Research Abstracts

Want a hint of what students are exploring, and the interesting topics you’ll learn about at Senior Colloquium? Check out the research abstracts for a brief overview of the broad range of subjects and analysis that will be on display. Much of BU student research is focused right here in Manitoba!

Oppositional Politics and Culture

Amanda Hutchinson, “Durkheimian Analysis of the Religious Dimensions of Jamaican Dancehall Music”

This paper examines the religious elements of Jamaican Dancehall music and the subsequent formation of a cult within dancehall culture. Caribbean theorists have for decades analysed dancehall based on its existence as a counterculture that opposes the value system of the puritanical society. Dancehall, like any other musical subculture, has acquired a cult-like following that has formulated its own methods of indoctrination and performance. Studies by popular theorists focus primarily on the elements of vulgarity found in dancehall music with emphasis on the use of profanity and lewdness. However, there is sacredness in the profane. Vulgarity as defined by society, represents practices that are labelled as deviant, but deviance is subject to the value consensus of the group. Jamaican society has prescribed the label of “slackness” to dancehall, while ignoring its rites of passage, which would be considered sacred. Ascription of religious status is not arbitrarily given; Durkheim presents a type of index that examines the elements of religion to allow for categorization of various sects. Through a critical analysis of the religious dimensions of dancehall, this paper seeks to examine the elements of cultic practice within dancehall culture. With Émile Durkheim’s study, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, the elements of cultic practice found in dancehall culture will be evaluated.

Alexandra Forsythe, “Religious Rhetoric and Political Dissent Before the English Civil War”

This paper will discuss the relationship between pamphleteering, dissent, and religion in England in the early modern period. In particular, this paper will look at a number of pamphlets and laws from the civil war period in England, in order to assess that how pamphleteers used religious rhetoric to counter the authority of the king. Traditionally, the English king’s role as the head of the church granted them absolute control over religious policy in the country. The king in this period, Charles I, took this authority very seriously, and enacted a number of religious policies that were extremely unpopular with portions of the English public. By writing in a religious tone, pamphleteers alluded to fundamental questions regarding absolutism and the king’s divine authority, and were therefore able to open space to challenge the king’s political power. Political opponents of the king in this period largely agreed with the existence of political and religious censorship, but disagreed with the way this censorship was being used by Charles’ I’s archbishop. Therefore, using religious rhetoric allowed these writers to address these contradictions by suggesting that the way this censorship was used was morally unjust, without challenging the actual system of censorship itself. This desire to challenge the king’s authority without disrupting the status quo can be seen in the actions of Parliament once they were successful in gaining control in 1640: after a brief period of press freedom the Parliamentarians enacted their own press censorship laws. These laws continued to consider the reviewing of religious texts a priority, and therefore demonstrate that Parliament continued to understand the power of religious rhetoric.

Aidan Trembath, “When Big Brother Rests His Eyes: A Comparative Literary Analysis of the Historical Politics of Chinese Dystopian Novels.”

George Orwell and his dystopian fiction bear a significance for both literary and political theory and have been used by novelists and scholars to describe oppressive surveillance and governance found in both authoritarian and democratic states. Authoritarian states throughout history have prohibited the publication of Orwell’s works for his political commentary. However, a puzzle arises when one considers the widespread availability of Orwell’s works in China since 1985, especially when read in comparison to Chinese “protest novels” that have been inspired by Orwell’s works but are banned by the Communist Party of China (CPC). This paper compares Orwell’s 1984 to Mo Yan’s The Garlic Ballads, Yan Lianke’s Serve the People!¸and Ma Jian’s China Dream, and situates the thematic similarities and differences amongst the novels within the historical contexts that the CPC respectively granted or revoked their publication. The paper aims to elucidate why the CPC targets Chinese dystopian fiction instead of a pre-eminent standard of the genre. The paper concludes that the Chinese novelists write China’s political, cultural, and historical reality into their narratives, which blurs the fictional aspects of their novels with the real-life dystopia of China that Orwell’s 1984, a response to political developments in Soviet Russia and Europe, does not. I argue that cultural distinctions and political context matter for a novel to be banned; the CPC may be China’s Big Brother, but Big Brother is not the CPC.


Brandon through the Archives

Paul Refvik, “The Abandoned Youth: Brandon College Students and the Second World War”

In my paper, I utilize primary sources from the Brandon University Archives to examine how the Second World War impacted the lives of Brandon College students from 1939-45.

