Two rising stars at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) are joining an international delegation of scientists participating in the Japanese-Canadian Frontiers of Science Symposium in Okinawa, Japan this week. Chantal Paquet and Alan McConacchie are two of only 30 Canadians included in this prestigious invitation-only symposium. The event organized by the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), the Royal Society of Canada (RSC), and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), will feature two days of interdisciplinary discussion on topics as diverse as artificial intelligence, advanced materials and the mysteries of the cosmos.
"In their respective fields, both Chantal and Alan have shown how science drives technological advances, which in turn inform the scientific discoveries of tomorrow," said Dr. Genevieve Tanguay, Vice President, Emerging Technologies at the NRC. "This ability to make connections – between people and across scientific disciplines and applied industrial sectors – is critical to innovation. The NRC is proud to be represented on the world stage by such accomplished young scientists."
Dr. Chantal Paquet
When Dr. Chantal Paquet began her studies, she had no idea where her love of science would take her, but she certainly did not expect being a leading researcher and expert in ink at the NRC. Joining as a post-doctoral fellow in 2007 after working in academic environments and the private sector, Chantal is now part of a team that focuses on printable inks for simple applications at the Security and Disruptive Technologies Research Centre in Ottawa.
Originally starting in biology she quickly changed her focus to chemistry, working on magnetic materials for medical applications developing particles with magnetic components used to identify and capture pathogens such as Anthrax. Transferring her skills in plastics, ceramics and metals to the world of printable electronics, her research is now focused on developing conductive molecular inks that can be printed using common inexpensive techniques like inkjet printers. Inks made of silver and copper salts that become metallic silver and copper when heated, make the adhesiveness easier to control which in turn allows processing advantages such as fluidity, consistency, finer detail and equal or better electrical properties. The team's work in materials, ink, printing, digital manufacturing and information and communications technology supports industry with resources and networks that produce products for world markets such as the keypad on microwave ovens.
"There are many opportunities in this field, but I would like to develop inks with unique properties that can then be exploited in applications and manufacturing processes that do not yet exist. This might mean creating more complicated 3D structures or combining the inks with other functional materials to make sensors or catalysts" says Chantal.
"The 'aha' moments are the ones that keep me really happy doing research," she notes. "When the data is plotted and you see the trend you're expecting, that's very satisfying. And it is equally exciting when you begin to rationalize unexpected results."
Dr. Alan McConnachie
An instrument scientist and research officer at the NRC Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre, Alan McConnachie has made a name for himself both at the NRC and internationally in less than 10 years. Published in peer-reviewed journals as well as in the press, Alan's work has been cited over 7,000 times. Starting as a research astronomer specializing in the nearest galaxies in the Universe, he quickly moved over to the instrumentation side where he works closely with engineers and technical experts on designs, development and building of instruments that enable science to move forward. Among other projects, he participates in the science leadership and technical development of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), one of the largest and most ambitious astronomy collaborations in the world today.
Among other accomplishments, Alan has already made his mark on our map of the cosmos, with the 2009 discovery of a whole new set of galaxies in our own cosmic backyard. Since then, his team has shown that many of the dwarf galaxies are orbiting the Andromeda galaxy in a way that makes little sense if our ideas on how galaxies form are correct. "That moment when you realise that you are the only person on earth that knows something that nobody else knows in indescribable. After you process that the excitement to share it with the world kicks in."
Mentoring both graduate and undergraduate students, his current interest centres around galaxies and the tools required to understand them, a topic he welcomes all students to contribute to at the University of Victoria where he holds an Adjunct Associate Professorship. "Science is part of society but too often we separate it from our daily lives," he notes. "We scientists should take the mystique out and make it more accessible to the public especially young people. Fostering interest is one of the most important things we can do not only for them, but for us as a nation."