International Research Brings Value to Students' Work at Trent

July 3, 2013

Trent graduate students travel overseas for rare learning experience

Two graduate students enrolled in Trent’s Environmental and Life Sciences program recently had the rare opportunity to travel overseas to conduct research. Weibin Chen, a Ph.D. candidate, spent two months at the University of Llieda, in Spain. Paul Dainard, a Master’s student, has just returned from a two month internship at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS). The two are supervised by Dr. Céline Guéguen, associate professor of Chemistry, who helped make the trips possible.

Professor Guéguen, who is also Canada Research Chair in Aquatic Sciences and Biogeochemistry, said, “It’s good for young minds like these to go elsewhere and see how things are done. The learning they bring back can help both their own research and that of others – both Weibin's and Paul's oversea projects are related to my research program here at Trent.”

“This was an opportunity for me to deviate from theoretical research and get some practical, hands-on knowledge,” said Paul Dainard, whose trip was aided by a grant from the Canadian Associates of Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (CABIOS). Dainard’s research concerns the optical properties of dissolved organic matter in ocean water.

Weibin Chen, an international student who received his Masters degree from Trent, describes his trip as a gift. “Because I’m already an international student at Trent, I never thought I would have the opportunity to travel abroad to do my research,” said Chen, who credits Prof. Guéguen, and Dr. Scott Smith, his co-supervisor at Laurier University, with making the arrangements.

Chen, whose research focuses on water chemistry, spent time with Dr. Josep Galceran of the University of Llieda learning a new technique on how to characterize the interaction between organic matter and metal. “Organic matter in water is important for protecting marine life from toxic metals, but how strongly organic material binds with metals is not well studied,” explains Chen. “Most techniques which describe the interplay between the two are not very reliable, but Dr. Galceran invented a unique technique which allows for easy and precise measurements.”

Prof. Guéguen points out that learning abroad brings another dimension to Chen and Dainard’s research which will benefit other Trent researchers. “I’m interested in the value that their international research will bring to our work, here at Trent,” she said. “Weibin went to Spain to learn a unique technique, and now he can train other Trent students to go forward with that new technique. Paul is working on the carbon cycle in the Arctic Ocean, but researching in Bermuda brings additional scope, because water from the Arctic empties into the Atlantic and flows by Bermuda.”

Chen and Dainard agree that the new techniques they learned, and contacts they made, will benefit both their current research and future careers. “This was an amazing trip which helped me develop both academically and personally,” said Chen. “Not only did I learn a new technique which will help my research at Trent, I also developed relationships with other scientists whom I can cooperate with in the future.”

Dainard adds, “There was a great deal of excitement associated with research at BIOS. This excitement was contagious and made for an excellent environment to grow from both personal and academic perspectives. I’m grateful to Prof. Guéguen for providing me with this opportunity and for the mentoring and encouragement I’ve received from her over the past couple of years.”