AMETHYST Program Background Information

Key AMETHYST Program Features

  • $1,650,000 over 6 years (80 % to go to trainee stipends) (2010-2016)
  • Targeting awards to 50 research trainees over six years
  • 32 external collaborators for internship placements

Main AMETHYST Program Objectives

  • Provide enhanced learning experiences in cross-disciplinary settings
  • Establish a program of workshops and workplace internships
  • Ensure professional skills development for workforce preparation
  • Create a structured and interdisciplinary approach to imaging science education

Primary AMETHYST Research Areas

  • Imaging spectroscopy and remote sensing technologies for resource and environmental monitoring and studies of terrestrial vegetation dynamics
  • Scene physics and analysis research on satellite image understanding
  • Spectroscopic laboratory studies and field instruments  for monitoring atmospheric greenhouse gases
  • Advanced research on magnetic resonance contrast mechanisms of neural tissue and magnetic resonance imaging contrast agents

Related University of Lethbridge Research and Pedagogical Building Blocks in Place

  • Multi-Disciplinary Major BSc in Remote Sensing
  • Terrestrial and Atmospheric Remote Sensing Laboratory Facilities
  • Earth Sensing Laboratory Calibration and Image Correction Services
  • Alberta Water and Environmental Science Building
  • Institute for Remote Sensing and Imaging Spectroscopy (IRIS)

Background and Rationale

Canada has long-standing and demonstrated excellence in domains that have imaging science and technology in common, such as astronomy, brain studies, terrestrial remote sensing, atmospheric remote sensing, kinesiology, and motion picture technologies, among others.  These disciplines and, more often than not, the synergies and convergences between them have led to significant prosperity and quality of life.  According to the US National Academy of Engineering, imaging is number 14 on the list of the 20 greatest engineering achievements of the 20th century.  However, as we move further into the twenty-first century, it is unclear to what extent a new generation of researchers will be ready to take over from the current generation of researchers in these disciplines, just as in many others.  The goal of the NSERC CREATE Program is to tackle this question head on.

Training Program Objectives

Long-Term Goal

The UL is the first university in Canada to offer degrees majoring in Imaging Science, which are usually offered as a concentration or minor in traditional or multidisciplinary degree programs. The distinction is important since imaging science targets a substantial and growing job market in the Canadian knowledge-based economy.  The demand significantly exceeds the demand for graduates with degrees explicitly in imaging science.  AMETHYST provides an essential framework for placing the UL at the foci of this domain.  A parallel vision to be explored during AMETHYST is an interaction with the renowned UL Faculty of Fine Arts, in particular the Department of New Media, with respect to sharing creativity and tools with our program.  The intent is to make the UL the foremost place to go for imaging arts and science studies in Canada and one of the few in North America. 

Program Objectives

Hyperspectral imaging S&T is advancing rapidly and is providing vital geostrategic and biosystemic information in medical, environmental and resource exploration contexts. What is required is a highly trained workforce, prepared to deliver tools and solutions that are relevant and based on sound scientific foundations. The AMETHYST research training program enhances the key building blocks already in place at the UL and provide an exceptional setting for training highly qualified personnel. Providing the glue that pulls together the existing institutional expertise and facilities will further enhance this core research competency. The main objectives of AMETHYST are:

  • Provide unique theoretical and experimental training for students and new researchers.  The AMETHYST experience provides graduates with the right mix of broad theoretical and experimental training and solid training in professional skills that will enable them to pursue science and technology careers in industrial, academic or government settings.
  • Establish a Pathways Program of local, national and international internships, workshops, events and workplace assignments, tailored to each trainee, that provide leading-edge yet hands-on and individualized training in interdisciplinary research and that serve to create contacts between trainees and the workforce.
  • Provide a Canadian solution to Canada's Department of National Defence (DND) requirements for a two-year M.Sc. in Imaging Science (not available in Canada; DND trains individuals in the USA).

