2008 Undergraduate Research Conference

Webcast of Steven Pinker's lecture: below on this page.

On Friday, October 17, 2008, students from across the Faculty of Science presented their research projects at the fourth annual Undergraduate Research Conference (URC). The URC took place during Homecoming 2008 in the lobby of McGill's historic Arts Building.

This year, forty-one students from across the Faculty of Science participated. They showed their results to fellow students, alumni, and members of the public. The spectrum of research projects ran from ethnic residential segregation in Canada, to gas dynamics in a single nanochannel, to a study of virulence genes in Leishmania.

Judges drawn from the McGill professoriate had the arduous task of choosing the victors (see below). The prize ceremony took place in McGill's elegant Moyse Hall, and was followed by a very special guest lecture (see also below). The day culminated with a reception for students and alumni, where everyone celebrated the accomplishments of McGill Science students.

Keynote address: Dr Steven Pinker

McGill alumnus Steven Pinker gave the keynote address at the Faculty of Science's Undergraduate Research Conference on Friday, October 17, 2008. - Mark R. Groot

The Faculty of Science was honoured to welcome experimental psychologist Dr. Steven Pinker (B.A. '76, D.Sc. Honoris Causa '99) as the 2008 URC keynote speaker. Dr. Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, and has been named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine in 2004.

Dr Pinker's talk was entitled The stuff of thought: Language as a window into human nature. He spoke on some of the many ways that the study of language can illuminate human cognition, emotion, and social relationships.

The URC prize ceremony and Dr. Pinker's lecture are available as a webcast.

The webcast requires Windows Media Player, version 7 or later, for PC or Mac. Mac users may also use Windows Media Components for Quicktime, by Flip4Mac, available through Microsoft. More information and downloads are available from Microsoft for both Mac and PC.


First and second prizes were awarded in four categories as follows:

Earth System Science

  1. Dominik Jacques, B.Sc. Hon '08 Atmospheric Science, Ph.D. Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences:
    Introducing the triple mode scanning strategy
    (Supervisor: Prof. Isztar Zawadzki. Nominated by the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.)
  2. Laura Boisvert-Marsh, B.Sc. (Agr. & Env. Sci.) Environment; Heather Coffey, B.A. & Sc. '08 (Hon) Environment min. Geography (Urban Systems) and Anthropology; Anne Giulietti, B.Sc. Environment:
    Exploring Lichen Diversity in Conservation
    (Supervisor: Prof. Sylvie de Blois (Plant Science & School of Environment). Nominated by the McGill School of Environment.)

Health & Life Sciences

  1. Artem Kaznatcheev, B.Sc. Hon. Physics & Computer Science:
    The evolution of cooperation in a competitive world
    (Supervisor: Prof. Thomas R. Shultz (Department of Psychology, School of Computer Science). Nominated by the School of Computer Science.)
  2. Charles Viau, B.Sc. Hon. Microbiology & Immunology min. Pharmacology:
    Transcriptional Regulation by PhoP in Salmonella enterica
    (Supervisor: Prof. Hervé Le Moual. Nominated by the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.)

Mathematical and Computational Sciences

  1. Anqi Xu, B.Eng. '08 Comp. Eng. Min. Software Eng., Ph.D. Computer Science:
    Fourier Tag: Smoothly Degradable Fiducial Markers
    (Supervisor: Prof. Gregory Dudek. Nominated by the School of Computer Science.)
  2. Gilad Ben-Shach, B.Sc. Hon. Mathematics and Physics:
    Isospectral Quantum Graphs and Beyond: A Construction Method
    (Supervisor: Prof. Uzy Smilansky (Weizmann Institute of Science). Nominated by the Department of Mathematics & Statistics.)

Physical Sciences

  1. Samantha Stratton, B.Sc. Hon. Chemistry:
    The Salt-Free Synthesis of Rhodium Nanoparticles for the Future Use in the Hydroformylation of Olefins
    (Supervisor: Prof. Audrey Moores. Nominated by the Department of Chemistry.)
  2. Ilya Feige, B.Sc. Hon. Mathematics and Physics:
    Uncovering fluctuations in atmospheric transmission using the VERITAS pointing monitors
    (Supervisor: Prof. David Hanna. Nominated by the Department of Physics.)