Student Spotlight


Reading Between the Lines

By Kris Foster

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photo is by Scott Bell

The world can be noisy

Adam Pottle wrote a play entitled Ultrasound. It is about a husband and wife, deaf and hard of hearing, respectively, trying to have a child that is deaf and what happens when they find out the fetus can hear.

Towards the end of the story, the wife, Miranda, speaks into a tape recorder and comments on the nature of sound and silence: “The world can be noisy. noise can curl under every door and around every corner, through every rind in the brain and every ventricle in the heart... but at the same time, silence isn’t synonymous with peace. So much happens in a quiet room. The world moves, but we don’t hear it.”

Adam Pottle was born with hearing impairment in both ears, and his experience helped set the course for his PhD dissertation in English at the U of S.

With a $40,000 grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Pottle is examining how disabilities and deafness are portrayed in contemporary Canadian fiction, an area that has not really been studied before.

"Part of it is my own impairment; I was curious about how people with disabilities are portrayed in literature," explained Pottle, a creative writer, who through novels and poetry, depicts a range of characters with disabilities.

But unlike the positive characters Pottle creates in his fiction, his research has uncovered a spectrum of coverage. "There are cases where novels present characters with disabilities as dynamic and positive. Others stigmatize it, depict it negatively, using it as a metaphor for poverty or immorality."

He hopes his work will show that people with disabilities shouldn’t be feared or pitied; they are positive and should be embraced, and this shift will lead to representation that is progressive.

"These stories should be shared. They fill a gap. We have stories and areas of study that are based on gender and race relations, but even though people with physical disabilities are one of the largest physical minorities in Canada, they are not often written about academically or creatively in a way that emphasizes the cultural point of view, as opposed to the medical or political."

Disabilities are a part of everyday life, he said, and because of the aging population in Canada, they will become even more prevalent.

"We will need to deal with disabilities more than ever. The more information we have to deal with it and understand it, the better off we are as a society."

Snow Sounds

By Kris Foster

Love, hate, back pain, white Christmas and everything in between. that’s what snow brings with it each winter.

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But for Nicholas Kinar, a PhD student in hydrology, the white stuff sparked a curiosity about how the “sound of snow” could be used to predict floods, droughts, climate change and avalanches.

To learn as much as possible about the snow packs in the mountains, Kinar (BSc'05, MSc'07) invented and developed the System for the Acoustic Sensing of Snow (SAS2), a device that consists of a customized circuit board, a lithium battery, a GPS device, a speaker and 24 pill-sized microphones.

"By sending sound waves into snow packs and capturing the sound that bounces back,wecanmodelthecharacteristicsofthesnowpack,”explainedKinar.“Wecan get pretty accurate measurements of snow water equivalency, snow depth, snow density and layers, temperature, heat flux and wetness."

So every winter, Kinar and his supervisor John Pomeroy (BSc'83, PhD'88), Canada Research Chair in Water Resources and Climate Change, head to the snow-covered mountain areas in Alberta to collect information. Kinar straps the SAS2 into a modified jogging stroller that allows the device’s speaker to send a static sound into the snow and the microphones to capture the reflected sound as he pushes it over the snowpack. The GPS marks the location, and the resulting information is later fed into a modeling program that can measure the snow’s physical properties.

By getting accurate measurements of these snow parameters, he explained,"you can predict a number of things, like when, to within a couple of minutes, snow will melt and how much water will result. About 80 per cent of the water in the South Saskatchewan River comes from snowmelt, so this information is critical to floods and droughts."

In the past, Kinar explained, snow measurements were invasive—similar to archaeology dig sites."They destroyed the snow pack, meaning you couldn’t sample the same point more than once in order to track physical changes over time."

Kinar's method allows for the measurement and comparison of snow properties over time and "will allow for models to more adequately predict future weather and climate change."

With snow playing such a major role in Saskatchewan, Canada and the world, Kinar sees the SAS2 as an important tool in predicting climate change, flooding and drought, and even avalanches.

Hip Hop Grad

By Betsy Rosenwald

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photo by Nadya Kwandi Redworks studios

Lindsay Knight’s life is quite the balancing act. Knight (BA’10) is a wife, a mother to a young son, and a graduate student in the College of Arts and Science working on her thesis on Indigenous music. On top of all of that, she still finds the time to pursue a career as an award-winning hip hop artist and is currently working on her fifth album.

Known to her fans as Eekwol, Knight, originally from the Muskoday First Nation, has been writing and performing since 1998, receiving the Canadian Aboriginal Music Award for Best Hip Hop/Rap Album in 2005.

"When I began writing lyrics, I just loved doing it. To talk about those issues and not be afraid of what people thought was liberating for me," said Knight who, through her music that is inspired by her culture and community, has become a role model, especially for Aboriginal youth.

Knight, however, was reluctant to accept public speaking invitations, convinced that she spoke better through her music. But once she relented, she was surprised at her ability to relate to young people.

"It’s a role that I didn’t expect to have but I can’t turn away from. I have too much compassion because I understand that our pain is generational. There is this colonial history we have that is so powerful that explains the way things are today. If we can talk to young people earlier on, they can develop a foundation of pride, of belonging and identity."

One of the messages Knight tries to get through is that education is liberating and can open unexpected doors for them. It is a message she herself has taken to heart, and after she finishes her thesis, she hopes to teach and remain a part of the university community.