Alexander Lints, “The Father of Modern Brandon?  Political Change and Economic Development Under Sephen A. Magnacca”

During the 1960’s, Brandon was undergoing a period of social and economic change. The mayor during this time, Stephen A. Magnacca, was the catalyst for this change. Under his leadership, council shifted into an entity that employed private technical expertise and committee delegation in order to facilitate a more attractive environment for business. This paper focusses on Magnacca’s definition of progress that drove his initiatives and remained in the background of everything his council did. It also illustrates the degree to which council and the public agreed and went along with this idea and how Magnacca managed to foster consensus around his proposed changes. Finally, an analysis of the development of the Keystone Centre shows its role as the definitive project that embodied Magnacca’s definition of progress and what could be achieved under his new vision of committee and private involvement in the public sector.

Doug Fidler, “The Social, Economic, and International Causes of the Toal Commission”

The paper is based around the examination of the causes of the Toal Commission from both sides, the White residents of Brandon and the Aboriginal people moving in, with the thesis being that the conditions were just right in Brandon for the events surrounding the Commission and the Commission itself to occur. It is divided into three sections, social, economic, and ongoing events in the world at the time. The social causes of the Commission focuses around the cultural clashes, racism, and the general feelings of unease among people of both sides, along with the failings of the Toal Commission itself which contributed to the hostile feelings of the Aboriginal people. The economic causes focuses on the economic inequality between White residents of Brandon and the Aboriginal people, with the poorer position of the Aboriginal people resulting in them not being able to establish themselves properly and the discrimination they faced from their White neighbours because of it. The third section is that of the world at the time of the Toal Commission, with this section hoping to place the events that spawned the Toal Commission within the larger story of social movements and decolonization.


Science on the Frontlines – Micro to Macro

Jorge Lozano, “Alternative Reduction Software for the CHIRON High-Resolution Echelle Spectrograph”

CHIRON is an echelle, high resolution spectrograph mounted on a 1.5[m] telescope in the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. Currently, Chiron along with its processing software provides astronomical data in a daily basis. The software used for processing the incoming raw data has introduced various shortcomings over the years (Walter 2018). The accuracy and versatility of the software is preponderant for the reliability of the handed astronomical data. This research aims to provide an updated and optimized software pipeline by creating alternatives for cosmic ray’s removal, enhance the order tracing including overlapping orders, increase the spectrum coverage of the current software, and produce a more robust wavelength calibration. The results suggest an improvement in the signal to noise ratio of the extracted spectra.

Mackenzie Cullen, “MicroRNA 526b and 655 Regulate Cellular Metabolism in Breast Cancer”

Cellular metabolism refers to all of the chemical reactions that take place within a cell in order to sustain life. The mitochondrial protein complex ATP synthase plays a major role in cellular metabolism through the production of ATP, the cell’s principal molecule of energy. MicroRNAs (miRNAs, miRs) are small, noncoding RNAs that silence genes at the posttranscriptional level. We have previously shown that the overexpression of two oncogenic microRNAs, miR526b and miR655, promotes aggressive phenotypes in the poorly aggressive breast cancer cell line MCF7. However, the role that these two microRNAs play in regulating breast cancer metabolism has not yet been investigated. We have recently analyzed the breast cancer cell secretome (cellular secretions) of miRNA-high MCF7 cells and discovered high levels of the protein ATP5A1, a subunit of ATP synthase. This finding prompted us to investigate the expression of ATP5A1 within miRNA-high breast cancer cells, as well as the role of miR526b and miR655 in regulating breast cancer metabolism. In the present study, we observe that MCF7-miR526b and MCF7-miR655 cells have increased gene and protein expression of ATP5A1 compared to MCF7-Mock (control) cells. To determine if altered ATP5A1 expression is correlated with changes in cellular metabolism, we conducted in vitro assays. We observed that MCF7-miR655 and MCF7-miR526b cell culture media becomes more acidic and acidifies at a faster rate than that of MCF7-Mock cells, indicating that miR526b and miR655 promote increased cellular growth and metabolism. We found that miRNA-high cells produce higher levels of ATP than MCF7-Mock cells, showing that miR655 and miR526b promote cellular energy production. Combined, the present results indicate that miR526b and miR655 promote heightened metabolic phenotypes in breast cancer by altering the gene and protein expression of metabolism-related biomolecules. This study, for the first time, establishes the role of miR526b and miR655 in breast cancer metabolism.


