Going further than what's known

Research is the quest to go further than what we know, to cross boundaries in the sciences, humanities, technology, arts and culture. This past year Memorial's research funding rose to $73.9 million, a 40 per cent increase over the previous year. This increase can be attributed to our increasing appeal as an energetic, forward-thinking research institution and our success in recruiting outstanding faculty and exceptional students, securing strong partnerships and creating world-class research facilities.

Success in second round of the Atlantic Innovation Fund

Five projects from Memorial University were selected for funding under the Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF). In addition to the $13.1 million for Inco Innovation Centre to be located at the university, Memorial will also receive $8.5 million to undertake four projects. The $21.6 million in AIF funding was awarded to these innovative research and development projects which represent a major step toward helping the province compete in the global, knowledge-based economy. The four awarded projects represent a mix of private sector, university and community college initiatives throughout the province. They relate to a range of new and emerging sectors such as information technology, biotechnology, medical technology, ocean technology, environmental technology, as well as traditional sectors such as manufacturing, oil and gas, and mining.

Some of Memorial's successful projects:

Memorial University's Botanical Garden will undertake a project named Plant Atlantic to establish a home-based production industry for Atlantic Canadian hardy ornamental plants. The project will employ biotechnological methodologies such as tissue culture and micro-propagation along with classic hybridization, plant exploration and selection in the discovery of new ornamental plants. Industry partners will then commercially produce and market them to the local, national and international markets. The project is led by Dr. Wilf Nicholls, director of the Botanical Garden

Drug effectiveness research - Memorial University's Faculty of Medicine and School of Pharmacy will develop an online, database-driven application for pharmacogenetics and drug effectiveness research. Lead investigator Dr. Proton Rahman said the PRD will be a complex application of bio-informatics that will bring together drug prescription, health and genetic information for the purpose of research. "The PRD will attract researchers and industry clients seeking to take advantage of its capabilities and resources," Dr. Rahman said "The program will provide significant medical and prescription cost savings and build the region's pharmacogenetics, genomics and IT industries, and create additional capacity and expertise in these emerging fields."

Raven - Remote Aerial Vehicles for Environmental monitoring, a project of Memorial's Faculty of Engineering, will develop a maritime surveillance system utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The project will utilize commercially available UAVs, and develop flight management and target tracking systems. Civilian applications of UAVs are a new research area for Canada and are just beginning to emerge worldwide, with a concentration at universities. Dr. Siu O'Young, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, is the lead investigator.

Research leads to increased commercialization - The number of discoveries arising from research activities at Memorial is increasing dramatically. Annual disclosures of potential new inventions increased from 20 four years ago to 35 disclosures this past year. This 75 per cent increase in intellectual property activity reflects the significant increase in research activity at Memorial University. In 2000-01 research funding at Memorial stood at $42 million, while this year research funding was over $73.9 million.

Uncovering the French presence - Over the summer of 2004, Memorial archaeologists excavated the remains of a French bread oven at Barbace Cove, located in the Port au Choix National Historic Site, on Newfoundland's northern peninsula. The excavation was part of the on-going Port au Choix Archaeology Project, directed by Dr. Priscilla Renouf, which examines 5000 years of cultural adaptation to the Newfoundland landscape, from Maritime Archaic Indians to activities in the present day. The French are an important part of the history of the northern peninsula and from at least the eighteenth century to the turn of the twentieth century they fished the coast and processed the fish on land at what are known as fishing rooms. Barbace Cove is the site of the remains of two such rooms. Crucial to the French enterprise was feeding the crew and essential to that was freshly baked bread. The bread oven in the photograph is well above the size of the average domestic bread oven found back in France, and was used to bake bread for around 100 men and boys.

Biologists cure Parkinson's in fruit flies - Memorial University biologists Dr. Brian Staveley and Annika Haywood had a "eureka moment" thanks to the diminutive fruit fly, or Drosophila. Dr. Staveley and Ms. Haywood cured Parkinson's disease in fruit flies. Their recent publication, Parkin Counteracts Symptoms in a Drosophila Model of Parkinson's Disease, is the result of three years of intense work using fruit flies as the subjects for their research into the operation of cells. By using genetics, molecular biology, bioinformatics, behavioural tests and biochemistry, Dr. Staveley and Ms. Haywood were able to isolate and then force the expression of the parkin gene, the presence of which helps cells to survive and suppresses symptoms of the devastating Parkinson's disease. The disease destroys the neurons in the part of the brain responsible for controlling the movement of muscles and affects more than one per cent of the population over 60 years of age. The team is optimistic that their discovery will help medical research move forward in the quest to find a cure for Parkinson's disease in humans.

