Some research labs at St. F.X. are enjoying an international flair.
Ricardo Scrosati, associate professor and Canada Research Chair in marine ecology, said St. F.X. is a primarily undergraduate institution, although graduate students at the master’s level have been increasing in quantity in recent years.
“The new aspect is that now even PhD students are being attracted by the university,” he said.
In Scorsati’s case, his marine ecology lab is hosting a PhD student from Egypt and another from Germany.
“[This] is great, because we’ll increase our international links once they return to their home countries and because we’re attracting funds from other countries as they come with their own scholarships.
“Also, obviously we can increase our research productivity because they’re more mature, experienced students than undergraduates.
“Ultimately, the fact that St. F.X. is attracting international PhD students is making our university a more exciting place, and certainly more competitive at an international level”.
Julius Ellrich of Germany, who has been in Antigonish since last August, said he started studying biology 2007 while completing his masters at Phillips University of Marburg. He then attended the Marine Biological Institute to complete his masters thesis.
“This was around the time when we established the contact here with Ricardo,” Ellrich said. “The contact was made by my former supervisor.”
After finishing his masters thesis he came to St. F.X.
He said he decided to come to this area because he wanted to study abroad and experience a new country and culture.
Ehab El-Belely is a native of Egypt. He said he completed his masters degree in soil studies.
El-Belely said he felt he needed to know more about marine ecology.
“We have a very beautiful coast there which has high diversity.”
El-Belely said he received a scholarship from his government to study marine ecology abroad so he began searching for a good supervisor.
“And I found Ricardo.”
Scrosati said it’s fun and exciting to have international PhD students studying in his lab.
“It’s fantastic to have people from different cultures, getting to know them and getting to know more about the world,” he said. “As PhD students they have done their masters, they have done honours and they come with an expertise that undergrad students do not have. It brings expertise and new ideas. Hopefully they learn a little bit from me and I learn a lot from them.”
Ellrich said he has really enjoyed his time in Canada, adding he is enjoying experiencing his first Canadian winter.
“I’m also from a more rural area in Germany so it’s pretty much the same. The interesting thing is the country itself is so huge. When I did my masters I was in Heligoland which just one square kilometre. Now I have thousands of square kilometres.”
El-Belely has been conducting his research at St. F.X. since May 2008 and has enjoyed it.
“Especially the summer which is equal to the winter in Egypt,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a very quiet town – I am from Cairo. There are many people there.”
It has been a very different experiencing doing research in Canada, El-Belely said, adding the environment here is more stressful then in Egypt.
Scrosati said he plans to attract more international PhD students to the university, adding because he has a Canada Research Chair he is expected to conduct a lot of research.
“St. F.X. doesn’t have a PhD program but honestly I think we should. A number of professors actually have lost their basic research grants – it’s because NSERC [Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada] is pressing to get higher productivity. It’s becoming more competitive.”
St. F.X. has a masters program, Scorsati said, but it relies on research done by undergrad students.
“It’s becoming, I think, less and less competitive in that respective. I think the university really needs to strengthen grad studies as part of the whole university experience for students.”
He added he is encouraging colleagues to bring in more PhD students – national and internationally.
“You can get a lot more done and it’s more fun – the whole experience.”