Marc Nantel is the Vice-President of Research, Innovation & Strategic Enterprises, leading the Research & Innovation and Government Relations divisions of the college. He is also the President of the Niagara College Learning Enterprises Corporation (NCLEC), which includes overseeing the operations and strategic direction for the Niagara College Teaching Winery, Teaching Brewery, Teaching Cidery, Teaching Distillery, and Cannabis Institute. Marc joined Niagara College in July 2011; prior to that, he had been involved with the college as a Board Member (2006-11) and as the Project Manager/Director from the Ontario Centres of Excellence. As such, he helped introduce the Photonics programs at the Welland Campus. Marc is a Physics graduate from McGill University (BSc 1987, MSc 1990) and from the Institut National pour la Recherche Scientifique – Energie et Matériaux (PhD 1994). He spent four postdoc years in France and at the University of Michigan, pursuing ever shorter laser-produced visible and x-ray pulses and their applications; he was an Adjunct Professor of Physics at the University of Toronto from 1998 to 2008. He has published more than 90 papers and given more than 200 academic and industrial presentations. Marc is a Senior Member of SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics.
Research, Innovation & Strategic Enterprises
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Krystle Grimaldi is responsible for the day-to-day operations and internal processes, including administration and project management, of Niagara College’s Research & Innovation Division. Krystle’s experience with the division also includes being the Research Project Manager for the Agriculture & Environment portfolio. Prior to undertaking her role as project manager, Krystle started with the department as Co-ordinator of the Niagara Environmental Corps organizing community events and educational outreach initiatives in elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools. Krystle brings to her role experience working with Niagara organizations through her involvement with Niagara Sustainability Initiative where she assists organizations in improving both their environmental and economic performance through carbon management. Krystle holds an undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences from Brock University and a post-graduate certificate in Environmental Management and Assessment from Niagara College.
Research & Innovation
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Carolyn Mullin is the Director – Strategic Partnerships, with the Research & Innovation division. She joined Research & Innovation in 2012 after several years in the communications industry, including many as a newspaper reporter and editor, and an award-winning freelance writer for publications across the country. More recently, Carolyn has worked as a communications specialist in the non-profit and government sector, based in the Niagara region. As part of the Research team, she is responsible for funding proposal development, business development operations, and the creation and dissemination of research-based communications, in all relevant forms. She also oversees the two multi-institution networks led by Niagara College – the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI), and the Greenhouse Technology Network (GTN). Carolyn is a graduate of the Journalism program at Niagara College, and holds an Honours BA and an MA, both in English, from Brock University.
David DiPietro is the Manager, Business Development, with the Research & Innovation Division. As Manager, Business Development, David works with the Business Development Coordinator and all Innovation Centres to support the strategic planning and execution of industry and community partner recruitment. As the main liaison for course-based project support, he also works with faculty and academic schools to bring meaningful engagement in course-based research opportunities into the classroom, to the benefit of all involved – industry, students and faculty. With the development of the college’s Dream Big fund, David will play a similar liaising role with our academic partners and NC staff in making their exploratory research project plans a reality.
David has returned to Niagara College, where he started his career as the Course-Based Coordinator with R&I, before moving to Brock University in 2016 to take on roles centred on experiential learning opportunities, including Experiential Education Coordinator, and most recently Senior Experiential Education Coordinator with the Goodman School of Business. He has also taught part-time in a capstone course with the (former) Canadian Food & Wine Institute, and worked as acting co-op employer relations consultant for technology programs for one term.
David graduated from the Business Administration – Marketing Co-op program at NC, and has completed a Social Media Marketing post-graduate certificate from George Brown College. He is currently working on his BA in Business Communications at Brock University.
He is on the Wavemakers Advisory Board and currently sits on the Grant Review Committee of the Niagara Community Foundation.
Tess Finlay is the Business Development Coordinator for the Research & Innovation(R&I) Division at Niagara College. She joined the division in November 2023. In her role, Tess supports the Business Development Manager and all four Innovation Centres with industry and community partner recruitment, new project development & event execution.
