched a zeitgeist button,” adds Bucking.

“People are interested in compact, modular, self-sufficient dwellings that can be easily manufactured. We built a prototype and it’s part of an important conversation about sustainable and affordable housing.”

Extraterrestrial Exploration

Although the possibility of settlements on Mars or mining on the moon ignites the imagination, space exploration delivers many more earthly and everyday benefits.

It improves essential services such as weather forecasting and communications networks, helping to protect people and our planet. It also drives advances in health care, the development of innovative new technologies like water purification systems and lightweight materials, and inspires youth to take an interest in science and engineering.

Launching and operating a spacecraft or satellite is extremely costly and complex, however, which is why an Ottawa-based start-up aims to streamline space exploration through its cutting-edge software, allowing countries and companies to “unlock the potential of new scientific and commercial opportunities on the Earth, moon, Mars and beyond.”

Mission Control Space Services was established by Carleton University graduate and former NASA space shuttle flight controller Ewan Reid in 2015. Shortly afterwards, the company began collaborating with the Canadian Space Agency on artificial intelligence (AI) systems to help planetary rovers navigate more safely.

“We develop technology to operate or automate things that are deployed in harsh and remote environments,” explains Reid, who has a master’s from Carleton’s Technology Innovation Management (TIM) program, which combines entrepreneurship with science and/or engineering.

“We work with partners who use robots, rovers, sensors and other machines and develop ways to control them intelligently, either with AI or through remote tele-operation with humans in the loop controlling them.”

A yellow planetary rover sitting on sand
A demo lunar rover in the moon yard in Mission Control’s office in central Ottawa (Photo: Blair Gable)

Mission Control has two main product lines. One is a cloud-based architectures for operating robots using the internet in places with very limited bandwidth and high latency (the delay before data transfer begins following the command to do so). This software can work with equipment as far away as the moon or Mars and also inaccessible locations on Earth, such as Antarctica or the bottom of the ocean.

The other core product involves AI algorithms on space-rated processors. These processors, which are part of the computing systems on satellites and other orbiting spacecraft, have to be able to handle the shock and vibration of launch as well as the radiation, thermal and vacuum environment of space.

Mission Control’s AI plays a role in processes such as Earth observation. The right algorithm, for example, could automatically detect when a cloud will obstruct the transmission of optical imaging data from a satellite and instigate a workaround.

“There are a lot of scenarios where, if you could do something intelligently on board, in real time, you could send more actionable, critical information down to the ground sooner,” says Reid.

“Our challenge is to help space agencies and companies do this quickly, affordably and repeatedly. It’s about bringing state-of-the-art terrestrial technology to the space domain.”

Space Exploration Opportunities Coming Soon

Mission Control had a chance to showcase its technology on a pair of recent space missions. Last fall, the company uploaded software to a European Space Agency satellite to support an imaging project and validate its ability to use AI algorithms while in orbit.

It also participated in an international mission that launched in December 2022 involving a SpaceX rocket delivering a Japanese lander with a rover from United Arab Emirates to the moon. Mission Control’s AI solution was poised to help process images from the rover that would be sent to Earth — the first-ever demonstration of deep learning beyond low Earth orbit — however flight controllers lost contact with the rover when it was attempting to land in late April 2023.

“It’s one mission with one rover,” says Reid, “but in a sense, this is one of the first steps toward lunar prospecting. That will require many rovers and soil extraction, but it’s coming. And our company can play a critical role early on and position ourselves to do more.”

Ewan Reid stands next to a planetary rover

Since its birth in a business accelerator on the Carleton campus, Mission Control has grown into a flourishing company with 23 employees — including chief technology officer Michele Faragalli, an adjunct professor at Carleton — and another dozen co-op students and interns, including several who are also doing grad school research at the university. Its office near downtown Ottawa features a 4,000-square-foot moon yard as well as an orbital robotics lab.

“We would like to be part of as many missions as possible and contribute as much as we can, things like supporting satellites that are monitoring climate change and supporting space domain awareness to prevent collisions that create debris,” says Reid.

