Roberta Barker and Randall Martin named to new Royal Society college

- September 19, 2014

(Dr. Martin photos NSERC; Dr. Barker photos Danny Abriel)
(Dr. Martin photos NSERC; Dr. Barker photos Danny Abriel)

The Royal Society of Canada is venerable institution — more than 130 years old — and being named a fellow is one of the highest recognitions a Canadian academic can receive. Normally, fellowship comes later in a distinguished career. But for two Dalhousie faculty members, Roberta Barker and Randall Martin, the honour has come comparatively early.

That’s because the RSC has created a new College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. Its mission is “to address issues or particular concern to new scholars, artists and scientists, for the advancement of understanding and the benefit of society, taking advantage of the interdisciplinary approaches fostered by the establishment of the College.”

Dr. Barker and Dr. Martin are two of the 91 inaugural members of the college drawn from universities across Canada. 

Bridging disciplines

“I was blown away to be invited to join the college," says Dr. Barker. “It’s a big honour.”

An associate professor in Dal’s Fountain School of Performing Arts and at King’s, Dr. Barker is an award-winning research and teacher, and an active director of opera and theatre.Her research focuses on the relationship between performance and the social construction of identity. Her latest investigations explore the performance of illness in the 19th century.

“In the last few years, I’ve had the chance to get involved with interdisciplinary projects relating to medical history and medical humanities, and that has been extremely exciting,” she says.

Halifax and the Canadian contexts have particularly inspired her work. “I’ve become really committed to the study of performance in Canada, partially because it’s such a fabulous theatrical community today and partially because the history of realism in Canada is incredibly interesting. As a theatre historian, Halifax is an awesome place to be because it was a hive of theatrical activity in the late 18th and 19th centuries.”

Improving our understanding

Dr. Martin is a Killam Professor in the Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science as well as the Department of Chemistry. He leads the Atmospheric Composition Analysis group.

“We seek to understand how humans or the environment interacts with the atmosphere to influence its composition and how that influences the quality of air that we breathe,” he explains.

The group combines satellite remote sensing, global modeling and ground-based observation to produce an estimate of fine particulate matter in the atmosphere. The estimates they produce inform policy decisions to improve the health of Canadians and are also used to improve awareness of the quality of air that people breathe around the world.

“My work is inspired by concern for human well-being and for the environment in which we live… I enjoy trying to understand why things happen, how things happen and I enjoy the stimulation of working with talented people around the world.”

Government departments like Health Canada and Environment Canada, as well as public policy organizations like the World Health Organization and the World Meteorological organization, are using Dr. Martin’s work to make policy recommendations and decisions. He has won prestigious awards for his research and teaching, including the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship.

Both researchers will be officially welcomed into the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists at a ceremony in November.

RSC videos

Roberta Barker

Randall Martin


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