Research Training Program

The AMETHYST Pathways Program is designed to expose students to the broader context of imaging S&T. Imaging science is an emergent technology sector that involves a wide variety of disciplines and has become one of the most highly used tools in science, technology and the arts.  Imaging science has grown to become the leading enabling technology for Earth observation, astronomy, environmental science, medical imaging, and climate research to list only a few examples.  As our reliance on imaging grows, the complexity and diversity of knowledge required to understand and make the best use of imaging technologies outstrips the ability of a single discipline to provide comprehensive knowledge.

Training Program Goal

The goal of AMETHYST is to create an interdisciplinary approach to imaging science education from undergraduate to post-graduate training.  Our program is designed to ensure that Canada remains at the forefront of imaging science and technology by using innovative methods for the promotion and enhancement of imaging science across disciplines. Our vision is to enhance learning experiences at all educational levels by providing students with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in cross-disciplinary settings.  At each level, AMETHYST has specific goals with respect to professional skills development in project management, written and oral communication, team building, entrepreneurship, time and stress management, understanding of differences in learning styles, and conflict resolution. Our approach will engender excellent learning, research and technical abilities. AMETHYST trainees with skills in hyperspectral imaging S&T are optimally placed to pursue graduate studies or employment in the resource, environment, geomatics, aerospace, neuro-imaging and security sectors.

The AMETHYST program is based on five key components: 1. Multiple education levels, 2. Blended learning environments, 3. Professional skill development, 4. Interdisciplinary Partners, 5. Defined programming outcomes (Figure 1).  Thses components prepare trainees for the highly interdisciplinary nature of modern imaging S&T and facilitate the transition of trainees into the workforce by providing them with collaborative and integrative educational experiences in interdisciplinary multi-sector contexts.  We have called this approach the AMETHYST Pathways Program which is based on a coaching model, where students are given opportunities to explore a range of available options and learn directly from experts in a variety of settings (academic, government, and industryl).  This exposure is the key to ensuring that our program produces motivated and highly qualified personnel, ready to succeed in the expanding arena of imaging S&T.

Figure 1: AMETHYST Pathways Program

Undergraduate Pathways: Cooperative Education Placements

The AMETHYST Pathways Program draws upon our history of extensive involvement with government and industry organisations and other academic institutions conducting research or developing applications in imaging S&T.  By establishing formal program linkages with other universities, government agencies and industry, undergraduate students get a broad exposure to a diversity of career opportunities.  At the undergraduate level, these pathways consist of three four-month summer internship awards over the duration of the student’s undergraduate training.  Undergraduate students will compete for ten undergraduate awards over the term of the AMETHYST Program.  Each successful student will complete a summer research internship in a UL laboratory.  This placement typically takes place after the first year of study and gives the student exposure to the laboratory setting.  The second placement is an off-campus internship in a government research setting that normally takes place after second year.  The third placement is later in the student’s program (after third or fourth year) and, in contrast to the previous internships, consists of an internship in industry.  Exposure to a broad range of imaging S&T possibilities will provide exposure to a wide range of employment opportunities.  It also serves to enhance the students abilities in key areas of communication, project management, exposure to different work environments, and networking. Each student will track their individual progress by conducting a sequence of skills assessments both prior to and post intership.

Graduate Pathways: Internship in Hyperspectral Science and Technology

AMETHYST post-graduate trainees will broaden their horizons in one or more partner laboratories, with internship opportunities in both computational studies and in the use of the specialized instruments and techniques.  When the regulations of the institutions involved permit, our trainees will be offered the possibility of obtaining an international, jointly-supervised graduate degree granted as a result of studies at two or more participating institutions.

Graduate Pathways: Internships in detail

Graduate students involved in our AMETHYST Pathways Program will hold NSERC Post-Graduate Scholarships, Alberta Ingenuity Graduate Student Scholarships, or UL Graduate Scholarships.  Graduate students involved in the AMETHYST program are awarded a short-term internship.  The goal of this internship is to provide the student with a training experience directly related to their graduate research.  This internship could be hosted by government, industry or university laboratories and would provide additional networking and important skill development for our students.  Students at the master’s level are awarded a single internship, while Ph.D. students receive two research internships.  As many of the students at the graduate level would be joining the AMETHYST program for the first time, the skills and technical workshops are also available to aid in the formulation of a professional development strategy and plan for each student.