Tess graduated from Humber College with an Advanced Diploma in Public Relations. Prior to her role with R&I, Tess worked alongside some of Canada’s most notable and impactful charities such as World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Free the Children and Environment Defence Canada. Most recently, she worked with Cyber-Seniors Inc. where she played a key role in successfully growing the organizations’ community engagement and expansion across North America.
With more than 10 years in the field, Tess has assisted in the execution of various national marketing campaigns and promotional events, established strategic alliances with Fortune 100 companies, and implemented a number of highly successful partnership programs.
Tess currently sits on the Canadian Board of Directors for Cyber-Seniors Inc.
Paula Reile is the Research Program Manager overseeing the Business & Commercialization Innovation Centre. In this role, she guides a team offering real-world solutions to small- and medium-sized enterprises in areas such as initial market research to full commercialization strategies, as well as a suite of business operations solutions. Paula is a graduate of two Niagara College programs: Sales & Marketing (2016) and Advanced Marketing Administration (2017); soon after, she started her own marketing company. She also has a number of years experience working with the Research & Innovation division at the College. Prior to her post as Project Manager, she spent seven months as a Research Lead with the Business & Commercialization Innovation Centre and before that, she was a Research Assistant, where she provided new and existing businesses with marketing solutions. Paula spent a decade in the insurance industry prior to pursuing marketing as a career.
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Helen Duffy is a Research Lead with the Business & Commercialization Solutions team. In this role, she supports student and post-graduate research assistants in offering real world solutions to business seeking to solve various business challenges. Helen holds a post graduate certificate in Public Relations and Events Management through the Public Relations Institute of Ireland, a Master’s degree in Community and International Development and a BA degree in Economic and Social Policy which are both awarded by the National University of Ireland, Galway.
She has worked for several years with various business ranging from Fortune 500 companies, media organizations, start-ups, research organizations and social enterprises. Prior to her current role as a Research Lead, she worked in communications and marketing roles primarily with a focus on marketing strategy.
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As Acting Associate Director and Research Program Manager, Kristine is responsible for the overall management of the Food & Beverage Innovation Centre which includes managing funding portfolios, human resources, operations, and client services for both applied research and fee-for-service activities.
The Food & Beverage Innovation Centre is dedicated to assisting food and beverage industry partners with their research, innovation, and commercialization needs through collaborative applied projects involving NC’s students, expert faculty/staff, and outstanding infrastructure.
Kristine joined the division in 2013, working as the Industry Liaison Officer, with the responsibilities of managing contracts, promotional activities and communications with external partners. She has taught Marketing for Niagara College’s Continuing Education and brings to her role more than 20 years of project management experience in various sectors, including consumer packaged goods and food innovation.
Kristine holds an undergraduate degree in Communications from Brock University, and has studied food science at University of Guelph and at Niagara College. In her spare time, she volunteers for the David Suzuki Foundation by promoting environmental stewardship through native plantings and designing outdoor spaces for wildlife habitats.
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Dr. Ana Cristina Vega Lugo is the Scientific Manager for the Food & Beverage Innovation Centre, part of the Research & Innovation Division at the College. Ana Cristina is responsible for managing the research/student team and resources required for all product and process innovation, food safety, analytical lab and label compliance services, and other technical service and applied research activities.
A trained food engineer and scientist with a PhD degree in food science, Ana Cristina has 10 years’ experience in food science and commercialization, including in development, troubleshooting and applicable packaging science and technology. Her most recent position was with Hela Spice Canada as a senior product developer.
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As Lab Technologist with the Food & Beverage Innovation Centre at the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus, Kelly Byer is responsible for managing the College’s four research labs – facilities which allow students to explore such areas of food science as microbiology, chemistry, sensory analysis and shelf-life testing.
The labs are equipped with leading-edge technology; all part of the extensive services, from new recipe development to regulatory assistance and nutritional labelling, which are offered to food and beverage industry partners in need of research, innovation and commercialization assistance.