“Our ethos as a company is rooted in scientific discovery. The more we learn about space, the more we’ll learn about our planet and about how to solve problems on Earth.”

Empowering Female Tech Founders

When an entrepreneur wants to launch a company, they typically seek start-up funding through their personal networks or, if they have a track record in business, from conventional sources such as bank loans, government grants and venture capitalists.But if they’re new to entrepreneurship and aren’t close to people with the means to invest in their vision, it can be difficult to get off the ground.

The challenges faced by first-time founders—especially women—were the inspiration for a group of 10 current and former female employees of the e-commerce giant Shopify, who in March 2021 established Backbone Angels, a collective of investors dedicated to supporting businesses and ideas that are often overlooked.

“There’s a misconception that there aren’t a lot of women, women of colour and non-binary people looking for funding, which is simply not true,” says Konval Matin, a Carleton University commerce graduate and one of the collective’s 10 founding partners. “There are a lot of them. We know this from the number of applications that we see.

Backbone Angels co-founder Konval Matin
Carleton University commerce graduate and Backbone Angels co-founder Konval Matin

“The majority of these founders want to address problems that they’ve faced themselves,” adds Matin. “People who’ve experienced a problem tend to be more aware of and passionate about the solution. They can design products or services that are tailored to the user experience, which gives them a good chance of succeeding.

“But when you’re looking for an investment through a ‘friends and family’ round of financing, if you’re like me, you probably didn’t grow up knowing people who could write big cheques, because that type of wealth is just not equitably distributed.”

By its first anniversary on International Women’s Day in March 2022, Backbone Angels had invested more than $2.3 million (USD) in 42 companies, half of it going to women of colour.

Entrepreneurs apply through an online form, explaining the issue they’re addressing, what their background is, who their team is comprised of, what traction they’ve had so far, how much money they’re asking for and how they plan to use the funds. If one of the collective’s members is interested, the applicant is asked to present a more detailed pitch.

Backbone Angels Offer a Spectrum of Mentorship and Guidance

Matin and her partners at Backbone Angels decide as individuals whether to invest and what amount. And beyond monetary support, they offer a wide spectrum of mentorship and guidance, tapping into their experiences at Shopify and other jobs to assist the companies they fund in areas such as customer service, law, culture, human resources, product development, design, data management, government relations, marketing and finance.

“We all have a different perspective, a different way of thinking,” says Matin, who was Shopify’s Director of Culture and Talent Development for six years and is one of three Carleton alumni in Backbone Angels, along with Sprott School of Business graduate Brittany Forsyth, the former Chief Talent Officer at Shopify, and Alexandra Clark, a Political Science graduate and Shopify’s VP, Strategic Initiatives.

“Even if a venture receives funding from one or two of us, the beautiful thing about Backbone Angels is that you access the expertise of all 10 of us.”

Among the companies that Matin has invested in are Texas-based sustainable pre-fab home builder Astreia, digital trademarking platform Haloo and Toronto-based Daily Blends, which uses smart fridges to serve ready-to-eat fresh food 24/7 and meshes with her interest in helping people access healthy, nutritious food.

“I’m really interested in solving problems at an infrastructure level,” says Matin, “and as a collective we’re interested in companies that specifically solve problems through scale, because that’s what we all experienced at Shopify.”

As much as Matin enjoys working with her partners in Backbone Angels—women who trust and respect one another—and believes wholeheartedly in their mission, she stresses that it’s not a charity, that they see business success as the key to progress.

“We all think that there should be more women starting companies, that they should own a bigger piece of the pie and become investors themselves,” she says.

“I also think that the experiences they’ve had can play a major role in their ability to launch viable businesses.

“They can come up with better, more creative solutions because of their lived experiences, and the restraints they’ve faced can give them the resiliency they need to keep going and push through barriers. The problems they’re tackling need to be solved. They have critical skills and knowledge—and so do we.”

