Infant Action Cognition Lab at StFX

Infant action cognition lab IACL stfx

Have you heard of the Infant Action Cognition Lab (IACL)? Infants 4-months and older, and their parent/guardian residing in Antigonish and surrounding areas, can volunteer in a fun research study at our child-friendly lab at the St. Francis Xavier University!

Our studies involve exploring toy objects and watching others explore objects on our eye tracker, to help us learn about how infants learn! We investigate how babies learn to understand and perform actions as well as how babies understand the actions of others around them. This information can be useful in helping us understand what babies know about things like an object’s weight, or motion such as walking. It can also help to inform interventions in the future to facilitate learning.

You can set up an appointment for anytime that works for you and your baby (usually 9:00-4:00pm Monday to Friday, but we are flexible).

The studies take place in J. Bruce Brown (Biology building) and we have free designated parking available.

Heres’ what to expect:

As you pull into the parking lot off Notre Dame Avenue, you will be greeted by a lab member who will provide a parking pass and direct you to the nearest parking space. The lab member may be one of our friendly senior researchers or undergraduate research assistants, and if you want, will help you carry things while accompanying you to our research lab (room 334B).

Once you and your baby are ready, we will review the study with you and give you the opportunity to ask any questions you might have. You will also be told that your participation is strictly confidential, and that you are welcome to withdraw from the study at any point if you wish. After you’ve signed a study consent form, we will have you fill out a brief demographics form asking some very general information (e.g., age of siblings). Then we will begin the study! Most studies are 20-30 minutes but could range up to 60 minutes.

IACL Eyetracker
IACL Eyetracker

Throughout the study, we can take breaks as you or your baby may need. Diaper changes and feeding are welcome at any time. We have a diaper changing station and are a breastfeeding friendly environment. We can also accommodate for other children (e.g., older siblings) that have accompanied you to the appointment.

Most studies involve sitting with your baby on your lap as they explore an object or having your baby watch a short video clip (45-90 seconds) while we track their eye movements. For some studies, we apply reflective markers over areas of your baby’s arms or legs so that we can measure how they are moving. For example, we do a study about stepping experience where we would have you support your baby’s weight over a baby treadmill while they take steps with reflective markers on their legs so we can learn about their movement patterns. All of our studies are intended to be a positive and playful experience for babies!

This information can be useful to help facilitate learning during caregiver-infant interactions and help design interventions for infants at-risk for developmental delays.

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At the end of the appointment, you will be offered a certificate with your baby’s picture on it as a keepsake.

The overall theme of work in the lab is to investigate how babies learn to understand and perform actions (e.g., with toys, or walking), as well as understand the actions of others around them.

The two competing ideas that we evaluate with our studies are: Do babies only understand other peoples’ actions after they have learned to do the actions themselves (i.e., “that person is like me”)? Or, do babies need to first understand other peoples’ actions before they can learn to carry out the action themselves (i.e., “I’m like you”).

Interested in volunteering? Contact us at (902) 867-5411 to up an appointment.

Megan MacGillivray PhD
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Infant Action and Cognition Lab |  ANChoR Lab
StFX University | Department of Psychology 
Phone 902-867-5411

IACL stfx 5

Antigonish World Oceans Day 2019 Highlights

So it was quite the event on the weekend, as the Biology Dept. celebrated their 6th annual World Oceans Day event. Here are some of the highlights…

The displays included touch-tanks with different species of live sea anemones.

stfx sea anemone

A sea weed station where algae reproduction was demonstrated.

microscopes plankton

And a marine microorganism station, where microscopic phytoplankton and zooplankton could be viewed.

Among the stations with live critters, there were various species of sea star and sea urchins. Children learned about echinoderms, locomotion, habitat and behaviour.

sea stars grace

Making trilobite and ammonite fossil prints on clay, was one of the many popular stations to visit.

The green crabs station where kids were able to hold the crabs, learn about the invasive species, their anatomy and geographic distribution.

This year we also had a Blubber experiment station where kids learned how arctic animals stay warm.

A plankton race station, where the public participated in making their own plankton then racing it down the water column for a chance to win prizes from the sustainability station (see the winners list below).