Kelly has spent most of her career either in the field or in a lab coat, in biological control of weeds, first at the University of Guelph and then at Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada in Saskatchewan. In addition to extensive research activities at AAFC, she oversaw all aspects of lab management and found time to write, edit and review numerous scientific publications and research reports. She also brings previous experience in quality and food safety programs; compliance with regulatory programs and standards; and new product development.
She has an Honours Biology degree with a minor in Biochemistry from the University of Guelph and also has HACCP and SQF certifications.
In addition to her role at R&I, Kelly is a part-time professor of NC’s Applied Plant Pathology course in the School of Environmental and Horticultural Studies.
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Stephanie Skotidas is the Research & Development Technologist with the Food & Beverage Innovation Centre (FBIC). Working on a variety of applied research projects and technical services for FBIC, Stephanie supports activities related to product development, recipe formulation, sensory evaluations, primary and secondary research and analytical services. Stephanie also works collaboratively with industry partners, faculty, students and graduates in the FBIC food and beverage labs.
Stephanie has a background in chemistry, biology, analytical instrumentation, product development and food safety protocols. She brings to her role more than a decade of experience in her sector, including a position as R&D Food Technologist with Sensient Flavors Canada and as an Assistant Winemaker with Andrew Peller Ltd. She holds a Bachelor in Life Sciences from McMaster University and a diploma in Food and Drug Technology from Durham College.
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As Pilot Plant Production Specialist (PPPS) with the Food & Beverage Innovation Centre, Brad Barta is responsible for the overall management and operation of the Centre’s Beverage and Liquids R&D Pilot Processing Facility (the “Pilot Plant”). This includes delivering, maintaining and training of good manufacturing practices; accountability for regulatory compliance (including recordkeeping and audits); budgeting; maintaining Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), technical quotations; supervision, supervising Pilot Plant staff and students; procurement of ingredients and supplies; sanitation of Pilot Plant and equipment; and the physical delivery of all Food & Beverage Innovation Centre beverage and liquid food production requirements.
Brad has a long-standing relationship with Niagara College, as both an instructor, and most recently as the Lead Brewer with the Niagara College Teaching Brewery, a position he held for 6 years. Besides training more than 300 brewers at NC during his tenure here, he has also hosted countless sensory/tasting sessions, hosted the general-public “Brew Academy” sessions, and taught several courses, including Sensory Evaluation of Beer; History of Brewing; and Brewing Equipment.
From 2016 to 2019, he was the founder and principal brewer at Wooden Horse Brewing Company. He regularly consults on beer development for outside companies; and he was a brewer for the Whitewater Brewing Company in the Ottawa Valley.
Brad, who earned his Brewmaster and Brewery Management Diploma from Niagara College in 2016, also has a management background in the hospitality and service industry.
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Kimberley Cathline is the Research Program Manager of the Horticultural & Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre (HESIC). In her role, she oversees projects in the areas of precision agriculture technology, environmental technology, horticultural practices, and greenhouse research.
Kimberley has 18 years’ experience in applied horticulture research – most recently at the Vineland Research & Innovation Centre – managing numerous horticulture research projects, and previously at the University of California, Davis, where she managed viticulture research in lab, field and greenhouse environments. Kimberley holds a BSc (Hon. with Distinction) in Plant Biology from the University of Guelph and an MSc in Biological Sciences, specializing in Plant Sciences, from Brock University.
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Christine George is the research lead for the Horticultural & Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre (HESIC). She leads and supports the success of applied research projects mainly for the Greenhouse Technology Network, a Niagara College-led initiative that brings together research institutions and greenhouse and technology businesses to accelerate the development, commercialization and adoption of new technologies. Research projects focus on validating novel products and/or technology through testing within greenhouses.
Also a faculty member at NC since 2019, Christine is a partial load professor teaching Plant Science 2 in the School of Environment and Horticulture program. After receiving her Master’s degree in Soil Science (2013) from the University of Guelph, Christine worked as a R&D lab manager for Alpha Agri Products Inc. She has spent the last three years as a private soil health consultant in southern Ontario, dividing her time between contract work with research or grant-driven projects, and soil sampling and analysis.
