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P2GS Researchers 2023

Listed below are the researchers and their research projects for the 2023 Pathway to Graduate Studies program. 

Michael Beck head shotDr. Michael BeckApplied Computer Science

Artificial intelligence and machine learning became very popular over the last years. These models form the “brains” in self-driving cars, can create art and music, be a personal assistant, or support doctors in their diagnosis. However, success of these models usually requires a lot of data, which raises many interesting questions: How to collect the data and what does it cost us? How much data do we need for a “good” model and how much more to make it better? How does bad data affect our models and how can we separate bad from good data? By answering these questions, we will better understand how deep neural networks learn and be able to train these models at lower computational (and thus energy) costs. As a P2GS student, you will first learn how to train deep convolutional neural networks for image classification and object recognition. Then, your experiments will follow questions on how data quality and quantity affect the results of your models. Depending on your interests, these experiments run close to hardware (wireless sensor networks, embedded systems) or will flex your new coding skills.

You can read more about Dr. Beck's research on Data Analysis and other topics here:

Prof. Michael Beck

Stephanie BugdenDr. Stephanie Bugden - Psychology 

We rely on our numerical abilities to make decisions every day, such as determining when to leave the house to attend class on time, splitting a restaurant bill between friends, and taking the correct dosage of medication when we are sick. How do we acquire those numerical and math skills? Why do some people excel in math, while others struggle and fail? How can we improve math skills in children who have difficulties? How can identifying individual differences in the developing brain answer these questions? These questions inspire me to use behavioural and functional brain imaging methods to explore the basic cognitive and neural mechanisms that support numerical and math development in typically developing children, and to examine how they differ in children with math learning difficulties. My research also involves testing the efficacy of screening tools that can be used to identify children at risk for developing math learning difficulties, as well as how engaging children in math games improves learning. In May 2023, students in the P2GS program will support research projects exploring the cognitive processes involved in producing numerical sequences in adults and children. Students who work in my lab gain valuable hands-on experience conducting developmental psychology and cognitive neuroscience studies.

To learn more about Dr. Bugden’s research, please visit Dr. Bugden's lab webpage:

Numeracy Development & Learning Laboratory 

Nora CassonDr. Nora Casson - Geography

Our lab works to unravel relationships between water and nutrient cycling, to understand how patterns and processes vary across the landscape and how human activities impact the surface waters that drain forested ecosystems. We combine field work, laboratory studies and data synthesis to expand understanding of how human activities impact ecosystems, by diving deep into the mechanisms that underpin observed changes and also by looking broadly at controls on regional-scale patterns. The P2GS student will assist with building and deploying field equipment either within Winnipeg or at a forested site near Kenora and processing soil and water samples in the lab.

To learn more about Dr. Casson's research, please visit her team's website:


Alberto Civetta head shotDr. Alberto Civetta - Biology 

Genes that encode for reproductive proteins (RPs) change rapidly between different species. This pattern is consistent across plants and animals. The rapid changes experienced by RPs has been for long assumed to be driven by selection favouring different specialization and adaptations between species. Recent work has challenged this idea, and shown that many such proteins have simply allowed mutations to freely accumulate, indicating a rather neutral effect of such changes. My lab has contributed extensively to this question, as it is central to evolutionary process and the origin of diversity. We have hypothesized that it is not changes in DNA or amino acid content but rather changes in the amount (expression) made by each gene. To test this hypothesis, a student will 1) use available data on genome-wide expression 2) use genes ontology (function) databases to identify reproductive genes function 3) measure, using the available data, differences in expression within and between species and apply evolutionary biology analytical tools to test the role of selection in driving changes in genes expression.

To learn more about Dr. Civetta's research, please visit:

PopGen Vienna Talk titled: "The Evolution of Reproductive Genes, Selection and Reproductive Isolation in Drosophilia"

Article: Nonadapative Molecular Evolution of Seminal Fluid Proteins in Drosophilia 

Doug CraigDr. Douglas Craig - Chemistry

When chemists do experiments they typically make measurements on samples containing a very large number of individual molecules. The data they obtain reflect average values for these large ensembles. What if each molecule of a given compound does not behave in the same manner as another? We now know that for a class of molecules found in every living thing, enzymes, this is the case. Individual molecules of a given enzyme have different properties. In my laboratory we make measurements on single enzyme molecules and try to understand the differences between them. In addition, we also develop methods to detect other molecules of biological interest.

