Research and Innovation Week: International Women’s Day Research Panel

By: Savanah Tillberg, Staff Writer   
Lakehead University’s Research and Innovation Week celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8th 2017 with a panel discussion featuring local women in research.

The panel included Professor Karen Drake of the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law, Dr. Alla Reznik of the Physics department, Dr. Pauline Sameshima of the department of Graduate Studies and Research in Education, Dr. Michelle-Marie Spadoni of the department of Nursing, and Dr. Pamela Wakewich of the department of Women’s Studies.

The discussion opened with moderator Dr. Connie Russell, who introduced each panelist before they briefly described their research. The panel was compiled of women from a variety of disciplines and each made different and interesting contributions to the discussion.

Karen Drake is a citizen of the Métis Nation of Ontario. She instructs several classes at the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law including Aboriginal Legal Issues, Indigenous Legal Traditions, Property Law, and Legal Philosophy. In her research she focuses on “the intersection between liberalism and Aboriginal rights, the duty to consult and accommodate Aboriginal peoples in the context of resource extraction, Métis legal issues, and the relationship between law and ethics when conducting research with human participants.”

 Dr. Alla Reznik’s research focuses on the physics of molecular imaging used in medical diagnoses. She has been contributing to the field for over 15 years and is considered to be an expert in “photo-conducting materials for x-ray and gamma-ray detector application.” Recently she has been working on developing a new PET scan imaging technology to improve early cancer detection.

Dr. Pauline Sameshima is the Canadian Research Chair in Arts Integrated Research and is a professor at Lakehead University. Her research focuses on “arts integrated interdisciplinary research, [various artistic forms of] narrative inquiry, curriculum theory and cultural studies and social thought in education.”

 From the department of Nursing, Dr. Michelle-Marie Spadoni is a professor at Lakehead as well as a Registered Nurse. Her research is largely focused on improving the health care system and health procedure. She uses her academic skills in partnership with her practical skills to develop new research ideas within her field.

The final member of the panel was Dr. Pamela Wakewich from the departments of Women’s Studies, Sociology, and the Centre for Rural and Northern Health Research. Dr. Wakewich engages with a variety of research topics that include “the intersections of gender, culture and health; sociology of the body; equity and access to health care in rural, northern and Indigenous communities; innovative methods for health research; and women’s wartime work and identities.”

Following introductions, the panel spoke to some of their triumphs and challenges as academic researchers.  Some panelists referred back to their recent publications while others stated that their sense of accomplishment is ongoing, and that each small break through is an accomplishment in research. Dr. Pauline Sameshima stated, “I hope that my greatest accomplishment hasn’t been accomplished yet,” as she is looking forward to continuing her career in innovative arts-integrated research.

When commenting on the challenges of being a researcher, the panelists agreed that obtaining grants was a common struggle.  As the number of grants available in some areas of research diminishes, the success rate decreases as well. The notion seemed to be that time is increasingly being spent finding and applying for grants instead of conducting research. Karen Drake also spoke of the challenge surrounding “false starts” and the struggle to narrow down vastly interesting and important issues to manageable and specific topics that are more suitable to research, inspiring nods of agreement throughout the room.

The final question asked by the moderator was about advice the panelists would give to undergraduate and graduate students currently exploring the world of research. Karen Drake emphasized the importance of being involved with the community you’re researching and how making connections and building relationships within those communities will enhance your research. According to Dr. Reznik, it is important not to treat research as a journey but as a way to achieving goals.” Dr. Sameshima encourages students to remember that receiving an education and engaging in research is a privilege and when participating in research to “serve the question.” Dr. Spadoni said some of her best work has come out of situations where she has had to become “comfortable with not knowing the answers,” and encourages her students to do the same. Dr. Wakewich stressed the significance of finding “people who you can have trusting, comfortable, and frank conversations with about your research,” in order to create a community where you can openly discuss and improve your research avenues.

The faculty at Lakehead University has done a phenomenal job conducting their own research as well as facilitating that of students. Their contributions are critical to the university in achieving its status as one of the top universities for undergraduate research in Canada. Though the International Women’s Day research panel was just one of many events that took place on and off campus during Research and Innovation Week, it successfully demonstrated the various projects being conducted by some of the inspiring women at Lakehead University.