By Ellen Tsaprailis
Photos by Lindsay Ralph

Carleton University 2024 Banting Postdoctoral Fellow Award Recipients Keroles Riad and Joshua Steckley

Carleton postdoctoral researchers Keroles Riad and Joshua Steckley are the recipients of the federal government’s 2024 Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships.

Valued at $70,000 per year for two years, the coveted Banting fellowships are awarded to postdoctoral researchers to help attract and retain highly-qualified trainees—establishing Canada as a global centre for research training and career support.

“Keroles and Joshua exemplify the quality of research happening at Carleton University,” says Carleton Interim President and Vice-Chancellor Jerry Tomberlin. “My sincerest congratulations to both of them for their achievements and success in securing this federal funding to continue their research.”

Keroles Riad, Civil and Mechanical Engineering
Project: Scalable synthesis of graphene systems using flame spray pyrolysis.

Setting things on fire is fun for Keroles Riad.

The postdoctoral fellow will use his Banting funds to see if he can make graphene—a special kind of nanoparticle—by burning different chemicals.

“I will make graphene using flame synthesis and explore its use as a catalyst for the development of carbon-neutral fuels and water treatment. Graphene is the strongest material known, with extraordinary physical, mechanical, and electrical properties,” says Riad. There is a pressing need for a synthesis process capable of mass-producing graphene systems which remains unmet.”

If he can figure out a process to mass produce graphene, then options will open to combat the climate crisis.

“Canada is heating up twice as fast as the world average. Last year we saw forest fires in virtually every province in Canada, including Ontario, spreading toxic smog for Canadians to breathe that has crossed our borders to the United States as well as the Atlantic Ocean all the way to Europe,” says Riad. “Carbon conversion catalysts, such as graphene, reuptake CO2 thus reducing their concentration in the atmosphere. It is vital to develop scalable carbon conversion technologies, and widely deploy them to help combat the climate crisis.”

Riad will work with Canada Research Chair in Particle Technology and Combustion Engineering and Carleton Assistant Prof. Reza Kholghy whose lab is one of two in Canada that has a Flame Spray Pyrolysis Reactor.

“Prof. Kholghy’s expertise is in controlling soot using flame spray pyrolysis,” says Riad. “If I am able to control the properties of the soot that is a carbon material as graphene is, then I should be able to understand certain changes in the flame spray pyrolysis to actually make graphene.”

Riad will be co-supervised by Associate Dean in the Graduate Studies (Planning & Awards) and Environmental Engineering Prof. Onita Basu who will facilitate an interdisciplinary exposure to nanomaterial characterization and preparation.

Joshua Steckley, Political Science
Project: Creole pigs and capitalist pigs: How the swine fever eradication and repopulation program in Haiti informs future interventions around disease, capital, and our contradictory relationship to nature.

As someone who is primarily interested in the relationship between capitalism and nature, Joshua Steckley will use his Banting funds to take a closer look at the political-ecological effects of the decimation of Creole pigs in Haiti.

“I want to look at what I believe is a critical turning point in Haiti’s environmental history,” says Steckley.

In 1981, the Creole pig population in Haiti were infected with swine flu. These pigs had been an integral part of Haiti’s economy that had adapted to the country’s landscape over a period of 400 years, and in one fell swoop were completely eradicated out of fear the disease would spread to the U.S. hog industry.

In their place were sent American-bred pigs that were not adapted to the Haitian environment. This caused an economic and environmental ripple effect as the pigs quickly died.

“These American pigs were designed to exist in a particular economy—a capitalist economy with massive investments that go into transforming the genetics of the pig. When you take the same pig and put it in a rural, peasant environment, there is a mismatch. I want to figure out how our attempts to control and redesign nature do not necessarily match with a particular objective we have for that nature,” explains Steckley.

“What we conceptualize as ‘nature’ or ‘biophysical processes’ you cannot just study these things independently from the social relations of power in which they operate.”

Steckley will be conducting his research with Carleton Prof. Peter Andrée and hopes to shed light on how Haiti’s environmental history has shaped the contemporary crisis. Having lived there for five years, the country holds a special place for Steckley.

Federal Government Investment
This year, the government awarded 70 Banting Fellowships across Canada through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (Riad), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Steckley) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

“Congratulations to the 2024 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships and Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships recipients!” said The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry in a press release on May 29, 2024. “Their dedication to advancing knowledge for the benefit of all is truly impressive and their hard work will help find solutions that have the potential to make the world a better place and drive Canadian prosperity.”

The Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships program provides funding to the top postdoctoral applicants, both nationally and internationally, who will positively contribute to Canada’s economic, social, and research-based growth.

Thursday, June 13, 2024 in , , ,
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