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Lyndon is responsible for the overall direction, operations and strategic leadership of the Centre. This includes team building and mentorship, public relations, business development and outreach to key industry partners and the successful development and implementation of advanced manufacturing services that meet industry demand for workforce, economic, and talent development.
Lyndon joined the Research & Innovation division after a diversified career, beginning in the culinary arts and eventually leading to economic development, management consulting and business planning. He earned his Culinary Red Seal, and he holds a combined degree in Political Sciences and Labour Studies from Brock University, and a certificate in Economic Development from the University of Waterloo.
With passion for seeing industry succeed, for business development, and strategic planning, Lyndon brings a client-centred focus to the Innovation Centre which recognizes that twinning talent development and knowledge transfer through value-driven R&D supports are key ingredients to the recipe for economic success.
Lyndon is also on the Board of Directors of Tech-Access Canada: a national non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the pan-Canadian network of 60 Technology Access Centres (TACs) – leaders in college applied research and developing new innovative products and solutions using technology.
Neil Wilkinson is the Research Program Manager with the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre. Neil rejoins Niagara College with 8-years in leadership roles in college applied research offices. During that time, he developed and managed applied research teams and projects that provided innovative new products and solutions for small- and medium-sized businesses in the agriculture, food and beverage, advanced manufacturing, and digital health sectors. Working collaboratively with key stakeholders, Neil has written proposals for research grants for Niagara College and Mohawk College.
An eclectic career with experiences in laboratories, entrepreneurship, marketing research, and software programming means Neil brings a breadth of experience as a product developer, service provider, and end customer to his work. Neil’s passions are supporting small- and medium-sized business on their innovation journeys to commercial success and working with early career professionals and watching them grow into well-rounded leaders.
Neil holds an MBA in Innovation Leadership from the Sandermoen School of Business at the University of Fredericton, an Ontario Graduate Certificate in Research Analysis from Georgian College, and a BSc in Applied Biochemistry from Liverpool John Moores University in the United Kingdom.
Dr. Mike Duncan is the Research Chair, Computer Technology with the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre. In the 11 years prior to this move, Mike and his team developed a number of enterprise level data processing portals for various purposes. These portals were designed to allow users to input data, store it, and manipulate it to create outputs relevant to their needs. For example, Mike currently leads a team working on solutions for agriculture partner, SoilOptix®.
Mike has been a steady leader and mentor throughout many of the projects he has worked on. He patiently trains the students as Research Assistants, and supports them when they eventually become graduates working in their respective fields. His focus is to enable students to work on projects where they are going to learn and grow and become a better student and eventually, working professional.
At Niagara College, Mike founded the Centre for Advanced Visualization (CFAV), a research group dedicated to exploring the use of virtual reality (VR) for urban and land use visualization. He received one of the first large grants ever awarded to colleges, when the Ontario Innovation Trust (OIT) invested more than $330,000 in CFAV. He also received one of six NSERC Community College Innovation Pilot Program grants awarded across Canada. In 2006, CFAV Inc. was incorporated to pursue private contracts, so Mike then founded the Augmented Reality Research Centre (ARRC) to continue research into VR and to expand its use into other areas such as precision agriculture.
Mike holds his PhD, MSc, and BSc in Physics from McGill University and a Post Doc in Remote Sensing from the University of Utah. Mike held the position of NSERC Industrial Research Chair for Colleges (IRCC) in Precision Agriculture & Environmental Technologies from 2012 to 2023.
Product development engineering perfectly matches the capabilities and passion that Dr. Al Spence shares as a Research Scientist-Advanced Manufacturing at the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre at the Welland Campus.
Al has degrees from the University of Waterloo in Applied Mathematics (BMath 1984) and Mechanical Engineering (MASc 1986), and a PhD in CAD-based machining simulation from the University of British Columbia (1992). His specialization in computer-aided design and manufacturing automation has led to work in the spacecraft, energy, textile, manufacturing, and medical device industries. He has also been a faculty member in Mechanical Engineering at McMaster University for 23 years, where he completed numerous government-funded research awards and industry contracts, and supervised over 30 graduate students.
He is a regular reviewer of NSERC and OCE grant applications, and has recently served on both the federal and provincial CFI-CITT expert review committees.
