Research Chairs

Current Research Chairs

Dr. Xu Zhang, Canada Research Chair in Healthy Environments and Communities

Dr. Xu (Shine) Zhang has been a part of the Cape Breton University community since 2014. His expertise includes the exploration of nanomaterials for health and environmental applications and research in remediation solutions for water treatment. He examines water pollution related the legacy of the local coke and steel industry over the last century and the related health impacts. As the CRC in Healthy Environments and Communities, Dr. Zhang will develop a world-class, innovative research program aimed at developing important new knowledge and useful technologies that improve environment protection, including water treatment, and environment-related health sciences. Dr. Zhang’s innovative wastewater treatment device has attracted Early Stage Commercialization Funding and government contracts to contribute to real environmental remediation projects, including the Boat Harbour remediation project. Dr. Zhang’s research, while primarily focused on developing solutions to environmental and health issues faced by communities in Cape Breton and Atlantic Canada, is significant, globally relevant, and has wide-reaching impact. Dr. Zhang is a Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute Associate Member, involved in the development of multifunctional material/device platforms for cancer diagnostics and treatment based on nanotechnology. His research program has received over $2.3M in research grants, funded in part, through Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Dr. Bettina Callary, Canada Research Chair in Sport Coaching and Adult Learning

Dr. Bettina Callary is well-recognized as an emerging international leader and scholar in her research, as well as highly regarded in the sport coaching community. Dr. Callary received a full award to Tokyo, Japan to take part in the Coach Developer Academy’s research. This provides Dr. Callary with a prestigious role in coach development through this international research forum. As the Canada Research Chair in Sport Coaching and Adult Learning, Dr. Callary’s focus will be on diverse community engagement, enriching coach development, and contributing to the retention of adult Canadians engaging in physical activity. Dr. Callary’s work focuses on two pillars of research broadly affecting the wellbeing and health of aging Canadians: coaching adult athletes, as well as coach education and development. Led by Dr. Callary since 2013, her groundbreaking research continues to be vital in understanding adults’ distinct psychological and social coaching needs. Dr. Callary holds a PhD in Human Kinetics, and is the leader in program development of the major and honours programs in Sport and Physical Activity Leadership at CBU. Dr. Callary is the Editor-in Chief of the International Sport Coaching Journal. She recently coedited Coach Education and Development in Sport: Instructional Strategies, published in December 2019.


Dr. Lachlan MacKinnon, Canada Research Chair in Post-Industrial Communities

Dr. Lachlan MacKinnon has established his research profile around his work on deindustrialization and post-industrial communities. With his publication record and experience with international collaboration. Dr. MacKinnon is positioned to have a far-reaching impact during his tenure as Canada Research Chair in Post Industrial Communities. Dr. MacKinnon expects the findings of his work as a Canada Research Chair will be of interest to legislators interested in creating policies to respond to the emergent needs of deindustrializing and post-industrial cities and towns across Canada. Dr. MacKinnon was hired as a tenure track Assistant Professor of History at Cape Breton University in 2018. At this early stage of his career, Dr. MacKinnon is quickly emerging as an international expert in his field and a valued member of CBU’s faculty. His peer-reviewed research has appeared in top ranked journals in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Dr. MacKinnon’s research has also received several prizes and awards, including the national Eugene A. Forsey Prize in Canadian Working-Class History. Dr. MacKinnon has presented his research in China, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and the United Kingdom. He is currently preparing for the launch of his book, Closing Sysco: Industrial Decline in Atlantic Canada’s Steel City.

Dr. Kevin McKague, Canada Research Chair in Social Enterprise and Inclusive Markets

Inequality of wealth and income—the gap between rich and poor—continues to grow internationally and within Canada and is higher than at any time in the last 30 years. Globally, 20% of the world’s people live on less than $2/day with climate change and resource intensive growth causing severe strain on the world’s ecosystems, disproportionately affecting the world’s poorest households. Even today, 30,000 children still die daily due to preventable causes and 10% of the world population are undernourished. The world is at a tipping point with these large-scale trends and issues shaping the world of today and the world inherited by future generations. Addressing these issues, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has articulated Canada’s stance: Canadian “leadership should be focused on extending the ladder of opportunity to everyone… We need to give people the tools and ability to help them succeed” and to create real opportunity for the billions of less fortunate people around the world. “In Canada, we get this.” Dr. McKague’s research directly aligns with Canadian values to make a difference in the world, especially for the most vulnerable. Although markets and enterprises are powerful levers to reduce poverty and inequality, they have no inherent moral character and do not necessarily move in that direction. Dr. McKague’s research is focused on how entrepreneurship and markets can be aligned with social values to work for the benefit of everyone as well as the natural environment. Where markets or businesses fail to create wealth or where governments are ineffective at redistributing it, social enterprises and more inclusive markets can create value in ways that meet the needs of disadvantaged individuals and communities. The relevance of Dr. McKague’s research is to understand and to explain the mechanisms through which social enterprises create inclusive markets to increase social equity, meet global sustainable development goals, and leave a positive legacy for the future (