To learn more about Dr. Craig's research, please visit their research website:

The Craig Group

Ed Cloutis Dr. Ed Cloutis - Geography 

We explore the solar system to understand our place in it and how life arose on Earth. Searching for life beyond Earth is a big part of exploring the solar system. In our lab, we study Earth rocks that do and don’t contain evidence of life. Rocks that contain evidence of life are called “biosignatures” (also commonly called fossils). We also study meteorites from the asteroid belt, the Moon, and Mars, to further our understanding of the history of the solar system. Me and my students are part of the Science Team of the NASA Perseverance rover that is exploring the surface of Mars, so the research that we do here finds it way to helping to explore Mars. Our study of meteorites helps us better explore and understand the Moon and asteroids – the building blocks of the solar system. P2GS students will analyze meteorites and Earth rock samples that are relevant to the search for life on Mars and understanding the origin and evolution of the solar system. For Mars, we focus on how the science instruments on the Perseverance rover can recognize biosignatures. The search for life is complicated and multidisciplinary, so students from a wide range of science disciplines can participate and contribute.

We are also part of the recently approved Canadian Lunar Rover Mission (LRM). This rover will go to the Moon in 2025, land in an area near the South Pole of the Moon and look for ice in shadowed regions. As part of this mission, we will explore places on Earth that have geological similarities to the Moon so that we can develop expertise for LRM.

To learn more about Dr. Cloutis' research, please read the article below:

UWinnipeg team supports search for signs of life on Mars

Amy Desroches head shotDr. Amy Desroches - Pyschology

Children learn spoken language from infancy with little effort. In contrast, learning to read develops slowly through the school years and some children have many difficulties with this process. A lot of the research in my lab looks at the changes that undergo the neurocognitive language network with the development of reading skill. The research shows that there is substantial restructuring of the language network occurs to support reading.

The ongoing work in my lab examines questions like: How do children learn to read?  Why do some children struggle with reading? How to we acquire language? How do we use more than one language? We are carrying out studies that are designed to investigate these questions. In May 2023, depending on student interests, students in the P2GS program can be involved in research projects that examine reading development in children, and/or projects that examine language processing in bilingual adults. Students who work in my lab will learn to administer reading and language assessments, they will learn about electrophysiological brain responses, and learn how we collect and analyze EEG data.

To learn more about Dr. Desroches' research, please visit her website:

Development of Reading & Language Laboratory

Melody GhahramaniDr. Melody Ghahramani - Mathematics & Statistics 

Time series are data that observe a variable sequentially over time. Time series data abound in various scientific studies. Daily minimum temperatures, weekly COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and mortality due to Covid-19, and annual carbon dioxide level emissions are all examples of time series data. Time series analysis allows us to determine whether or not there are trends in the data. For example, plots of the daily number of COVID-19 cases in Manitoba during the start of the pandemic were effective tools used to communicate increasing or decreasing trends in the severity of the pandemic. Another type of analysis involves assessing whether or not there is an association between two time series. We might be interested in assessing whether weekly hospitalizations due to respiratory illnesses such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are on the rise whenever the weekly level of pollutants in the atmosphere emitted from forest fires is also on the rise.

As a P2GS student you will learn to download and clean time series data using the R programming language. You will be trained in plotting time series and providing a descriptive analysis of the data with respect to trends. You will also explore the association between two time series datasets using descriptive measures such as the cross-correlation function. Our examples will come from environmental times series data and health data in North America.

To learn more about Dr. Ghahramani’s research, please visit her website:

Melody Ghahramani | Mathematics and Statistics | The University of Winnipeg (uwinnipeg.ca)

Brandon Goulding profile photoDr. Brandon Goulding - Psychology 

Many adults believe that we will one day accomplish things that are, for now, entirely unattainable. They believe that we will someday go to Mars, cure cancer, or bring back the dinosaurs. In contrast, young children usually deny the possibility of anything that seems strange or unlikely. For example, a 5-year-old would probably say it is impossible for a person to own a pet peacock, wear pajamas to work, or drink onion juice. How can we explain why adults believe in the impossible while children deny the merely improbable? This is the main question my lab is trying to understand. Our research involves asking children what they think is possible, and trying to figure out how children can be led to accept new possibilities. As a P2GS student, you’ll work on one of our recent projects; this could include data collection in the community, data analysis and visualization with R, and potentially experimental design. I’ve also explored topics such as children’s reasoning about their future selves, their reasoning about property and territory, and their understanding of what it means to “believe” or “know” things. There might be an opportunity to help with one of these lines of work as well.

