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Unearthing Practical Solutions

Northwestern Polytechnic Honing its Applied Research and Innovation Focus

Northwestern Polytechnic’s name isn’t the only thing that has changed over the last year and a half. In addition to announcing two new local degrees, increased programming options and more than $14 million in new government funding, the evolving post-secondary now has its sights set on advancing applied research and innovation opportunities.


“The value-add of a polytechnic is we have the runway to engage with our communities and develop shared solutions,” said NWP Associate Dean of Applied Research, Sivagowry Lewis. “Along with training for employability, we get a chance to build lasting industry partnerships while instilling critical problem-solving skills.”


Whether it is business optimization, advanced bioscience, sustainable systems in agriculture, energy and environment, social innovations, health and wellness or practical opportunities to solve real-world challenges, NWP is eager to work collaboratively with local industry and community leaders.


“This joint approach is beneficial to everyone involved. With applied research, NWP can optimize facilities, equipment and expertise and tap into the distinctive entrepreneurial energy in the region while learning more about changing industry needs,” said Lewis. “Working together we can make jobs easier, life better and communities more sustainable.”


Global Impact

NWP’s students and faculty are exploring applied research and innovation alongside overseas partners. The Collaborative Online International Learning project brought Holmesglen Institute in Victoria, Australia and NWP together to develop an international nursing education tool and research partnership using digital technologies.


Funded by veski and Study Melbourne Research Partnerships, this project built a VR simulated learning program exploring Indigenous community members’ healthcare experiences. The new course was taken by over 300 nursing students from both institutions. Future modules from this ongoing project will examine other global healthcare topics of interest.


The polytechnic is also home to the National Bee Diagnostic Centre (NBDC), which was the first comprehensive lab in Canada to provide a full array of diagnostic services for honeybees, native bee pests, pathogens and parasites. Since its inception, the NBDC has focused on applied research and innovation, training, outreach, and education for the beekeeping, pollination and species conservation communities.


NWP recently received $1.75 million in renewal funding for its NBDC Technology Access Centre (TAC) over the next five years.


“We are excited to build on this momentum and to maximize the tools and resources at our Beaverlodge research facility,” said Lewis. “In fact, our commitment to supporting research diagnostics for a variety of industry studies across the bee, agriculture and forestry sectors provided the impetus for our new Agriculture Biosciences Applied Research Centre (ABARC), which will now encompass the NBDC.”


The new centre will be home to even more applied research in the areas of animal nutrition, forage, quality crops, pest entomology and bioremediation.


“The unveiling of ABARC is timely as we work to boost regional partnerships. We are eager to share this news with our industry partners and are already having some early success,” said Lewis.


NWP Researcher Gail MacInnis and her team at ABARC were recently awarded $175,000 in consortium funding for research that explores harnessing the power of pollen DNA and metabarcoding to enhance pollinator health and honeybee value in cropping landscapes.

“We know that analyzing the pollen DNA in honey and on the bodies of the bees can accurately determine the plant species a bee has visited and uncover links between bee health and landscape resources,” said MacInnis. “This is a great example of research areas that ‘cross-pollinate.’”


Student Success


Applied research and innovation at NWP provides unique student engagement opportunities. Whether through lab work or being a research coordinator or assistant, students can develop field-specific expertise and highly transferable skills. 


“Our students are trained to be problem solvers who can make a real impact in the world,” said Lewis. “We are delighted to be able to provide hands-on learning experiences and mentoring opportunities.”


Dr. Connie Korpan is currently working on a program review looking at men’s mental health in skilled trades settings. The program, called Tough Enough to Talk About It, is provided through the Resource Centre for Suicide Prevention. Dr. Korpan has hired a second-year student to work on this project and other research assistant positions for new initiatives will be advertised this fall. 

  

“Students can apply to a program and be placed with a faculty that is working on a particular problem, issue or project,” said Lewis. “As programs grow, so will the opportunities for students, industries and our surrounding communities. We are truly excited about the future potential in this area.”


Learn more about what NWP has to offer at nwpolytech.ca 


 

Meet Sivagowry Lewis,

NWP’s Associate Dean of Applied Research


“I’m very passionate about research enterprise. I love working with problem solvers who are creative because there’s potential to have a real impact on society,” said Lewis.


With 15 years of field research experience from Toronto Metropolitan University and York University, Lewis also holds a Master of Law from Osgoode Law School and a Master of International Relations from York University.


“The ability to research and problem solve is a tremendous asset. As an entrepreneurial institution, we want our learners to graduate with an enhanced ability to recognize potential, and we want to build their confidence to pursue these opportunities,” said Lewis.


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