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REF NO.: 116

SUBJECT: Memorial researchers receive funding to purchase what they need to change the world

DATE: Aug. 15,2017

Today two groups of Memorial University researchers together received more than $375,000 in federal research funding for infrastructure and equipment from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) awards presented at Laurentian University. 

Drs. Chris Kozak and Francesca Kerton, in the Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, received $300,000 for a dual source single-crystal X-ray diffractometer which will help characterize useful materials from waste in the fishing and aquaculture industries and the catalysts used to make new materials.

Both the aquaculture and fishing industries produce large amounts of food waste. Finding suitable ways to process this waste reduces the amount sent to landfills and could lead to increased employment and the production of new materials for further transformation into degradable plastics and composites.

The new diffractometer, to be supported within Memorial’s CREAIT (Core Research Equipment and Instrument Training) Network, is critical to Drs. Kozak’s and Kerton’s research as it provides a 3-D image of the atomic arrangement of crystalline materials, allowing them to discover new catalysts that can transform CO2 into value-added products such as polycarbonates.

“This can lead to start-up companies that focus on delivering products for a greener, more sustainable future, while maximizing benefit from natural resource development and creating non-petroleum derived polymers and plastics,” said Dr. Kerton.

“We are grateful for the support from Canada Foundation for Innovation for the funding to purchase a new X-ray diffractometer, which is a central tool for chemistry and other groups in the Faculty of Science and possibly the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science,” said Dr. Kozak. “It will replace the old instrument that has served our needs for over 12 years. Without access to this instrumentation, the research programs of several faculty members could not continue without serious delays in productivity.”

The second JELF award for Memorial went to Dr. Meghan Burchell, Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Dr. Kris Poduska, Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography, Faculty of Science, who received $75,000 to establish a Laboratory for Environmental Archaeological Science, which will be housed in the Memorial Applied Archaeological Sciences Lab.

Drs. Burchell and Poduska’s research intersects archaeology, biology and geochemistry to understand long-term human-environmental interactions — more specifically, the micro-structure and geochemistry of hard tissues such as shell, bone, teeth and coral to derive information on past climate, human settlement patterns and diet.

The new lab infrastructure will help the team better understand how people adapted to coastal landscapes, especially where there are changes to the local ecosystem; either by human or natural influence.

“To study ancient animal population, specifically mollusks for paleoclimate reconstruction we need robust sample sizes, thousands of specimens,” said Dr. Burchell, assistant professor and graduate coordinator, Department of Archaeology. “This lab will allow me to automate specimen preparation and not only expand the size of my study, but also the time periods. I can go back more than 10,000 years as well as into new geographic regions.

“By having this equipment, we can not only capture details in the micro-structure of hard tissues, but we can test the material composition and test the integrity of the sample materials we study. This is critical in archaeological studies that use geochemical techniques, such as stable isotope analysis or radiocarbon dating. This equipment will allow us to select pristine samples for further analysis, thereby permitting more precise climate reconstructions.”

“Researchers like Drs. Kozak and Kerton and Drs. Burchell and Poduska make valuable scientific contributions that advance the state of knowledge in their disciplines and improve the world in which we live,” said Dr. Ray Gosine, vice-president (research) pro-tempore. “The Canada Foundation for Innovation helps fund the equipment and infrastructure to make this leading-edge research happen. These JELF awards are critical investments in research infrastructure at Memorial that will pay large dividends resulting from use of the equipment.”

“Ensuring that our scientists are well-prepared with the absolute paramount in tools and equipment for research and discovery is what we’re here for,” said Kirsty Duncan, federal minister of Science. “These journeys can lead to achievements such as an improved economy and a better job market, and can also fuel an active research community here in Canada and internationally.” 

“State-of-the-art equipment and facilities play a central role in ensuring the new generation of researchers can make breakthrough discoveries and fuel Canadian innovation,” said Roseanne Runte, president and CEO, Canada Foundation for Innovation. “These facilities will also act as magnets for international collaborations and for the recruitment of the best students and post-doctoral fellows from around the world.”

 

About the Canada Foundation for Innovation

For more than 20 years, the CFI has been giving researchers the tools they need to think big and innovate. And a robust innovation system translates into jobs and new enterprises, better health, cleaner environments and, ultimately, vibrant communities. By investing in state-of-the-art facilities and equipment in Canada’s universities, colleges, research hospitals and non-profit research institutions, the CFI also helps to attract and retain the world’s top talent, to train the next generation of researchers and to support world-class research that strengthens the economy and improves the quality of life for all Canadians.

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For more information, please contact Susan Flanagan, senior communications advisor (acting), Office of the Vice-President (Research), Memorial University, at 709-691-7876, 864-4073 or susan.flanagan@mun.ca.  

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