AMETHYST also facilitates the participation of graduate students in national and international conferences and meetings that will allow them to validate their work, establish research networks, and develop skills for both research presentations and science presentations to non-scientists. Due to the wide variety of research activities covered by the AMETHYST core team members; graduate students benefit from the transfer of knowledge and expertise between interdisciplinary research groups.  AMETHYST graduate students become directly involved in the research dissemination process to develop and enhance their verbal communication and scientific writing skills.  These opportunities include conferences, specialist meetings and AMETHYST workshops.

AMETHYST Annual Student Workshops

The AMETHYST Pathways Program includes two separate types of workshop to assist trainees with research training objectives and the clarification of their specific career goals.  The workshops are based on a philosophy of “blended learning” whereby students are exposed to diverse learning modalities, environments and technologies that enhance and accelerate the learning process.  Both workshop types take advantage of new instructional technologies such as on-line interactions and dynamic feedback from workshop participants.

  • AMETHYST Workshop on Hyperspectral Imaging Science and Technology (WHIS&T): This annual workshop Technology is a week-long intensive interdisciplinary research training experience open to students and researchers across Canada and internationally.  This workshop may potentially be taken for course credit transferable between institutions.  The workshop is animated by a variety of experts from our AMETHYST partner institutions and by other invited prominent researchers and experts from inside our research fields but from outside our group.  We employ state-of-the-art instructional methodologies and technologies, including creating on-line reflection areas for students to ensure that all students are able to participate and have input in meaningful ways.
  • AMETHYST Workshop on Career Development and Workforce Preparation (WCD&WP):This annual workshop offers trainees a unique and diverse training experience, allowing them to acquire a full scope of individual and team-oriented professional skills that are highly valued in, and optimized for, today’s job market.  This workshop is open to participants from across Canada and internationally that are part of the AMETHYST group at no cost with material available as pod casts. 

Professional Skills Development

A key indicator of program success is a measure of student skill sets.  To this end, a professional development strategy and plan are implemented for each AMETHYST trainee.  The focus of the strategy is to provide an interface between the AMETHYST Pathways Program and the trainee’s career goals. The plan includes a self-assessment of trainee skills (communication, research and planning, interpersonal relations, management and leadership, and work survival) upon entry into the program and a continual review of these skills during the program.  Trainee progress with respect to their professional development strategy and plan is monitored by the AMETHYST Program Coordinator to ensure student development needs are met.   

UofL Experience in Advanced Education

The UL is aggressively enhancing its undergraduate and graduate programs to consolidate its emerging status as a comprehensive university.  As a smaller institution, it has become a leader and developed considerable experience in advanced education methodologies and technologies.  Both the UL Centre for the Advancement of Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CAETL) and the UL Curriculum Re-Development Centre (CRDC) are committed to supporting the AMETHYST Pathways Program on an ongoing basis.  CAETL offers a variety of teaching resources and extensive workshop training expertise as well as consulting services for effective use and evaluation methods for education. CRDC is a UL-funded centre that focuses on enhanced learning through technology integration.

Trainee Interactions with Non-Academic Sectors

Inter-professional non-academic interactions are a primary goal of the AMETHYST Pathways Program, which involves a three-stream interaction model. The model focuses on the trainee internships in government laboratories, industry and non-profit agencies and allows our partners in these sectors to provide their expertise through consultations and feedback on trainee development.  These non-academic interactions are be designed for maximum benefit to the trainee, where the focus is on the continued development of the student’s skill set.  This development is guided by the core team of AMETHYST researchers to attain the goal of developing highly qualified persons with relevant non-academic experience.  Specifics of the three-stream model are as follows.