Memorial collaborates in new gene discovery - Researchers at Memorial University?s Faculty of Medicine were major collaborators in the discovery of a novel gene relating to peripheral neuropathy. A study published in the April online edition of the American Journal of Human Genetics reports the discovery of the gene linked to hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy type II (HSAN II), a condition which causes loss of nerve sensation in the hands and feet. Drs. William Pryse-Phillips, Banfield Younghusband, Mary O'Driscoll and Roger Green from Memorial University and Dr. Bernard Brais of the Centre de Recherche du Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal identified several families with this rare condition in Eastern Canada. Researchers at Xenon Genetics Inc., a drug discovery and development company based in Vancouver, cloned and validated the gene - called HSN2 - underlying the disease in these families. It is possible that a drug based on the action of HSN2 could be used to prevent or treat features of peripheral neuropathy, including that resulting from diabetes.

Study highlights childhood obesity - Memorial researchers Drs. Patricia Canning (R) and Mary Courage, Faculty of Education and Department of Psychology respectively, led a first-of-its-kind study on overweight children and obesity and found high rates of both in pre-school children. The report, titled Overweight and Obesity in Pre-school Children in Newfoundland and Labrador, indicates that more than 25 per cent of pre-school children in Newfoundland and Labrador can be considered obese according to a standardized method of classifying children using body mass index (BMI). Drs. Canning and Courage looked at records of children born in 1997, who participated in the Pre-school Health Check Program, a province-wide screening program conducted by public health nurses prior to school entry. The aim of the study was to establish the prevalence of obesity among pre-school aged children in the province and to determine the age at which they become overweight and/or when obesity emerges. Findings from the study were published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in the summer of 2004.

Preserving our cultural heritage

Bringing Labrador's Moravian music to light - Dr. Tom Gordon, director of Memorial's School of Music, has made a big step in bringing the story of Moravian music in Labrador to light. The project to inventory, catalogue and digitize Moravian music manuscripts began in the spring of 2003, and to date over 15,000 pages have been documented and digitally copied. Music was an important aspect of religious life for Moravians who passed on their musical tradition to the native Inuit, who added their unique performance practice to the music. Still performed today in the congregation in Nain, the 200-year old liturgies of chorales and anthems sung in Inuktitut accompanied by string ensemble, wind instruments and organ, are a remarkable chapter in Canadian music. The project complements research carried out by Dr. Hans Rollmann, Religious Studies, on the Moravian missionaries. He developed and curated a travelling photographic exhibition of art, photographs and records, which then led to the development of a companion book and CD for all schools in the province.

Preserving the Innu language - A researcher at Memorial is helping to preserve the Innu language and ensure its survival. Dr. Marguerite MacKenzie, a professor in the Department of Linguistics, has been working with the Innu people of Labrador to produce linguistic tools and reference documents in the Innu language, Innu-aimun, for use in a self-governed school system. Her research is intimately connected with the needs of the community which would like to use Innu-aimun as the language of instruction to teach school skills and a second language such as English through the medium of their native language. In collaboration with Dr. Sandra Clarke, Linguistics, Dr. Mackenzie is working on a textbook in the language and has future plans to produce a CD, complete with sound files, to aid those wishing to learn the language. Her work will go a long way in helping the Innu people of Labrador take control of their language and use it to become more literate.

New religion textbook series focuses on recognizing diversity - Dr. Michael Newton, a professor of religious studies at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, completed a new series of religion textbooks for Grades 4, 5 and 6 to help teach children about religious and cultural diversity in Newfoundland and Labrador. With the non-denominational school reform measures implemented in the mid-90s came the incentive to develop a new religious education program that would recognize the diversity of the province. With young children as his key audience, Dr. Newton used simple story telling techniques in order to make the narratives as realistic as possible. This series will introduce aspects of Canadian diversity at a much earlier stage in a child's education. Published by Breakwater Books, the three books, titled the Friends of Faith Series: Journeys (Book 1), Directions (Book 2) and Horizons (Book 3), have also been translated into French by Memorial French professors Drs. Scott Jamieson and Anne Thareau.