Inspiration spreads across Nova Scotia with 15th Annual Discovery Awards



(Halifax, NS – November 23, 2017) – It was an evening of inspiration that celebrated Nova Scotia’s best and brightest, allowing those selected finalists to shine for their exceptional accomplishments in science, technology and innovation at last night’s 15th Annual Discovery Awards, presented by Dalhousie University.

The Discovery Centre Science Hall of Fame has recognized many dedicated individuals for their contribution. This year two new inductees were recognized: Dr. Peter Allen and Dr. William Howard Feindel (posthumous).

Dr. Peter Allen was recognized for his contributions to the solar energy research and development community. Dr. Allen is CEO and founder of Thermo Dynamics Ltd, a Dartmouth company that carries out research, development and manufacture of solar thermal equipment for domestic and export markets.

Dr. William Howard Feindel (1918-2014) was recognized posthumously for his outstanding contributions to neurosurgical research and development of medical diagnostic equipment. His research focused on the application of the successive new scanning methods for imaging the human brain. During his twelve years as Director of the Montreal Neurological Institute, Dr. Feindel introduced the first CAT and MRI units in Canada and installed Canada’s first PET system.

In addition to the Hall of Fame inductees, four professional categories were recognized with Discovery Awards:

Emerging Professional: Ghada Koleilat Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Dalhousie University. As a graduate student, Dr. Koleilat developed the world’s first functional colloidal aquantum dot tandem solar cell employing a single quantum tuned material. She also conceived a material processing that enabled prolonged stability and improved electrical properties in photovoltaic junctions based on colloidal quantum dots. Before joining Dalhousie University in 2016, Dr. Koleilat investigated the properties of single walled carbon nanotubes and their potential in photovoltaics. Her work has frequently been highlighted in major media outlets for technology reporting. Notably, her first research publication in the American Chemical Society’s journal “ACS Nano” was one of the ten highest cited articles in the journal for four consecutive years.

Innovation: Densitas Inc. is an early stage medical software company focused on machine-learning solutions in the breast imaging enterprise, and sees digital mammograms as “imaging fingerprints” that enable tailored patient care. Densitas was founded in 2011 by Mohamed (Mo) Abdolell, a biostatistician with 25 years’ experience in modeling data for clinical decision-making, and currently also an Associate Professor in the Department of Diagnostic Radiology at Dalhousie University. Densitas’ flagship technology is DM-Density, an automated breast density assessment tool that serves as the foundational product for a suite of technologies that complete a comprehensive imaging analytics platform targeting mammography quality and delivery of personalized care. Densitas’ goal is to empower radiologists and hospital administrators to confidently navigate the rapid shift from a volume to a value-based model of care delivery. In an environment of strict fiscal constraints, Densitas’ ability to support appropriate patient management based on individualized risk has the potential to radically change how patient care in breast cancer screening practice is delivered in Nova Scotia and globally.

Science Champion: Matt Lukeman is a Chemistry Professor at Acadia University and alumni of Saint Francis Xavier University. Since his arrival at Acadia, his passion for teaching chemistry has been recognized through winning the Student Union Teaching Recognition Award twice, along with the Faculty of Pure and Applied Science Teaching Award – driven in no small part by his development of a course for non-science majors entitled “Chemistry in Our World” which has become Acadia’s most highly registered class. The demonstrations Dr. Lukeman developed for his courses became the basis for a science education “show” featuring attention-grabbing and hands-on activities which has been presented now dozens of times to school and community groups – including regular interactions with the Acadia Sensory Motor Instructional Leadership Experience ( or “S.M.I.L.E.”) Program, which provides deep engagement opportunities for children with physical or cognitive delays. Drawing from his teaching, Dr. Lukeman developed a series of public lectures on Pseudoscience called “The Sky is Falling: Separating Fact from Fiction in Our Chemical World” aimed at demystifying the media’s many conflicting messages about chemicals. His public lecture tour garnered media attention from local radio and newspaper outlets as well as the Canadian Chemical News, shining the light on his efforts to help people determine what sources of science information are credible.

Professional of Distinction: Jason Clyburne is a professor in the Department of Chemistry at Saint Mary’s University and former Canada Research Chair in Environmental Science. Internationally recognized as a leader in the study of green chemistry, Dr. Clyburne has received over 2.2 million dollars of research grant support for fundamental and applied research projects, in addition to numerous awards. His pioneering research is widely recognized for its potential to mitigate a wide range of environmental challenges, including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. He focuses on the application of simple chemical principles to identify designer chemicals for the removal of environmentally hazardous substances from industrial processes. His work also directly addresses problems that hinder the development of the Nova Scotia economy, particularly in the energy sector. Whether investigating remediation of mercury or researching the effectiveness of various dispersants for oil spill remediation, Dr. Clyburne leads the way in the development of creative, unique, and effective solutions to issues facing our region (and world). Dr. Clyburne has built a reputation for excellence and innovation, exemplified by his recent discovery of the elusive CO2 compound “cyanoformate,” which is a simple complex formed between cyanide and carbon dioxide. This discovery received significant international scientific and media attention. In pursuit of carbon management solutions, Clyburne unveiled the manner in which nature tames catalyst poisons produced during the fruit-ripening process—a discovery that has eluded detection for decades.

The Discovery Awards also recognized Janani Vankat and Anisha Rejaslvam with the Youth Award, an award that recognizes the top student(s) from Nova Scotia at the Canada-Wide Science Fair.

Janani Venkat is currently a Grade 9 student at Bedford Academy. Janani’s science fair project that she conducted last year, entitled “Antibacterial Effects of Microemulsified Oils & Chitosan Nanoparticles”. Her interest in searching for solutions to the growing issue of bacterial antibiotic resistance for many current drugs began a year earlier, where her project “Investigating antibacterial properties of spices and herbs” won the Best Human Health award at the Halifax science fair. She expanded that project to study properties of essential oils, microemulsions, and combinations with chitosan nanoparticles, with her results pointing to some potential applications. Her project won the Best Biology award at the Halifax fair, where it was advanced to the Canada Wide Science Fair held in Regina last May – winning one of ten gold medals awarded for the Junior Category.

Anisha Rajaselvam is currently a Grade 9 student at the Sacred Heart School of Halifax. Anisha is being recognized for her Science Fair project “The Answer to Cancer: Killing Breast Cancer Cells with Triptolide”. Her interest in cancer treatments was sparked when someone close to her was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was particularly interested in whether or not the “Thunder God Vine” used in traditional Chinese healing might be useful in battling cancer. Her project tested the extract of this herb (Triptolide) and demonstrated effectiveness in killing four different cell lines of breast cancer. Her studies won her Grand Award selection at the Halifax Science Fair two years in a row, providing her an opportunity to compete at the Canada Wide Science Fair for the past last two years – winning one of ten gold medals awarded for the Junior Category at last May’s national fair in Regina.

The Discovery Awards is the marquee fundraiser for the Discovery Centre. All funds raised support the not-for-profit mission to bring STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to life through fun, interactive learning experiences through programming and exhibits at Atlantic Canada’s premier science centre.


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For further information, please contact:

Andrea Durfee
Manager, Marketing & Communications
T: 902-492-4422 x 2232

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