This broad influence with an established network of industry and academic collaborators is good fortune for both students and industry partners involved with the Research & Innovation division. As Al notes: “It’s so very difficult to gain this specific experience. The greatest thing that’s happening here at Niagara College is that the students are getting some experience outside the classroom because we actually have matched equipment and expertise.”
In addition to supervising research projects, Al is developing teaching Coordinate Metrology and Product Development notes to share with laboratory students, and soon hopefully a wider audience of college and industry colleagues.
In particular, he is a proponent of TRIZ style design approaches. “Here’s where the creativity comes in,” he explains, “… you take a specific problem, abstract it, and find a different way to look at it. There is a science to design approaches to this that can be taught.”
Brian Klassen is the Research Laboratory Technician with the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC). In his role, he supports all research and technical service activities related to producing and testing prototypes, evaluating new technologies and developing new or improved products or processes for small- and medium-sized businesses. Brian is a graduate of Niagara College’s Electronics Engineering Technology (Co-op) program and has worked in the research labs at both WAMIC and the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre (AETIC). He is also a partial-load professor teaching electronic fabrication skills.
Jesse Hayes is the Research Finance Officer for the Research & Innovation division. Working on all things financial for the division, alongside the Manager of Finance Operations & Compliance, Jesse will also be supporting the networks (Greenhouse Technology Network and the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation), ensuring continuity and continued excellence.
Jesse initially joined Research & Innovation in November 2022 as the Network Project Assistant with the Greenhouse Technology Network. In that role, Jesse supported both network teams, concentrating most of her time on the reporting and administrative responsibilities of GTN. She also supported the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI) during reporting periods and at times, helped with onboarding of new network members.
Jesse has worked in the consulting industry for the past 10 years, managing small-scale projects, providing quality management administration, and compiling technical reports within the construction aggregate industry. A Niagara resident, Jesse holds an Honours BSc from Brock University, as well as a Business Administration diploma from McMaster University.
Rachel Brown is the Manager, Finance Operations and Compliance, for the Research & Innovation division at Niagara College. In this role she oversees all department budgets and financial reporting for the division, making strategic decisions on spending related to funder and agency compliance. She also oversees the metrics collection across all areas of Research & Innovation, to inform institutional planning, funder requirements and grant writing opportunities.
Prior to this, Rachel worked for 13 years with the division, most of that time as the Research Grants and Contracts Officer, sharing her in-depth knowledge of the comprehensive array of grant agency programs, and supporting the research management team in coordinating all submissions, overseeing grant compliance and eligibility and liaises with funders and key stakeholders. She is a graduate of Niagara College’s Business Administration – Operations Management program.
As Research Services Support Officer, Christine Raymond provides clerical, administrative, and research project-related support for the Research & Innovation division and its three Innovation Centres. She is also responsible for all aspects of support related to human resources activities for part-time staff within the division, including students and research graduates. Christine joined the Research & Innovation team in April 2013 as Human Resources & Events Officer. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Western Ontario, she pursued a Human Resources Management (Post Graduate) Certificate from Fanshawe College. With a passion for education, Christine continued her academic pursuits and earned a Master of Science in Education from Medaille College, and has worked as an occasional teacher. Her employment portfolio includes extensive experience planning large-scale events and implementing human resources functions within a number of organizations. She is thrilled to work at a progressive post-secondary institution and is eager to participate in the division’s growth.
Amanda MacDonald is the Proposal Writer for the Research & Innovation division at Niagara College. She joined the division in fall 2023 with a background in community and government relations. Amanda’s key responsibilities include supporting the development team in proposal writing, identifying external funding, and fostering relationships with external funding stakeholders.
Prior to this role, Amanda held the title of Executive Director or Director at various prominent municipal and not-for-profit organizations. An alumnus of Durham College, Canadore College, and Brock University, Amanda also has a Master of Management from Trent University. She is affiliated with the Human Resources Professionals Association and is working towards completing her Diploma in Human Resource Management at McMaster University to attain her Certified Human Resources Executive designation.