The sustainability station which included alternatives to plastic items donated by local businesses was a great addition to the event. The goal was to promote the reduction of plastics use.

Also new, learning how to make nautical and Daisy chain knots.

The dogfish station educated the public about the anatomy, behaviour and location of this fascinating animal.

The Nutrition Dept. volunteers educated the public on sustainable foods and healthy eating habits.

The face painting and henna stations were very popular, as always.

The craft stations were busy throughout the event. This year’s features were salt water raised paintings and Gyotaku fish prints.

The Atlantis photo booth was a pleasant surprise for all DC Aquaman fans.

Atlantis DC Aquaman

And finally various local organizations were present to promote healthy oceans and the important work they do for our community.

nova scoatia salmon association Kris Hunter
Kris Hunter from the NS Salmon Association
Brenna Martel birds studies canada
Brenna Martel from Birds Studies Canada & the piping plover conservation
Dr. Justin Gregg from the Dolphin Communications Project
nicole haverkort Eastern Region Solid Waste Management
Nicole Haverkort from the Eastern Region Solid Waste Management
grace campbell DFO
Grace Campbell from the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans

I would like to thank the following local businesses who donated sustainable items for the plankton race draw:

The Posh Peppermint Home & Gifts

Kent Business Supplies Antigonish

Canadian Tire Antigonish

The Plum Tree Gift Shoppe

Nova Scotia Salmon Association (NSSA)

Nova Scotia Fisherman

And congratulations to the winners of the Plancton Race draw!

You have until Friday 12:00pm to pick up your prize from the Biology dept. at StFX, J. Bruce brown building, main office (open 8:00am-3:30pm). Winners will be posted on the Country Parent Facebook page and contacted by telephone.

Heidi MacGillivray – Canadian Tire Greenlid compost bin starter kit

Cheri van den Heuvel – Canadian Tire reusable straws

Tarampreet Kaur – NSSA ball cap

Ryan Shurman – NSSA ball cap

Clara – NSSA ball cap

Elias van den Heuvel – NSSA ball cap

Simon MacDonald – reusable stainless steel straws from the Posh Peppermint Home & Gifts

Kelly Young – nautical pattern paper straws from the Posh Peppermint Home & Gifts

Damon & Liam (Erica Barker) – reusable food wraps from the Posh Peppermint Home & Gifts

Felix Coady – reusable produce bags from the Posh Peppermint Home & Gifts

Lisa Jackman – NS Fisherman’s lip balm

Jesse – NS Fisherman’s soap

Lindsey Bennet – Swedish dishcloths from the Plum Tree Gift Shoppe

Chloe Christensen – reusable shopping bag from the Plum Tree Gift Shoppe

Devin Garvie – reusable shopping bag from the Plum Tree Gift Shoppe

Austin Smith – Grill scraper from Kent Building Supplies

Nahla MacAdam – Grill scraper from Kent Building Supplies

Anna Mae – Grill scraper from Kent Building Supplies

Heni Sampson – Grill scraper from Kent Building Supplies

Charlie Overmars – Grill scraper from Kent Building Supplies

Molly van den Heuvel – Grill scraper from Kent Building Supplies

Megan Lukeman – Grill scraper from Kent Building Supplies

Rachel Jackman – Grill scraper from Kent Building Supplies

Carson Garvie – Grill scraper from Kent Building Supplies

Bentley – Grill scraper from Kent Building Supplies

Sawyer Coady – Grill scraper from Kent Building Supplies

Jeanette MacMillan – Grill scraper from Kent Building Supplies

A huge Thank You to all the volunteers without whom this annual event would not be possible!

Katelyn MacNeil, Leah Rogers, Maryann Burbidge, Moira Galway, Lori Graham, Russell Wyeth, Jen van den Heuvel, Michelle Hodgson, Jayden Marion, Carmen Ucciferri, Madeline McDonald, Megan Davies, Meaghan MacDonald, Kayleigh Trenholm, Jessica Swinkels, Matthew Freeman, Arkadiy Reunov, Randy Lauff, Ella Maltby, David Garbary, Grace Moffat, Lauren Sobot, Areej Alansari, Chris Marchand, Randy Lauff, Melissa Howse, Megan MacGillivray, Seta Douglas, Shannyn Burke, Angus Ryan, Marley Ryan, James, Bethen and Alyssa.