To learn more about Dr. Goulding's research, please watch the video below:

My Research Journey - Dr. Brandon Goulding

Dr. Christopher Henry Dr. Christopher Henry - TerraByte (Applied Computer Science and Physics)

Robots, artificial intelligence, and… agriculture!? Yes, that is correct. The new technologies of the last decade are not only transforming our everyday life, but also change how we grow food. While facing the challenges of climate change, such a revolution is critical to feed an estimated 10 billion people living in the year 2050. At TerraByte we work on data collection and machine learning to digitalise agriculture. Through this work we support farmers, plant breeders, and plant scientists, who work on ways to strengthen our crops against the elements, pests, and diseases. To collect the data, we use equipment that ranges from high-end cameras to robotic systems and drones, to even a rover that drives through the fields. All this data must be handled, stored, and distributed to researchers around the world. Finally, our students also lay hand on the data themselves to develop machine learning models that can for example recognize weeds inside the field. After an introduction to the robotic systems and high-end cameras P2GS students will use these to help grow our plant database. Since this project is interdisciplinary, we can then offer topics for P2GS students that range anywhere from plant biology to physics, engineering, computer science, or mathematics.

You can find more information about TerraByte here:

TerraByte: Digital Agriculture

Joshua Hollett Dr. Joshua Hollett - Chemistry 

Our research is focused on creating tools for understanding the electronic structure and using what we learn to devise more accurate and efficient models of electrons in atoms and molecules. Besides gaining a more fundamental understanding of quantum mechanics, the development of improved models of electronic structure enables the study of the chemical and physical properties of materials with unprecedented accuracy. Our current work involves the analysis of correlated electron motion within important chemical phenomena, such as bond breaking and photoexcitations. It also involves the testing of new models for electronic excited states and their comparison to near-exact quantum chemical calculations. A student project could vary from the analysis of new quantum mechanical properties of the electronic wavefunction, to benchmark excited-state calculations on a database of molecules. The research is carried out using technical computing software (e.g. Mathematica), graphical computational chemistry software, quantum chemistry software packages, and in-house software. There is an opportunity to learn how to run calculations using a supercomputing facility, perform theoretical chemistry derivations, and program in scientific computing language.

To learn more about Dr. Hollett's research, please visit their research website below:

Quantum Chemical Theory and Simulation Lab

Headshot of Srimathie Indratne Dr. Srimathie IndraratneEnvironmental Studies and Sciences

Soil and water contamination with potentially toxic elements (such as heavy metals) is one of the major concerns due to threats to the fisheries, wildlife, and human health. Anthropogenic activities such as agriculture and mining, and natural activities such as weathering of rocks contaminate water and soil resources with potentially toxic trace elements. Investigations of soil and water contamination with potentially toxic elements and potential remediation strategies are the main topical research areas of my lab group. The P2GS student will assist with collection of soil and water samples according to sampling protocols, preparation of soil for basic soil analysis, conducting incubation studies at the laboratory with differently amended soils to immobilize few identified toxic elements.   

To learn about Dr. Indraratne’s research, please visit the following website.  


Blair JamiesonDr. Blair JamiesonPhysics

My research group is leading research in collaboration with physicists in several other countries to search for a possible difference in the oscillation of neutrinos from anti-neutrinos. A difference in the oscillation of neutrinos from anti-neutrinos could explain why the universe appears to be made of matter instead of anti-matter.  To conduct this research on weakly interacting neutrinos requires high-intensity beams of neutrinos, and large detectors. The beam and detectors are located 295 km apart in Japan.  One of the world's highest intensity neutrino beams is produced at the Japan Proton Accelerator Research Center (J-PARC) located 100 km north of Tokyo, and the world's largest water Cherenkov neutrino detector (25 m tall, and 40 m diameter) called Super-Kamiokande is the far detector. The focus of his research this summer is on the development of photogrammetry and calibration of photomultiplier tube (PMT) modules of large Water Cherenkov detectors. Photogrammetry uses photographs of the inside of the detector to accurately locate the under-water light sensors and calibration devices in the detector to the mm accuracy over distances of tens of meters.  A facility in Richardson college is being commissioned to do underwater tests of the photogrammetry equipment and do calibrations of the PMT modules.   I am looking for students with an interest in big data analysis, machine learning, optics, photography, robotics, electronics development, and design, who want to push the limits of our knowledge in physics.