She is excited to be a part of such a forward-thinking post-secondary institution and looks forward to contributing to the division’s expansion.
Shelby VanderEnde is the Communications Lead for the Research & Innovation division at Niagara College. In this role, Shelby provides a full range of communications services to the Research & External Relations (RER) portfolio, with emphasis on the Innovation Centres of the R&I division.
She implements communication plans to support projects, events, publications and media relations. Her role also allows her to be the primary staff member responsible for creating, writing and editing internal and external communication pieces (including gathering facts, planning and research).
Shelby began her career at Vineland Research & Innovation Centre as the Communications and Public Relations Coordinator, where she focused on social media, VIP tours/delegations, special events and internal communications.
Following her time at Vineland, Shelby worked at Niagara Region as the Corporate Communications Advisor. Shelby provided critical support to the Communications team in developing and implementing internal and external marketing communications plans. At the Region, she also found herself being the go-to contact for planning and implementing special events and government announcements. She also supported with managing social media and web updates for the organization.
Shelby graduated from Western University with a Bachelor of Arts, Honours in Popular Music and Film Studies. Additionally, she attended Mohawk College, where she graduated from the Public Relations post-graduate certificate program.
In her role as the Web and Graphic Design Officer for the Research & Innovation division, Stephanie Farr supports the team on a variety of marketing and promotional projects, involving print and digital graphic design, updating and maintaining the R&I website, and developing new microsites for the division’s diverse outreach activities. Stephanie is a graduate of Niagara College’s New Media Web Design program, where she learned video editing, the design of promotional materials, 3D animation and marketing skills.
She has since been self-employed designing websites on her own for small- and medium-sized businesses in Niagara, and as part of the Armstrong Strategy Group’s stable of contracted service providers.
Sarah Dimick is the Project Manager for the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI), a Niagara College-led network of higher education institutions that pool their resources to provide innovation and technology to small-and medium-sized companies. In her role, Sarah is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the network, including the management of a range of projects and related activities.
Sarah has extensive experience in innovation, information services and public policy areas. She spent 10 years at the Conference Board of Canada, an Ottawa-based think tank, as a researcher in their Technology and Innovation group. Most recently, she served as the Director of Research at an innovative data-analytics start-up rel8ed.to Analytics. She holds a Bachelor’s degree (Law and Political Science) and a Master’s degree in Legal Studies, both from Carleton University in Ottawa and has earned her designation as Project Management Professional.
Mitchell Lutz is the Business Development Lead for the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI), a Niagara College-led consortium of nine academic institutions supporting manufacturers’ research and development needs through applied research projects. In his role, Mitchell is responsible for researching, planning, and implementing new target market initiatives and supporting the recruitment and outreach activities of the network.
Mitchell brings an array of experience in project management, marketing, and business development to the SONAMI team. After spending time growing his business at Enterprise-Rent-A-Car, Mitchell spent the last 5 years as a Training Resource at Canadian Tire Financial Services, helping design and develop blended learning solutions using data and insights aimed towards meeting business objectives.
A proud alumnus, Mitchell holds a Post-Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Management, a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration – International Commerce & Global Development, and a Diploma in International Business, from Niagara College.
Kithio Mwanzia is the Network Manager for the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI), a Niagara College-led network of higher education institutions that pool their resources to provide innovation and technology to small-and medium-sized companies. In his role, Kithio is responsible for the overall recruitment and outreach activities of the network, as well as the recruitment of three new academic institutions to the network during the next five years.
Kithio has spent a number of years in Niagara working on governance issues with the Thorold Chamber of Commerce and later the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce (GNCC). He was also interim CEO at GNCC for a few months before taking the role of President & CEO of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce. He holds a Bachelor and a Master of Arts in Political Science from Brock University, and he has earned his Certificate in Public Governance from the Institute on Governance.
Elina Ojanen is the Communications Lead for the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI), a Niagara College-led network of higher education institutions that pool their resources to provide innovation and technology to small-and medium-sized companies. Elina heads a full range of communications services to the SONAMI Network, within the Research & Innovation division at Niagara College, and implements communication plans to support projects, events, publications, and media relations.
