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Maple League Funding Spotlight – Semi-Conductors: Fundamental and Applied Photochemical Research

Updated: Dec 13, 2021

Principal Investigator: Dr. Geneice Hallett Tapley (St. FX) Team Member: Dr. Matthew Lukeman (Acadia)

In early September 2019 at a series of town halls, the Maple League launched four new funding opportunities to promote and facilitate collaborative research, innovative teaching, spring and international field study programs, and travel amongst our four campuses. We are delighted to share, in a series called the Maple League Funding Spotlight, the funded projects for 2019 – 2020.

We had a chance to sit down with Dr. Geneice Hallett Tapley from St. Francis Xavier University to talk about her project and learn more about collaboration across the four universities.

JESSICA RIDDELL (EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE MAPLE LEAGUE): The guiding question that animates all our Maple League collaborations is: “What can we do together that we cannot do on our own?” How does this resonate with the project you’ve undertaken?

GENIECE HALLETT-TAPLEY, PRINCIPAL INVESTGATOR (ST. FX UNIVERSITY): The proposed research will provide an opportunity for Dr. Hallett-Tapley and Dr. Lukeman to forge a new collaborative relationship that is built on a foundation of research and training commonality – photochemistry. Both Dr. Hallett-Tapley and Dr. Lukeman are of similar educational backgrounds and are eager to embark on a new research endeavor that allows for the merger of both the fundamental and applied areas of our common interests. The proposed work will allow for not only the sharing of research ideas, but also provide a platform for the joint use of a variety of research equipment. Undergraduate research students will be trained in a unique experiential learning environment, gaining laboratory experience at both institutions and observe the requirement of fundamental knowledge for the design of application-based chemical systems.

JR: Maple League universities endeavor to individualize undergraduate education with a holistic approach to learning within the classroom and beyond. How does your work benefit from working and learning in relationship-rich environments?

GHT: Given the large emphasis of all Maple League institutions on offering premier undergraduate educational experiences, the primary focus of the described research will be to offer a unique experiential learning opportunity for undergraduate students at two of Canada’s top undergraduate institutions in two vibrant, and active, research laboratories with state-of-the-art photochemical techniques.

The proposed work will allow undergraduate students a unique chance to participate in experimental design and implementation in both fundamental and applied chemical research. Students will gain experience in a myriad of photophysical techniques under the supervision of Dr. Lukeman at Acadia, while gaining an understanding of novel light-induced applications with Dr. Hallett-Tapley at StFX. Producing well-rounded undergraduate researchers from our institutions will better position our graduates to contribute in future positions in both industry and academia.

JR: What kind of impact do you hope to have – on your own work, on institutional cultures, or beyond the academy – with your project?

GHT: Ideally, we foresee this project as having a major impact on transforming the way we train our chemistry undergraduate students at both institutions. The funding from Maple League will allow our undergraduates an opportunity to travel and undertake work in two lab settings during the summer research season. The proposed work is an area in which Dr. Tapley and Dr. Lukeman have had interest for some time, with the allotted fund providing a platform to bring our visions to fruition. Long-term goals involve the successful development of a solid-state catalyst that will have long reaching impacts in environmental chemistry and in the water treatment industry.

JR: Can you share any advice to others who might be interested in collaborating across institutions?

GHT: Do not hesitate to pursue your ideas based on shared research interests! Research originating from primarily undergraduate institutions is impactful in the Canadian scientific community, aided through shared resources/ideas and facilitated by support from local funding bodies, such as the Maple League of Universities.

Interested in learning more? Here is a brief description of the project:

The current collaboration between the Hallett-Tapley (StFX) and Lukeman (Acadia) research groups aims to design a series of materials that are capable of improving the sustainability of water decontamination procedures. Many water contaminants, both industrial and pharmaceutical, enter water sources through improper disposal or livestock waste. Unfortunately, many of the current methods of water remediation require the additional of chemical additives that provide sufficient decontamination of microbial contaminants, but have little effect on industrial or pharmaceutical pollutants. Of the methods that have acquired success in mitigating the latter contaminants, several require the use of solid materials hampered by the drawbacks of high energy, UV light activation and incomplete removal from the watershed (a consequence of their common small particle size).

Given this, the work to be funded by the Maple League of Universities will aim to design reusable materials constructed from low cost components that are easily removed from the treated areas and implicate lower energy, visible light sources to initiate decontamination properties. Persistent phosphors, such as doped strontium aluminates (SrAl2O4:Eu2+,Dy3+), are cost effective materials that have long been employed as prolonged afterglow materials and exhibit high brightness in both the blue, green and red regions of the light spectrum. However, despite their known photosensitive properties, the chemical applications of these materials are considerably underdeveloped. As such, the goal of the current work will be to design phosphor/semiconductor hybrids for use as novel, visible light activated materials to aid in the removal of industrial and pharmaceutical pollutants from local fresh water sources.

Contact us:

For more information about this project, contact Dr. Hallett-Tapley at

For more information on funding opportunities, visit:

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