Reg 🙂

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A Review of Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses Theatre Antigonish Orpheus and Euridice copy

by Barry Taylor,

I saw the preview performance of Metamorphoses at the Bauer Theatre the other day.

The play is a collection of ancient Greek myths and heroic legends, drawn from the epic work of the Roman poet Ovid, modernized and re-interpreted by playwright Mary Zimmerman as an exploration of the uncontainable power of love.  Here, love itself is a metamorphosis: a life-altering, sometimes painful rebirth into someone different and new.  To lend substance to this theme, the stories play out around, above, and mostly in a pool of water that covers most of the stage.  How cool is that?

The nine stories in the play explore love in all its dimensions: paternal, matrimonial, romantic, erotic, worldly, uplifting, forbidden, corruptive.  Members of the large cast, mostly students, play multiple roles, appearing as a Greek god in one scene, perhaps a sailor in the next, and a narrator in a third.  The pool too serves multiple purposes, according to the story.  People walk in it, float in it, bath in it, wash clothes in it, sail on it, drown in it, pass out in it, and have sex in it.  Water, the great transformer, is everywhere (including, sometimes, on audience members seated in the front row. Talk about an immersive experience).

Metamorphoses Antigonish Orpheus and Euridice

The stories themselves are as varied: some comic, some tragic, some familiar, some strange, some set in modern times, others timelessly classic.  A drowned sailor and his grieving wife are transformed into sea birds; Orpheus bravely descends into the underworld to rescue his bride from Hades; the gods punish a disrespectful man by consuming him with hunger.

It’s all very metaphorical, and I have to say, at times a little bit strange.  But there was no mistaking the strong emotional reactions of last night’s audience.  I recommend you go see it, if you have the time.  Metamorphoses represents a great deal of work by a troupe of dedicated people, under the steady hand of Artistic Director Andrea Boyd, and the result is a powerful and engaging piece of theatre.

You can get tickets here or at the door.


Barry Taylor

Barry R. Taylor, Associate Professor
Dept. of Biology, St. Francis Xavier University

World Oceans Day Event 2018 Highlights

volunteers world oceans day 2018 antigonish stfx


We celebrated the 5th annual World Oceans Day event this weekend and it was fantastic! A whopping 1098 people attended. Kids and adults were able to interact with students, staff and faculty from the StFX Biology department to learn about marine biodiversity and explore the touch-tanks.



A huge THANK YOU to all the volunteers, presenters and special guests who made this event possible.


Here are some of the highlights:


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 entranceElizabeth Wallace greeted the public at the main entrance with a smile and directed traffic like a pro!


 antigonish 2018 NS salmon associationNick MacInnis from the Nova Scotia Salmon Association (NSSA) and Kris Hunter also from NSSA and Sr. Lab Instructor of the StFX Biology dept. talked to the public about the on-going projects the NSSA is working on.


world oceans day event 2018 stfx antigonish human nutritionDr. Jennifer Jamieson from the Human Nutrition dept. explained the health benefits of omega-3s found in fish and shellfish, as well as the importance of purchasing certified sustainable seafood.


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 DFO 2Grace Campbell from the Department Fisheries and Oceans talked about the importance of managing the fisheries in the Maritimes.


world oceans day 2018 stfx antigonish birds studies canada piping ploversBrenna Martell informed the public about the work Bird Studies Canada is doing to conserve the piping plover population.


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 sydney coast guard college nova scotiaJoey Lever from the Sydney Coast Guard College gave people a glimpse of some of the marine engineering and navigation programs they offer and the important work they do in safeguarding our waterways.


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 erswm 1Nicole Haverkort from the Eastern Region Solid Waste Management motivated youth on preventing plastic pollution and encouraging solutions for a healthy ocean starting with proper waste management and diversion.