To learn more about Dr. Jamieson's research, please read the article below:

UWinnipeg Collaborates with Super-Kamiokande

Evan McDonough profile photoDr. Evan McDonoughPhysics

I strive to understand the relationship between astrophysics and sub-atomic physics. I have worked on both the earliest moments of the universe (and the theory of cosmic inflation), and the properties of our present universe, such as the mysterious dark matter, and the connections between them, such as the production of dark matter in the early universe, and the formation of galaxies. This research field combines pen-and-paper and numerical computational techniques and provides opportunities for undergraduates to find new and interesting results. Beginning with a crash-course on topics in theoretical physics and cosmology, in this project P2GS students will work closely with me to solve a set of equations, both analytically and numerically using Python or Mathematica, that describe the primordial seeds for galaxy formation, starting from fluctuations in the quantum vacuum of the very early universe.

To learn more about Dr. McDonough's research, please visit their website:

Evan McDonough - Theoretical Physicist 

Jeff MartinDr. Jeff MartinPhysics

In our lab, we develop very sensitive magnetic sensors. One application for magnetic sensors like this is to use them as a metal detector, to find lost items at the beach. Our sensor is a little more sensitive than that. It's sensitive enough to measure the magnetic field created by the electrical impulses in your brain as you read these words. We want to use these sensors to measure the magnetic fields in our particle physics experiments. Your mission will be to operate and test the sensors, and see if we can make them work even better.

To learn more about Dr. Martin's research, please read the article below:

Kicker Magnet Makes Beams

Yannick Molgot-SeonDr. Melanie Martin - Physics

As a physicist specializing in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), I am developing a noninvasive empirical method to diagnose Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis and other nervous system disorders earlier in the progression of the disease. I am also using MRI to follow the effectiveness of treatments over the course of time and to understand more about diseases. My program is multi-disciplinary. Students who work with me strengthen the skills they have and develop new skills in other disciplines. Projects include data analysis.

To learn more about Dr. Martin's research, please visit the webpage below:

Experimental Magnetic Resonance Imaging Physics Group

Yannick Molgat Seon Dr. Yannick Molgat-SeonKinesiology and Applied Health

The human respiratory system is the first and last line of defence for the maintenance of arterial oxygen and carbon dioxide homeostasis. Fulfilling this critical, life-sustaining function is challenging, particularly during exercise when our metabolism is elevated well above resting levels. In our laboratory, we seek to better understand how the respiratory system responds to exercise and how this response is affected by biological factors such as aging, sex, and chronic respiratory disease. To do so, we employ an integrative approach that involves the assessment of respiratory, cardiovascular, and muscular function in humans during whole-body and isolated-muscle exercise. Students who work in our laboratory will be directly involved in one of several ongoing projects focused on determining the impact of sex-differences in lung and airway size on the integrative response to exercise. This unique training opportunity will enable students to gain hands-on experience in human physiological research as well as learn research-related skills that will assist them in pursing graduate studies or a career outside of the academy.

To learn more about Dr. Molgat-Seon's research, please read the article below:

Masks, Exercise and Masks During COVID

Natalie Richer in front of a bookshelf Dr. Natalie RicherKinesiology and Applied Health

Aging is accompanied by a loss of balance and an increased risk of falls, which can be debilitating, costly, and damaging to quality of life. Understanding the cause of falls is essential to preventing them. In our laboratory, we use electroencephalography (EEG) to examine which brain areas are involved in balance and how their involvement changes with age. We also aim to find new ways to improve balance in the elderly population. Students who work in our laboratory will be involved in a project that examines the effect of attentional focus on postural control in healthy aging. They will be trained to use EEG and a force platform and will help in data collections and data processing. This will allow them to gain experience in neuromechanical research and learn research-related skills.