How the Land Works: Case Studies in Manitoba

Kea St. Paul, “Stream Characterization in the Manitoba Escarpment”

Sediment is a pollutant that results in the degradation of surface water quality and aquatic habitats and can seriously affect ecosystems functions as well as their resilience.  Channel morphology can have a large influence on local erosion, transport, and deposition of sediment and this needs to be considered when sampling suspended sediment. This project took place in the Wilson Creek Experimental Watershed which is situated along the eastern boundary of Riding Mountain National Park, on the Manitoba Escarpment, approximately 130 km north of Brandon MB. The objectives of this research project were to: 1) characterize the morphological features of the Wilson Creek at the outlet of the Wilson Creek Experimental Watershed; and 2) discuss the implications for collecting suspended sediment and interpreting the data it provides. Data was collected in person using visual observations, Real Time Kinematic GPS topographic survey, and the Wolman pebble count. Overall, 10 cross-sections were characterized along a 100 m stretch of the creek. The transects were separated into three categories: contact with the valley wall (i.e., large cut banks), contact with an artificial dike (i.e., well-armored), and floodplain dominated (i.e., deposition). Each of these categories can have a unique impact on sediment dynamics. Therefore, it is important to characterize the local stream morphology to properly select a site to collect suspended sediment and to provide important context to the data it provides.

Jayde Clendenning, “Remediation Efforts of Soil Pollution and Volunteer Aspects on Greening with The Green Project in Flin Flon, Manitoba”

The City of Flin Flon, Manitoba and area has continuously dealt with environmental degradation from the local mining industry since the early 1930’s. Soil reclamation has been ongoing in the City of Flin Flon, Manitoba and Town of Creighton, Saskatchewan using crushed limestone to increase the pH of polluted mineral soils. This spreading of crushed limestone by community members through the The Green Project has been ongoing since the spring of 2000 and has had significant positive effects on the local vegetation in the affected areas.   Data collected from liming sites was assessed to determine the level of satisfactory remediation efforts. The limed sites are all now displaying new vegetation such as Populus tremuloides, Picea mariana, and Salix spp., which were all found in these areas prior to mining activities. Soil acidity studies have shown that liming has increased the soil’s pH to more plant-tolerant levels. In 2002, pH levels were recorded at control, pre-limed, and limed sites. The lowest recorded pH was 2.49 at a control site, while the highest recorded was 7.64 at a previously limed site.   Interviews were conducted with willing volunteers who participated in liming with The Green Project to understand the socio-environmental connection between residents and the local environment, and how community engagement has affected their thoughts on the local environment. Twenty interviews were conducted via email/Skype/phone-call/in-person (prior to Code Red Lockdown) using a series of questions asking participants to reflect on their involvement with The Green Project. Generally, most participants who were students during their volunteering were either indifferent or not excited to partake in liming at the time, but all participants agreed that they were now satisfied with their experience with The Green Project after being able to see the results of liming, and some even felt proud to have partaken in such an opportunity.

Jana Botha, “Bog Islands in Patterned Fens: insights into Allogenic and Autogenic Factors on Bog Formation in the Elma Peatland Complex, South Eastern Manitoba”

Peatlands are very diverse ecosystems and play a significant role in the global carbon cycle and regulating local water flows’ quantity and quality. Understanding the allogenic and autogenic factors that promote bog formation will allow for a better understanding of how land use and climate changes may impact these systems. Very little research has been completed on small (70-120 m) bogs. Two transects consisting of wells were installed orthogonally within three small bogs (of various sizes) to measure depth to water table, the bulk density profile, peat depth, and clay elevation. The characteristic doming nature of the water table within the bog compared to the fen was not present during dry environmental conditions, and there appears to be no relationship between bog locations and the post glacial landscape (higher or lower clay elevation). Our work shows that these bogs should maybe not be considered true bogs, since there is a lack of true identifiable characteristics, or they might still be within the early successional stage.


Taking Care: Community, Health Inequities, and Lived Experience

Graeme Chapman, “Senior Citizens Clubs against Loneliness: Building Community in a Growing Elderly Population”

After the 1970s, Seniors Clubs became much more popular in North America. The Valleyview Leisure Club began operation in 1978, and the earliest documents available from the Westridge Seniors Club are dated to 1982. Both of these clubs, which operated in Brandon Manitoba, worked hard to ensure that the needs of its members were met and that each member experienced a higher life satisfaction, a better sense of community, and less loneliness. Until the 1970s, there had not been a lot of research done on senior citizens. The goals of this paper are to add to the growing amounts of research done on the senior community and to understand why seniors’ clubs became more popular in the late 20th century. This paper looks at the need for seniors to create their own community as the elderly population grew rapidly, and at ageism, which grew with it. It also examines how the elderly experienced loneliness. The constitution of the Valleyview Leisure Club reveals a commitment to building a community and limiting the loneliness of its members. The activities of both clubs mentioned above also reveal similar priorities, as well as showing a commitment to staying involved with the broader community. This essay argues that senior citizen clubs were formed because they offered a sense of community to the elderly, who were so dearly lacking this in the late 20th century. These clubs combined many of the best methods for reducing loneliness and social isolation and succeeded in the goal of creating a community of senior citizens in an increasingly ageist society.