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 erswm 2


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 dolphinDr. Justin Gregg educated the public on the ever-fascinating dolphins and their complexe communication systems.


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 joke adesolaDr. Joke Adesola educated the public about striped bass aquaculture, farming potential, its local and global importance as well as how people can get involved.


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 aquatic resourcesDr. Lynn Patterson from the StFX Aquatic Resources talked about the ever-growing interdisciplinary program which involves everything related to our water; environment, sustainability, conservation of biodiversity, climate change, and public policy development, to name a few.


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 seaweedDr. David Garbary, an expert in seaweed at the StFX Biology dept., educated youth on the importance of seaweed and gave the public an eye-full of the vast diversity of local seaweed, which can often be overlooked when strolling nearby beaches.


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 odditorium 2Aneal and Lisa Virick came all the way from the Sydney Odditorium to showcase their very impressive collection of prehistoric bones, fossils, rocks and amazing unique treasures!


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 odditorium penguinThe Sydney Odditorium’s Benedict penguin was part of the display too.


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 odditorium mosasaurusMosasaurus and Plesiosaurus jaws, bones and fossils were also on display.


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 puffer fish


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 microscopes Grad student Emil Jurga talked about the importance of plankton and various microorganisms that represent the first link in the food chain.


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 microscopes


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 touch tankUnderdrad student Sydney Silver encouraged youth to hold and touch interesting marine organisms housed in one of the touch-tanks, including this pink sea anemone.


sea anemone world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 crabsUndergrad student Jayden Marion educated youth about a variety of crabs, including decorator crabs, rock crabs and the invasive species of green crabs.


world oceans day antigonish 2018 stfx sting rays 3Undergrad student Breton Fougere educated people about stingrays, skates and their fascinating life cycle.


world oceans day antigonish 2018 stfx sea urchins

Undergrad Lia Blakett talked about the anatomy and behaviour of local and tropical sea urchins.


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 sea starsUndergrad student Aaron Cogger encouraged youth to hold and learn about seastars, their habitat, behaviour and unique water vascular system.


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 lobstersGrad student Ella Maltby shared her knowledge about local lobsters and encouraged youth to touch these juvenile lobsters.


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 fossilsUndergrad student Austin Farrell educated youth about extinct marine molluscs and helped kids make their own fossil prints of trilobites and ammonites.


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 craftsAt the craft station, Katie Kirkham and Michelle Hodgson were busy throughout the event helping kids make colourful ocean themed crafts.


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 face paintingUndergrads Danny MacDonald, Katrina Ferrari, vet school student, Veronica Ells, and high-school student Madalynn Proctor did an amazing job at the face painting station!


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 hennaNadia Tarakki did beautiful intricate ocean themed designs at the Henna tattoo station.


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 blue sharkBiology Lab Instructor Katelyn MacNeil, with undergrads Erin Samson and Amy Graham who were in charge of educating the public about this show-stopping two meter blue shark, which will be used in the comparative anatomy course lead by Mr. Randy Lauff, Sr. Biology Lab Instructor and curator.


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 presentersThis year’s presenters and special guests were: (from the left) Joke Adesola, Joey Lever, Jessica Haverkort, Nicole Haverkort, Justin Gregg, Lynn Patterson, Brenna Martell, David Garbary, Grace Campbell, Aneal Virick, Stella Virick, Lisa Virick, and Jennifer Jamieson. Missing from picture: Kris Hunter and Nick MacInnis


world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 volunteersAnd finally all the volunteers who helped make the event possible: from top left; Lia Blakett, Aaron Cogger, Katrina Ferrari, Jayden Marion, Emil Jurga, James Millar, Kayleigh Trenholm, Amy Graham, David Garbary, Elizabeth Wallace, Erin Samsom, Veronica Ells, Katelyn MacNeil, Austin Farrell, Breton Fougere, Nadia Tarakki, Ella Maltby, Michelle Hodgson, Reg Cozzi, Katie Kirkham, Madalynn Proctor, Sydney Silver and Danny MacDonald. Missing from picture: Leah Rogers and Jennifer Van den Heuvel, who helped tremendously with the displays and setup!



world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 jellyfishLocal jellyfish, one of many marine organisms housed in the touch-tanks, brought in by Dr.Russell Wyeth and Michael Gerhatz.

world oceans day stfx antigonish 2018 people

I hope everyone had a great time!  😀


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Beginner’s Guide to Running


by Eric Gillis

Running is a wonderful activity because it’s something we can do straight out our front doors, alone, or with friends. Everyone is genetically built to run no matter the age, or athletic ability.