Diversity in the Media

Journalism is a cornerstone of our democracy. Its purpose, according to the American Press Institute, is to provide people “with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies and their governments.”When news outlets and digital media platforms don’t reflect the communities they serve, however, journalism can lead to polarized views and social discord—one of the fundamental challenges of the 21st century.

At Carleton University, home to the oldest journalism school in Canada, faculty are striving to reverse decades of systemic racism and make newsrooms more inclusive and diverse by teaching the next generation of journalists to share stories that capture the country’s broad spectrum of perspectives.

A pair of new professors and the ground-breaking courses they teach are a big part of this transformation.

This past winter, a group of students was the first cohort to enrol in “Journalism and Belonging,” which was created by Nana aba Duncan. The veteran CBC radio host, podcaster and media researcher joined Carleton in 2021 as the Carty Chair in Journalism, Diversity and Inclusion Studies—the first position of its kind at any Canadian journalism school.

Carty Chair in Journalism, Diversity and Inclusion Studies, Nana aba Duncan
Nana aba Duncan, Carleton University’s Carty Chair in Journalism, Diversity and Inclusion Studies

In the class, Duncan and her students talked about many things: personal biases, discriminatory practices in media, and how stereotypes intersect with editorial decisions and everyday work situations. “Students were encouraged,” she says, “to really think about the kind of journalists they want to be.

“I want students to swing for the fences with their ideas and creativity. I don’t want them to worry about being called an activist when they pitch stories from their community because they don’t see many stories from their community. I want all journalists to be valued equally.”

Duncan was joined on the journalism school faculty last year by Adrian Harewood, the long-time anchor of CBC Ottawa’s TV newscast.

Carleton University journalism professor Adrian Harewood taught Journalism, Race and Diversity
Carleton University journalism professor Adrian Harewood

Harewood taught a master’s-level course that he had developed, “Journalism, Race and Diversity,” which is also the first of its kind in Canada. The course connects Carleton students with prominent journalists working on a variety of media platforms, including web, television, podcasts and print publishing.

“Understanding race is fundamental to understanding our world,” says Harewood. “But if you are going to tell the stories of your community, you don’t only need to understand race, you also need to understand class, gender, sexuality and disability. All of these are part of the reality of your community. You need to understand them to provide your audience with critical analysis and insight.”

Journalism to Build a Better World

Harewood is constantly impressed with and inspired by the students he works with at Carleton.

“They care deeply about creating a journalistic practice that helps us build a better world,” he says. “They want to be part of the solution to the challenges that we face.

“If journalism is truly going to reflect society back onto itself,” he adds, “it’s important that everyone has an opportunity to be heard. Ultimately, this helps us better understand the human condition, so we better understand ourselves and our world.”

Carleton University student Angel Xing embodies the changing face of journalism in Canada.

Heading into her third year, Xing initially wanted to study journalism to improve her writing and researching skills on the path toward law school. Now, however, she has developed a passion for the craft.

Carleton journalism student Angel Xing
Carleton University journalism student Angel Xing

“I’ve started to see how media narratives play a big role in constructing social narratives,” she says, “and how even though we are cognizant of the fact that there are people behind journalism, there are hidden prejudices and biases that come into play. In this program, we’re seeing how it’s possible to recognize that different people experience different truths.”

Xing, who grew up with her Chinese-Canadian immigrant family in the Greater Toronto Area, recalls mostly seeing her community covered in the mainstream press when there were natural disasters in China or anti-Asian hate crimes committed in Canada. Their everyday lives weren’t represented. At times, she felt like a visitor in this country.

Xing has strived to go beyond sensational stories in her journalism, putting together a multimedia freelance piece for CBC, for example, about how businesses in Ottawa’s Chinatown have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What I’ve learned since starting this program,” she says, “is that the purpose of journalism is to serve the public.”

When asked about Carleton’s efforts to change the voice, face and stories of Canada’s newsrooms, Xing is clear: “This is something that could catalyze a paradigm shift.”