Dr. Heather Sparling, Canada Research Chair in Musical Traditions

Dr. Heather Sparling is the Tier Two Canada Research Chair in Musical Traditions. She has published extensively on Nova Scotia Gaelic song and is also researching Atlantic Canadian disaster songs ( Dr. Sparling is interested in exploring how traditional music helps to sustain communities. For example, she is exploring how Gaelic song can help sustain Nova Scotia’s Gaelic communities, and she’s interested in how disaster songs help grieving communities to cope with – and rebuild from – tragedy and loss. She is also interested in exploring practical applications of her research, such as through a tablet-based museum exhibit in development and through the creation of Gaelic song resources for use by language learners. Dr. Sparling is the recipient of multiple SSHRC and CFI grants and was the first CBU faculty member to win the Association of Atlantic Universities’ Anne Marie MacKinnon Educational Leadership award in 2012. She organized the International Small Island Cultures conference in 2012 and was one of the co-chairs of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education conference in 2013. She is the editor of MUSICultures, the academic journal of the Canadian Society for Traditional Music. She has published numerous articles, including in the top journal in her field, Ethnomusicology.

Mary Beth Doucette, Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies

The Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies will promote interest among Canada’s Aboriginal people in the study of business at the post-secondary level, while undertaking pure and applied research specific to Aboriginal communities. The Chair will focus attention and research efforts on the Membertou Business Model, Unama’ki Partnership Model and national and international comparative analysis. Mary Beth Doucette has been the Executive Director of the Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies at Cape Breton University (CBU) in Sydney, Nova Scotia for the past 5 years. She is a Membertou band member, an Industrial Engineer, and has an MBA in Community Economic Development (CED). Her graduate research at CBU focused on CED in First Nations communities and she has since continued to engage in community building, governance, and Asset Based Community Development activities. She is currently enrolled in a PhD in Management at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, NS, where she continues to build foundational concepts that are of most interest to her including: Etuaptmumk/Two-Eyed Seeing, reconciliation through community leadership, organizational governance, education, and mentorship.

Dr. Bruce G. Hatcher, Cape Breton University Chair in Marine Ecosystem Research

Dr. Bruce Hatcher builds capacity for marine research and ecosystem-based management of natural resource use in the academic, public and private sectors. Educated as a benthic ecologist and oceanographer in Australia, Canada and the United States, Dr. Hatcher has 35 years of post-doctoral experience in marine science as leader of many grant and contract-funded R&D projects world-wide. His primary expertise is the application of ecological theory, empirical analyses and quantitative modelling to understanding and prediction marine ecosystem function. He uses synoptic ecological tools (remote sensing, numerical modelling, GIS) to study ecological connectivity and management decision support in coastal ecosystems. Dr. Hatcher works closely with industry partners on applied research in projects dealing with aquaculture planning, fishery management and stock assessment, marine habitat assessment and restoration, marine productivity offsets, coastal zone planning and adaptation to climate change. Dr. Hatcher strives to reconcile ecologically and economically sustainability use of marine resource through collaborative action and rigorous experimentation.

Dr. Graham Reynolds, Viola Desmond Chair in Social Justice

The Viola Desmond Chair in Social Justice is named in honour of the pioneer Black businesswoman and civil rights icon who many regard as Canada’s Rosa Parks. In 1946, Viola Desmond was wrongfully arrested for refusing to give up her seat in a racially segregated theatre in the town of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. The Chair was created in 2010, following the action of the Nova Scotia Government in posthumously granting Viola Desmond a free pardon. Since its establishment, the first chair holder, Dr. Graham Reynolds, has been active in raising awareness about the history of Blacks and the struggle for racial equality in Canada. His recent book, Viola Desmond’s Canada: A History of Blacks and Racial Segregation in the Promised Land (Fernwood Publishing, 2016) is the first authoritative and comprehensive account of the Viola Desmond story and the history racial segregation in Canada. It is written for general readers as well as all students of Canadian history.


Past Research Chairs

Dr. Martin Mkandawire, Industrial Research Chair in Mine Water Remediation and Management

Dr. Martin Mkandawire joined the Verschuren Centre as Industrial Research Chair of Mine Water Management in October 2012.  The Mine Water Chair position was created in partnership with Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation to gather and develop best practices on all aspects of mine water management. Dr. Mkandawire’s program examines options around the natural, passive discharge of flooded mine water – offering the potential to greatly reduce future management costs in Cape Breton and other mining sites around the world. This area has the additional commercial potential to use the mine water as a geothermal renewable energy source. The core focus of mine water research is to manage mine pools at former mine sites by cost-effectively mitigating environmental damage. The Centre’s mine water management and environmental remediation chairs collaborate on several projects.