The key is to manage expectations when you first begin. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Proper pacing

Proper pacing is a runner’s best-friend. I like telling beginner runners, and reminding experienced ones, that you can’t go ‘too easy’ on an easy run.

For pacing an easy run, you should be able to comfortably hold a conversation with someone and not feel winded at the end of the run. Most of my training is done at this easy run pace, 75-80% of all miles run. If you’re like myself, and many other runners I know, you’ll have to remind yourself to slow down. Speeding up is a treat we give ourselves only a few times per week.

Location is key

For your first run, it’s best to pick a location like a track, where you feel comfortable with your surroundings. Starting on a track is pleasant because it has consistent footing, and no hills 😀 You can more easily control variables and work on proper pacing.

Set a goal

Have a goal time or number of laps in mind before starting.  With running, it’s easy to bite off more than you can chew, which can be discouraging for your next run. So, like a lot of things, less is more! If you can bike moderately for an hour, but have never ran before, start with 15 minutes, a sensible length of time for a beginner run.

Use the ‘run-walk’ technique

You might find that it helps to break up the 15 minutes into run-walk intervals: run for 3 minutes, then walk for 1 minute. Run for another 3 minutes, then walk again for 1 minute. Repeat this 5 times.

Recovery time

Getting back on your bike the next day, or simply walking, is a great way to recover from the previous day’s run.

Final thoughts

I’ll leave you with this quote, which I really like. I heard Alex Hutchinson, a running/science journalist say it in an interview:

“Most beginner runners overestimate what they can do in the short term, and underestimate what they can do in the long term” – Alex Hutchinson

Run easy and run for fun my friends 😀

Eric Gillis
Marathoner & Olympian
Cross Country and Track & Field Head Coach
St. Francis Xavier University, Athletics Dept.

You might also like:

Staying Active With Persistent Pain


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World Oceans Day 2018 Sneak Peek

world oceans day stfx 2018

The StFX Biology Department will be hosting their 5th Annual World Oceans Day 2018 on June 9!

World Oceans Day, a global ocean celebration, promotes Ocean awareness through exploration, education, conservation, initiatives and beach clean-ups around the world.

This year’s theme is: Preventing plastic pollution and encouraging solutions for a healthy ocean.

What to expect?

There will be lots to see and do during the event. Be prepared to touch unusual sea critters, interact with the presenters and learn about local and tropical marine organisms.

There will be displays of preserved specimens (including whale bones, sting rays, cuttlefish, octopus) and many live microorganisms including sea anemones, sea urchins, sea stars, a variety of crabs, and our famous blue lobster!

Also on the list, a sea-weed station, make-your-own fossil print station, face painting, ocean themed crafts, and much more.

world oceans day stfx 4

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world oceans day stfx 2

world oceans day stfx 1

Participating Organizations & Special Guests

♦  StFX Aquatic Resources Dept.  

♦  StFX Human Nutrition Dept.

♦  Bird Studies Canada

♦  Department of Fisheries and Oceans

♦  Canadian Coast Guard

♦  Nova Scotia Salmon Association

♦  Eastern Region Solid Waste Management

♦  The Sydney Odditorium

…Stay tuned, as we will be adding more to the list!

Antigonish World Oceans Day 2018 poster

See you there!

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Bipolar Disorder Is More Than A Typical Adolescent Mood Swing

Bipolar disorder IWK post

by Vanessa Bruce Little


Bipolar Disorder is often misunderstood. Although most people have the basic understanding that someone with Bipolar Disorder has sudden and intense mood swings, they often miss the more detailed nuances of the disorder or confuse the fairly typical mood swings of adolescence with something more clinical.