Jillian Thomas, “Exploring Patient Perceptions Regarding the Therapeutic Use of Art in Mental Health Recovery”

The advantages and potential use for creative therapies in healthcare are innumerable and clearly established in both the literature and consumer accounts. Therapeutic art practices have clearly demonstrated benefits to health and well-being through relaxation, improved stress management and coping, social inclusion, personal recovery, encouraging personal growth, self-expression and the potential for alleviating distressing physical, emotional and psychological symptoms. Despite strong support for the use of art therapy in healthcare by many professionals and members of the public, there has also been much criticism of the intervention due to claims of insufficient evidence-base and debates regarding research practices. There is also a distinct research gap in which service users are rarely consulted regarding their perspectives on the use of art-based interventions in their own mental healthcare. The purpose of this research is to explore how psychiatric patients experience the use of therapeutic art in their psychiatric treatment, and their perception of its impact on their own mental health recovery. By focusing on the experience of art therapy from the viewpoint of adult psychiatric patients, the researcher hopes to better understand the perceived benefits of participation in creative therapies from an insider view. Using Interpretive Description methods, and informed by the Recovery Oriented Model of Care, the researcher intends to gain important insights on how current techniques and patient experiences may be enhanced for future practices, contributing unique and unheard participant perspectives noticeably scarce in the current literature on the subject.

Aderonke Olasunkanmi, “Program Evaluation of Newcomers in Canada Workshop: Supporting Newcomers Mental Health, Loneliness and Social Isolation”

This study is partially funded by Brandon University Health Studies Grant and aims to conduct process evaluation of a workshop designed to support the mental health, loneliness and social isolation of newcomers to Brandon, Manitoba. The centre for critical studies of rural mental health (CCSRMH) developed the workshop facilitators guide and the activity booklet for the participants. The manual will be administered to newcomers by the facilitators for Westman immigrant services (WIS). PURPOSE: The study will focus on the participants mental health experiences as newcomers to Brandon and the participants perception of the program first module (mental health, loneliness and isolation) in terms of: user-friendliness, value, and take-home messages of the program. PARTICIPANT: Any newcomer that is age eighteen and above and participates in the newcomers’ program at WIS are eligible to participate in this study. METHOD: This research is a qualitative study and will conduct open-ended interviews after workshop for six to eight interested participants among the people that will attend the workshop. Translators will be provided for those participants that prefer to communicate with their mother tongue when being interviewed. Also, about two to three WIS key informants who works with newcomers to Brandon will be interviewed over the telephone or via zoom All the interviews will be audio recorded for translation and note taking purpose. The research findings will be based on themes in participants responses and the comparison between the participants outcomes and the general population to identify similarities and differences in terms of participants level of mental health, loneliness and isolation, awareness of available resources and impact of the program. SIGNIFICANT: I expect to find relevant information that will help improve the program design and delivery.

Robyn Allen, “Epidural Use at Brandon Regional Health Centre: An Historical Sociological Analysis”

Epidurals are key interventions in medicalized birth. Although epidurals produce iatrogenic harms and cause negative outcomes from hospital policies, they are continually used and avoid scrutiny of clinicians. The origin of pain management in childbirth intersects with the internal logics of medicine. The provincial rate of epidural use (73.1%) combines with this rural hospital site maintaining a caesarean section average (30.5%), found above both the provincial average (25.5%) and Canada’s average (28.8%). I question why epidural use and the subsequent caesarean section rates in this rural hospital are higher than the provincial and national averages. Using an original suturing of Michel Foucault’s concept of power and Gilles Deleuze’s concept of the folded force, I explain how epidurals become a technique of medical authority subjectifying the unruly birthing body. Epidurals arise historically from 1) solutions to parturient mortality rates through pain management, and become, 2) the dominant form of pain management despite its iatrogenic outcomes. Epidurals continue to be used 3) outside of the EBM paradigm with a coercive effect, and, 4) towards the goal of the painless birth where policies warp protecting epidurals from critique and towards refinement. This socio-historical analysis then explores health inequities through evidences derived from ill-explained technologies of knowledge which justify decisions superseding consent and coercing paturients into further medical interventions, like caesarean sections.