Stargardt’s disease is a rare inherited ocular illness that affects the Canadian population. According to Fighting Blindness Canada, 1 in 8,000 Canadians suffer from Stargardt’s, a degenerative ocular illness that ultimately leads to vision loss. Typically, patients are diagnosed with the disease by the age of 13, and most experience progressive vision loss as they get older. It is not uncommon for patients to develop complete blindness by the age of 35. Still today, despite the many clinical trials taking place, there is no cure for Stargardt’s disease.
So, when Nutrien, the world’s largest producer of crop inputs, services, and solutions was seeking some out-of-the-box solutions for a safety technology at their Saskatchewan potash mines, they turned to Mitacs to access top research talent.
The resulting collaboration with the University of Regina has produced a new computer algorithm that more accurately identifies potential hazards in the roof of a mined-out cavern—giving workers advanced notice so that they can deploy safety protocols in a timely manner.
The province’s need to be prepared is even more urgent. An earthquake has a domino effect on infrastructure and services. It can knock out power, and damage railway tracks and bridges. It disrupts essential services that hospitals and emergency personnel need to do their jobs. Although on average 3,000 quakes occur in BC each year, the province has not had its readiness tested by a major event recently. But it could happen at any time.
Now, a research team at the École de technologie supérieure is developing a technology-based solution to help nurses and doctors distinguish important signals in the ICU: a ‘smart’ earplug for hospital care practitioners. This summer, they’ve engaged an international research intern — through a Mitacs Globalink internship — to help bring the technology one step closer to a care unit near you.
A research team at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi has asked just that, and are developing a ‘smart’ insole for shoes that will be able to provide navigational feedback — such as a pulse or vibration — to the wearer. Having already built a prototype, this summer they’ve engaged an international research intern for her insight into smart fabrics that could bring it one step closer to reality.
A few years later, that opportunity has allowed Joel to build a career for himself, and make developments that have benefitted the company and Canada’s agricultural sector.
“It was hardcore research,” says Joel, looking back on his internship. “Not just gathering data, but also looking at the results, drawing conclusions, and making recommendations directly to the general manager. It was more like a project as a professional than as an intern, and it definitely gave me a foot in the door.” Joel’s internship also led to the company filing a patent on some of his work.
To help tackle this environmental issue, Mitacs intern Oldooz Pooyanfar, a graduate student from Simon Fraser University’s School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering, is working on a ‘smart’ system that monitors the health of honey bees and their hives. Once installed inside a beehive, her integrated monitoring system allows beekeepers to observe and track the health of their colonies. The device uses microscopic sensors and microphones to pick up sounds and vibrations emitted by bees and can also be used to observe the temperature and humidity of each hive.
After hearing about Mitacs’ Globalink Research Internships through her department head, she set her sights on Canada and submitted her application.
Hayfa’s interest in research abroad soon found her in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, where she’s studying algae in order to learn more about the health of the province’s lakes and rivers. Her research project, based at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR), uses a new mathematical approach to evaluating the microscopic organisms in fresh and salt water.