Dr. Marcia Ostashewski, Canada Research Chair in Communities and Cultures

Dr. Marcia Ostashewski is the Tier Two Canada Research Chair in Communities and Cultures. Dr. Ostashewski’s work is specific to communities with a focus on music, dance and digital humanities research, as a mean to address concrete social problems. This research will improve understandings of music, dance and digital media, and how we create and make them meaningful in our lives. With the support of The Canadian Foundation for Innovation and Nova Scotia Research Innovation Trust, Dr. Ostashewski’s research will help to foster the collaborative creation, presentation and critical scholarly inquiry into innovative, creative music and dance projects to address concrete social problems together with the communities that face them.


Dr. Keith G. Brown, Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies

The first Purdy Crawford Chair holder, Dr. Keith Brown was appointed in 2011. Dr. Brown has demonstrated interest and commitment to Aboriginal education. His professional and academic experience spans local, regional and national First Nations issues and he is recognized as an international educator, author and speaker on the subject of Cultural Tourism Marketing. His leadership has supported partnerships, research, programming, national accomplishments and most importantly, successful graduates. In his role as a Shannon School of Business faculty member, Dr. Brown sees the establishment of the Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies as a critical next step to guide and generate business strategies destined to influence and impact Aboriginal communities across Canada.


Dr. Ken Oakes, Industrial Research Chair in Environmental Remediation

As Industrial Research Chair in Environmental Remediation, Dr. Oakes is involved with examining the long-term integrity of managed sites through remediation technology. His research focuses on understanding and predicting the impact and fate of chemicals in the environment. This includes working with the Centre’s Mine Water Management Chair to assess ecosystem risks of mine water discharges in relation to their impacts on freshwater aquatic systems. Ken’s portfolio also includes conducting and developing research related to emerging environmental technologies – nanotechnology and biosensors.


Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo, Canada Research Chair in the Determinants of Healthy Communities

Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo completed part of her Tier Two Canada Research Chair in the Determinants of Healthy Communities at Cape Breton University. Dr. Cunsolo’s research will improve knowledge surrounding the causes of health disparities and develop strategies to decrease health inequities in many parts of Canada. Using community-engaged health research, Dr. Cunsolo’s research supports and enhances the determinants of healthy communities in resource-dependent, rural and remote, and Aboriginal populations across Canada. For more information visit



Dr. Christian Wolkersdorfer, Industrial Research Chair in Mine Water Remediation and Management

Dr. Christian Wolkersdorfer completed his term as the Industrial Research Chair in Mine Water Remediation and Management in 2012. The Mine Water Chair position was created in partnership with Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation and housed at the Verschuren Centre. Mine Water Remediation and Management Chair investigated the hydrogeochemistry and hydrodynamics of mine water. In particular, the Chair’s program focused on the 1B mine pool of the flooded Sydney Coal Mine Field – a passive mine water treatment system, consisting of a settling pond and an aerobic wetland. The Mine Water team conducted monitoring and flow measurements, as well as a Settling Pond Test; further, the research team used a Geographical Information System (GIS) to georeference and vectorize local mining maps, processing and recording data, measuring the stratification of underground flooded mines, and conducting tracer tests.

Dr. Dale Keefe, Canada Research Chair in Molecular Spectroscopy

Dr. Dale Keefe completed his five year term as a Tier Two Canada Research Chair in Molecular Spectroscopy in 2011.  Dr. Keefe studies weak interactions in liquids, particularly hydrocarbons; his research interests are focused on understanding how iterations within liquids affect their physical and chemical properties from both experimental and theoretical perspectives. Dr. Keefe was awarded the CBU Instructional Leadership and the CBU Alumni Excellence in Teaching Awards in 2009.  He is listed in the Canadian Who’s Who and was inducted into the Science Atlantic Hall of Fame in 2012.  Author of more than 50 publications and with more than 70 conference presentations. Dr. C. Dale Keefe is Vice President Academic and Provost at Cape Breton University.


Dr. Richard MacKinnon, Canada Research Chair in Intangible Culture

Dr. Richard MacKinnon completed his seven year term as a Tier One Canada Research Chair in Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2012. His research interests include all aspects of Atlantic Canada’s culture including oral traditions, music, language, material culture and vernacular architecture. He is the founding director of the Centre for Cape Breton Studies, a research centre that includes a state-of-the-art digitization lab and the Rotary Music Performance Analysis Room. His publications include Vernacular Architecture in the Codroy, Newfoundland (Ottawa: National Museum of Civilization, 2002), and Discovering Cape Breton Folklore (Sydney: Cape Breton University Press, 2009). He is the editor of Material Culture Review which is distributed to more than 20 countries.  He has developed numerous multimedia tools, recordings and websites for the communication of research.


Dr. Cheryl Bartlett, Canada Research Chair in Integrative Science

Dr. Cheryl Bartlett completed her Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Integrative Science in 2013. Integrative Science is the concept pioneered at CBU, in conjunction with Aboriginal Elders and educators, by which Indigenous and Western worldviews in science and education are brought together for the benefit of all people. “My research program sits at the nexus of science, culture, and society”, says Dr. Bartlett. “It serves an overall, two-fold, long-term goal: to help Aboriginal individuals and Indigenous knowledges become increasingly and actively involved in science in the 21st century, AND to help mainstream science better engage with Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing.”