Universities

New lab a boon to Mount student researchers

'We will have more freedom in terms of time for access of space'

The top left image is the building that will be renovated to look like the bottom image. On the right Teresa Chiu is conducting research in the food lab.
Above are before and after images of the building that will house the new lab. Teresa Chiu, right,  conducts research in the existing food lab.   (Top, right) Charmaine Millaire, (bottom) Mount Saint Vincent University

Student researchers in the applied human nutrition and chemistry department at Mount Saint Vincent University are looking forward to the opportunities a new research centre will bring to their studies.

As part of a $4.5-million investment, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, an old church on campus, will be transformed into a new research centre for applied human nutrition and chemistry.

“We’ll be able to do more research, which means that there’s more learning opportunities for students,” said graduate student Andrew Hamilton, 29, who is working under Dr. Bohdan Luhovyy. “We will have more freedom in terms of time for access of space.”

Student researchers in the applied human nutrition program work with functional foods, which is food that provides health benefits and food product development. Hamilton is working with pulse ingredients. The most common varieties of pulses are beans, lentils and chickpeas.

Teresa Chiu conducting a sensory experiment in the food lab of the applied human nutrition department
Chiu works on a sensory experiment in the food lab of the applied human nutrition department.   Charmaine Millaire

Currently, the graduate students in applied human nutrition conduct their research in a small room called the appetite lab, as well as the food lab, which is also used as a classroom.

Masters of science student Antonia Harvey, 26, said it’s difficult to share the food lab. Now that students are back for the fall semester, the grad students have to work around all the lab schedules and classes.

“We do some of our research over the weekend,” she said.

The food lab in the applied human nutrition department
The food lab in the applied human nutrition department.   Charmaine Millaire

Harvey is doing a clinical trial which is investigating an innovative dietary intervention in pediatric Crohn’s disease patients.

In the chemistry department, student researchers are doing research on Alzheimer’s disease. For these students there will be a synthesis/kinetics laboratory added to the new research centre that they can use for their biochemical research.

“The research that the chemistry researchers are doing is spread between three to five labs across a couple of floors in the building,” said Hamilton. “They plan to combine that space together which is great.”

Gayle MacDonald, the associate vice-president of research at the Mount, is also looking forward to the centre. She said that the infrastructure will also include additional facilities such as food testing laboratories.

“The new centre will enable further training and mentorship of students,” said MacDonald. “The new space will have capacity to house post-doctoral and graduate research assistants, as well as several undergraduate students, at one time.”

Renovations are scheduled to begin in the spring of 2017 and the centre should open in the spring of 2018.