Here’s how to know when it might be something more than just typical adolescent emotions:

First of all, there are two types of Bipolar Disorder: Bipolar I and Bipolar II.

Bipolar I Disorder is when the person experiences periods of Mania (called Manic Episodes). Manic episodes are periods of at least one week where the person has a really elevated and potentially irritable mood, and they behave in very busy and goal-directed ways, even if they don’t seem to be accomplishing much. Someone in a Manic Episode will often:

♦ Have really high self-esteem (to the point of being conceited)

♦ Feel less need for sleep

♦ Talk more than usual

♦ Feel like their thoughts are racing OR have a train of thought that’s hard for someone  else to follow

♦ Be easily distracted by irrelevant or unimportant details

♦ Be very focused on accomplishing various tasks – even if they seem to serve no purpose

♦ Engage in risky activities with serious consequences (e.g., unprotected sex, excessive shopping sprees, drug use, bad financial investments)

In Bipolar I Disorder, when the person isn’t experiencing a Manic Episode, they are either experiencing periods of Depression (called Major Depressive Episodes, which look just like the clinical disorder, Depression), periods of Hypomania (called Hypomanic Episodes, which are basically shorter (approximately 4 days) and less severe versions of Manic Episodes), or periods of completely normal mood. How often the person switches between these different episodes depends on the individual, the situation, and how effectively they’re being treated. In Bipolar II Disorder, the person experiences both Hypomanic and Major Depressive Episodes but has not experienced any Manic Episodes.

Bipolar Disorder is highly heritable, which means that biological family members of someone with Bipolar Disorder (I or II) are at increased risk for developing the disorder themselves. It typically develops in the late teens (Bipolar I Disorder) or mid-twenties (Bipolar II Disorder), and affects about 0.6 to 0.8% of the population over the course of a year. Medication can be very effective for someone with Bipolar Disorder, but they will likely need to remain on the medication indefinitely in order to manage their symptoms.

As you can see, the mood changes associated with Bipolar Disorder cause significantly more impairment than your typical adolescent mood swings. The moods/episodes themselves are much more intense and cycling between the two can be quite dramatic. If you’re concerned that your teenager may have Bipolar Disorder (especially if someone in your family has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia), talk to your family doctor.

Other helpful resources:


Vanessa Bruce Little

Vanessa Bruce Little is the Knowledge Translation Lead at (IWK Health Centre/Dalhousie University), a role for which she relies heavily on her background in Clinical Psychology, clinical training, and experience working with youth and families with behavioural, emotional, and social issues. In addition to developing the content of many of Teen Mental Health’s resources, Vanessa also coordinates large-scale projects and supervises students from a variety of disciplines. She strongly believes that you have to communicate in a way people will “hear” and that the quality of the content is irrelevant if your audience can’t understand it.

Read the entire blog series:

Anxiety Is Not A Synonym For Stress

You (Probably) Don’t Have OCD

Depression Is More Than Just Having A Bad Day


More Girls Should Be Doing This


by Erin Aucoin

I have a question for you.  Can you even remember the last time you spent a day without using technology?  Probably not, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing!  Computers and technology have become so engrained in our lives because they are extremely useful and computer science is arguably the fastest growing career field.  You would think that we, as a society would be encouraging everyone to take advantage of this and to be more computer literate.  But we’re not.

Only 30% of Math and Computer Science students in Canada1 are female even though the job prospects for computer science students are consistently among the most promising2. In a time where most of the revolutionary products are technology related, this statistic is very discouraging.


My name is Erin and I started a society for Women in Science at St. Francis Xavier University this year.  I was inspired to do so for a couple of reasons.  First, I am the only graduating female physics student this year and this has led to quite a few interesting conversations.  Secondly, I have spent two summers working for the X-Chem Science Camps at St.FX organizing the computer science camp and it was easy to see that the girls loved the activities just as much as the boys.  I think that there are a lot of fields of science and technology, which severely lack women.  A lot of really smart women don’t even consider a career in physics, engineering or computer science and this is a shame.

