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Postdoctoral Profile: Alexander Cancelli
Even from a young age I was captivated by our natural world. This fascination motivated me to pursue environmental engineering at Carleton University where I began to truly appreciate the complexities in the science of the environment. When I finished my degree I began working for an environmental consulting firm responsible for large scale site reclamation and remediation in Ontario. During this time I worked on a variety of contaminated sites projects, but found there were few feasible options for contaminated site cleanup. I began to wonder how nature based systems like wetlands can help with contaminated site remediation. This idea lead me to pursue graduate studies at SFU in 2014. And now, I have now completed a Master's of Environmental Toxicology and a Ph.D in Resource and Environmental Management (REM) focused on developing treatment wetlands as a remediation strategy for wastewater generated by the Canadian oil sands industry. What I love about this work is how it pulls together elements of environmental chemistry, engineering, and toxicology, allowing me to make my work an applied and interdisciplinary science. This interdisciplinary has been engrained by the teachings in REM. It is my firm belief that many of the complex environmental challenges that we face today would not just benefit from an interdisciplinary approach, but entirely depend on it as a driver to create effective, sustainable, science-based solutions.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?
When I considered SFU as a destination for graduate studies I was excited by the idea of being mere steps away from the natural systems that I had studied in books and that have amazed me from a young age. Having mountains, ocean, lab, and library essentially all in the same view has provided daily doses of motivation to continue my research that may help to protect these natural areas that I admire, and contribute to a more sustainable world.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RESEARCH OR YOUR PROGRAM TO A FAMILY MEMBER?
My research investigates the natural power of wetlands to remove pollutants from water. This process occurs through a series of complex biogeochemical reactions. My research looks at constructing wetlands to harness this natural ability of pollutant removal for contaminated wastewaters. Specifically, this work looks at how constructed wetlands can be used in Canada's oil sands industry as a treatment option for their oil sands process-affected water generated during bitumen extraction. I am working towards better understanding the fate of contaminants in these wetlands and investigating what wetland processes are most important for the removal of industrial contaminants.
WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?
The School of Resource and Environmental Management at SFU provides a wonderful learning experience for graduate work. As a REM student, you feel you are part of a community of like-minded students and faculty, and yet there is such diversity in the research. This helps to foster interdisciplinary thought and discussion and supports effective research. Together, these elements create a unique experience that is both academically challenging and highly rewarding.
HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR-FUNDED AWARDS? IF SO, PLEASE TELL US WHICH ONES AND A LITTLE ABOUT HOW THE AWARDS HAVE IMPACTED YOUR STUDIES AND/OR RESEARCH.
I have been very fortunate to be the recipient of the Canadian Pacific/Teck Resources Award for Environmental Innovation, the Simons Foundation Graduate Award in the Faculty of Environment, three Mitacs Accelerate Ph.D internships, and the Mitacs Elevate Postdoctoral Fellowship award. I am very grateful for these funding awards that allow me to remain focused on my academic work.
Contact Alexander: email@example.com