To learn more about Dr. Richer's research, please visit their ResearchGate profile:


Jamie RitchDr. Jamie Ritch - Chemistry

In my group, we make new molecules containing inorganic (non-carbon) elements. We focus on compounds containing the heavy elements selenium and tellurium because they tend to form bonds in unique ways compared to lighter elements, and have electronic properties well-suited for applications in improved solar cells and battery materials. Once we’ve made a new chemical, we need to verify its identity. The most powerful technique we use for this is called single-crystal X-ray diffraction. The interaction of X-rays with crystals gives a unique pattern which can be detected and analyzed to give the precise positions of all the atoms within the crystal.

A P2GS student will receive training in synthetic inorganic chemistry and crystal growth techniques. Crystals of new compounds will be screened for quality using polarized light microscopy, and the student will be able to observe the operation of our department’s new in-house X-ray diffractometer for structure determination.

To learn more about Dr. Ritch’s research, please visit their Department of Chemistry profile page:


Jacques Tardiff wearing a hatDr. Jacques Tardif - Biology / Environmental Studies and Sciences 

Tree growth and environmental influences at the University of Winnipeg DendroEcology Laboratory (UWDEL)

Our research deals with trees and how they respond to their environment and, in particular, to extreme climatic or hydrological events like late spring frosts, extreme spring floods, cool or dry summers, etc. We work mainly with wood and, in particular, with tree-rings characteristics including ring width, cell size, wood chemistry, etc. Each year, trees in Canada are producing a tree ring reflecting the growing conditions to which they were exposed. Once we have established the relationship between existing tree-ring characteristics and their environmental trigger, we can use tree rings as environmental proxies. To do so, we need to crossdate samples from many trees in an area to ascertain the year in which each tree ring was produced. This is called crossdating. Currently we are looking at the impact of spring floods on riparian trees and how tree-ring anatomy (especially vessels) is affected during major flood events. We are also looking at reconstructing past late spring frost events in Manitoba by identifying frost rings in tree samples. Late spring frost will usually kill some living cells in trees and we can identify and date them looking at wood samples. The successful student will be introduced to and getting practical training related to the preparation of wood samples for tree-ring analysis, the process of crossdating and in the identification of tree-ring anomalies associated with either spring flooding or late spring frost.

To learn more about Dr. Tardif's research:

Climate and Atmospheric Circulation Related to Frost-ring Formation in Picea Mariane Trees From The Boreal Plains, Interior North America

Tabitha WoodDr. Tabitha Wood - Chemistry

How do synthetic chemists put the atoms in the correct arrangement when they make molecules? The fundamental concept in Chemistry that "structure defines function" explains how the different arrangement of atoms in distinct molecules allow for the molecules to possess unique properties. In our research lab we experiment in the area of organic synthetic methodology (not a contradiction!), which is the study of how to build carbon-containing molecules. Our studies involve exploring the nature of various organic reactions in terms of their mechanisms, what kind of molecules they can accept as substrates, and what we can do to make them reliable and predictable technologies for use in the synthesis of new molecules. With this kind of information, we can investigate ways to apply the reaction to solving problems like making the production of difficult molecules easier, and accessing new molecules with interesting new properties. A student in the P2GS program may do work ranging from gaining confidence running reactions in fumehoods to running calculations on computers (and everywhere in between), depending on their interests. This project will help students reinforce concepts they learned in Organic Chemistry, or will help them get a sneak peak at what they would learn in that course!

To learn more about Dr. Wood's research, please visit their website:

Wood Research Group

Haixia ZhangDr. Haixia ZhangChemistry

To maintain good health, daily food consumption should include enough macronutrients and micronutrients.  Macronutrients are nutrition required in relatively large amount, such as proteins, carbohydrates (starch and sugar) and lipids (fats). Micronutrients include minerals and vitamins, and as the name indicates, they are required in small amounts but are essential to human health. One project in our lab is to measure water-soluble B vitamins from germinated seeds or sprouts, using an analytical instrument called liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS). Students from P2GS program will be involved in aspects of this project such as seed germination and sample processing, and will have an opportunity to learn cutting-edge LC-MS technology, including instrument operation, maintenance, method development, data collection and data processing.

To learn more about Dr. Zhang’s research, please visit their ResearchGate webpage.

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