Women often think that coding isn’t for them because virtually all of the big names in tech are men (think of Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk) and we rarely hear about the female pioneers of computer science Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson (featured in the movie Hidden Figures)


Women pioneers in computer science: Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, Katherine Johnson3,4,5


or the current female influencers in the field like Helen Greiner6 and Marissa Mayer7.


Current influencers in computer science, Helen Greiner and Marissa Mayer6,7


Beyond this, the most fun part of computer science, video games, are generally marketed towards boys.  Even though there twice as many women over 18 playing video games as boys under 18.

Computer science is everywhere so I think that EVERYONE should learn how to code!  With this week being Computer Science Education Week, it’s the perfect time to teach yourself a little bit of programming!

The great thing about computer science is how easy it is to start!  There are thousands of tutorials online which will teach you the basics of any programming language you want.  My favourites are,, and   The first two are especially great for kids because they let you start programming right away without having to learn any of the syntax (commas and semi-colons that have to be in just the right spot).


Image retrieved from


In my opinion, one of the most rewarding feelings is coding your first program, getting the computer to draw a red circle or add some numbers together or even just to say “Hello World!”  It doesn’t matter how much of a background you have in technology, you just have to decide to start!

Happy Computer Science Education Week!



Erin Aucoin, BSc Physics Student President of Women in Science Society

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World Oceans Day Event 2017 Sneak Preview



The countdown is on! We are in the midst of planning for the 4th Annual World Oceans Day event.





There will be a lot to see and touch! Some of the interactive stations that will be available at the Biology Dept. during the event, include:

Cool preserved specimens

Live microorganisms

Whale bones

Sting ray display

Make-your-own fossil print

Sea-weed station with a special treat

Conservation station led by the StFX Aquatic Resources Dept.

Piping plover station led by the Bird Studies Canada organization

Conservation station led by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Dolphin communication station led by Justin Gregg Ph.D.

Live sea anemones, sea urchins, sea stars

Variety of live crabs

Live blue lobster

Face painting



Attend the event for hands-on fun!

Celebrate World Oceans Day! Explore the Biology dept.'s marine touch-tanks and learn about various marine organisms.

Posted by Country Parent on Saturday, June 3, 2017

For time and location click here


For sneak peeks, follow on


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Sea cuccumber


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College at last… 2 simple breathing techniques students can do to manage stress


by Ivan Drouin, M.A., R. Psych.

Finally, high school is over.  You are headed for College or University.  You can’t wait for the new challenge, but maybe you also feel a bit stressed and wonder if you will be able to make new friends.  And what about all these stories you heard about exams, essays and quizzes that reach another level. “It’s not high school!”, everybody says!


But you will be more independent and you can’t wait.  On the other hand, maybe you wish you were not going so far from home as you know you will miss your parents, or your siblings, or your friends.

This transition from high school to College or University is an important step in your life.  Like all the transitions you have been through already (remember when you started Junior High?), and others to come, they are filled with a sense of anticipation, excitement and… stress.  In fact, stress is not only normal during a period of transition, it is in fact healthy.

Research suggests that our relationship with stress is what is important.  If we think we can handle stress, if you use tools to manage it, we will often be able to overcome obstacles.  And, in the process, we will learn how to handle other stressful situations.


One of the tools to manage stress is a simple breathing exercise called Belly Breathing. Here are two Belly Breathing exercises.  One is audio and the other is a short video.  Try them and see how you feel.

Koru Belly Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing

Of course, many other things help us to adapt to stress like exercise, quality time with friends, staying on top of assignments and studying, refraining from excessive drinking.  More on this in another blog.

It is also important to remember that at times stress can be become overwhelming and may become a factor in a mental health problem or illness. If you think this is your case, you can contact the Health & Counselling Centre of your University to have a confidential meeting with a counsellor or a clinical therapist.  Many universities also offer sessions on relaxation or mindfulness that can help you manage your stress.

A great resource is the teen mental health site developed at the IWK.

So, in thinking about the upcoming year, take a breath.


Ivan Drouin, M.A., R. Psych. Clinical Therapist, Health & Counselling Centre, St. Francis Xavier University

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