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From Fibres to Lasers

Xiaoyi Bao

Department of Physics

The Yangtze Optical Fibre and Cable Joint Stock Limited Company (YOFC) is the largest fibre manufacturing company in Asia, and second largest in the world.

The company approached Dr. Xiaoyi Bao and her team to explore new applications using their specialty fibres, and donated four kilometres of polarization maintaining fibre (PMF).

Using this PMF, Bao and her team created a narrow linewidth fibre laser based on Brillouin scattering: the interaction of light and material waves within a medium. They then created a laser with the lowest phase and frequency jitter possible. This low phase noise and frequency laser can be used as the light source for metrology, high precision investigative tools and telecom applications. This collaboration was featured in the Optics Express and Optics Letters journals.

Defending Tap Water From Cyanobacterial Blooms

Frances Pick

Department of Biology

Algal blooms are a growing problem around the world, including Canada. Toxic cyanobacterial blooms can threaten drinking water supplies and affect human and ecosystem health, with repercussions on regional economies.

The most common freshwater cyanobacterial toxins are hepatotoxic microcystins, small peptides with over 200 variants that differ in their toxicity, persistence and bioaccumulation in the environment.

Frances Pick and her group’s project with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change aims to determine the distribution of different microcystin variants in surface waters across the province. The group is particularly interested in one variant that appears to be more persistent than others. It has led to wildlife mortalities in parts of North America but appears less common in Europe for reasons yet to be understood.

Mapping toxin distributions will set the stage for modelling and predicting the presence of these toxins as a function of surface water nutrient concentrations and climate. The study will also incorporate an examination of the history and causes of toxic blooms in selected lakes in Southern and Northern Ontario, by analyzing microbial DNA in lake sediments spanning pre-European settlement to the present.

Atoms in Proteins are Closer than You Think!

David Bryce

Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences

By preparing protein samples using a type of carbon atom that responds to magnetic fields, known as carbon-13, Professor Bryce and his collaborators developed specialized nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) experiments to detect extremely small “couplings” between pairs of atoms.

Bryce and his collaborators, which include Dr. Michael Plevin of the University of York, United Kingdom, and Dr. Jerome Boisbouvier of the Centre national de la recherche scientifique in Grenoble, France, have reported on the computational characterization and experimental exploitation of these weak couplings.

Their work shows that these couplings represent a type of communication between the atoms in question, and provides clear-cut evidence that these atoms, while very far apart along the protein backbone, are actually very close in space. The experiments, therefore, provide a unique and novel way to study and understand the structure of proteins. This work, details of which were published in Angewandte Chemie (2017), builds on the group’s previous work featured in Nature Chemistry (2010).

Uncovering the Impact of Agriculture on Biodiversity and Content of Surface Waters

Ian Clark

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Ian Clark, along with colleagues at the University of Waterloo Department of Earth Sciences and Agriculture and AgriFoods Canada, has begun a five-year research program to explore the impact on carbon cycling and nutrient contamination in watersheds when the natural habitat along riparian buffer strips (tree corridors between fields) is converted to cropping to increase agricultural yields.

This practice, increasingly common in Ontario, is used to increase cropping yields but has a potential impact on biodiversity and nutrient loading of surface waters.

Clark’s research program integrates a range of disciplines, including microbiology, invertebrate biology and hydrology, as well as activities such as contaminant transport and greenhouse gas production. Clark and his undergraduate and graduate students working in the Lalonde AMS Laboratory at the University of Ottawa will use radiocarbon and stable isotopes as innovative tracers to study turnover rates of carbon in the soils and in the exchanges of carbon dioxide and nutrients between the atmosphere, soils, biomass, groundwaters and surface waters.

Developing Limit Theorems to better prepare the future

Rafal Kulik

Department of Mathematics and Statistics

Professor Rafal Kulik, along with French research collaborators Philippe Soulier and Olivier Wintenberger, has been working on a project called “Extremal behaviour of regularly varying time series.”

Most financial, insurance and environmental data are “heavy tailed,” meaning that there is a significant probability of extreme events to occur, like rapid changes in a stock market. Modelling approaches based on a normal distribution are not suitable in these scenarios. Additionally, data has strong dependencies. In other words, past events can easily influence future events.

The collaborators on this project have developed limit theorems and new statistical techniques suitable for such types of data. Limit theorems allow the researchers to analyze the behaviour of different databased models when the sample size grows. Although the project is theoretical in nature, it has potential applications ranging from finance (e.g., risk management) to environmental protection (e.g., flood control).


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