Elina brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in communications, marketing, project management, and event planning to the role. Most recently, Elina has worked at McMaster University as a Communication Manager promoting programs and events aimed at entrepreneurs and innovators.
She spent over seven years working within higher education institutions and innovative companies in Canada and the United States. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Communication Studies from The College of Wooster and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Cleveland State University, both located in Ohio.
Cassandra Austin is the Network Project Assistant for the Greenhouse Technology Network (GTN), a Niagara College-led consortium of academic research institutions supporting the research needs of greenhouse and related technology businesses through applied projects. Cassie supports two network teams, concentrating most of her time on the reporting and administrative responsibilities of GTN. She also supports the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI) during reporting periods and at times, helps with onboarding of new network members.
Cassie has worked in the customer service and office administration industries for more than 10 years. Most recently, she was the Front Desk Receptionist with Krown Rust Control and has also worked with Canadian Tire Financial Services providing high-quality customer experiences and accurate financial records for clients. A Niagara resident and a double Niagara College alumnus, she has her diplomas in the Aesthetician program, as well as Office Administration.
Rita Sterne, PhD, is the Project Manager for the Greenhouse Technology Network (GTN), a Niagara College-led consortium of three institutions supporting the research and development needs of the greenhouse industry through applied research projects. In her role, Rita is responsible for managing a range of projects and related activities to grow the GTN, through outreach to business and liaison with partner institutions.
Rita brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in both the business community and the academic and research areas of the greenhouse industry. She holds a PhD in Management, as well as an MBA in Hospitality and Tourism, both from the University of Guelph. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship with Guelph’s School of Engineering in a project on “Value Creation Using Robots in the Ontario Vegetable Greenhouse Industry.”
Kevin Poulin joined the Research & Innovation Division in August 2004. Kevin is a graduate of Niagara College’s Computer Programming and Network System Operations. He has more than 14 years of experience in the Information Technology field. He is responsible for maintaining all Research & Innovation’s information technology systems. Kevin also assists Research & Innovation staff, faculty and students with the technology aspects of their various projects to help them meet their goals. He maintains 3D render farms, sensor networks, servers, and is quick to adapt and implement any new technology required.
Laurie Zuber is the Horticulture Technologist with the Niagara College (NC) School of Environmental and Horticultural Studies and part-time faculty with the Commercial Cannabis Production program. She oversees the daily operations of their Health Canada licensed cannabis cultivation facility and helps train the next generation of cannabis industry employees and entrepreneurs by developing and delivering labs and in class instruction. Laurie also works with the Horticultural and Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre (HESIC) and academic teams to design and set up various trials and projects including setting up irrigation, lighting, and grow room environmental systems. She supports research trials with data collection, pest and disease management, record keeping and subject matter expertise.
Laurie seeks creative and innovative ways to nurture industry relationships to further the educational experience for the students. She represents the program at industry trade events and conferences, where she has participated on panels, advisory boards and connected with other cannabis professionals. Laurie works at maintaining an active presence to connect current students, graduates and supporters with the exciting and interesting work of legal cannabis production in an academic setting.
Laurie has 15 years’ experience managing plant production and operations at two large wholesale nurseries in southern Ontario and is a graduate of the inaugural 2018 class of the Commercial Cannabis Production program, graduating on the Dean’s List.
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Stanley Leggett is a Horticulture Technician for the School of Environmental and Horticultural Studies (SEHS) who also works with the Horticultural and Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre (HESIC). He assists in maintaining the cannabis facilities and caring for the cannabis plants, ensuring optimal growth in the CannaBunker and the CannaResearchBunker. Stanley also conducts and assists with research-based projects on cannabis and has become part-time faculty with SEHS as a Lab Instructor for the Commercial Cannabis Program.
Stanley graduated from the inaugural 2018 class of Niagara College’s Commercial Cannabis Production program. He worked in the cannabis industry in roles such as Quality Assurance Technician, Irrigation Specialist, and Propagation Technician. He also holds an Honours Bachelor of Geography and a Bachelor of Education, both from Brock University.
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