Finding the bigger picture in microscopic algae

Tunisian intern at Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières helps keep Quebec’s rivers and lakes thriving

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.

The algae, called ‘diatoms’ are found in bodies of water ranging from oceans to creeks, and their presence can tell researchers a lot about water quality. Hayfa is analyzing 500 images of diatoms and classifying them by shape and placement. Since some images are lower-quality, Hayfa also needs to reduce the amount of visual “noise” on each image in order to analyze them. Her research will help the team at UQTR better understand the health of regional bodies of water, since diatoms produce oxygen, provide a food source for fish, and keep toxic algae blooms at bay.

In addition to gaining research experience in her field, Hayfa is exploring Canada and already preparing to return. “This has been an excellent experience,” she says. “I’ve been meeting lots of people who are encouraging me to return here for graduate studies.” She’s exploring potential universities, and her professor has invited her to apply for a master’s program at UQTR.

When asked about her Globalink experience, Hayfa is clear: “I’m very, very satisfied — this is an exceptional experience you can’t find anywhere else.”

Mitacs thanks the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec for their support of the Globalink research internship in this story. Across Canada, the Globalink research internship program also receives support from Alberta Innovates, the Government of British Columbia, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Saskatchewan and Research Manitoba.

In addition, Mitacs is pleased to work with the following international partners to support the Globalink program: Universities Australia; the China Scholarship Council; Campus France; the German Academic Exchange Service; Mexico’s Secretariat of Public Education, Tecnológico de Monterrey, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico; and Tunisia’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Mission Universitaire de Tunisie en Amerique du Nord.

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