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Attracting and retaining top researchers

Drs. Penny Morrill, left, and Vaughan Grimes recently received funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation to purchase state-of-the-art research tools.

By Meaghan Whelan

Nine researchers at Memorial University have received a combined investment of $827,954 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to support their innovative research programs. The overall value of these research projects is more than $2 million.

The funding was awarded through the CFI's Leaders Opportunity Fund, a program designed to help universities attract and retain the very best researchers at a time of intense international competition. Awards are made to researchers who are recognized leaders in their field, or those with a clear promise of becoming future leaders and who require specialized infrastructure.
"Our new Research Strategy Framework calls on Memorial University to support an environment of research excellence," said Dr. Christopher Loomis, vice-president (research), Memorial University of Newfoundland. "That means attracting and retaining the very best scholars, and helping them acquire the specialized tools they need for their research. The CFI Leaders Opportunity Fund, and the requisite matching funds generously provided to us by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, continue to be one of the important ways we achieve this goal."

Researchers from the Faculties of Arts, Engineering and Applied Science, Science, Medicine and Grenfell Campus received funding under the program. The funding is also creating valuable opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration as illustrated by the following examples.

Dr. Penny Morrill, assistant professor in the Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Science, and co-investigator Dr. Vaughan Grimes, assistant professor in the Department of Archeology, Faculty of Arts, were jointly awarded $110,106 from the CFI for research tools that will advance research across many themes at Memorial University, including natural resources, culture and heritage, energy and the environment.

Housed in The Earth Resources Research and Analysis facility under the auspices of Memorial's Core Research Equipment and Instrument Training (CREAIT) network, this new equipment is critical to Dr. Morrill's research on sources of methane and other hydrocarbons on Earth and other planets. Similarly, it will enable Dr. Grimes to investigate the diets and movement patterns of human ancestors through analysis of archaeological and forensic tissues such as bone, teeth and hair. It will also support research at Memorial University related to ecosystem and environmental change (Dr. Susan Ziegler), mineral resources (Dr. Steve Piercey) and culture (Dr. Kristin Poduska).

Dr. Barbara Neis, University Research Professor in the Department of Sociology and co-director of the SafetyNet Centre for Research in Occupational Health and Safety, received $104,498 for her project On the Move: Employment-Related Geographical Mobility in the Canadian Context. Combined with a recent operating grant of $2.5 million from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, this will be the first comprehensive study of employment-related geographical mobility in Canada. Researchers will track the changing distribution (regional, sectoral, social) since 1980, investigate the policies that drive and influence it, examine the impact of extended daily and long distance travel on employees and their families, employers, home and host communities and explore strategies for addressing these impacts. The CFI award will specifically support research collaborations, research training, knowledge mobilization and other activities at Memorial, the University of Northern British Columbia and 22 other partner universities.

"CFI investments equip researchers with the tools they need to think big and turn discoveries into innovative products and processes that benefit their communities," said Dr. Gilles G. Patry, president and CEO of the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Projects are eligible to receive up to 40 per cent of the total project cost from CFI under the Leader's Opportunity Fund.

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