  • As already noted, each trainee spends one four-month internship in a government institution and one in industry;
  • For each trainee, the collaborating internship hosts are be selected with the trainee’s career plan in mind under the supervision of his mentor (one of the core researchers) and the AMETHYST Program Coordinator;
  • The host agency/company is responsible for engaging the trainee in real-world projects that will be selected jointly by the internship host and the trainee together with his mentor;
  • The host agency is responsible for providing the trainee with logistical support (e.g., computer, office space, supplies, etc.); and
  • The trainee is responsible to participate as an effective team member, generate a written report, and give a seminar about the work carried out.

Interdisciplinary Research Objectives and Projects

The majority of R&D in imaging science is interdisciplinary in nature.  Regardless of the area of domain expertise, imaging science is involved in observation, monitoring, forecasting, and managing information.  These four pillars are vital to future success in Canada in the broad area of hyperspectral imaging S&T.  Our research group is active in many areas of imaging science, including terrestrial imaging, atmospheric remote sensing, and medical imaging research.  Research in these areas provides critical data and information useful for making decisions and solving important problems, but this can only happen if researchers have the necessary skills to make accurate, quantitative measurements and to interpret them correctly.

Investigator and Co-Investigators

  • Dr. Adriana Predoi-Cross, Department of Physics and Astronomy: With academic and industry experience, Dr. Predoi-Cross joined the UL in 2003 and established a research group in molecular spectroscopy for atmospheric remote sensing applications.  Dr. Predoi-Cross serves as the Associate Director of the AMETHYST Program.
  • Dr. Karl Staenz, Department of Geography: Formerly a Senior Research Scientist at the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, Natural Resources Canada, Dr. Staenz joined the UL in 2006, bringing over thirty years of widely recognised experience in hyperspectral remote sensing.  He continues to lead the Canadian effort in terrestrial hyperspectral remote sensing.  Dr. Staenz serves as the Research Coordinator of the AMETHYST Program.
  • Dr. Derek Peddle, Department of Geography: Dr. Peddle joined the UL in 1996 and is the founding member of the UL Remote Sensing/GIS team. His areas of expertise include image processing, software development, field measurement and analysis, and hyperspectral modeling in natural resources management applications such as forestry, watershed studies, mountain terrain analysis and agriculture.
  • Dr. Craig Coburn, Department of Geography: With a broad experience and training in remote sensing, Dr. Coburn brings to our team expertise in remote sensing imaging systems and image processing algorithms, field and laboratory measurements of bidirectional reflectance, and remote sensing applications development.  Dr. Coburn serves as the Education Coordinator of the AMETHYST Program.
  • Dr. Albert Cross, Department of Neuroscience and Department of Physics and Astronomy: With extensive experience in the field of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of biological, solid and hyperpolarized gas systems, Dr. Cross has established a research facility dedicated to investigations of brain function using MRI contrast agents and played a significant role in the training of MRI users at four Canadian MRI facilities.
  • Dr. Anne Smith, Adjunct Professor, UL Department of Geography, and Research Scientist at the Lethbridge Research Centre of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.  Dr. Smith brings to our team extensive expertise in land use monitoring, precision agriculture, and crop and soil remote sensing.
  • Dr. Ron Hall, Adjunct Professor, UL Department of Geography, and Research Scientist with the Northern Forestry Centre of the Canadian Forest Service.  Dr. Hall’s expertise is in the areas of remote sensing and GIS, forest inventory and biophysical parameter estimation (e.g., leaf area index, biomass), and forest health.
  • Professor Dr. Per Jensen, Bergische Universität Wuppertal, Germany: A world-class specialist in molecular spectroscopy, Dr. Jensen brings over two decades of management experience in research and training, most recently as coordinator of the Quantitative Spectroscopy for Atmospheric and Astrophysical Research network (QUASAAR), a Marie Curie Research Training Network supported by the 6th Framework Research Programme of the European Union.  Prior to that, he was coordinator of the research training network on Spectroscopy of Highly Excited Rovibrational States (SPHERS), financed in the 5th Framework Research Programme.